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parley pratt

I’m reading a great book about one of the first converts and apostles to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Parley P Pratt.

For those interested in a pretty good glimpse into the early church and the challenges and miracles that took place, this is a very good read.

One of the miracles that he describes is when the Latter-day Saints had been driven out of their homes in Missouri and into Illinois.  They were destitute and left in the cold along the Mississippi River on a swampy land with no shelter.  People were getting very sick.

Here is an excerpt of one of the miracles that took place during that time:

Here many were lying sick and at the point of death.  Among these was my old friend and fellow servant, Elijah Fordham.  He was now in the last stage of a deadly fever.  He lay prostrate and nearly speechless, wit his feet poultice; his eyes were sunk in their sockets; his flesh was gone; the paleness of death was upon him; and he was hardly to be distinguished from a corpse. His wife was preparing his clothes for his burial.

Brother Joseph (the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith) took him by the hand, and in a voice and energy which would have raised the dead, he cried: “BROTHER FORDHAM, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, ARISE AND WALK”!  It was a voice which could be heard from house to house…like the roaring of a lion or heavy thunderbolt.  Brother Fordham leaped from his dying bed in an instant, shook the poultices and bandages from his feet, put on his clothes so quick that none got a chance to assist him and…he walked with us from house to house visiting other sick beds…Several more were called up in a similar manner and were healed.” (pg. 355)

This story is a fairly popular story that is told and repeated about Joseph Smith.  The part that I was not familiar with that Parley Pratt writes about is this:

Brother Jospeh, while in the Spirit, rebuked the elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the pwer to heal them.  Said he: “It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power”

Joseph Smith’s quote caused me to reflect on the power of healing within the Church of Jesus Christ today.

For those of you not familiar with how Elders are instructed to heal within the Church, I’ll share some information on the procedure, purpose and process.

In the Bible, there is a scripture that discusses how people who are sick should call on the elders and they will lay hands and anoint the people so they can be healed.

Today, we are instructed to do the same thing.  We have olive oil that has been consecrated for healing the sick.  We then put a little oil on the head of the person being blessed and then as the Holy Spirit shares thoughts and impressions in our minds, we pray and bless the people who are sick.

I have witnessed miracles on occasion through blessings such as these.  For example, my little sister had a bad accident when she was 3 and my father gave her a blessing of healing and she started breathing again and was healed.

However, I hear quite frequently about how today we’ve been blessed with modern medicine and technology and that we don’t need to rely on God as much for healings.  Some people say that God caused the medicine and technology to take place so we shouldn’t bother God with a miracle unless we have to.

This makes me wonder if we are like the elders Joseph Smith talks about and rebukes and if we lack faith and rely too heavily on man instead of God.  As the Book of Mormon states, when faith is lacking, God can not do miracles.  Perhaps we don’t see as many miracles such as the one described because we lack faith.

What are your thoughts?

In the last LDS General Conference, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ, Thomas S. Monson, gave an address entitled “What Have I Done For Someone Today?”  Much of his talk came from an article written by Dr. Jack McConnell about how he came out of retirement to help those in need of healthcare but couldn’t afford it.  Dr McConnell went on to establish the organization, Volunteers in Medicine, that now has centers all over the country with volunteer medical staff to help those in need.

As I read about and watched Dr McConnell’s vision and how the VIM came about, I was very inspired by Dr McConnell’s generosity and thought I’d share a quote from the Jacksonville VIM clinic’s website about how the VIM came about.

The storm of the night had not quite finished. It was continuing to pelt the Low Country with a soft but constant rain, reminding us who was in charge of the weather. It turned the dirt roads and the paths into mud. As I drove out the back gate from the development where Mary Ellen and I had built our retirement home, I noticed a native Islander striding down the path alongside the road.I was not surprised to see he had no umbrella, for that would have been uncommon and unmanly. He did not have a raincoat either. But he did have a mission. He was a man going somewhere with a purpose. 
I slowed down as I approached him and asked if he would like a ride. He peered in and hesitated for a moment or two and then looked at the sky as if he were reading the weather. Apparently having come to an unsatisfactory evaluation of the climate and a satisfactory evaluation of me, he said, “yes, I would”, and got in. After he settled in and we were underway, I suggested he fasten his seat belt. But then we rode along without speaking for a mile or so. I wondered who would break the silence.”Where are you going?” I asked finally, unable to keep the silence any longer. “To look for a job”, he replied, staring straight ahead. “Any particular place I can drop you off?” “No”, he answered, apparently leaving the choice to me. “Do you live around here?” “Yes, I live just back down the road.” “What kind of job are you looking for?” “Any kind I can get,” he said, followed by a long pause. I somehow knew he wanted to say more and gave him a moment to gather his thoughts.

 “I have a wife and two children and we are expecting another and I just got laid off from a construction job.” I could not resist asking, “Does she have access to medical care?” “No.”, he replied. “Ain’t none of us does.” “Have you ever had access to medical care?” “Yeah, when I was in the army.” “Is that the only time?” “Yeah. We have to take care of ourselves. Ain’t no one else goin’ to help us.”  

About that time I turned down the main road of Hilton Head Island and headed south with no particular destination in mind. We soon passed a construction site and he wondered out loud if he might be able to get a job there. I suggested we wouldn’t know if we didn’t stop, so I pulled in the parking lot where the on-site trailer was located. Before entering, I asked my rider his name – James – and together we climbed the stairs to the Manager’s office. He told the Manager he needed work. The man eyed James for a while then said someone had failed to show up and if he could stay he could have some work for the next few days. They settled on a wage and he accepted the offer. 

 We shook hands and James turned to go but stopped in mid-turn. My new friend looked me in the eye for the first time and reached out and gave me a bone-crushing hug while he whispered into my ear, “I thank God for you, brother.” We held each other by the shoulders for a moment and as he started to pull away he said, “You have been a big help to me. Why did you do it?”  

The question stopped me in my tracks. I could not immediately reply. It was a simple but very powerful question. Possibly the power lay in the simplicity. I had no ready answer, so I said slowly, ” I don’t know.”

 In fact, I did know. Over time I realized the answer, in one respect, was that I could not do otherwise. My faith gives me an unconscious desire and need to understand and help others. But in truth I expect it was, at a deeper level, my desire and need to understand and help myself.  

Throughout the whole of my life I have learned and relearned that it is only in service to others that we find and begin to understand ourselves. Until everyone is healthy and whole, none of us can obtain health and wholeness. In medicine it is that pursuit of health and wholeness for everyone which drives more of our decisions than we understand or like to admit.

 Robert Frost tells us that every poem starts with a lump in the throat. I might add that it is also the way to start a clinic for the medically under-served. Or at least that is how the Volunteers In Medicine (“VIM”) Clinic on Hilton Head Island, SC, began – with a serendipitous meeting on a rainy day that transformed a rather routine retirement into one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life.  

– Dr. Jack B. McConnell, M.D.
VIM Clinic Founder

I hope this story was as inspiring to you as it was to me.  It’s amazing to see how God will work and use our talents if we listen and follow the promptings of His Spirit. 

I hope this Thanksgiving we can not only reflect on the blessings we have, but ponder what we can do to be a blessing to the lives of those around us.

This may surprise you, but money is the primary competitor with God for our affection.  Jesus tells us we will serve–and love–one or the other…

When the Crusades were fought during the twelfth century, the Crusaders purchased the services of mercenaries to fight for them.  Because it was a religious war, the Crusaders insisted that the mercenaries be baptized before fighting.

As they were being baptized, the soldiers would take theri swords and hold them up out of the water to symbolized that Jesus Christ was not in control of their swords, that they retained the freedom to use their weapons in any way they wished.

Many people today do a similar thing.  They hold their wallet or purse out of the water, an attitude that says, ‘God, I yield control of my entire life to you except in the area of money—I am perfectly capable of handling that myself.’ And without realizing it, this attitude hinders their relationship with God and harms their finances. (Howard Dayton, Your Money Map)

I thought this quote from this Christian author was amazing and thought I’d pass it on to everyone who wants to learn to spend money the way the Lord would have us do.  People of all faiths and all countries struggle with putting money before God whether we’re rich or poor. 

What can one do in order to put the Lord before our money?  I won’t claim to be an expert, but I’ll share some things that have helped me.

  1. Acknowledge all things are Gods and I am a Steward  When you really think about it, everything we have comes from God.  The air we breathe, our families, our life, and of course our money.  We are merely stewards.  As I pray to realize and recognize this, I find that I am more careful with being frivolous with spending and have greater respect for the money God blesses me with.
  2. Be Grateful for Blessings and Tell the Lord  I’ve found that when I express gratitude to the Lord for any blessing He gives me, that my heart grows less hardened and more apt to use the blessing as He would have me do.  Regarding money, when I think about how grateful I am for the money he blesses me with and pray to use it how He would have me use it, I find myself become less attached to the money. 
  3. Pay Tithing  I’ve seen miracles by paying my tithing.  I feel the first two steps mentioned are the “mental” action steps and paying tithing is the first “physical” action step on how to spend money the way the Lord would have us do.  No matter what, pay your tithing and you’ll be blessed.  I’ve been blessed by paying my tithing because when I do, I become less attached to the money and more drawn to the Lord as I pray that the money will be spent how He would have it spent.  I also have seen physical blessings come as a result of paying tithing. 
  4. Give to the Needy  King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon talks about how we should always give to those in need.  We all see people on the streets asking for money (especially in the Seattle area where I live).  I’ve found that when I see this person if I ask him what he will do with the money I trust him if he says he’ll use it for food.  Who am I to judge?  However, some of them are honest enough to tell me they’ll spend it on drugs and beer and then I don’t give them the money.  In addition, our church (the LDS or Mormon church) has an option to pay additional funds for humanitarian causes and I pay towards that as well.  I’ve found that by doing this, I become even less attached to the money and grateful that the Lord has blessed me so abundantly and I pray the people that receive the money will feel the same way and be blessed.
  5. Pay Yourself  The next thing I do each month is pay myself in two ways.  1. Retirement funds 2. Emergency Savings
  6. Make Extra Payments Any debts I have such as student loans and car payments we pay extra money towards them.  This reduces the amount of time to be in debt as the Lord has commanded us to stay out of debt and pay our debtors.
  7. Do Not get into Credit Card Debt  I heard on the radio today the average American has $15,000 worth of credit card debt.If you have a credit card, pay it off every month.  If that is too hard, don’t use a credit card. 
  8. Avoid “Get Rich Quick” schemes I’ve been scammed a few times and it hurts.  If it sounds too good to be true it usually is.
  9. Live within Your Means My wife and I were talking yesterday about how our grandparents lived in small homes and raised big families.  Today we live in big homes and raise small families.  We need to be very honest with ourselves and really pray to see what our needs vs. wants are.  If we can afford to pay tithing, give to the needy, save money, and pay the other bills and still get a house, then get a house that is within your means.  Pay cash for purchases such as cars, furniture, etc.  If you don’t have the money, save up for it.
  10. Be Honest in Dealings  ALWAYS be honest in business dealings, on our taxes, etc.  It’s the right thing to do and keeps the Holy Spirit with us in our decisions.
  11. Pray for Strength against Pride As we give to the needy and express gratitude to the Lord, we’ll be blessed with more abundance (at least that’s what I’ve found).  When the additional blessings come, pray that you’ll stay humble and that you won’t be prideful.

These are steps that have helped me, but I’m sure there are many more and I feel like I’m learning every day about how to be a better steward.  Are there any scriptures or any other things you do to help you be a better steward over the Lord’s money?

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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