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In Elder Holland’s most recent General Conference talk, he said

elder holland

In keeping with the Savior’s own experience, there has been a long history of rejection and a painfully high price paid by prophets and apostles, missionaries and members in every generation—all those who have tried to honor God’s call to lift the human family to “a more excellent way.

Sometimes that “painfully high price” and “rejection” can hit very close to home.

Recently, the missionaries informed me that one of the people we have been teaching the gospel to, who is ready to join the Church and be baptized, is facing a situation that falls into the category of a “painfully high price”. She is a young lady, 20 years old, who doesn’t live at home. However, she has a great respect and love for her parents. Throughout her life, her parents have told her they would support her with whatever she chooses regarding choosing a religion. However, when she approached them about joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e. Mormon Church), her parents came unglued and told her they would disown her if she joined, based on some things they have read and heard about Mormons. She is shocked and heart-broken. On one hand, she has felt a peace, love and experienced God in a way that she can’t deny and her soul yearns for this relationship and she has a desire to strengthen that relationship and “formalize” it by making a covenant to serve God by being baptized. On the other hand, if she does this without her parents blessing, she fears her family will leave her.

I can relate to her dilemma. When I was a very young man, a very close and dear family member made me promise them that I would never join the “Mormon Church”. At the time, that was the furthest thing from my mind. However, when I read the Book of Mormon and felt the overwhelming sense of peace that comes only from God, I knew that I wanted to join with the Church of Jesus Christ and that it was God telling me to do so. I had a clear vision given to me from God that if I stayed on the path I was on, it would lead to bad things later in life. On the flip side, my mind was opened up to the possibilities if I were to join the Church and follow Jesus Christ. When I shared my decision with my family member, they became very frustrated and when I heard them tell me they didn’t want to talk with me again, it hurt. We didn’t really talk for about 7 years and it was a very hard thing for me as this was and is a very close family member. Years later, after we had made amends and reconciled, my family member told me they hadn’t told me they wouldn’t talk to me, but that I had misunderstood them. Also, as an adult looking back, this family member had read and experienced some very negative things relating to the Church of Jesus Christ (i.e. Mormons), so they were trying to protect me from what they thought was harmful.

Time heals wounds though, as they say, and over the course of years we were able to forgive each other. Looking back, I’m glad that I chose to follow what I felt was right and what God was telling me to do rather than make the easier decision to not join the Church in order to salvage the relationship in the immediate term at the time. We now have a good relationship and have made amends and it is by the love and grace of God that we were able to come back together and re-kindle our relationship.

Having said all of this, based on personal experience, my suggestion for people such as our young friend is to follow what they feel God is telling them to do. If they feel that God is telling them to be baptized, do it. If they feel God is telling them to hold off on baptism for the time being, then do that. Don’t get baptized because it’s what your friends or missionaries want you to do and don’t hold off on baptism if you feel that is what God is telling you to do in order to save your relationship with your family member. Choosing to follow God will always lead to greater long-term happiness.

costs to follow more not to It may hurt in the immediate term, but long-term you will always be glad you followed your heart and what you feel God is telling you to do. I really liked this poster that a pastor put together stating “it costs to follow Jesus, but it costs more not to…”This is all a part of faith and trust in the Lord as it says in the scriptures. Easier said than done, but when we choose to follow God, “all things work together for good to them who love God” (Romans 8:28).

What advice would you give to this young lady or anyone else faced with this situation?

***Update 4/29/14***

For those interested about what the young lady’s decision was, after prayer, pondering and listening to peoples’ advice, she decided to be baptized.

Today in church our bishop and some of his family members shared experiences they had while visiting Uganda, Africa.  It impressed me how he shared his testimony of how the love of God is shown in all people throughout the world and how he was so grateful for his relationship with God and Jesus Christ.

His experiences and testimony reminded me of a scripture in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 26:33, which reads:

…for he (the Lord) doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he ainviteth them ball to ccome unto him and partake of his goodness; and he ddenieth none that come unto him, black and white, ebond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the fheathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

This scripture reminded me of another statement made by the Baptist Preacher who believes in the Book of Mormon, John Ridenour.  In this statement, he submits that God is non-denomonational and that God doesn’t really care about doctrine as much as he cares about how we treat each other.  A part of his statement is included below:

How does God think?

When He looks down over my city, Kansas City, Missouri, He doesn’t see Baptist churches or Lutheran churches or Catholic churches or Pentecostal churches or Mormon churches. He sees His children. That’s it. God is not “denominational.” We have over 100 denominations in our city but I submit-the Lord recognizes none of them. That is, His Church is built upon the rock of revelation that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 13). I submit-when the Lord looks down upon any city, He sees His Church-and all who have had a personal revelation that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, are members of His Church. I’m saying–I want to view His church as the Lord sees His church–based upon a revelation of His Lordship, not doctrinal agreement. Why wait ‘till we all get to heaven to think like God thinks?

I’m also saying-too often we’re divided by doctrine. That ought not be. He who has confessed Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior is my brother in the faith. Fellowship is centered around His Lordship, not doctrine. Again–all who confess Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives, regardless of creed, color, or class, are my brothers and sisters. I like the way C.S. Lewis said it in his classic book “Mere Christianity.” Lewis says, “…it’s not that we Christians disagree; it’s that we disagree on the importance of our disagreements…” How true! Example…

For some of the brethren, it’s very important that we believe in baptismal regeneration before we will fellowship; for others it’s very important that we believe in irresistible grace (the Calvinist point of view of Salvation) before we can fellowship; with others, the will of man (Armenian point of view) plays a crucial role in one’s salvation. With some of us, we embrace the “second blessing” typically known as “the deeper life experience.” Methodists call it sanctification. Others of us do not believe in the second blessing experience. Some of us believe in the “baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit” with the evidence of glossalalia; others of us don’t. Some of us are pre-millennial regarding our views on the Second Coming; some of us are post-millennial; a few of us are amillennial. A few of us think esoteric temple rites have a role to play in the afterlife.

See what I mean? Fellowship too often is based upon doctrine.

We as mortals will never come close to seeing things the way that God does, but I think that the Book of Mormon scripture along with this statement by John Ridenour are very positive steps in starting to see things the way God does.  One of the beauties and magnificence of God is that he sees all people the same whether they believe or not.  He loves unconditionally in a way that we will never comprehend and His arms are always stretched out ready to receive us.  I believe that God blesses all people, and those who take steps of faith towards Him come to know and love Him.  As a result, we come to love and appreciate all people and see them as God sees them.

Now, I’m sure most people will agree that God loves everyone and is not partial towards one group of people, as the Bible teaches, but it leaves the questions: which doctrines and religions are recognized by God? Which ones are not?  Does it even matter?

All I can speak from is personal experience, and I firmly believe the path I’m on is the correct path.  I believe that God appeared to Joseph Smith and re-established the Church of Jesus Christ.  I believe this as a result of personal study and sincere prayer and many experiences.   However, I do not believe that the LDS church has a monopoly on truth and there are many things which haven’t been revealed to us as to how heaven works. 

I know many people in other faiths who say they’ve had just as personal of experiences and a witness from God that their path is the correct path.  I don’t doubt that God has just as close of a relationship with them as He does with me.  But if we believe there is one faith, one Lord, one baptism, etc. how can we say that God is not denominational?

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?
US MEMBERSHIP CHURCH RANKING: Largest 25 Churches  
Denomination Name Current Ranking (Ranking in 2007 ed.) Inclusive Membership Percentage Increase/Decrease
The Catholic Church 1(1)             67,515,016 0.87%
Southern Baptist Convention 2(2)             16,306,246 0.22%
The United Methodist Church 3(3)                7,995,456 -0.99%
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 4(4)                5,779,316 1.56%
The Church of God in Christ 5(5)                5,499,875 0.00%
National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. 6(6)                5,000,000 0.00%
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 7(7)                4,774,203 -1.58%
National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. 8(8)                3,500,000 0.00%
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 9(9)                3,025,740 -2.36%
Assemblies of God 10(10)                2,836,174 0.19%
African Methodist Episcopal Church 11(11)                2,500,000 0.00%
National Missionary Baptist Convention of America 11(11)                2,500,000 0.00%
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. 11(11)                2,500,000 0.00%
The Lutheran Church– Missouri Synod (LCMS) 14(14)                2,417,997 -0.94%
Episcopal Church 15(15)                2,154,572 -4.15%
Churches of Christ 16(16)                1,639,495 0.00%
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America 17(17)                1,500,000 0.00%
Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. 17(17)                1,500,000 0.00%
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church 19(19)                1,443,405 0.21%
American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. 20(20)                1,371,278 -1.82%
United Church of Christ 21(21)                1,218,541 -0.47%
Baptist Bible Fellowship International 22(22)                1,200,000 0.00%
Christian Churches and Churches of Christ 23(23)                1,071,616 0.00%
The Orthodox Church in America 24(24)                1,064,000 0.00%
Jehovah’s Witnesses 25(25)                1,069,530 2.25%
TOTAL       147,382,460 0.24%
Percentage changes in italic/bold signify that membership was not updated from previous reported

(This is taken from a report from the National Council of Churches. Just think if Joseph Smith was looking for a church today!)

P.S. It was brought to my attention that the column on the far left that contains percentage of increase or decrease in conversions isn’t showing up.  I reccomend clicking on this link: http://www.ncccusa.org/news/080215yearbook1.html to view a more indepth study online.

Jehovah’s Witnesses had the best conversion rate last year with 2.25% and LDS had the next with 1.56%.

Episcopal Church had the worst with a -4.15% drop and Presbyterian Church was next with over -2%.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints boldy declares itself as the only true and living church.  Furthermore, Joseph Smith boldly states that God the Father and Jesus Christ declared that the christian churches only had a portion of the truth and that he should join none of them.  Therefore, The Church of Jesus Christ (Mormon) declares that it’s baptism and confirmation is the only valid one in order to receive exhaltation. 

Obviously, a member of the LDS church isn’t following their religion if they judge someone for joining another religion as it states in the Articles of Faith to let everyone worship whatever or whoever they want to

However, in this article it discusses the droves of people that join other churches and many other churches and faiths claim the Holy Spirit told them to start their specific denomonation or join their religion. 

As stated in Bruce Nielson’s blog, some may argue about the definition of what a “church” really is.  However, I think whether a church is a congregation, or an actual building it is irrelevant.

I believe that God answers prayers of people of all faiths and leads them closer to Him if they ask in faith.  However, if they are recieving answers to their prayers and feel led by God to join a certain faith, how is it that God can lead someone to something that he told Joseph Smith was wrong? 

My theory is that God loves all truth no matter where it is and will lead all of us according to what we are willing to receive and that God has revealed much truth in forms of religion, science, and other means as well.  I also believe He has much more to reveal as soon as we are ready to receive it.  What are your thoughts?

For those of you who are interested in statistics, I thought this was intersting.  It’s found on the LDS Newsroom website.  I shows stats on how many members the church has, how many missionaries, how many members in each country, how many countries we’re doing humanitarian aid for, etc.  Here’s the site:

http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/statistical-information

I recently read a blog today from a person I don’t know, but that I can tell is an earnest seeker of truth. 

His post was entitled “Restructuring the Church for Explosive Growth.”  In his post he poses the question “What if we were to build a system from scratch that was simply designed to make disciples, create community and fully release each other’s gifts? What would the church look like? The church would look strangely similar to the first church.”

In his blog, he also suggests that a true church of Christ needs three things to work, namely:

Structure One – Body Church. This is a group of people (15-25) who live life together (like a body), regular share meals (like a family) and consistently gather in homes to build each other up under the direct headship of Christ.

Structure Two – Discipleship Training Center (the city church) – This is the School of Tyrannus idea where the teachers and trainers of a cluster of body churches (3-5) hold constant trainings designed to “make disciples” “teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded” and would be overseen by a group of city-wide elders.

Structure Three – The Apostolic Team – This is a diverse team of people with apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching gifts that take responsibility for the health and well-being of many different city and body churches while using most of their resources to expand into new areas without ever neglecting the needs of existing works.

I agree with his analysis and suggestions of the three ways to have a church more closely aligned with Christ’s original church.  The good news is that this church already exists.  A short analysis of the three points and how they relate to this church are included below:

“Body Church”

 All members of this church are assigned other members to visit and care for in each others’ homes as well as instruct each other through the scriptures as led by the Holy Spirit.  In addition, every member is required to pay a tithe and fast offering which goes towards the needy in the congregation similar to the original Church of Christ.

“Discipleship Training Center”

He proposes that a group of Elders from various congregations within the same city come together to teach and train each other under the direction of Jesus Christ.  Again, this organization is found in a church in existance today.  The congregations are called “wards” and a group of wards within a city are called a Stake.  Elders from the stakes and wards meet regularly and train each other as directed by the Holy Ghost.  Weekly the elders in a ward meet as a quorum and quarterly they meet together as a stake to be instructed and led.

“Apostolic Team”

In this church there is a prophet and twelve apostles that lead and direct the church as a whole.  The whole church has over a thousand stakes and each stake has an evangelist, or patriarch that gives patriarchal blessings…prophetic blessings in a sense, to the members of the stake.  In addition, the apostles and the quorom of the seventy in this church share the message of Jesus Christ throughout the world. 

I appreciate the insights made on this blog as to what the true, original church of Jesus Christ should look like.  In addition to what has been stated, I will add a few more scriptures and insights from the Bible as to what the true Church of Jesus Christ should look like. 

According to the Bible, the original church was organized with Jesus Christ as the head, twelve apostles, and a quoroum of the seventy.  After Jesus died, Peter became the authorized leader of the church under the direction of Jesus.  The apostles ordained Elders, Pastors, Prophets, Teachers, and Evangelists (see Ephesians 4:11) in the original Church of Jesus Christ. 

In addition, the members of the church lived the law of consecration and had “all things in common,” and “sold their possesions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”(Acts 2:45

The original Church of Jesus Christ aslo had the following characteristics: the members were called saints (Ephesians 4:11-14); saints received church callings by the laying on of hands (Acts 13:1-3); people healed by the laying on of hands and anointing with oil (Mark 6:13) (James 5:14); temple worship (Acts 2:46); the saints saw visions of angels on numerous occasions (Acts 12:7-9; 27:23-24) and Stephen even saw a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ (Acts 7:55); baptism was essential for salvation and one was baptized before receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:37-39); the structure of the church had one chief apostle or prophet, which was Peter and then twelve apostles were essential (Acts 1: 15-26).  For more information on what was found in the original church, see “17 Points of the true Church.”

The good news is that the original Church of Jesus Christ has been restored again.  I invite this person to view the restored Church of Jesus Christ’s websites and to pray for guideance from the Holy Spirit as to whether this church is the true church.  I promise that if his approach is sincere with a desire to follow the Savior, he will know through the Holy Ghost that this church is indeed the restored Church of Jesus Christ.   

From personal experience as a member of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, I can testify to my fellow friend of another faith that this is indeed the restored original church of Jesus Christ.  I’ve seen many miracles and felt overwhelming feelings of joy and love while serving others in this church.  This church is what he is looking for if he’s seeking an organization that is the same that existed in the original church.  If he approaches the investigation with faith and nothing wavering he will receive a confirmation that this is the true church. 

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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