Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Temple Tuesday — Mesa Arizona Temple

(Note: Temples are sacred places. This is the first in a weekly series about individual temples. Learn more about temples at mormon.org or on my blog.)

All temples are beautiful and special, but the Mesa Arizona Temple is especially important to me because many of my dear friends and family have been married or sealed there. I love each of them, and I'm grateful for the example they've set for me by being married in the Lord's house.

Mesa Arizona Temple
The Mesa Temple is unique. Every year, the grounds of the temple host two major events—the Easter pageant "Jesus the Christ", the largest outdoor Easter pageant in the world; and a Christmas light and nativity exhibit.

Christmas lights at the Mesa Temple
The Mesa Temple is one of the largest temples in the Church and the most-heavily trafficked temple outside Utah. Located in Downtown Mesa, it attracts visitors from throughout the Phoenix area and the world. It is one of only three temples without spires and is suggestive of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Mesa Temple was the first to offer endowment sessions in a language other than English—Spanish. It blessed and continues to bless hundreds of thousands of faithful Latter-day Saints who live in Arizona and the surrounding area.

The Mesa Temple was originally dedicated in 1927 by President Heber J. Grant. It was rededicated in 1975 by President Spencer W. Kimball. At the re-dedication, President Kimball said in the dedicatory prayer:

"May Thy peace ever abide in this holy building, that all who come here may partake of the spirit of peace, and of the sweet and heavenly influence that Thy Saints have experienced in other temples, may all who come upon the grounds which surround this temple, whether members of the Church of Christ or not, feel the sweet and peaceful influence of this blessed and hallowed spot. And may this building be sacred unto Thee and protected from the elements of destruction."

Like all other temples, that 'spirit of peace', that 'sweet and heavenly influence', pervades in the Mesa Arizona Temple.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Scripture Saturday — Alma 32:21

"And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true."
(Alma 32:21)

Miracles happen, but they shouldn't be our primary source of faith. In fact, miracles are a manifestation of faith. We see miracles all around us when we have faith in Jesus Christ. God loves each of us and knows us personally, and He is much more involved in our lives than we can comprehend.

Faith is like a little seed; when planted, it will grow.
Some deny that miracles happen. That doesn't mean miracles don't exist; it simply means these people are spiritually blind and cannot see the miracles around them. 

Some miracles are impossible to deny. For example, Alma was visited by an angel. Years later, he recounted this experience to his sons and admonished them to live righteously.

As impressive and life-changing as this experience surely was, Alma, who offers the Book of Mormon's most complete dissertation on faith, does not attribute his faith to the visitation of an angel. He teaches us an important lesson. Whether or not we have seen mighty miracles, we can have faith in Jesus Christ, and that faith must be developed in the same way for each of us.

Faith is not a 'perfect knowledge', nor is it a passive, abstract concept. Faith implies action, and, as the prophet Moroni taught, we receive no spiritual witness until our faith is tested (Ether 12:6).

We demonstrate faith by living gospel principles. If you keep the Word of Wisdom, you have faith in that important principle. If you don't pay a full tithe, you are demonstrating a lack of faith in that commandment.

Trust in Jesus Christ; He knows you personally.
Knowledge and blessings come over time as faith and obedience are consistently exercised. For example, I know how the Word of Wisdom blesses my life because I live it.

This doesn't mean we will understand everything in this life. We're not supposed to, so don't get discouraged if you feel like you aren't 'getting it'. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught

"The gospel is not a secret. It is not complicated or hidden. It can unlock the door to true happiness. It is not someone's theory or proposition. It does not come from man at all. It springs from the pure and everlasting waters of the Creator of the universe, who knows truths we cannot even begin to comprehend. And with that knowledge, He has given us the gospel—a divine gift, the ultimate formula for happiness and success."

Unshakable faith creates immeasurable joy. President Thomas S. Monson said, “My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”

How can we demonstrate faith in Jesus Christ? Comment below.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Online Missionary Work

(Note: At the invitation of Frank Bruno, the following post orignally appeared at http://www.mormonmission.blogspot.com/.)

I've been called to labor in the Tennessee Nashville Mission, but I'm touching the lives of people in faraway places like Australia, China, Germany, the Philippines, Russia and Spain.
How? Because I'm engaged in online missionary work as part of a pilot program introduced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I use tools like Facebook and Blogger to broadcast the joyful message of the restored gospel.

Though the online environment is different in many ways from standard missionary work, the doctrines we teach are still the same. We still want others to come unto Christ through faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. But instead of teaching one person at a time, the Internet allows us to share our message with thousands of people around the world.

I view this as a fulfillment, at least in part, of Joseph Smith's prophetic statement—

"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."

Missionary work—God's work—will continue as long as there are people left who need to hear the gospel. Whether or not you are a full-time missionary, you can share our message with others. Check out my blog (and the blogs of other missionaries) for ideas. Refer your friends and families, especially nonmembers and less-active members, to our blogs. Something we say is bound to bless someone, otherwise we wouldn't be spending valuable time online.

May God bless you in your missionary efforts!

Sites to visit:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lessons from a Cruise Ship

Every April and October, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints eagerly listen to inspired counsel from prophets and apostles during General Conference.

In the most recent General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared a story I'd like to repeat here:

There once was a man whose lifelong dream was to board a cruise ship and sail the Mediterranean Sea. He dreamed of walking the streets of Rome, Athens, and Istanbul. He saved every penny until he had enough for his passage. Since money was tight, he brought an extra suitcase filled with cans of beans, boxes of crackers, and bags of powdered lemonade, and that is what he lived on every day.

The gospel cruise ship is all-inclusive
He would have loved to take part in the many activities offered on the ship—working out in the gym, playing miniature golf, and swimming in the pool. He envied those who went to movies, shows, and cultural presentations. And, oh, how he yearned for only a taste of the amazing food he saw on the ship—every meal appeared to be a feast! But the man wanted to spend so very little money that he didn’t participate in any of these. He was able to see the cities he had longed to visit, but for the most part of the journey, he stayed in his cabin and ate only his humble food.

On the last day of the cruise, a crew member asked him which of the farewell parties he would be attending. It was then that the man learned that not only the farewell party but almost everything on board the cruise ship—the food, the entertainment, all the activities—had been included in the price of his ticket. Too late the man realized that he had been living far beneath his privileges.

President Uchtdorf related this heartbreaking story to priesthood service. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, worthy men have the opportunity to bless others and serve in divinely-inspired callings through the priesthood. Unfortunately, as President Uchtdorf noted, far too many LDS men serve beneath their priesthood privileges.

How many of us—regardless of who we are, where we live, what we do for a living, or what we've been through—live beneath our privileges? We learn from the Bible that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). The Book of Mormon further clarifies that we are meant to find joy in this life (2 Nephi 2:25).

Book of Mormon: Owner's
manual for happiness
But like the man who lived far beneath his privileges on the cruise ship, we often live far beneath our capacity for joy because we fail to realize that our gospel cruise ship is all-inclusive. We don't have to choose between gratitude or obedience or patience or humility or hard work for fear we can't afford to live all of these virtues. We can't afford not to!

God didn't send us on this gospel cruise with cans of beans, boxes of crackers and bags of powdered lemonade. He sent us with the fulness of the restored gospel, found in the Book of Mormon and Bible and in the words of modern prophets. 
He didn't send us to be a spectator. He sent us to find a fulness of joy, and that joy comes through living the gospel—all of it.

If you've been living beneath your privileges, it's not too late to change. The gospel is the way of happiness for everyone. The Book of Mormon is our "owner's manual", as President Uchtdorf says. If you will read from its pages and live by its teachings, you will find joy.

How has the Book of Mormon blessed your life? How has it helped you live up to your gospel privileges? Comment below.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Eternal Family

Because my parents were married in one of the Lord's holy temples, I am sealed to my family and I will live with them again after I die. Marriage in the house of the Lord is not "'til death do us part"; it is for eternity.

My wonderful family! Back row: Me, Dad (Kent), Mom (Denna), Harrison
Front row: Audrey, Austin, Derek
The message I've been called to share with others in the Nashville area is a joyful one. I'm grateful and humbled by the opportunity I have to tell others they can live with their families forever. So many are touched by this wonderful news.

I love my family. I can't imagine not being with them after death. I have a lot of good memories with my parents, brothers, and sister. What would be the purpose of life if we couldn't enjoy these memories after death?

I testify that we will live with our families again. The Lord has provided us a way to return to live not only with our Father in Heaven, but with each other. Those who have died before us live in a better place. If we will keep God's commandments and endure to the end, we will receive His greatest blessing—eternal life.

No wonder Mormons are such happy people! In spite of the difficult circumstances we may find ourselves in, we look forward with faith that life after this will be better for us. It will be perfect, and our joy will be full. President Henry B. Eyring taught this truth

"No one who strives with full faith and heart for the blessings of eternal life will be denied. And how great will be the joy and how much deeper the appreciation then after enduring in patience and faith now." 

What can we do to strengthen our families so that we may qualify for the blessings of eternal life?

I offer two suggestions and two prophetic promises from former LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley (1920-2008). First, go to the temple regularly. If you cannot yet go to the temple, prepare yourself to be worthy for the day when you can. Second, study the scriptures—especially the Book of Mormon—daily with your family. President Hinckley taught us there are great blessings associated with these practices—

"I hope that everyone gets to the temple on a regular basis. If we are a temple-going people, we will be a better people. I know your lives are busy. I know that you have much to do. But I make you a promise that if you will go to the house of the Lord, you will be blessed, life will be better for you."

"Without reservation I promise you that if you will read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your life and into your home an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God." 
(emphasis added)

How have regular temple attendance and daily scripture study blessed your family? Comment below.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Holy Temple

One of the greatest testimonies that God loves His children is that He provides us with temples—literally His houses, and places where we can worship Him and feel the spirit in a measure unequaled anywhere else on earth.

Manti Utah Temple

The temple is a sacred place. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must live worthily to go inside. Worthiness is gauged by a member's obedience to commandments like the Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity and tithing. Through baptism and obedience to God's commandments and ordinances, anyone can become worthy to enter these sacred edifices.
Las Vegas Nevada Temple
 A feeling of peace prevails in the temple. The daily stressors of life are forgotten as one meditates on greater things, away from the noise and commotion of the world. Former LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) said:

"I hope that everyone gets to the temple on a regular basis. If we are a temple-going people, we will be a better people. I know your lives are busy. I know that you have much to do. But I make you a promise that if you will go to the house of the Lord, you will be blessed, life will be better for you."
Mesa Arizona Temple

I've been privileged to go through four temples in Manti, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada; Mesa, Arizona; and Provo, Utah. Each temple, though different in shape and structure, has the same purpose. And in each temple I felt an overwhelming spirit of peace and contentment. Soon, I'll have the opportunity to go through the Nashville Tennessee Temple. I earnestly look forward to that day.

Provo Utah Temple
There are now more than 130 temples operating worldwide. The stories associated with each temple are beautiful and inspiring. They are stories of sacrifice and sanctification. Each Tuesday, I will feature a new temple on this blog. Is there a temple you would like to see me spotlight?

Learn more about temples here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Scripture Saturday — D&C 25:12

"For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads." (Doctrine and Covenants 25:12)
Missionaries, members of the Church and visitors in the Franklin, Tennessee area were treated yesterday to the music of the Nashville Tribute Band, a world-class group of musicians featuring star country trio Due West; Diamond Rio keyboardist Dan Truman; singer/actress Katherine Nelson, who portrays Emma Smith in Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration; and guitarist/singer/songwriter Jason Deere.

Jason Deere
As the members of the band shared their powerful testimonies through song, I was immediately reminded of the above scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 25:12. Music expresses emotion and personal testimony in a way words cannot. You'll get a taste of that as you listen to the clips below.

I have a testimony of the gospel, and I have a testimony of music. I'm grateful for the spirit I feel when I listen to uplifting music. I'm grateful for artists like the Nashville Tribute Band who create and promote wholesome music in a world that condones filthy and degrading music. I'm grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith and for my pioneer ancestors. The Nashville Tribute Band has dedicated albums to both.




Friday, May 20, 2011

A Worldwide, Online Church

Online missionary work is very new to me, as it may be to you. Learning more about the LDS Church and its missionary efforts in all spheres has been fascinating. I've been grateful for the unique opportunity to blog about my missionary experiences, and I hope something I've said has strengthened your testimony or brought you closer to Jesus Christ. That is the goal.

I'm often a little surprised by how up-to-date this Church is—the same Church which promotes timeless values like modesty, morality, frugality and honesty. The world tries to teach us that those values are out-of-date, and many mocklingly label the Church as old-fashioned or out of touch. Values are not out of style, and the Church is anything but old-fashioned.

If you haven't checked out Church websites recently, take the time to do that. I think you'll be impressed by the Church's online presence. May I recommend a few websites?
  • mormon.org
  • lds.org
  • newsroom.lds.org
  • lds.org/church/temples/gallery
  • lds.org/scriptures
What are your thoughts about online missionary work? Is there anything you'd like to see on this blog? Comment below.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Flecks of Gold

Every April and October, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints eagerly listen to inspired counsel from prophets and apostles during General Conference.

In the most recent General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard shared a story I'd like to repeat here:

Oftentimes we are like the young merchant from Boston, who in 1849, as the story goes, was caught up in the fervor of the California gold rush. He sold all of his possessions to seek his fortune in the California rivers, which he was told were filled with gold nuggets so big that one could hardly carry them.

Gold nuggets are representative of miracles
Day after endless day, the young man dipped his pan into the river and came up empty. His only reward was a growing pile of rocks. Discouraged and broke, he was ready to quit until one day an old, experienced prospector said to him, “That’s quite a pile of rocks you are getting there, my boy.”

The young man replied, “There’s no gold here. I’m going back home.”

Walking over to the pile of rocks, the old prospector said, “Oh, there is gold all right. You just have to know where to find it.” He picked two rocks up in his hands and crashed them together. One of the rocks split open, revealing several flecks of gold sparkling in the sunlight.

Noticing a bulging leather pouch fastened to the prospector’s waist, the young man said, “I’m looking for nuggets like the ones in your pouch, not just tiny flecks.”

Like gold flecks, testimonies come over time

The old prospector extended his pouch toward the young man, who looked inside, expecting to see several large nuggets. He was stunned to see that the pouch was filled with thousands of flecks of gold.

The old prospector said, “Son, it seems to me you are so busy looking for large nuggets that you’re missing filling your pouch with these precious flecks of gold. The patient accumulation of these little flecks has brought me great wealth.”

Elder Ballard went on to say: "[T]he gospel of Jesus Christ is simple, no matter how much we try to make it complicated. We should strive to keep our lives similarly simple, unencumbered by extraneous influences, focused on those things that matter most."

In short, we should be content with flecks of gold because nuggets only come our way so often. In the gospel—as in life—testimonies come through daily living of gospel principles, not through some miraculous, life-changing experience, though such an experience certainly can build our testimonies.

I learned this principle as a staff writer and managing editor at the Sanpete Messenger, a newspaper in Central Utah. I didn't become a good writer overnight. Progress came slowly, here a little and there a little. After working at the newspaper for nearly three years, it was fun to see how much I'd improved.

Don't get discouraged if you think you're not 'getting it.' You know more about the gospel and Jesus Christ than you give yourself credit for. If you'll continue to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, you'll learn even more. But you can't expect to learn it overnight.

What are some things that have strengthened your testimony? How do we keep our testimonies strong? Comment below.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

He's Always There

Do you ever feel alone? Do you feel like nobody understands you? Are you dealing with a private struggle that you don't feel comfortable talking about? Are you unsure about what to do or where to go in life?

Don't worry; you're not alone. All of us find ourselves dealing with these inherently discouraging questions at one point or another in life. Perhaps you've been blessed with good friends and family to help you when times are tough, or perhaps you haven't. Perhaps you consider yourself a spiritual person, or perhaps you don't.
Jesus Christ
Regardless of your circumstances, somebody is always there to help you. His name is Jesus Christ, and He suffered for your sins. He experienced your most intense pains and your deepest sorrows; your most overwhelming doubts and your darkest discouragements. He knows how to help you because He has been where you have been. Nobody else has.

When you pray to our Father in Heaven in Jesus Christ's name, you can receive answers to your most pressing questions. You can experience peace and comfort. You can receive strength to withstand temptation and stand firm in tribulation. We learn more about this principle in Doctrine and Covenants 10:5

"Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work."

Come unto Christ, and watch Him bless your life. He's always there for you.

Our Heritage

One of the things I love about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is its commitment to preserving historic sites. Ours is a unique heritage, and I think it's important we treasure it.

LDS Newsroom today unveiled the first article in a multi-part summer series on LDS sites and pageants. Today's article focuses on the most well-recognized Church historic site: Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Future articles will refer to other historic sites around the United States and world, including the Mormon Miracle Pageant in my beloved hometown of Manti, Utah.

Salt Lake Temple
Why is our heritage so important? What can we learn from our ancestors?

Learning about the past helps us have appreciation for the present and hope for the future. Elder L. Tom Perry remarked: "There is something about reviewing the lessons of the past to prepare us to face the challenges of the future."

As the world grows increasingly wicked, we can find strength and solace in the examples of our pioneer forefathers, whether or not they are our direct ancestors. The ways in which early Mormon pioneers exhibited faith, patience, humility, courage, dedication and obedience are numberless. Read about some of their experiences here.

I'm grateful for the examples of my friends and family, including my pioneer ancestors. When I get discouraged, I try to think about the faith they displayed in spite of their hardships. And I am then even more grateful that we have their stories to tell today.

What about our pioneer heritage impresses you? Do you have any experiences to share? Comment below.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


If you walk along Highway 100 in Fairview, Tennessee, as often as I do, you'll notice a lot of dead critters along the side of the road—squirrels, snakes, cats, rabbits, and even turtles. In failing to comprehend the dangers associated with crossing a busy highway, these animals become—in an instant—roadkill.

In failing to comprehend the dangers associated with crossing a busy highway, animals become roadkill.
We know better than to cross a busy highway before looking for traffic. But in another sense, I think we're much like these animals who—even with good intentions—end up dead.

For example, we've been warned against sin and its devestating consequences. We are told to stay far away from drugs, alcohol, immorality, pornography and other vices. Sometimes we ignore those warnings. Sometimes we want to cross the highway just to see what's on the other side.

But the highway is a dangerous place, and few emerge unscathed. Some are injured by less-devestating vices like pride and dishonesty. Others are slammed with addictions which prematurely end their lives.

Why do we cross the highway in the first place? Are repeated warnings from parents, friends, prophets and scripture not enough to keep us far away?

Perhaps we are like the squirrel or rabbit, and we assume we are agile enough to cross without getting hurt.

Perhaps we are like the snake or cat, and we believe we are sly or cunning enough to carefully dodge any injury.

Maybe we are like the turtle who assumes his shell is strong enough to resist the devestating blows of sin.

Regardless of what we tell ourselves, and regardless of what the world says about it, sin is still sin, and highways will always be dangerous. We are neither quick or cunning or strong enough to withstand the force of the vehicles which barrel down Satan's highway. Safety is found only in staying far away from the highway.

Why is it important to follow the counsel of President Thomas S. Monson, other church leaders, and our parents? How can we avoid ending up as 'Satan's Roadkill'? Comment below.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Scripture Saturday — D&C 112:10

"Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers." (Doctrine and Covenants 112:10)
I will do just about anything to help a humble person. It's more difficult to want to help or respect an arrogant person.

I imagine our relationship with God is much the same way. He loves all of His children equally, of course, just as a mother loves each of her children the same. But I think it is easier for Him to bless those who seek His help than those who shun Him at every turn, preferring instead to rely on their own wisdom and strength.

Humility, coupled with prayer, qualifies us for answers from our Heavenly Father. And as Elder Richard G. Scott taught, there is no limit to what we can receive from God, provided we are willing to humbly ask for more.

One of my favorite hymns is Grietje Terburg Rowley's Be Thou Humble, which is based on this scripture. Listen to that hymn here.

What are your favorite scriptures about humility? Perhaps there is an experience you'd like to share? Comment below.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Scripture Saturday — Alma 56:47-48

47 - Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
48 - And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it (emphasis added).
The Army of Helaman
The Book of Mormon describes a political climate in which wars abound and a certain group of men cannot take up arms because of a collective oath they have made to God. Their sons—numbering about 2,000 young men—volunteer to fight in their place.

Though inexperienced in battle and fiercely outnumbered, Helaman's stripling warriors, as they are called, do not fear death (Read more about the stripling warriors here). They have faith in God, and their testimonies are rooted in their mothers' examples.

Because of their profound faith, the Lord blesses them insomuch that not one of them dies in battle.

I stand with these exemplary Book of Mormon young men in saying: I do not doubt my mother's testimony. Her example inspired me to develop a closer relationship with God.

As we prepare to celebrate Mother's Day tomorrow, ponder this: How has your mom's example blessed you? What can you do to show gratitude for your mom? 

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Wonderful Mother

This is an exciting time of year. In two days, I'll get to call my family for the first of only four times while I'm on my mission. The reason? It's Mother's Day!

My family! Back: me, Dad (Kent), Mom (Denna), Harrison.
Front: Audrey, Austin, Derek
My wonderful mother has been such an important influence in my life. She's my best friend. I miss her and think about her often. But I think I've grown to love her even more since I began my missionary service two months ago. I realize a little better the sacrifices my mom and dad made for me. I realize a little better the things she taught me by her example. And I realize in ways I never could have imagined how much she means to me.

Just before I left to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, my mom and I took a trip to Mesa, Arizona to visit family. I'll always treasure that experience. We went through temples in Las Vegas and Mesa on our way. We visited the Mesa Arts Center and drove past our family's old home to see how much it's changed. We spent time with my awesome cousins.

Mesa Arts Center
But my favorite part of the whole trip was just spending time with my mom. We talked about a lot of things. We read scriptures together. We stopped at all the places we normally don't see on our family's Arizona trips and enjoyed them all.

My mom and I have similar taste in music, and so we enjoyed listening to favorite tunes along the way. I love most of the artists my mom grew up with—especially Karen Carpenter. My mom probably has a better idea than anybody how much I miss listening to music.

I have so many wonderful memories with mom. I simply couldn't write them all here. But the most important thing I know about mom is this: she loves her family, and she loves the Lord. She's spent her entire married life teaching me, my brothers and sister the importance of living the gospel. She leads by example and she loves us even when we probably don't deserve it.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

An Unsung Hero

I love the Book of Mormon. We rightfully revere the wonderful men and women of that book. I am inspired by Captain Moroni's courage and Abinadi's faith in God. I want to be a better person when I read about Nephi's search for truth or Alma's righteous transformation. I am humbled by the examples of Sariah, Pahoran, Moroni and others.

But I've been reflecting lately on the life of one of the unsung heroes of the Book of Mormon: Lachoneus. Here is a man whose faith in God was such that he did not fear the powerful wicked men of his day. Here is a man who led by example and taught with boldness. Here is a man who inspired an entire people to repent and come unto Christ.
 In 3 Nephi, Giddianhi, leader of the notorious Gadiantons, writes an epistle to Lachoneus, governor of the Nephite people, threatening war unless the Nephites yield up their possessions and lands. Like Satan, Giddianhi seeks to entice Lachoneus with promises of power and safety through sin:
"[Y]ield yourselves up unto us, and unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto us—not our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance." (3 Nephi 3:7)
 And then he threatens Lachoneus with death and destruction if he doesn't submit to his demands:
"[I]f ye will not do this, I swear unto you with an oath, that on the morrow month I will command that my armies shall come down against you, and they shall not stay their hand and shall spare not, but shall slay you, and shall let fall the sword upon you even until ye shall become extinct." (vs. 8)
A lesser man might react to Giddianhi's words with fear and submission, or he might react with anger and bravado. But Lachoneus was not a lesser man, and instead of turning to fear or pride he turned to the Lord:
"Now behold, this Lachoneus, the governor, was a just man, and could not be frightened by the demands and the threatenings of a robber; therefore he did not hearken to the epistle of Giddianhi, the governor of the robbers, but he did cause that his people should cry unto the Lord for strength against the time that the robbers should come down against them." (vs. 12)
Lachoneus gathers his people together into one place and instructs them to build up their fortifications. He places guards round about them. Most importantly, he inspires them to repent with this prophetic counsel:
"[E]xcept ye repent of all your iniquities, and cry unto the Lord, ye will in nowise be delivered out of the hands of those Gadianton robbers." (vs. 15)
The people do as Lachoneus commands. They fortify themselves, they dwell in one land as one body of people, and they "repent of all their sins; and they did put up their prayers unto the Lord their God, that he would deliver them in the time that their enemies should come down against them to battle." (vs. 25)

Because of Lachoneus' inspired counsel, and because the people repented and turned to Christ, they were protected against the Gadianton robbers and established peace once again in the land.

Imagine how different the outcome would have been if Lachoneus had a spirit of fear, pride or complacency. What if he was not worthy to receive revelation for his people? What if he had been a wicked man? How different the outcome would have been!

This story is a testimony to me that our actions affect not only ourselves; they affect others. Lachoneus' righteous decisions blessed an entire people. Giddianhi's wickedness scourged his people and condemned them to an early death.

How can we be more like Lachoneus and less like Giddianhi in our modern world? Comment below.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Holy Bible

The Bible and Book of Mormon bless us

Like other Christian religions, Latter-day Saints recognize the Bible as the word of God. Coupled with the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, the Bible contains Jesus Christ's teachings and blesses lives.

Elder M. Russell Ballard credits courageous scholars, translators, publishers and common men for making the Bible available to the world:
"It is not by chance or coincidence that we have the Bible today. Righteous individuals were prompted by the Spirit to record both the sacred things they saw and the inspired words they heard and spoke. Other devoted people were prompted to protect and preserve these records. Men like John Wycliffe, the courageous William Tyndale, and Johannes Gutenberg were prompted against much opposition to translate the Bible into language people could understand and to publish it in books people could read. I believe even the scholars of King James had spiritual promptings in their translation work."

William Tyndale

While Latter-day Saints recognize that God continues to speak to His children today, that doesn't mean we discredit or demean the Bible. Elder Ballard continues:

"[W]e believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and the author of our salvation and...we believe, revere, and love the Holy Bible. We do have additional sacred scripture, including the Book of Mormon, but it supports the Bible, never substituting for it."

I love the accounts of our Savior's earthly ministry in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. One of my favorite scriptures is found in John 14:15. The Savior is both gentle and bold with this simple phrase:
 "If ye love me, keep my commandments."
What is your favorite scripture in the Bible? How has the Bible blessed your life? Comment below.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Be Bold

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's church—established in His name, by His authority, and according to His will. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet. He leads and guides the church today.

These are not weak assertions, and ours is not a weak message. The restored gospel has the power to change lives. 

Elder M. Russell Ballard
Knowing this, we should not be afraid to share our message with confidence. Whether or not you are a full-time missionary, you can share the gospel, and you can share it with confidence.

Elder M. Russell Ballard said many of us fall into the trap of being defensive about our beliefs:

"Constantly anticipating criticism or objections can lead to an unhealthy self-consciousness and a defensive posture that doesn’t resonate well with others. It is inconsistent with where we are today as a church and as a great body of followers of Jesus Christ."

Elder Ballard offers several helpful suggestions on how we can share our message with confidence:
  • Be bold. "[A]ct confidently—secure in the knowledge of who we are and what we stand for and not as if we had to apologize for our beliefs."
  • Be open. "We need to be honest, open, forthright, engaging, respectful of others' views, and completely nondefensive about our own."
  •  Be focused. "Don't let irrelevant issues drown out more important subjects. Emphasize that Latter-day Saints teach and live what Jesus Christ taught and that we try to follow Him." 
(view Elder Ballard's message in its entirety here)

I'm not a particularly outgoing person, so following Elder Ballard's advice has been difficult at times. But I've seen good results. When we are bold and open with others about our beliefs, we find success. When we are defensive and shy, we don't find success.

That doesn't mean we should be arrogant or offensive. But we should be comfortable with what we have—the truth—and we ought to desire to share it with others. Desire builds faith, and faith conquers fear. As you take time to share the gospel with others, you will find success and you will be blessed, regardless of who you are.