Thursday, December 4, 2008

Trials and God's plan

One of the unfortunate facts of life is trials. We all go through hard times, sometimes so hard we don't know if we'll ever make it out. These words from the Savior to His disciples lift me up:

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Luke 12:5-6

I think of how often I lose a hair, and this scripture really comforts me. I think I lost three hairs in the shower this morning, but I'm really not sure because most of the time I don't even know that a hair fell from my head. God is intimately aware of us. He knows the little details we don't even know, and He is taking care of us; nothing happens except that He is watching over us and planning for us.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mormons and Proposition 8

There is a lot of unrest about the passage of Proposition 8 in California. I just want to try to provide people with the views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the issue. As a disclaimer, I will point out that I am just a member of the Church; I don't have authority to speak for it, but I will explain the views as well as I can. Please refer to official Church sources for more information or clarification as needed.

Here are the links that I am using as sources:

These explain our beliefs on the matter very well. I will try to summarize:
We believe that the family is a central unit of society and also essential to God's plan for all of His children. God instituted the family among mankind from the beginning, with Adam and Eve together as our common parents. For this reason, we believe that it is essential that marriage be defined as the union of a man and a woman. This is the standard that God established and we uphold that standard.

Here are some things that we do not believe:
We do not believe it is acceptable before God to discriminate against anyone based on their sexual orientation. Hate crimes are a serious sin. Bigotry in all its forms is unacceptable before God, because He is the Father of all. The Church's purpose in supporting Proposition 8 was not to persecute anyone, it was to support a path for society that we believe is stable and acceptable before God. Please remember the following:
Even more, the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.
(from the first link I posted)
What the Church is opposed to is changing the definition of the family. That is why the Church supported Proposition 8. Furthermore, a Church is completely justified in speaking out politically. The separation of Church and State is something I hold dear. Everyone should recognize how important that separation is. It would be awful if there were a state religion, no matter what religion that would be. A Church expressing its views and asking its members to defend a central principle in no way mixes the two, it is simply political activism, a principle central to American government.

It upsets me that people are protesting in front of temples in California and other places. For one thing, I don't understand why our church is singled out, when we were part of a coalition of churches that supported the measure. There was an extremely distasteful commercial shown in California that labeled Mormons as home invaders who were coming to take away your rights. It seems very ironic that people labeled us as home invaders and then went to disrupt our worship services. I don't think its appropriate to disrupt someone's worship (which is a protected Constitutional right) because you disagree with their views.

In closing, I would like to say that our Church isn't about hate or discrimination. We merely believe that marriage and the family play a central role in God's plan and also in society. There never has been a successful society that wasn't based on the traditional family. We are trying to protect our views and rights, not destroy anyone else's. I know that not everyone agrees with me. We do not have to agree, but please do not attack our Church for defending our standards.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Infinite Atonement and Hope

All Christians hold for truth that Jesus Christ suffered to pay for our sins, and that this makes Him our Savior. Many do not realize that he did much more than this:
The prophet Alma, who lived in the Americas, also testified:

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

"Suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind" means that Christ suffered for every bad thing that ever will happen to us, each of us, in this life. I have a friend who lost their spouse after about one month of marriage. I do not know what this is like. I cannot tell my friend I understand how she feels. With confidence, I can testify to her that I know that Christ knows. I know he took that weight upon him. This, along with our sins, are why He bleed from every pore for His suffering.

Doesn't this give you hope? I know that whatever happens in my life, my Lord and Savior has the ability to help. He overcame sin, and can deliver us from it. Just as He overcame sin, He overcame disappointment, doubt, failure, pain, and every trial we face in life. He did this out of love and a desire to help us through it all. He can. There is no need to despair. No pit is so deep that He cannot help us out of it. His arm is not shortened, neither have any taken His power to deliver. I know that He has helped me, and He can help you.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

October 2008 General Conference

Twice a year our Church has a conference for the entire church called General Conference. In this conference we are addressed by people that we sustain as General Authorities - our Church's leadership - including our Prophet and the Apostles of the Church. In this conference, you can really feel that all are men and women of God. They tell inspiring stories and share the messages our Father in Heaven would have us hear right now. Truly it is a blessing to know the Lord's will right now, and to have a Prophet with the same power, authority, and message that Moses, Isaiah, and all prophets before them had. I feel comforted to know that God leads this Church through a prophet, and that by following His prophet I can come closer to Him.

One of my favorite talks in General Conference was by Elder Quentin L. Cook, a man we sustain as an Apostle of Jesus Christ. He shared the following story:

Last winter my daughter had a white-knuckle experience driving in a severe snowstorm. She reminded me of a similar situation I had with my two sons many years ago. My youngest son, Joe, was three years old, and my son Larry was six. We were traveling by car from San Francisco to Utah in June. The weather had been very good.

As we started our ascent to the Donner Pass summit in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, suddenly and without warning an enormous snowstorm hit us. None of the drivers was prepared. A semitruck in front of us had jackknifed and was spread across two lanes. Other trucks and cars had slid off the freeway. One lane was open, and many vehicles, including ours, were desperately trying to gain traction to avoid the other vehicles. All traffic then came to a halt.

We were not prepared for this blizzard in June. We had no warm clothing, and our fuel was relatively low. I huddled with the two boys in an effort to keep us warm. After many hours, safety vehicles, snowplows, and tow trucks began to clear up the massive logjam of vehicles.

Eventually, a tow truck hauled us to a service station on the other side of the pass. I called my wife, knowing she would be worried because she had expected a call the prior evening. She asked if she could speak to the two boys. When it was the three-year-old’s turn, with a quivering voice, he said, “Hope ya know, we had a hard time!”

Elder Cook then talked about a few specific people (some of whom were historic) and described some of the things they went through. I won't include all of his examples, but he talked of how they trusted God and how they felt His awareness of their difficulties. He then closed with this thought:

Think of the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane during the Atonement process, suffering agony so great that He bled from every pore. His cry to His Father included the word Abba. This might be interpreted as the cry of a son who is in distress to his father: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” I testify that the Atonement of Jesus Christ covers all of the trials and hardships that any of us will encounter in this life. At times when we may feel to say, “Hope you know, I had a hard time,” we can be assured that He is there and we are safe in His loving arms.

I also know that Jesus Christ watches over us. He knows us. I have felt His love for me personally, and I know that He loves and wants to save all of mankind, but He also loves and wants to save you. If you reach out to Him, you will feel Him reaching for you.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Moroni's promise

At the end of the Book of Mormon there is a promise recorded about the book. The essential parts of the promise are that if you read, think about what you read, and then pray to God to know if what you read is true, He will speak to you through the Holy Ghost and manifest the truth of it unto you. Here is the text of the promise:

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 merciful 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 ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

This is such a simple, elegant truth. God is your Father and will speak to you. To me, this promise is a defining part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: each person should go to the Lord themselves and discover the truth for themselves, so everyone can know for themselves the truth. I know that God loves each of us; we are all His children and He will send the Holy Ghost to teach any of His children that is willing to follow His words. I have prayed and know for myself that the Book of Mormon is true. I wouldn't want anyone to believe just because I said so, but I hope that everyone will go to the Lord and ask, and have the courage to live the answer that they receive.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Christ Story

One thing I have noticed throughout literature, movies and entertainment is that people love the Christ story. I’m not referring to the popularity or lack thereof of actual Christian literature and movies, I’m referring to different versions of the Christ story: the basic format is that a world, society, or kingdom is in peril and going to be destroyed, and then a hero comes and saves it. It is amazing how often the hero is prophesied of, even from before his birth, or something happens to him as a child that reveals that he is going to save the kingdom. This story permeates literature. It can be found in everything from Shakespeare to Eragon.

I find it curious that people love this story so much. Some people might say it’s just a good story, but I believe that people love it because of a deeper identity. I don’t believe that life begins with birth. I believe that we all lived with God our Father before being born on earth. We also all wanted to have the chance to come to this world. He presented us a plan where we would have a Savior who would sacrifice Himself to allow us to return home again, if we chose to accept His sacrifice. He also presented Jesus Christ as our Savior. People love the Christ story because it is their hope. Everyone came to earth hoping to find the Gospel and return to God’s presence. The Christ story is what we are all searching for, and that’s why it makes good literature.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Abraham 1:2

"And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers"
- Abraham 1:2

Last week at institute class we were discussing this scripture. I had always thought of this scripture as something really grandiose, something that only someone who had the spiritual strength to be willing to sacrifice their son could attain. For these reasons, I never really thought of it as something that applied to me.

My mind must have skipped these last lines - 'I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.' These lines help me apply it to myself now: Abraham sought the blessings of holding the Melchizedek Priesthood. There is a way for us all to gain these blessings, and covenant with God, as the fathers did (i.e. Adam): we must live a life worthy of holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, and seek all of the blessings associated with it. I remember that when I received this Priesthood, my grandfather told me it was the greatest thing I could ever receive. I think that he understood something more of these promises than I did at the time. I know that the Priesthood is the power of God, and I am grateful that it is upon the earth today.