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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.

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I recently came across an excellent conversion story from a person I don’t know who emailed me and shared his conversion story with me.

As you read this story, you will see that life hasn’t been easy for him and like all of us who choose to follow Jesus, he has had to make some sacrifices, but he has been blessed in return.

Enjoy his story:

Daniel’s Conversion Story

I was called many times and I would not hear (Alma 10:6)

 

I was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. My parents moved  to Florida when I was about 3 and a half. I was raised in a Jewish household in which Judaism played a large cultural role but a rather smaller spiritual one. We would go to synagogue for the high holiday services, and then go back home and eat shrimps and pork. My father is a very secular individual, and his lack of belief in God is rooted in the Gas Chambers of Auschwitz and multiplied by heartbreak and loss. My mother was the more spiritual of the two. She taught me to believe in God and to love the spiritual. And yet, she also believed in a God that did not know or care about the little things that we did. “God doesn’t have an IBM computer” she would tell me whenever I would ask why we didn’t keep the same commandments my orthodox friends did. I went to a Jewish private elementary school and had my Bar Mitzvah at the age of 13, but religion was not a very large part of my life.

 

Nonetheless, I had a lot of experiences that led me to spiritually wonder about the purpose of life. I remember as a small child asking my mother what happened after death, and she didn’t really have a response. She said she hoped there was something after this life, but wasn’t entirely sure. I went to the library and read books for kids about death, but didn’t find any answers there either. My grandfather died when I was 6 and my grandmother when I was 8. Death seemed like an awful force that I could not fully understand.

 

As I got older, my father who had long suffered from heart problems began to have serious health issues. One night when I was in fifth grade he got taken to the hospital by ambulance late at night. When I was 11 he had his third open heart surgery. The possibility of his death was always ever present in my life.

 

Amidst this background, I continued to search for spiritual answers that would help me understand why. After elementary school I stopped attending a Jewish Private School, and went to a public middle and high school. There, for the first time I was surrounded by people of other faiths and began to take an interest in christianity.

 

One of my best friends at the time Sarrah was a strong believer in Christ and she really helped me to learn more about him. She had a lot of light despite a life filled with darkness and trials and I was drawn to that special light. She prayed for me that I would always be surrounded by strong Christian individuals and that prayer came true in a myriad of ways. Wherever I traveled and however far I got away from God, people of faith seemed to literally find me. Thanks to her influence and that of several others, I began to more and more strongly believe in Jesus Christ. I also had a lot of personal experiences such as spiritual dreams that led me to believe in a God and in Jesus Christ. I remember reading Isaiah 53 and trembling with awe at the description of the lamb of God suffering for the sins of all mankind.

 

And yet, something held me back from fully committing to Christ. In part, it was the opposition of my parents whose heart broke as I told them about my interest in Jesus. On the other hand, there were several nagging questions that I just did not feel were settled. I wondered what would happen to the generations of my ancestors who had lived and died Jewish. They had faced the gas chambers and pogroms because of their faith. I could not accept the notion of a God that would condemn them to hell, and yet my Christian friends offered little hope. I began to slowly drift away from Christianity

 

When I was 15 my mom was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. It came as a total shock to me, because she had always been the healthier of my parents. Even though she fought valiantly, she died shortly after I turned 18. The last months were especially difficult even though her faith in the face of that trial was also inspiring. The loss was absolutely devastating to me and in time it continued to gnaw away at my faith. As I began my undergraduate at Brandeis University, I began to read Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and fell under their spell. I didn’t know how to accept a God that would allow my mother to suffer, and so I went to the opposite extreme of denying his existence

 

Around this time, I became friends with a girl named Tatiana who I later found out was Mormon. She was one of the only two undergraduate members of the church in the whole university! She wasn’t active at the time, but she still held many of the same values. She wouldn’t drink and had a very traditional view about the role of women which stood out in a very ‘progressive’/ feminist friendly university. I became really intrigued by her values. We dated for a while, but ultimately things didn’t work out between us.

 

I spent a summer studying abroad in China, and while there had an instructor who was a strong member of the Christian community there. We began to talk about God and religion, and those lengthy conversations with him really opened me up to the possibility of a God again. I noticed the vibrant spirituality that people had in China, and I began to yearn for something more in my life. When I returned, Tatiana had decided to begin going back to church and I felt for some reason prompted to check it out. Up to that point I knew next to nothing about mormonism, but I went to Barnes and Nobles and I sat down and picked up Mormonism for Dummies and the Complete Iditot’s Guide to Mormonism and I sat down and began to read. As I read, I was really struck by the power of the doctrine I read. I began to read about the pre-earth life and the plan of salvation and it just felt right…It filled a hole in my soul. It immediately made sense to me. It answered all the question I’d had about how one could believe Christ was the way and yet also believe that those who didn’t know him could be saved. I went to my friend Tatiana and asked her if I could go to church with her.

The next day was a sunday, and I went with her to the Cambridge University Ward. We were late for sacrament meeting, so I ended up going only to Sunday School and Priesthood, but what struck me was how friendly people were. I was warned to wear a suit and tie, so it took people a while to realize I was not a member. I was asked to give a closing prayer, and when I expressed that I wasn’t a member, people were a bit shocked. Pretty quickly however they set up a meeting for me with the missionaries.

Blessed is he that believe in the word of God and is baptized without stubbornness of heart. (Alma 32:16)

The first time I met with the missionaries, I had thought through a whole bunch of questions relating to the doctrine of the Church. I asked them difficult or near impossible questions such as why are there transvestite and hermaphodidic individuals if gender is a pre-mortal trait, and what happens to those that have more than one husband or wife in this life. My poor missionaries did a great job though of deflecting the questions and inviting me to read and prayer to God sincerely.

 

Even at that early point I knew I was feeling something special. I told my friend Tatiana that she shouldn’t expect me to be baptized quickly or anything, but that I could really see myself liking the church. I had some hang ups with the Church’s conservative political position on things like gay marriage but I felt myself drawn towards it more and more

 

I began to read the Book of Mormon and I remember liking it but also finding some things about it strange. It was strange to me to think of Israelites talking about Jesus Christ, but it also made so much sense to me. It was weird to imagine that Jesus had been hid like a big secret of some sort from the people of Israel. Indeed, it made much more sense to realize that he had been taught about all along  I continued to read everything I could find about the church ( both pro and anti-Mormon) but felt drawn more and more to the church.

 

One day, I was talking to a non-member friend who is really opposed to the Church. She began to bash the church and especially focused on how awful the LDS Temple was. She had a good friend that was married in the temple and that friend’s family could not attend the wedding since they were not members. My friend was absolutely disgusted by this practice. As she spoke to me, I was pretty taken aback and wondered why that was the practice. While thinking about it, I felt strongly prompted to go to see what the temple was like in Boston.It was 9 at night, but I got into my car and drove to the temple ground.

 

When I got to the temple, I got out of my car and I felt an overwhelming spiritual presence.  I had never felt something quite so powerful. I felt it through every fiber of my being. I felt as if the God was talking directly to me. In my mind, I heard his voice telling me that the church was true and that he was there. I was stubborn, and so I got back into my car and I drove to the nearby Catholic and Protestant churches to see if I would feel the same way there. I didn’t feel anything of the sort ( in fact I felt rather negative spiritually in front of the Catholic Church). I then got back to my car and drove in front of the temple, and when I got there again I went to one of the sides and knelt down in front of one of the stained glass windows. There, I poured my heart out to God and I felt transformed by the spirit. My whole being was filled with light. In that moment, I could clearly see the person that the Lord wanted me to become. I could see my potential as his son. I knew without a doubt that God loved me and wanted me to join his church. Since that moment I have never doubted the truthfulness of the Gospel. Even in my darkest moments, that experience has been like a beacon of light.

 

I knew that I should be baptized

 

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. (Psalms 27: 10)

 

Telling my father about my decision to be baptized wasn’t an easy thing to do at all. Luckily, soon after that, we met in New York for the Jewish high holidays. The weekend before, I had been with my ward to a camp out up in Sharon Vermont at the Joseph Smith Birthplace and I got up to bear my testimony that i knew the church was true. Telling my father of that testimony was much harder though. We walked around Manhattan near Lincoln Center, with the Manhattan temple nearby, and I finally worked up the courage to tell him. His reaction was of course quite negative as I would have expected. He strongly forbade me from getting baptized and told me that if I did he would not want to have anything to do with me.  I compromised with my father and agreed that I would wait six months before baptism so that he could know that it was a sincere desire of my heart

 

I spent the next semester studying abroad in London and it was a pretty challenging time in many ways. Throughout it all, however, I went to church every Sunday and bore my testimony each month during fast & testimony meeting. At times, I felt quite alone, but my faith in the atonement of Christ got me through it all.

 

After six months, my father was still as opposed as ever to my being baptized, and so I rather painfully ended up postponing my baptism again. Even though I was over 18, my father’s approval was ultimately very important to me and I wanted to try to respect him. I returned to the U.S. from Israel and as I was about to leave Florida to drive up to Philadelphia where I would spend the summer my father finally gave me his permission to be bapitzed. I went up to Boston then next weekend and I was baptized into the University Ward there. I still remember the joy that I felt when I was baptized. I felt cleansed from all of my sin and like an innocent child in the eyes of God. It was such a wonderful and unforgettable feeling.

 

Although there were challenges after baptism and confirmation, I felt a new energy and ability to cope with trials. My co-workers that summer were strongly critical of the Church because of its stance on gay marriage, and I struggled with internal doubts over that same topic, but I kept on striving and struggling. My ward had a trip to palmyra and while there I prayed in the sacred grove and felt the Lord confirm to me again that everything I had come to believe was true. That summer was one of great growth and development ( and I met my future wife while living in Philadelphia as well!).

 

Behold, verily I say unto you, go from them only for a little time, and declare my word, and I will prepare a place for them. (D&C 31:6)

 

Still, one of the hardest decisions loomed before me. Even before baptism, I had begun wondering whether I would have to serve a mission. I began rationalizing and telling myself that since I was older than most missionaries I wouldn’t have to do so. Nevertheless, I felt really strongly that I should serve and that service would transform my life for the better in so many ways. It was ultimately a difficult choice knowing how strong my father’s opposition would be, but I realized that whenever I thought about serving I felt incredible peace and calm, while when I thought to stay home I felt selfish and ill at ease. I felt a burning desire to share the gospel with others and to help them feel what I felt. Ultimately, I knew that I had to serve. I filled out my papers, deferred from law school, and told my father about my choice to serve.

 

Of course, he didn’t take that well and he threatened me once again with disowning. The hardest part wasn’t the threat, rather it was seeing the pain that I knew I was causing him Yet, I understood that serving would be ultimately what would secure for me an eternal family. Still, I remember feeling so physically and spiritually ill when I put in my papers. I had to remember to ‘cast not my confidence away’ and rely on the Lord. For weeks I felt discomforted and filled with despair. I was certain I’d never see my father again if I went to serve a mission. I didn’t know how I would pay for schooling once I got back. Yet, I put my faith in the Lord. When I got my call and heard that I would be serving in Novosibirsk, Russia I felt the spirit fill me with an overwhelming sense of peace and a confirmation that what i was doing was right.

 

I had the most incredible mission experience. I loved serving the Lord and I am so grateful for that experience. I know that the call was inspired of God. On my mission I gained a far deeper testimony of the savior and his church. I came to know him as I learned to love and serve his children. They were far and away the best two years I have ever spent, and I am so grateful to the Lord for the opportunity. I am thankful I was able to touch and teach some of my precious brothers and sisters and to help them enter the waters of baptism.

 

While on my mission, I felt strongly prompted to apply to law school at BYU Law. I had already been accepted and deferred at a higher ranked law school, but I still felt a strong prompting to apply there. I ended up getting offered a full scholarship and was able to come to law school without having to take upon myself massive debt. I am currently finishing up my first year of law school and absolutely loving it. I am also engaged to Jessica who I met back in Philadelphia. Perhaps most importantly of all, my testimony is still burning strongly and I am filled with conviction and the power of the Lord. I am grateful to him for all of my many blessings and for the opportunities that yet lay ahead. I know that my redeemer lives and I am so grateful to him!

I know that joining the church can be tough and that Satan often puts challenges in the way. However, I also bear witnesses that if we follow Christ and show our faith everything will work out for the better. Every good thing in my life today has come because I showed faith. Because of my faith I have a scholarship at a law school, a wonderful fiance and I had the most incredible opportunity to serve God on my mission. All the things I was afraid I would lose have not been lost. Although not perfect, my relationship with my father continues to improve and I was blessed to be able to see him again after my mission. If you have faith and not fear and follow the savior I promise that the Lord will pour down his blessings from heaven!

 

In the book “How Wide the Divide,” Craig Blomberg from a Denver seminary and Stephen Robinson, from BYU (both have PhD’s in religion) attempt to “bridge the gap” between Evangelicals and Mormons.  The first step is to have a correct understanding of what the other believes.  The following is an excerpt from their book:

Since very few Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals are theologically bilingual, the same misunderstandings tend to be compounded over and over, which is grist for the mills of prejudice on both sides…(How Wide the Divide, page 14)

In an attempt for both Evangelicals and LDS people to learn about each other’s beliefs, both Blomberg and Robinson share a modern-day translation of “Articles of Faith” for both religions.  I will now share their thoughts.  Feel free to share yours in your comments.

LDS Articles of Faith Translated for Christians of other Faiths

  1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.  We accept the biblical doctrine that God is three and that God is also one, but we reject the post-New Testament attempts to explain how these two truths are to be reconciled
  2. We believe that humankind fell through the transgression of Adam and Eve and that humans in their present state are subject to sin, death and corruption.  However, we believe that individuals are accountable for thier own sins, not for guilt inherited from Adam and Eve.  We accept both divine justice and human accountability, but we do not believe in original sin.
  3. We believe that through the atonement of Christ, fallen humanity may be saved by accepting and obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ.  No one is predestined either to salvation or to damnation; anyone may be saved who responds appropriately to the good news of Christ.
  4. We believe that we respond appropirately to Christ and we accept his gospel by having faith in and being faithful to Christ as Son of God and Savior, that is, by accepting him as Lord and Savior and making him Lord of and in our lives.  We cannot merit salvation of ourselves, nor is it possible to “earn” the grace by which we are saved, but the obedience of faith, a godly walk and conversation, is a necessary component of faith in Christ.  Jesus will save us from our sins but not with our sins.  Beyond having faith in Christ, we must also repent of sin, consent to baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and receive the regenerating and sanctifying gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.
  5. We believe that the Christianity of the first century, New Testament Christianity, is true Christianity.  As such, it is the only standard by which to define Chrisitanity, as opposed to defining it by post-New Testament councils and creeds.  We believe that the priesthood authority, church organization, spiritual gifts, sacraments (i.e. ordinances) and doctrines of the modern church must be as they were in the New Testament church.  This obviously includes the presence of apostles and prophets who receive direct, continuing revelation for the church in the world.
  6. We accept the Bible (the King James Version) as the inspired word of God–every book, every chapter, every verse of it–as revealed to the apostles and prophets who wrote it.  We also hold the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price to be the word of God.
  7. We believe in the divine conception, subsitutionary atonement, sacrificial death, bodily resurrection and present glory of Jesus Christ and that he will return to this earth in judgment and in his glory to cleanse it from all wickedness and to establish his personal millennial reign.  Both the saved and the lost will be resurrected, the former at Christ’s coming or during his reign, the latter at the end of th millennium.
  8. We believe that the church established by Christ in the New Testament was changed by later Chrisitan intellectuals who believed the simple New Testament proclamation to be inadequate.  Feeling the language of Scripture to be unsophisticated, incomplete, vague, ambiguous or imprecise, the second, thrud and fourth-century church sougt to “improve” the New Testament gospel by the standards of Hellenistic philosophy, but compromised it instead.
  9. We believe that the Lord in preparation for his imminent second coming has “restored” New Testament Chrisitanity in the latter days through the prophet Joseph Smith.  Nevertheless, all honest Christians of whatever deonmination, not just LDS Christians, will be among the saved at the last day…(How Wide the Divide, pgs 16-17)

Evangelical “Article of Faith” or “Confession Statement”

  1. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  2. We believe that there is one God eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
  3. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and His personal return in power and glory.
  4. We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful man regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  5. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
  6. We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
  7. We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. (How Wide the Divide pgs 29-30)

I’ve been reading Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon most recently.  Today I read in the “Hebraisms and other Peculiarities” chapter a section on a poetic form called “climax” (which means “ladder” in Greek), which was discovered in 1898 by a biblical scholar.  The definition of this poetic form is described as follows: “Climax occurs when the same word or words found at the end of one clause are repeated at or near the beginning of the next clause.” (Echoes, pg 166)

 The book then shares some examples of climaxes found in the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon.  I thought the one found in Moroni 8:25-26 was beautiful and wanted to share it.  I will break it down as it is broken down in the book to emphasize the use of climax:

And the first fruits of repentance is

baptism; and

baptism cometh by faith unto

the fulfilling the commandments; and

the fulfilling the commandments bringeth

remission of sins; And the

remission of sins bringeth

meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of

meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the

Holy Ghost, which

Comforter filleth with hope and perfect

love, which

love endureth by diligence unto prayer,

until the end shall come, when all Saints shall well with God.

If I hadn’t read about this poetic form, I would have read right over it and missed great symbolic purpose.  I think it’s awesome to see how this is like a ladder, or climax in that each step builds on the other and at the top of the ladder is love, which is the greatest commandment.  Even better, it doesn’t just stop there.  The verses tell us how we can maintain our love and the result (dwelling with God) if we are diligent in keeping love in our hearts.

What are your thoughts as you read this?  Also, do you know of any other examples in the scriptures where this poetic form is used?

The other day, my wife asked me, “Can you teach my Sunday School class this Sunday?”  She was out of town and there wasn’t a substitute for the 14-15 year old class she teaches.  I told her (reluctantly at first) that I would then asked “what’s the lesson on?”  She said “Isaiah.”  My desire to teach dropped like a rock in water.  Isaiah?  How am I supposed to teach something I have no concept about?  I have been avoiding Isaiah for years.  Sure, I know he has some great poetic verses about the Savior, but to teach?  I started back-pedaling and asking her if there was someone else who could teach instead or if we could combine her class with someone elses.  She has a good, soft heart for the kids she teaches and she told me she didn’t want them to have to be combined into a room with others.  She felt they needed and deserved a personal teacher who would give them the best treatment.  I told her I’d find someone for her. 

After we finished chatting I looked at the names of people who could substitute for her.  I was about ready to call a substitute but I realized the love she has for these kids and the effort she puts into her lessons.  As I thought of this, I realized that no one else would be able to simulate in a sense what she does except for me, as I watch her and hear her stories of each of them.  I at least wanted to show up to the class and let them know of the love she has for them.  I decided to put the phone down and call on the Good Lord for help instead.  I was going to give the lesson.

I shouldn’t have been suprised to get an answer to prayer so quickly, but not long after I prayed I received an email in my inbox from Meridian Magazine.  There was an article by John Bytheway headlining the magazine called “Leafing through the Chapters of Isaiah” (I encourage anyone interested in familiarizing themselves with Isaiah to read this article in conjuction with Isaiah).  I clicked on it and started reading and the first paragraph started describing how I felt as I thought of teaching Isaiah.  However, after reading the article and studying the “Isaiah Chapters” of the Book of Mormon, I started getting excited to teach the class.  The article discusses the four guides to look for in any of Isaiah’s writings as being those of Covenants, Christ, Current Events, and Coming Events.  In addition, it discusses some keys (spirit of prophecy, geographical knowledge of Jews, living in latter-days, knowledge of God’s judgements) needed to interpret Isaiah.  As I started reading the chapters with the guide and keys I started finding things in Isaiah I’ve never been able to comprehend or appreciate. 

I only studied for a few hours, so I barely was able to scratch the surface of Isaiah.  However, some things that stuck out to me were: prophesies of temples, the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (see also Isaiah 11), Isaiah’s call as a prophet from the voice of the Lord, descriptions of the Millenium, Jesus’ personal approval of Isaiah, and much more. 

As I went to church, I pictured in my mind teaching the kids the best I could and taking care of them like my wife (and of course the Lord) wanted them to be taken care of.  However, the opportunity to teach didn’t come because our normally scheduled one hour meeting lasted almost 2 hours and the bishop told us we would cancel Sunday School.

Although I didn’t get to teach “Isaiah 101”, I’m grateful for the chance I had to learn and study and even if there were not many students in our church today learning about Isaiah, there was at least one student who learned something and that student was me.

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.

During my morning scripture study today I was reading John 15:1-16.  This is a section where Jesus is teaching his disciples on the perfect law of love.  The verses that stand out to me are verses 5, 7, and 10.  They read:

Verse 5: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing”

Verse 7: “If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.”

Verse 10: “If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commndments, and abide in his love”

My first question was “How do I abide in the Savior’s love?” The answer is obviously in verse 10 by keeping His commandments.  Further research into the scriptures led me to some of the commandments that I personally should do to abide in the Savior’s love.  These include: praying, studying scriptures, acknowledging His hnd in all things, recieving counsel from Him, walking as He walked, and keeping His commandments.

Why is it important to abide in Him?  The answer is in verse 7: “…ye shall ask what ye will, and it shll be done unto you…”

This led me back to verse 5 where Jesus states he is the vine and we are the branches.  If we are not connected to Him (abide in Him), we can do nothing.  This scripture reminds me also of Psalms Chapter 1 verse 3.  Here the psalmist compares a man that “delights in the law” i.e. keeps the commandments of God to a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth fruit and prospers.  Compare this also to when Jesus Christ offers the woman at the well “living water” in John Chapter 4.

I am very grateful for the Lord, Jesus Christ.  I know that I can do many things on my own, but when I do that I do not have the strength of the Lord or His Holy Spirit in my life.  I am very grateful and know that when I abide in him and keep His commandments I feel more love for my fellow men and peace in my heart. 

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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