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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) publishes a monthly magazine called the Ensign.  This month’s issue includes a great article by President Henry Eyring of the First Presidency on the importance of gratitude.  At the end of the article there was a little activity called the “Gratitude Challenge“.  I thought it would be fun to take it online and share it with you. 

I’ll take the challenge as an example on the blog.  Copy and paste the challenge into the comment section and leave yours too for others to benefit from.

Take a Gratitude Challenge

By John Hilton III and Anthony Sweat

Let’s not just talk about counting our blessings—let’s do it! Write a list of 100 things you are thankful for. If that sounds like it is too many, try this:

1.

Write 10 physical abilities you are grateful for.

Sight, strength to run, bike, lift, hike, walk, , hearing, smell, touch, coordination, endurance.

2.

Write 10 material possessions you are grateful for.

Home, cars, enough money to support family, computer, internet, exercize equipment, clothing, central heating (this is on my mind because it is cold as I write this), DVD player with movies, GPS in my car, car seats for kids, stuffed animals for the kids, comfortable bed, hot water.

3.

Write 10 living people you are grateful for.

Wife, children (2), parents (father, mother, step-mother), siblings (7), cousins, in-laws, grandparents, friends…..I’m not putting names down here because there are too many to count and just in case I forget someone it will come back and haunt me!

4.

Write 10 deceased people you are grateful for.

Grandma Anderson, Grandma Curlette, Jesus, founding fathers, known and unknown people who lost lives to improve ours today through fighting battles in war and in other ways such as inventions in medicine and other comforts we enjoy

5.

Write 10 things about nature you are grateful for.

Smell after it rains, Mt Rainier, Ocean, Puget Sound, the smell of salty ocean water on a sunny day, sound of ground under feet when hiking, sound of river running when camping, wind through trees, warmth of sun on sandy beach, sound of silence when in a forest after it snows, smell of desert air, sunsets, sound of waves lapping on the shore, seasons,

6.

Write 10 things about today you are grateful for.

Chance to spend time with both kids early in the morning while wife caught up on sleep, hot tea to settle an upset stomache, a job that allows me to have flexibility and spend time with family while providing so wife doesn’t have to work, a good wife who supports me and is a good mother to the kids, scripture study, exercising (P90X2!), internet to do my job and also have scripture study in the morning (and write this post!), health, gospel, texting, phones, supportive and friendly family

7.

Write 10 places on earth you are grateful for.

Mt Rainier, temples, Puget Sound, Whistler ski resort (ski resorts in general), church buildings, my bedroom, my office, Switzerland (the Alps), Hawaii (Kaui particularly), Taiwan

8.

Write 10 modern inventions you are grateful for.

Internet, Computer, TV, toilets, indoor heating, plumbing, roadways, airplanes, phones, books

9.

Write 10 foods you are grateful for.

Health shakes, eggs, turkey sandwiches, mashed potatoes with lots of gravy, grilled salmon, halibut, turkey burgers, banannas, peaches, anything my wife cooks

10.

Write 10 things about the gospel you are grateful for.

Hope it gives, strength it gives through trial, peace it brings, guidance it gives for all aspects of life, friendships found with other believers, healing it gives through repentance and forgiveness, light it brings to world, transformation it makes within my heart and others’ hearts, places it takes me through following God’s Spirit as I serve

 

I’m sure if I spent more time I could think of more things, but this is off the top of my head.  I’m looking forward to seeing your list in the comment section!

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Recently I was having a conversation with one of my friends and she said that having a testimony of the Book of Mormon was essential in order to stay in the LDS church.

However, there are other denomonations that believe and support the Book of Mormon.  The RLDS (now Community of Christ) church and the Church of Jesus Christ (nicknamed Bickertonites) are two denomonations that believe in the Book of Mormon as well.

I’m not the best historian so maybe someone can help me here.  From what I understand, Sydney Rigdon started the Bickertonites and Joseph Smith’s son (Joseph Smith III) started the RLDS church after Joseph Smith died.  Brigham Young and the other apostles were with the main body of the LDS people.  Interestingly, all three groups seem to have claimed authority given to them from Joseph Smith.

So the questions are:

Is having a testimony Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon enough to stay strong in the LDS church? If not, what is necessary to have a testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

What happened historically and who exactly did Joseph Smith give the keys of priesthood authority to? 

It appears organizationally the three are similar with apostles, prophets, etc. and they all study the same books.  What are the differences between the three organizations?

I have my own personal opinions from briefly reading the history of both organizations, but I’d love to hear what others with more historical knowledge have to say. 

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

This causes me to ask a few questions:

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

2. What can be done to increase retention?

3. Why are people going to other churches

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

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

Are the Numbers Accurate?

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

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

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

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

I have deep roots in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  My fourth great-grandfather was the first bishop of the church, Edward Partridge.  Amasa Lyman was one of my ancestors as well and he was an apostle and a polygamist.  In addition, I’ve had many great spiritual experiences within the church and served as a missionary in Frankfurt, Germany and served in leadership positions of the church. 

If you read my post entitled “How I became a Mormon,” you will know of my conversion story and will know why I chose and still choose to be a Mormon.

That being said, I have had my own personal struggles with issues in our church history and our current practices in the church.  It has been hard for me to swallow the “polygamy” pill and the first time I went through the temple I was freaked out and had struggles going to the temple for 7 years afterwards. 

Being raised in a predominately LDS community in small-town southern Idaho, one is raised to think in black and white.  For example, the church is true (what does this mean anyways?) and everything else is false, prophets and apostles are infallible, Joseph Smith is the closest thing to Jesus there is, you have to go on a mission, etc. 

A few years after my mission I started learning more about the history of the church and many things that church leaders have said and done and things in the temple and my faith waivered.  I started exploring my personal faith and other faiths as well.  I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t deny the witnesses that I’d felt when I read the Book of Mormon and served in the church.  After examining other religions, I concluded that although our prophets and church aren’t infallible, they are definitely good.  Furthermore, I came to the conclusion that it is o.k. if I don’t know without a shadow of doubt everything there is to know.  I do know that I’m happier when I serve in the church and that I feel the Spirit and have felt the Spirit confirm to me on many occasions that many of the doctrines in the church are true.  I believe for me personally this is the path that God would have me travel and I’m very grateful for the blessings I’ve recieved as I’ve made the journey.

For those who have struggled, or are currently struggling in their personal faith within the church, I can totally empathize.  I have seen very close family members and friends leave the church and I don’t blame them or judge them in the least because I’ve had to deal with many of the same issues as well. 

I recommend reading the following essays and podcasts by John Dehlin for those who are struggling, or who have a close friend or family member struggling:

1. How to Stay in the Church

2. Why do People Leave the Church?

John interviewed people who had left the church for over two years and compiled reasons why people leave.  He also addresses what we can do to help those who are on the edge or already gone (and that could include ourselves).

Listening to these has helped me very much knowing that I don’t have to have a black and white mentality and also that other people, including Stake Presidents and others have had questions and overcome them as well. 

In conclusion I would like to emphasize that I know what the Spirit has testified to me throughout the years line upon line and grace for grace.  I know the scriptures make me feel closer to God when I read them; I know of the peace I now feel when I’m in the temple; I know that when I serve in the church I feel closer to God and love in my heart grows; I know as I partake of the sacrament I feel closer to God; I know and have felt the confirmation from the Spirit as I pray.  I know that I have a ton to learn and am grateful that I’ve had many experiences to help me keep moving forward. 

It is my hope that this helps anyone who may be struggling. 

Yesterday the Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints passed away.  LDS people believe that the prophet of the church recieves modern day revelation for the church just as Peter did for the Church of Jesus Christ after Jesus was crucified. 

I believe President Hinckley was a prophet and want to share my thoughts and experiences with President Hinckley.

My first experience was when he visited my home town in 1989.  I went to the regional meeting with my Grandpa and Grandma Anderson.  The meeting was packed and I heard him speak.  I was young–about 12 years old, but afterwards I was able to go up and look into his warm eyes that had a twinkle in them and shake his hand.  Looking back it is amazing that he took time to shake everyone’s hand.  There were a few thousand people in the auditorium.  He would mention in his conference talks how much he wanted to get out amoungst the people and shake their hands.  He would say how his hands would hurt sometimes but he was determined to meet everyone.  I’m grateful to have been a recipient.  This is the only direct contact I ever had with him.

The next significant influence he had on my life was when I saw him on 60 minutes in 1995.  I had just graduated from high school and had started my first semester in college.  For many years it seems to me like Mormons had hid and sort of shyed away from getting out in the public and sharing their beliefs and becoming a part of society.  As I watched President Hinckley speak that day I not only felt the Holy Spirit testify to me that he was indeed a prophet, but I felt a great desire to share this message.  A few short months later I had the opportunity to do so as I went on a mission to Germany.

One of the unique things about my mission was that President Hinckley’s grandson was in my mission.  I remember the day he came into our district (group of missionaries) at the MTC (Missionary Training Center where the missionaries study scriptures and learn the language for 2 months before going to the country). 

The first day we all gathered around Elder Hinckley and bombarded him with questions on if President Hinckley had ever seen Jesus or how he speaks to God and many other questions.  Elder Hinckley took it very well and said “he’s just like a regular grandpa…you know, likes to fish and tells jokes.  He’s a good guy.”  The only thing his Grandfather ever said was that receiving revelation was like how Elijah describes it in the Bible in 1 Kings 19: 11-12.  The Lord usually communicates through a “still small voice.” This was a bit anti-climatic for us missionaries, but it made sense!

As it came time for us to depart to Germany, Elder Hinckley was assigned to be my travel companion.  As we were waiting at the airport, Elder Hinckley’s father (Gordon B Hinckley’s son), came and said that President Hinckley wanted to see him before he left and that his companion (which was me) could go and visit in his office as well, but if he wanted to stay with his family he could.  I was torn because my family had traveled many hours to come and see me off, yet I wanted to meet the prophet as well.  I decided to stay with my family and so Elder Hinckley went without me.  When Elder Hinckley returned, I asked him what his grandpa had said.  It was very characteristic of what we usually hear President Hinckley saying with his sense of humor.  When President Hinckley asked why I didn’t come and heard I had decided to stay with my family he said something to the effect of “Well, that’s a good choice.  I can’t blame him for not wanting to see an old man like me!”  I’m sure he had the same twinkle in his eye as he always did when he was joking. 

Although I didn’t have any direct experiences after this encounter, I was inspired many, many times.  When he gave the talk “This Thing wasn’t Done in a Corner” on my mission about how the Church of Jesus Christ is coming forth out of obscurity, I wanted to share the gospel with everyone with a passion I’d never had before that lasted throughout my mission. 

When he announced that he had a goal of having 100 temples by the year 2000 I wasn’t sure how he would double the amount of temples in 3 years, but he did it.  I was inspired.  His books, Standing for Something and Way to Be were inspirational and helped me in college.  When I saw the way he interacted with his wife of 67 years as they would speak together I thought to myself: “that is how I want to treat my wife.”  When he appeared on 60 minutes and Larry King Live and I heard him, I was inspired and motivated as well.

I will always be grateful for the leadership and inspiration that President Gordon B Hinckley gave me.  Although I had limited personal contact with him, he was a part of who I am today because I have tried to live the words he imparted as a prophet of God.  I thank God for a prophet like Gordon B Hinckley to guide me. 

If you are interested in hearing directly from the prophet, here are some links:

For a testimony from the prophet click here. 

For a photographic memorial of the Prophet click here.

God be with you til we meet again.

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 thought this was an interesting map.  It’s a map of where the majority of major christian churches in America are found.  Check it out here.

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