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A few months back I was in stake conference and someone gave a talk on the gift of the Holy Ghost.  In the talk, the person shared parts of a talk by Truman G Madsen, where he lists 20 questions to ask yourself in order to identify if you’ve felt the power and gift of the Holy Ghost.  I tried to write most of them down, but may be missing them.  In addition, I have had a hard time coming across the Madsen talk, so if you have more information that would be great!

20 Questions

1. Have you ever had the Spirit overwhelm you with gratitude?

2. Have you ever spoken beyond your means?

3. Have you ever given a talk and had people say “you said exactly what I needed to hear”?

4. Have you ever been filled with “liquid fire” in response to prayer?

5. Have you ever been given words to pray?

6. Have you known you’d be called upon to pray or serve in a particular calling?

7. Have you been prompted to share your testimony, or witness of the gospel?

8. Have you felt the overwhelming sense of peace that comes from the Spirit?

9. Have you ever given a blessing or received a blessing you needed?

10. Have you ever been healed by a blessing?

11. Have you had the experience of having the veil thin?

12. Have you been in the temple and the “flood gates open” and light pours into you?

13. Have you had experience knowing there were angels in the temple?

14. Have you had the experience where scriptures seem to “leap off the page” and give you answers?

15. Have you been lead to find names in family history to do geneology and temple work?

16. Have you ever had flashes of insight, or “pure knowledge”?

17. Have you ever sat in sacrament and felt wounds lifted from your soul?

18. Have you ever felt changed from partaking of the sacrament?

19. Have you felt changed from the atonement?

20. (I missed the last one)

Madsen then goes on to explain that when we have these experiences it is when we’re either serving someone else in our family or community, praying, and reading our scriptures…basically doing what it takes to receive a witness.  He suggests it requires softness of heart, meekness, humility, and lowliness of heart.

I agree with many of these statements in that I’ve had amazing spiritual experiences in the temple, during prayer, in sacrament, and while giving and receiving blessings. 

However, my question I pose is whether one necessarily needs the gift of the Holy Ghost (meaning having received the laying on of hands after baptism) to experience these things, or if anyone can experience these things?  For most of my life, I’ve been an active member of the LDS church and don’t really know what it may be like for those who don’t recieve the laying on of hands.  I’d be interested to hear from everyone, but especially those who have been baptized members of the LDS church and recieved the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Did you experience an added measure of the spirit after receiving the laying on of hands and what are your thoughts on these 20 questions?  Did you, or could you experience this w/o having the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost?

03-07-08  Recently this post was posted on the postmormon.com website and I have received many comments from former members who are eager to debate doctrine.  My intention with this post was not to debate whether Joseph Smith was a prophet or the LDS church is true/false, etc.  Any comments made that are not uplifting or off-topic will be deleted.  If your intentions lead to off-topic discussions you are invited to go to another forum. Here is the original post:

I was on vacation a couple years ago in Hawaii and there was an interesting lesson on how to strengthen against apostasy.  I jotted down the 9 steps to strenthen against apostasy and put them in my scriptures.  This morning I came across them again and thought I’d share. 

Personally, I feel apostasy is distancing myself from the Lord and His teachings and truths that he has revealed to me about His gospel and teachings.  Each one of us have had different things revealed to us and it is up to us to keep searching and growing in light and truth.  When we stop searching by praying, studying scriptures, serving, etc. we are taking steps towards apostasy.  Following these suggestions can help us maintain the Holy Ghost and help us endure to the end.

Strengthening Against Apostasy

1.) Avoid those who would tear down your faith

2.) Keep the commandments

3.) Follow the living prophets

4.) Don’t debate points of doctrine (3Nephi 11:28)

5.) Search the scriptures

6.) Don’t be swayed from the mission of the church

7.) Pray for enemies

8.) Practice pure religion (James 1:27)

9.) Remember not everything has an immediate answer

 

As I look over these steps, I see things I can definitely improve on.  Questions to consider are: how do I react when someone from another faith comes on my blog and shares their experiences and even attacks me?  Do I pray for them or do I try to argue points of doctrine with them?  How am I doing with studying the scriptures?  Am I practicing pure religion as James describes it by visiting the homeless and the widows?  Am I impatient when I pray and demand an immediate answer?  Do I follow our modern day prophets or do I scoff at them? 

These are important things to consider.  I know the closer I am to the Lord and His Spirit, the happier I feel.  I hope we can all ponder these questions and be thankful if we’re on the right track and if we’re not, make some changes to get back on track.

For those of you reading this who may not be familiar with LDS meetings, today was what we call “Fast and Testimony Meeting.”  On the first Sunday of each month (called “Fast Sunday”) members of the faith abstain from food and water (a.k.a fast) for 24 hrs. and give the money they would have used in those meals to the needy. 

Today happened to be Fast Sunday.  One thing unique about Fast Sunday is that members of the faith have an opportunity to stand up before the congregation and share their “testimony,” or witness of their faith.  I’m not the best church historian out there so I’m not sure where this concept originated from, but I think it is there to provide the opportunity for members to learn and grow together through sharing personal experiences and sharing how the Lord works in our daily lives. 

Over the years there have been some phrases that are typically repeated over and over again each fast Sunday.  Again, I’m not familiar with where these phrases originated, but some key phrases one will be guaranteed to hear each Sunday are: “I know the Church is true,” “I know the Book of Mormon is true,” “Jesus is the Christ,” “I love my family, parents, etc.”  Now, don’t get me wrong, these are all good phrases, but many times after hearing them over and over again it can be easy to drift off and think of other things.  Plus, in my opinion, one starts to get the feeling that a person is just using these phrases sometimes as a “filler” to say something to fill the space.

Throughout the years I’ve heard members of other faiths mention how this isn’t uplifting to them.  They come to church to learn and to hear a preacher educated and trained in the ways of religion.  They do not want to take the time to go to church to hear other “uneducated” people talk about the same thing over and over again. 

I’ll have to be honest, I was having similar thoughts today as people would get up and share their life history one after the other.  I started getting a tad critical, thinking to myself “they’re not even referencing any scriptures,” or “how many times will I hear I know such and such is true,” etc.  In the beginning of the meeting, the Bishop said the meeting would go as long as necessary and so people lined up one after the other.  Normally the meeting lasts about an hour.  Today at about an hour I noticed there was still a long line.  I notice my bad attitude and said a quick prayer to help me be humbled to learn what the Lord would have me learn.

About this time a sweet little elderly lady got up and shared her experiences and her testimony.  I won’t lie.  It was a long testimony.  However, something she said caught my attention.  It was simple.  She said she had 33 grandkids and went on to describe how the Lord had led her throughout her life and how grateful she was. 

A thought then came to my mind: “Whatever the Lord touches, flourishes and lives…”  Suddenly the meeting was interesting as I thought about this concept and reflected on scriptures of the Lord touching people and healing them.  I thought of people in the scriptures who looked to Him and lived.  I thought of His ministry to both the Jews and in the Book of Mormon and how people’s lives were bless simply by Him touching them.

I looked around the chapel and saw parents lovingly helping their kids and knew the Lord was pleased.  I thought about the stories that were shared during that meeting and about how they were sharing these experiences because the Lord had touched their lives.  I then considered how He had touched my life and how blessed I’ve been because of it.  More people kept coming up and sharing experiences and I focused on the experiences they were sharing about how the Lord had touched their life and they had become more alive from it. 

Almost 2 hours after the meeting began, we had said the closing prayer and were walking out of the chapel.  I looked around at everyone there and felt in a small way what it is to be a part of the body of Christ.  Jesus touches each one of us individually in the best way for us to learn and how open we are to learning. 

Although we didn’t have an experienced and educated pastor sharing a sermon today, I feel that the Holy Spirit was able to educate me in ways I never would have considered and for that I’m grateful.

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?

In a recent post, entitled “Making our Hearts a Manger,” one of my friends, Brad Trnavsky, shared an interesting insight.  He commented that “when we were children all of our hearts were like that (a place for the Savior)… As you get older it’s harder to see past our own bias and prejudice.”  Later that day when I was speaking with him he further shared insight on how his own daughter has no biases and that she “would share her lollipop with anyone.” 

In the Bible, Paul shares a similar insight in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12: “when I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things…now we see through a glass, darkly…”

I thought about my life and how various experiences have led me to “see through dark glass,” as Paul describes.  I then asked myelf what “childish things” have I put away?  I don’t remember a whole lot about myself as a child and my perspective is different than someone from the outside looking in.  I wanted to get some insight on how I was as a child and thought my parents would be the best people to consult.  I emailed them and here is the feedback I received from my father:

As a very young child, you were pretty inquisitive. You were always getting in to things, and making messes in the process. I remember that one time you got into the diaper pail and had dirty diapers scattered all over the house. You were just sitting in the middle of it all having a blast. You were always asking questions. If we went to the movies, you were quite a pain to have there because we couldn’t watch a movie for you asking questions. We’d always say, “Just watch the movie and listen and you’ll find the answer. You were also pretty tender hearted, and felt bad for things that were hurt. You loved us to read books to you. It didn’t matter what kind of books they were. You were also reading by the time you went to kindergarten. One thing that you loved was horses. You would always just make your way over the their corral and just watch them. You loved to ride them. Another thing that you liked was being outdoors. It didn’t matter what the weather was like, you wanted to be out. We put the fence up in the back for that purpose. If I was mowing the lawn, or driving the tractor, you had to be on their riding with me. We mowed lots of grass together, and cleaned lots of stalls riding on the tractor together…One thing that you really didn’t like was contention…Your were also very bright and loved to watch the stars, and play with the cats that we had. The main thing I remember about you during those years and beyond was you felt responsible to be a good example and to try to be a problem solver…”

As I read this, it brought back memories and humbled me.  First, I thought of how inquisitive children are and as a child I wasn’t scared or inhibited in searching for new knowledge no matter where it was.  In the early years learning and growing are all children are doing and the world is like water and kids are like sponges soaking it all in.  I asked myself how do I view the world today?  Am I still searching for knowledge and learning and growing or do I think I have it all figured out.  Worse, have I allowed the “dark glass” of prejudice or things other people have said or done to me to hinder me from progressing?  As a child, I wanted to learn, grow, and find answers.  I didn’t care what people thought even if it was in a movie theater! 

Next, being tender hearted is a good quality of most children.  How am I doing in that category now?  Do I know how my friends and family are doing/feeling?  Do I care about their needs above my own or am I too wrapped up in my work or what I think is important to me to stop and make a phone call, or pause while my wife or friends are talking to me in the middle of doing something, etc.?  How about the people I help at church?  Do I really care about how they’re doing?  What about the world?  Do I pray for and care about people in other nations or communities that do not have as much as I do or am I too busy with other things? 

I’ll have to admit I love the smell of fresh grass to this day and perhaps the reason is because of the many rides my father and I took on the lawn mower.  Something I’ve also learned from my mother is to appreciate nature.  She’ll call me and tell me about a neat view of Mt Rainier or when a full moon is out or she sees a blue heron flying (this is her favorite bird).  Children are the same way as I was as a kid.  They appreciate and love playing outside.  They love God’s creations as I loved horses, cats, and the outdoors.  I feel maintaining this simple awe for nature and respect is a very important characteristic to maintain in order to fully appreciate God. 

Finally, my father says as a kid I wanted to be a problem solver.  Being the oldest, I do remember feeling a sense of responsibility.  I ask myself this question now.  If something is wrong do I take initiative to fix the problem or do I wait for someone else to fix it? 

This excersize was very good for me because it allowed me to reflect and remember that I am essentially still a child and don’t know as much as I usually think I do.  Even though I’m older, I’m still a child learning and growing.  The more I remember this and internalize this, the better off I’ll be.

In addition to these practical implications, the Savior shares spiritual and eternal implications of being as a child.  The scriptures share some great insights, which I will share. 

1. (Mosiah 3:19) As a natural man, I am an enemy to God unless I become like a child: humble, meek, patient, full of love, and willing to submit to everything the Lord asks me to do. 

2. (Luke 9:48) If I receive the Lord like a child I will be “great in the kingdom of God.”  For me this is basically the same concept of being humble and submissive to the Lord.

3. (Mark 10: 13-16) In this verse, Jesus’ disciples “rebuke” those who brought children with them to see Jesus.  Jesus reprimands His disciples and says “suffer the children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of God.”  He further goes on to say that unless they receive the kingdom as a little child they can not enter into His kingdom and he blesses them. 

3 Nephi 9:22 is very similar to the verses in Mark as well.  In 3 Nephi, Jesus tells the people on the American continent that unless they repent and become as a child they won’t inheret the kingdom of God.  Notice that He adds that repentance is necessary for us to become as a child and therefore inherit God’s kingdom.

4. (3 Nephi 11:37-40) In this scripture Jesus informs the people that not only humbling oneself as a child and repentance are necessary, but baptism is also necessary to inherit the kingdom of God.  Verse 39 also states that this is Christ’s doctrine and whosoever builds on this doctrine is built on a rock (i.e. a solid foundation). 

5. (3 Nephi 17:21-25) In my opinion, these scriptures are some of the most touching scriptures we have.  Here, Jesus prays and blesses the peoples’ children one by one and weeps because of the love and joy he has for them.  It shows how much love Jesus has for children and it sheds some further light on the joy he must feel when we decide to humble ourselves like a child and submit to Him so he can bless us.  This is probably why the prophet Moroni stated that “children are alive in Christ.”  I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than being able to say that I am alive in Christ with confidence.  When I focus on becoming as a child I am progressing towards this goal.

In conclusion, I invite you to either reflect on your childhood or ask your parents to provide you some insight on what you were like as a child.  Or if you have children look to them as an example.  Consider some of the “childish things you’ve put away” and pray and reflect on what you can do to incorporate them back into your life.  The promises are great if we can remember to become as a child by removing the dark glasses we see through and learn to see as a child.

Dress Standards and Culture

This is part three of my series on the Washington Post Article

The article mentions that the LDS church has fallen from the highest converting Christian church in America.  The official LDS website states the church is the second-highest converting church in America

The article suggests that other faiths are “willing to express the local culture in many ways that the LDS has been slow to do.”  And further asks if it is necessary for people to all dress a certain way to attend church meetings and for missionaries to be dressed a certain way, etc. 

I would love to hear what people have to say about this because from my own personal experience as a missionary in Germany it was very difficult to even have a conversation with the people about religion.  However, when I went back to work as a “normal” citizen in Germany and Switzerland, they treated me with respect and got to know me as a person.  I found it much easier to have gospel discussions after my mission as opposed to before.

Why do you think the LDS church maintains the standard American white shirt and tie approach to missionary work?  Do you feel a change in this would positively affect the ability for missionaries to embrace the culture of other countries? 

In addition to these suggestions, what other cultural issues have you experienced that the LDS church could improve on, if anything at all? 

The first time I went through the temple it really freaked me out.  What people wore and what they did and what they said, etc.  It made me wonder what all the hype is growing up in the church and wanting to prepare for the temple. 

I didn’t start feeling the Spirit or trying to put forth effort to understand the temple until 8 years later when one of my newly converted friends wanted to go on a regular basis.  I started going and slowly I started feeling a little more humble, a little softer-hearted. 

A couple years later, my wife was called as a temple worker.  I still had some great hesitation with going to the temple and sacrificing so much time (5 hrs.) to work there.  In the begining I went because I was supporting her, but soon the Spirit kept nudging me and prompting me over the course of a year that I needed to be a worker too.  I resisted until I couldn’t resist the promptings anymore.   The interview with the temple president was scheduled and I became a temple worker. 

For the past year or so as I’ve gone with my wife, I have had many occasions where the Spirit is so strong and I feel so pure in the temple.  After becoming a worker, recently I’ve started to see things symbolically in a way that is amazing along with feeling the sweetness of the Spirit as well.  Virtually everything in the temple points us to Christ’s atonement. 

I don’t understand a lot about why we do certain things in the temple or even why it is necessary.  All I know is that the more I go the more spiritual and closer to Jesus I feel. 

Since I feel my testimony of the temple and it’s importance growing, my new favorite blog is: http://www.templestudy.com/.  I like the insights given about temples and the many references to temples that are found throughout the scriptures.

Critics say there isn’t a need for temples and after Jesus’ death they were done away with.  Those who say that are probably those who say that God can’t speak to man or reveal truths or doctrines.  They are wrong.  God speaks to us in ways I’ve never felt before as I’ve been in the temple.

I invite everyone to visit that blog and learn about temples.  For those of you who may have not been through the temple, some of the information on the templestudy website may not be understood.  You can also visit another temple website: http://www.mormon-temple-ceremony.com/ for basic information on the temples.

What is Christianity?  In my opinion, it is living and adhering to the truths that Jesus taught.  We all know the truths.  Even those who aren’t Christian can’t deny their truth and goodness.  Love your neighbor as yourself; love your enemies, love God, the fruits of the Spirit; the virtues taught by Paul (belief, hope, charity, faith); repentance…the list goes on and on, but you get the idea.   

Some of you may have seen the recent not-so-Christian-comments on my blog from some of my friends from other “christian” faiths.  I know some of you have read them and one of you has commented on how un-christlike many of the comments seem to be.  It caused me to reflect and was brought to my attention again today as I was reading an article entitled “Mitt Romney’s Evangelical Problem.” 

In this article the author discusses her up-bringing in a christian denomonation of another faith.  She said her church would show videos on how Mormonism was akin to devil worshipping and how anyone who affiliates with a Mormon or supports one will bring down the wrath of God so to speak. 

If this is what’s being taught in Christian churches and schools it’s no wonder I receive comments of hatred against my beliefs.  They’ve all been conditioned to react in this way. 

On the flip side being raised a Mormon I was conditioned to believe in “the one true church.”  I know that in the past I’ve offended many Christians due to my arrogance and assumptions that what I believe is the only way to Heaven as well.  I apologize to my Christian friends for this.

My call is to all athiests, agnostics, Jews, Budhists, Christians…everyone.  Let’s open our eyes and start at the basics.  If we believe in something higher than ourselves, let’s start acting like it.  If someone believes/looks like/behaves/ or is something differently than us; responding with hate will not solve anything.  Hate breeds hate. 

I used to listen to the rock group, Creed back in the day.  They have a line from their song “What’s this Life For?” that goes “…we all live under the reign of one King.”

Whatever we believe this “King” is, let’s join together and shed our prejudices and our labels we’ve put on others.  Let’s all take steps towards loving and living “Christian” virtues.  Whether you proclaim yourself to be a Christian or athiest, you can’t deny that the virtues taught by Christ are essential to humanity. 

Will you join me in this endeavor?

My 4th great-grandfather, Edward Partridge was a wealthy business owner when missionaries, including Parley P Pratt introduced him to the gospel.  Upon his conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Edward forsook all he had including his business and his family disowned him.  However, Edward was steadfast stating: “I have torn my affections from this world’s goods, from the vanities and toys of time and sense, and been willing to love and serve God, with all my heart and be led by his holy Spirit.” As a result, “my mind has been as it were continually expanding—receiving the things of God, until glories indescribable present themselves before me.” (Messenger and Advocate, 1 (Jan. 1835), p. 61)

Two months after joining the church Edward became the first bishop.  He spent much time traveling throughout the United States to various branches of the church and administering to the poor.  He ultimately gave his life in service to his fellow man as he became ill but felt “he could not spend time to be sick.” (Woman’s Exponent, beginning 13 (1 Dec. 1884), pp. 102–3)

Since that time the LDS church has grown to become a leading and respected church in the humanitarian community.  The bishop of the church now assists the needs of millions of people both of the LDS faith and those not of the faith. 

Below are some articles that include statistics of the Church in their humanitarian efforts throughout the world:

Official Church Website

Humanitarian Update

Church News

I am personally grateful to have the example of Edward Partridge, who sacrificed all he had for the gospel.  I am also grateful to be a part of a church that reaches out and blesses the lives of so many of God’s children. 

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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