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We had a pretty interesting discussion to close out our last Elders meeting in 2011.  It was a lesson on judgment and the second coming.  As you can imagine, many interesting things were said.  Some off the wall about what would happen leading up to the Second Coming, and others that were scripturally based.

One brother kept bringing something up though that caused me to reflect on an issue I hear quite frequently from fellow Christian friends of other denomonations, specifically on how they feel Mormons think they can earn their salvation and also become Gods.

The brother kept asking questions about what we needed to do in order to be saved.  He asked about the steps such as baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and going through the temple.  In his mind, it sounded to me like he thought he was home free once he made those steps.  He also made mention in reference to the scripture that if we make these steps, we will become Gods and have everything equal with God.

Although I am a Mormon, or Latter-day Saint, I completely disagree with these statements.  For starters, we will never be equal to God.  I believe that God (Heavenly Father), and Jesus Christ (also a God) are separate beings who are far superior to us and always will be.  Even though we are created in their image, we will never be equal to them.  I feel that it is damaging and dangerous to put ourselves at the same level with them in that it sets us up for pride and it is erroneous doctrine.

Some LDS or Mormon prophets (most notably, Lorenzo Snow) have come out and stated that we can become gods and that God was once like us.  Mormons are also quick to point to the scripture in the Bible that states in both the Old and New Testamant “ye are gods…” and use that as evidence that one can be a god.

A closer reading of the scriptures shows that every time Jesus or Heavenly Father are mentioned, the “g” in god is capitalized.  In the scripture that says we “are gods” the “g” is lower case.  To me, this means that we can become “like” God and have power and authority over certain things that He gives us, but we will always be inferior to Him and function under his jurisdiction.  Another way of looking at it is what we learn in the Mormon temple about us becoming “kings and priests” unto god, but not a God in the sense that He is God.

Regarding earning salvation, there are certainly actions we must take to receive the gospel into our hearts.  However, we will always be in debt to God the Father and Jesus for their sacrifice so that we have the opportunity to be saved.  Although we should always take actions to be obedient and close to the Holy Spirit, it is through the grace and mercy of Jesus that salvation comes.  The moment we start thinking we’re the ones accomplishing the task of being saved, we run into pride issues and this is also erronous doctrine to think we can earn our salvation.

Perhaps since I’ve been able to learn more from fellow Christian friends through this blog and other sources such as friends and family in other faiths, I am a bit more sensitive to the subject of Mormons earning their salvation and becoming Gods than I was before.  After that discussion we had in class, I can see why members of other faiths are alarmed when they attend a Morm0n church.

For those of you inside the church, do you think there is an issue with people feeling they have to earn their salvation?  What can we do to overcome this error in doctrine?

For those outside of the LDS church, have you had any experiences with Mormons thinking they can earn their salvation?  If so, please share your experience and how it makes you feel.

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The LDS, or Mormon church functions under a lay ministery.  This means that no one is paid for church service including the pastors and other leadership positions within the church.

One of the key leadership positions is the Elders Quorum President.  According to the LDS Auxillary Guidebook, the Elders Quorum President has several duties, which include: setting example and presiding over men in the quorum, organizing home teaching (monthly service visits to congregation members), teaching men of their duties as husbands, fathers, and in the church; and ordaining men to other priesthood callings, or jobs within the church.

Each quorum can consist of up to 96 elders (men) before being split into a new quorum.

As you can imagine, the position of an elders quorum president carries a lot of weight and responsibility, especially for someone who has a job and family full-time.  It can seem very overwhelming for an individual who is called to work in this position.

I know first hand how overwhelming it can be.  I was called to the position in 2003 right when I had started Graduate school for my MBA.  The Stake President (in the LDS church, he is the leader over a group of 8-10 congregations) called me to the position and I openly expressed my concerns with him as far as my time constraints were concerned.  The quorum I was being called to had around 90 men in it and the ward (congregation) was very transient and therefore required a lot of administrative work to organize the home visits.

Noticing the concern, the Stake President offered me some very inspired advice on what an Elders Quorum President should focus on to be the spiritual leader for the men he needs to be.  He offered three tips, which include:

  • Delegation

The tendancy for a lot of presidents (said my stake president to me) is to try and tackle everything by oneself including: scheduling the home teaching visits, visiting sick members of the ward, visiting the elders in the quorum to help them maintain spiritual relationship with God, etc.  He told me not to be afraid to have counselors and delegate things to them.  I took his advice and called 3 counselors to help me with all of the administration behind the scenes and it made a huge difference.

  • Minister vs. Administer

Ministering is the heart of Christ-like service, he said.  Administering helps, but isn’t the heart of Christ-like service and being a shepard, which is what the elders quorum presidents’ job entails.  As a president, having counselors doing the administration while I got out and met the members of the quorum individually through visits to their homes made a great difference in me being able to try and serve like Christ would.

  • Stay close to the Lord

This goes almost without saying, but it is important to keep oneself close to the Lord for inspiration to help quorum members.  It is easy to get lost in the shuffle and focus only on the job and not on ones’ personal relationship with God.  Regularly schedule times to read scripture, pray, and meditate.  If an elders president is in tune with God, he can act as God’s hand in serving those who may be struggling.

I hope these tips help anyone who is in a leadership position.  Of course, we would love to hear from those of you who are or have served in a similar position and share your insights for others to learn from.  My hope is that this article will help those newly called elders quorum presidents be successful.

At an early age, I had my life changed as millions of other people have had through reading the Book of Mormon and feeling the power of Jesus Christ enter into my life.

I was in a dark place at a very young age following my parents’ divorce and was heading down a very wrong path.  When I was around 12 years old, I came across a copy of the Book of Mormon and started reading it.  Although I was very young and didn’t understand all of the concepts and words, I felt a peace I desparately needed at that time. 

After a few months of reading the Book of Mormon, I read what is commonly called “Moroni’s Promise” at the end of the Book of Mormon, which basically states that if you pray to God about what you’ve read in the Book of Mormon and ask if it is true, He will manifest it to you that it is true through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I prayed, and for the first time in my life I felt the love of God sweep through my soul and any desire to continue to sin be removed from me.  I committed to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and gospel I had read in the Book of Mormon (which is the same as in the Bible) at that time.

Shortly thereafter, my Grandmother became very ill.  On what was her last Christmas before she passed away, in 1989, she gave me a gift I hold very dear to me.  She knew how impactful the Book of Mormon had been for me so she gave me her only copy of a replica of the original Book of Mormon along with her last written words to me, as seen in the pictures below:

Words can’t really describe the impact the teachings found in the Book of Mormon have had on me, but I’ll attempt to share my feelings.  Through the teachings of Jesus Christ found within the Book of Mormon, I was able to lay a foundation for my life at a young age that has helped me overcome the negative affects in my life that came as a result of my parents’ divorce.  Although the path hasn’t been easy, I have studied and grown closer to Heavenly Father through reading the Book of Mormon.

Not only has the Book of Mormon helped me, but it has helped millions of other people.  Most recently, my younger brother was able to overcome some of his obstacles he has faced in his life through an experience with reading and studying the Book of Mormon.  I asked him to share some of his thoughts for the readers of this blog, and he was kind enough to do so.  Below are some of his thoughts:

It’s easier to express myself in person about this topic, because words can’t get the feeling across that I would like to portray in my message. As I get choked up right now speaking of this and as tears begin in my eyes, I want you all to know that I firmly believe in the Book of Mormon and its message. I believe that it is a testament of Christ and it can shape our lives in a way that is principal oriented and emotionally edifying if we abide by its teachings and mold our desires to those of the Prophets therein.

I have never been more focused in my entire life than I was when I was engulfed and excited for each new verse. I have ADHD and have always had an issue with focusing and not being impulsive, but when I actually pondered the meanings of this book and “desired” to read it, my mind was pacified and my concerns and worries seemed very small. My being was elevated to another level. I did pray frequently when I was pondering the Book of Mormon as well, but they seemed to go hand in hand for me. The difficult things in life that were in the forefront of my mind grew smaller and smaller with each day that I consumed each page. I can’t begin to even express the miracles this Book did for me and my belief in who I could become. Lord thank you so much, for all the effort in how this book was pieced together. Its just so hard for me to depict my feelings on this Book through words alone. 

I truly believe that without the Book of Mormon I would not be who I am today. My friends I want you to please try to understand the meaning and passion behind what I am writing. I have not always wanted to be a part of religion, regardless of what denomination and questioned at times if there was even a God. The Book of Mormon forced my mind and utterly all of me to either believe the teachings of a God and a Christ or not to. I could not deny the way it made me feel and the peacefulness it brought to my mind. I cannot deny the way my soul understood the principals it is trying to reach out and explain to all individuals and nations! …I truly believe in this book and I believe in a Christ and in God the Father as well. Once again I apologize sincerely if my closeness to the spirit right now hasn’t been felt through these small writings, but even if nothing has been felt at all through my words alone, please know that I truly believe in the Book of Mormons‘ message and I would honestly choose this book over literally any other book in the world to read. That is not a lie. I would choose this book over any.
 
Sincerely
 
Seth Morgan Anderson

President Benson, a former LDS, or Mormon prophet, stated:

There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. … When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.

 

Personally, I have seen his words not only be good advice, but be prophetic in my life and those close to me.  I encourage those who haven’t seriously studied the Book of Mormon to do so in conjunction with their Bible study this year.  Also, I encourage those who have had a personal experience with the Book of Mormon that has helped them to share their testimony in the comment section below.

 

In Sunday School the other week we had a great lesson on the new “I’m a Mormon” campaign coming to the Seattle area, where we live.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) is showing commercials and using other media opportunities to show videos of Mormon members.  Part of the reason for this is due to a poll that was taken a little while back that revealed how the general public views Mormons.  The results of the poll, which were given to us from the Church missionary department, reveal the following:

The US population views Mormons as being:

  1.  Family Oriented (44%)
  2. Cultish (39%)
  3. Controlling (38%)
  4. Conservative (38%)
  5. Secrative (28%)
  6. Dedicated (27%)
  7. Anti-Gay (24%)
  8. Sexist (20%)
  9. Weird (20%)
  10. Pushy (9%)

As the results of the survey were shown, gasps were heard around the crowd when things like “secrative”, “weird”, “cultish”, “controlling” and “pushy” came up.  Some people asked: “How could anyone think we are any of these things?”

To be honest, I can see how many people view us this way.  Examples include: no one is allowed in temples and not much is said to the public of what goes on in the temple.  I’ve heard Mormons, like Donny Osmond, publicly state that it is “sacred” not “secret”, but what the heck does that mean?  The sacrament is sacred and everyone is welcome there.

I’ve also heard people talk about how Mormons tend to stick together and not reach out to their neighbors.  I can see how people would feel we’re cultish that way, along with the temple thing again.

If a newcomer looks at the stands at General Conference and any Mormon congregation, they see only men up on the stand and men run the church.  “But the women have Relief Society!” we’re quick to say.  However, men do run the church.

On my mission, I do recall seeing missionaries on occasion stick their foot in the door of a person when they were trying to shut it on them.  I also witnessed an Elder run someone down on the sidewalk practically knocking them out trying to give them a Book of Mormon.  If this isn’t pushy, I don’t know what is!

With the statistics in mind and I’m sure many more examples that support the evidence found in the survey, the Mormon leaders are launching the “I’m a Mormon” campaign to show that Mormons can be normal people and still live a virtuous life.  If you haven’t taken the time to watch any of the clips, I recommend doing so by clicking here.  I was actually very impressed with some of the Mormons who were featured.

So the question is do you think the “I’m a Mormon” campaign will help change how people view members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)?

A more important question behind that one is do you think that if people see Mormons as similar to them, that it will lead them to accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

We’ve been having a very good discussion in a recent post with members of various Christian faiths surrounding the concept of revelation and what is considered scripture for both LDS and other Christian faiths.  Part of the discussion surrounded revelation given to both individuals and Church leaders.

This weekend, the LDS General Conference will take place on Saturday and Sunday.  Members of all faiths are welcome to listen to the instruction given by the leaders of the LDS or Mormon faith including the apostles and prophet of the church. 

For those not familiar with where to go to watch conference, I will share a few links.  Additionally, I will share an official history of Mormon General Conference taken from an article written by the LDS Newsroom about 6 months ago.

Resources for General Conference

The following websites are where I typically go to watch conference in order from my favorite to “least” favorite.

1. http://lds.org/general-conference/watch?lang=eng

2. www.ksl.com

3. www.byu.edu

If anyone knows of other resources, feel free to share them. 

Preparing for General Conference

Also, I came across a very good blog written entitled “12 Ways to Prepare for General Conference“.  I thought it was good, so I invite all to read it in preparation for conference.

History of LDS General Conference

This official article was very informative and included some facts I wasn’t aware of about the history of General Conference.

I hope this helps members of all faiths who may be interested in checking out Conference this weekend.

In a recent article in The National Catholic Weekly magazine, a writer brought up the great marketing the LDS church is doing in New York City.  His article highlights the Mormon.org billboards that are all over as well as on the taxis, etc.  and how great of a missionary tool it is.  Something he wrote about in his article stood out to me about his perspective on the traditional Mormon missionary strategy.  He writes:

The “I’m a Mormon” campaign, showcases video and print portraits of young, diverse and energetic Mormons — and steers clear of images of missionaries in white shirts and black pants or talk of theology —

“Steering clear of images of missionaries in white shirts and black pants…” is the line that stood out to me.

What is the image that most people who aren’t LDS think of when they see the Mormon missionaries knocking on doors like they have done the same way for probably close to 100 years now?  Is that still an effective marketing tool, or should the church shake it up and allow missionaries to wear clothes that match the culture where they are?

 I know from personal experience that I felt much more at ease being a missionary without my white shirt and nametag than when I was wearing it.  I was a Mormon missionary in Germany for two years and I also lived in Switzerland and worked for awhile after my mission as well.  When I was a mormon missionary, people would bar the windows and lock the doors and bring the kids out of the streets the moment we walked into the neighborhood.  The white shirt and black nametag turned them off.

However, when I was dressed in my normal clothes as a “regular” person after my mission, I had many more missionary discussions with people who opened up to me because they perceived that I was a “normal” person. 

On the other hand, the Mormon missionaries have been branded by the white shirt and nametag and for people who are searching for them, they are easy to identify.

What are your thoughts on changing the Mormon missionary strategy and having Mormon missionaries wear “normal” clothes while proselyting?

Jason Workman, an LDS man from southern Utah, was one of the Navy SEALS downed in Afghanistan. The full report is found at this website.

God bless his family as well as everyone else who has lost their life in this war.

Recently I had a close member of my family give me a movie called “Joseph Smith vs. the Bible” (actually, they left it in my car).  Since I’ve rarely had a Christian give me something about Mormons that wasn’t propaganda to try and convince Mormons they’re wrong, I really had no desire to watch it.  However, I did browse around to see if there were any reviews on the movie so I could have an idea what it was about if my family member asked me again.

Just as I had thought, the movie, according to both Christian reviews and LDS reviews, the movie was heavily one-sided.  The reviews do a good job of summarizing the movie and explaining what it is about, but in a nutshell, the host uses scripture to prove that Joseph Smith is a false prophet based on a few things he said such as the temple being built in Jackson County, Missouri (which it hasn’t been), and the Book of Mormon prophets saying Jesus would be born in Jerusulem rather than Bethlehem, along with a few other things.  He does have a random LDS guy on there that he talks with who isn’t really an expert or knowledgeable on some of the anti-Mormon stuff out there, but other than that, it appears pretty one-sided to both Christian and LDS viewers.

As a practicing Mormon, I could get offended and throw the movie back asking my family why in the world would you think I would want to see this?  I could even go further and start pointing out flaws in the Bible and prophets who fail the test so to speak.  However, I do not think that is the appropriate thing to do.

When a Christian gives me anti-Mormon information, these are the steps I usually try and follow.

1. Try and see things from their perspective

If you are a Mormon, chances are the Christian is trying to help you “see the light” so to speak.  Also, consider that some of Mormon theology is based on the fact that the Bible doesn’t have the complete truth, which is complete blasphemy for a Christian as the Bible is their source of authority on Jesus.  Therefore, they are trying usually with good intentions (I try and give the benefit of the doubt) to help you get on the right path. 

If you are a Christian, realize that a practicing Mormon will probably get a bit offended as for Mormons, authority comes from the voice of the prophets and by you attacking Joseph Smith, you are attacking a fundamental concept of their faith.  Just as you fee offended when a Mormon may say the Bible isn’t completely true, the Mormon will most likely feel the same way with an attack to the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith.

2. Do a bit of research on the book or movie, etc. before reading or watching it

For Mormons who receive the literature, if you feel comfortable watching it, go ahead and check it out.  Pay attention to the message and the feelings you have as you watch.  My experience has been that it usually is negative and not a positive experience as I feel it is usually trying to attack my faith and make Mormons look stupid.  Therefore, I just politely decline.

3. Return the information to the person politely

If I do not decline the original offer, I usually give it back.  When I return it, I acknowledge that they are trying to help me and I thank them for thinking of me.  However, I simply say I have read the reviews of the book or movie and choose not to watch this.

4. Share testimony

After I give it back, I share a quick testimony.  Something very simple like just saying that I’ve prayed and feel the path I’m on is the right one for me.  Sometimes I don’t even go into the fact I’ve prayed and had an answer and I just simply state that I firmly believe the path I’m on is right and leave it at that.

I’m sure there are many of you out there who have been offered anti-mormon literature (or who have offered it if you aren’t a Mormon).  For the LDS readers, what steps do you take?  For Christians who may have given anti-Mormon literature out, what were your intentions and how the the LDS person react?

Spencer W Kimball’s (former LDS Prophet) spoke to BYU students a number of years ago on becoming perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.  In this talk, he outlined areas where we should strive for perfection, which include: personal integrity, commitment to (BYU) standards, honoring covenants, roles of men and women, and personal appearance.  While I agree that it is important to strive to become closer to God each day, I have experienced sometimes within the LDS culture a tendency for members to over emphasize some of the points that Kimball mentioned about being “perfect”.  I have personally seen how this can lead to  judgement of others, and essentially pulls people away from God when they think they are doing everything “right” in order to be favored of God.

Each person is travelling this journey of life and is on a different point along the path and with their relationship with God.  Do I think it is a good thing to strive to be perfect in our covenants, integrity, commitment, and personal appearance?  Absolutely!  However, those of us who may be further along the path or perhaps have learned how to experience a close relationship with God shouldn’t shun those of us who are perhaps at a different point.

I’ll share some examples regarding striving for perfection in appearance, particularly on Sunday.

Within the LDS church, members are expected to dress a their Sunday best when attending meetings.  Men are expected to wear a white shirt and tie and if you are the Bishop (pastor) I’m not sure if it is just an unwritten rule, but a suit is always the norm.  Additionally, facial hair is not accepted if one is called to a leadership position such as a Bishop or Elders President (Men’s Group Leader).  I assume the reasoning behind this is to portray the image of being closer to Jesus.  The white shirt represents purity, closeness to God, etc.

While I do not have a problem with people wearing their Sunday best, I do have a problem with people who wear their Sunday best and then belittle or criticize those who don’t wear their church clothes in the same exact way.

I’ll share a personal story.  A couple years ago, we moved to a new ward (congregation) and I wore a colored shirt with out a tie to church the first Sunday.  The bishop of the congregation came up to me and said some things that could have been offending if I had let them be.  Other personal examples are that I usually do not button my top button on my shirt when I wear a tie (I hate wearing ties!) because it is too restrictive.  I also have other clothes that I feel fit my personality and style, which I feel are Sunday best but not necessarily a white shirt.  When I wear these clothes, I’ve been teased and even reprimanded over the years.  It gets even more fun when I let my beard grow out!

Another example I heard just the other day was a lady who came to church who hadn’t been in awhile and she invited her non-LDS friend.  They both wore nice dress pants, but felt very looked-down upon and unwelcome because they weren’t dressed in the “right way”.  She decided she didn’t want to come to church again.

I think the problem with having a mandate to have everyone look and act a certain way is that it then becomes a social norm.  Subconsiously people think that it is wrong not to look and act in that certain way and others get ostracized or belittled either to their faces or behind their backs.  In addition, I’ve seen that if people are not dressed in the certain way that is normal, people think that is an outward expression of inward sin on the part of the individual.

For those of us who are guilty of judging others for their outward appearances (I think all of us are guilty of this), it is important for us to remember the scripture in 1 Samuel 16:7:

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

So next time you see someone at church who may not be wearing clothes that are supposed to show an outward appearance of perfection, make a concious effort to not judge them, but reach out to them and get to know them for who they are.  Chances are, they’re just trying to develop a relationship with God just like you are.  They just hate wearing ties!

Many times my fellow Christian friends who are not familiar with the LDS culture are a bit turned off by how the LDS church assigns people geographically to their congregation.  I usually see them looking for a church that they like and that fits in well with their interests.

While people are not forced to attend the congregation (the LDS call them wards) that is in their location, it is highly encouraged.

For those who have complained about being assigned to wards, the Japan earthquake shows an example of where being assigned to a ward can be very beneficial and inspired.  During the earthquake in Japan, the LDS church was able to take account of the members of all congregations within the country in a matter of hours, which impressed someone over at MSNBC.  Read more about it at this site: “In Japan Mormon network gathers the flock.”

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