Metro Manila, Philippines taken from our 12th floor condo
So why do two people leave a comfortable and spacious suburban home in central Indiana to move to a sprawling metropolis and downsize to about 200 square feet? As Marcia and I have talked over the years we thought that we could probably live in a city the size of Chicago- it has a real lake and at least one decent baseball team (go SOX!). We could never have imagined that we would end up exactly half way around the world in metro Manila, Philippines.
So... why? Contrary to popular opinion (I'm just saying that- not sure what popular opinion is on this) we do not get paid for the time that we are here. In fact, for the most part, we (with the help of family members) are footing the bill for our stay here. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) does not have a paid clergy. Those that lead local congregations are volunteers who work a regular job to pay their bills while putting in 20-40 hours a week in providing service to their local congregations called wards. Their are approximately 55,000 missionaries serving around the world. They do not get paid for the work that they do but still they willingly serve for a period of eighteen months to two years. Several hundred, if not several thousand, serve a mission contrary to what their family would have them do. Some are disowned. Senior missionaries leave families behind and, normally, grandchildren. Milestone events are missed- births, baptisms, graduations, weddings, and funerals. So.....why?
We do so because we know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored; that prophets are again on the earth to share with and instruct us regarding revelation from God. We do so because it is true...
Why do I find it true? It answered fundamental questions that I had as a youth which then carried over into young adulthood. Such questions regarding the Trinity (God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost), prophets, marriage, priesthood and why in heaven's name did the Lord stop talking to people after the time of Christ. Simple questions that were not being adequately answered by the faith of my youth. I won't elaborate, at this time, how my questions were answered by co-workers and then close friends.
What I would like to do is share, in a small series, what the first prophet of this era, Joseph Smith, Jr., shared in March of 1842. Shortly before this Joseph Smith was asked by the editor of the Chicago Democrat, John Wentworth, to give a brief history of the founding and rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The reply that Joseph sent back to Mr. Wentworth has come to be known by Latter-Day Saints as the "Wentworth Letter."
At the very end of the letter he shared the tenets of our faith with Mr. Wentworth. These thirteen points are now known by Latter-Day Saints as the "The Articles of Faith" and are part of our basic scriptures. I would like to share these on this blog over the course of the next week or so. I will try to add some explanatory notes as I see necessary. More to the point I will add notes as to how they answered some of the basic questions that I had as I grew up.
"We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."
This answers one of the fundamental questions that I had when I was growing up. The concept of "3 in 1" befuddled me (it's not very often that one can use the word 'befuddled' during the course of the day).
The Old Testament teaches somewhat on the concept of oneness as Adam speaks in Chapter 2 of Genesis about "...leav(ing) his father and his mother, and shall cleave cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (v 24) Although Adam and Eve were two distinct persons they were to become 'one flesh'- united.
Jesus in Gethsemane
The New Testament contains numerous scriptures in which the concept of 'one' or unity is taught. An excellent example can be found in the seventeenth chapter of John. As background: this is the night that Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane where He prays to Heavenly Father regarding those who have served with Him. If He and Heavenly Father were literally 'one' would there be a need for Him to pray to Himself? The Savior speaks of this oneness (unity) in verse 11:
"And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world;
and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name
those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are
one." (emphasis mine)
To me this implies unity.
What other items point to distinct, separate beings? Again in the New Testament one can read about the baptism of the Savior. The Gospel of Matthew records the event in Matthew 3 verses 16 and 17:
"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were
opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
When a simple man as I reads something like this in the scriptures it appears plain and easy to understand. So as I grew up it wasn't surprising that I was confused when I read those scriptures, and others teaching the same things, and then being taught during religious instruction that there was only one person but somehow all three were within one entity.
As I have read about Jesus's church, following His death, I found it interesting that what was taught was three distinct beings or entities. It wasn't until after the apostles' deaths did this specific doctrine start to change and become affected by the pressure of outside forces.
A Light Shining in Darkness
What does a young man do when he gets conflicting information regarding his faith? To some, as in my case, you try not to dwell on it and move on with your life with the hope that at some point this fundamental question will be answered. Others might approach it from another perspective and actively seek to find out what the truth is behind these matters. Such was the case with a young boy by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr.
Joseph Smith in a grove of trees
As a young teenager, in upstate New York, Joseph and his family were exposed to a religious revival. Different denominations were vying for new members in what was the frontier of the United States at the time. Several members of Joseph's family had joined a particular religion and Joseph was feeling pressure to make a decision regarding what his choice would be. It is hard for me to fathom how intense the pressure may have been for him. It would have been very easy for him to choose the faith of his mother and follow in her footsteps. Thousands, if not millions, do that today.
"I was born (fill in faith here); I was raised (fill in faith here); and
I will die (fill in faith here)."
Fortunately that wasn't drummed into mine, or my brothers’, heads as we grew up. It was the same with Joseph Smith. In his time the Holy Bible was not only a source of inspiration, from a spiritual perspective, but also used to teach people to read. Joseph, while growing up, was very familiar with the Bible. It was during this period of revival which found the young Joseph pondering about what was occurring around him. In his words he said:
“My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others. In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (Joseph Smith History 1:9-10)
It is not uncommon to find in the scriptures instances in which a young man is called on to do extraordinary things. David, the youngest of several brothers, was one example of being called of God at young age. This can be found in 1 Samuel 16: 5-13. Another example, found in 1 Samuel 3 (entire chapter), is when the prophet Samuel is called as a child.
Joseph Smith was also young, about 14 years old, when all this was happening around him. One night he read a scripture from the New Testament that rang true in his heart. It was in the Epistle of James:
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally,
and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5)
He took this scripture to heart. Shortly after reading this scripture he went to a secluded place in the woods to ask Heavenly Father which church he should join. What followed was extraordinary. In Joseph's words:
"So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods
to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the
spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had
made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the
attempt to pray vocally....I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the
brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me...When the
light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all
description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me
by name and said, pointing to the other-- This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
appearing to Joseph Smith
(Joseph Smith-History 1:14-17)
Here, in a matter of minutes, the confusion that surrounded the nature of God and Jesus Christ was cleared. My question regarding "3 in 1" was answered. Heavenly Father is a personage, similar in nature to that of His Son, Jesus. He isn't a spirit. He isn't some undefined entity of some mysterious sorts.
Even more extraordinary to me was that He called Joseph by name!! He is a loving, Heavenly Father who knows His children- by name. Isn't that amazing?
"We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression."
Adam had a choice to make. What was he to do? On one hand he was commanded not to partake of the fruit of tree of the knowledge of good and evil; on the other if he did not choose to do so he would remain in a state of innocence not knowing between the two. He had his agency to choose. God told him what the consequences would be if he did partake..."...for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" Genesis 2:17
As men and women we make our own messes. That tends to be our nature. We will be responsible to clean up our own messes. We will be held accountable for that which we do wrong. It is not easy but it is possible to do. Adam knew the consequences of his action. The Lord told him that he would die if he partook of the forbidden fruit. That is what happened. Mortality became part of man because of Adam's transgression. Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden for his transgression. We will have to answer for to the Lord for our own shortcomings and ours alone....
Article 8 and 9
8- "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God."
9- "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." I apologize for posting these two articles out of order and at the same time. I feel prompted to do so for a number of reasons:
As I reviewed the history of the Bible I came to understand that the Bible was not a book that was written over a short period of time by a single author or even a single editor. Variations of the Bible have come forth over periods of time. Catholics have a version that isn't quite consistent with that of the Presbyterians.
Another issue that constantly comes up is the Book of Revelation. It is common to hear from people when discussing the Bible that "according to the Book of Revelation 22:18 '...,If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book." If further investigation is done regarding the Bible a diligent and thorough student would realize that:
The Bible as we know it wasn't written in one sitting or even a short period of time. It was written by many men and women,over many centuries, then compiled into one around the third century. According to one website, biblestudytools.com, there were at least 4 books or letters written after Revelations and there may have been more.
The Old Testament has a similar scripture found in Deuteronomy 4:2 "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it..." If the same logic is equally applied anything after Deuteronomy would be null and void. Using Revelations as a discussion point is a weak one.
Regarding Article 9- "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."
Saul on (literally) the road to Damascus
One of my fundamental questions that I had growing up was why weren't there prophets now as there were up to the time of Jesus? In fact even during the time of Christ, John, called the Baptist, was considered a prophet. Jesus even states in Matthew 11:11 "Verily I say unto you, Among that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist..." Following the death, resurrection and ascension of the Savior, the Apostles carried on the work of the Savior. Miracles continued to be wrought. Jesus continued to play an active part of guiding His church through the twelve Apostles. He also had direct involvement in giving Saul, later to become Paul, a course correction.
Does a loving Heavenly Father want to leave us on our own or does he have a life-line for us to grasp? Are we too arrogant as the human race to think that we can do it on our own with out the help and love of a Heavenly Father? Is there a Prophet today he directs His church as did Peter of old?
To hear a modern day Prophet speak this weekend is the semi-annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is broadcast on cable networks around the country, normally on the BYU channel, and carried live at the www.lds.org. It's on Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. MST. As it was to listen to Peter as he taught at the temple following the day of Pentecost, it will be exciting to hear a Prophet's voice...his name is Thomas S. Monson...
"We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." What is this thing called "Atonement"? Growing up in another faith I didn't know anything about this word. The concept that I was taught was that Christ died for our sins on the cross. Sure He spent time in a garden called Gethsemane before His betrayal, His trial, and His crucifixion. That's all I knew. It wasn't until I started being proactive did I learn more about this thing called the "Atonement."
I didn't know or understand that the Old Testament was showing us that the Lord was preparing the children of Israel for the coming Messiah. For example the various forms of sacrifices that were instituted pointed Israel to the Messiah. There were also examples found in the lives of ancient prophets.
Abraham and his son Isaac is the classic example. Here you have a father who has been commanded of the Lord to sacrifice his only son- the very child in which Abraham had been promised his posterity would flow and number "...as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore..." (Genesis 22:17). Abraham's commitment to the Lord was firm; he wouldn't even hold back his own son.
Sound familiar. Here in a very small way we are able to glimpse what Heavenly Father must have been going through as His only begotten Son was spat upon, whipped, slapped and then hung on a cross to suffer even more. As He hung on the cross He was mocked by those who hung Him their; one of the "malefactors which were hanged railed on him saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us." (Luke 23:39). As a parent could you sit back and see this happen to your only son? There is more discussion here then just these few paragraphs allow. Suffice to say Jesus not only took upon Himself the sins of the world but He also did much, much more. An ancient Book of Mormon prophet by the name of Alma speaks in depth to what extent this Atonement is:
"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 accord-
ing to their infirmities." (Alma 7:11-12)
Few other thoughts regarding this particular article. Did you notice the word may? It doesn't state will be but states may. There is also a contingent- it is based on obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. To some it may be an interesting thought- to me it rings true...
"We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost."
The first two aspects of this Article, in my opinion, are self-explanatory. The third and fourth parts may need some further explanation.
Jesus and John the Baptist
John the Baptist and Jesus are portrayed in the picture to the right. Why would the Son of God, He being the example for all mankind, have the need to be baptized The other question that comes to my mind is why did He go to His cousin, John?
It is interesting that at this point of Jesus's life, the beginning of His ministry, He does go to John. Many things occur during this occasion making it very, very eventful. I will try to point out the things that I feel should be explained further.
When Jesus shows up at the Jordan river it would appear that He may have somewhat surprised John. Matthew gives some details regarding this exchange:
"Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him." (Matthew 3:13-15) Why would He go to John? Was it because of the family relationship? Or was it because John had the authority to baptize? Zacharias, who was John's father, held the priesthood of Aaron. A review of the Old Testament will show that this priesthood was an inherited priesthood- one that was passed down from father to son. The first chapter of Luke details some of the duties that Zacharias performed specifically because he was of the tribe of Levi. Thus John was ordained to this priesthood which then permitted him to fulfill the tasks that he was to perform. If John had not had the priesthood the Savior would necessarily had to have gone to someone who did. John being His cousin was an aside.
Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, led a perfect life. Perfect doesn't necessarily mean easy. He was tempted but never succumbed to temptation; He loved and cared for those around Him. Why would a man such as He need to be baptized?
An ancient prophet by the name of Nephi teaches his people regarding this specific topic of why would the Savior need to be baptized. "And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all rightousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!...Know ye knot that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments. Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove. And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them." (2 Nephi 31:5, 7-9)
He was and is our examplar. He is the trailblazer and it is His path we need to follow...
Article 4- Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost....
Jesus with His apostles
This particular post focuses on the last part of Article 4. Specifically- "...Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost." In a wonderful teaching moment Jesus has an opportunity to teach Nichodemus, a Pharisee, about baptism by water and by the Spirit: "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)
What is the gift of the spirit that we refer to as the Holy Ghost? In the New Testament the Savior speaks of "the comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26)
Again in John the Savior speaks of the Holy Ghost: "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me..."(John 15:26) These few verses show some of the role or responsibilities of the Holy Ghost. It's a teacher, a reminder, a comforter, and a testifier.
Following the Savior's resurrection He spent time with His apostles, continuing to teach them regarding the affairs of His church on earth. He reiterates the promise of the Holy Ghost that is to come: "And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." (Acts 1:4-5) Chapter 2 of Acts shows the tremendous power that comes with the gift of the Holy Ghost. Personally I like the change that shows in Peter, the senior apostle. Here is a man who denies knowing the Savior three times to common workers- three different individuals- prior to Jesus's trial and crucifixion. After receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost he is at the temple testifying of the Savior in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
How is this gift administered? It is done by the laying on of hands by one having authority.
Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost
"Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." (Acts 8:14-17)...
Article 5 "We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof."
Does man call man to tend to the affairs of God? Or does God have input into how He would like things done here on earth? Before I list some examples from the scriptures I would like to make some simple observations that I have noticed from my studies of the scriptures and from some thoughts that I have had over the years.
John the Baptist
One thought that passed through my younger mind was regarding the requirement that some religions place on those who may have a desire to serve in their respected religion. In many faiths their is an education requirement necessary for them to become a minister, pastor, or priest. In some cases the requirement is beyond a bachelor's degree and towards some type of graduate degree. As I grew up that was something that particularly bothered me especially as I read the New Testament. In the New Testament I read about Peter, James, Andrew and John and found out that their occupation was that of fishermen (see Matthew 4). Moses, who grew up in the shadows of Pharaoh, wasn't called from the influences of wealth and prestige. He was called at a much older age while working for his father-in-law as a shepherd (see Exodus 3). David, the youngest of several sons and also a shepherd, wasn't chosen because of his skills with a sling. It is found in the Old Testament that David was actually chosen before his confrontation with Goliath (see 1 Samuel 16).
In the case of Peter, Andrew, James and John the Savior directly called them to serve. The Savior, who Paul refers to as being the "Apostle and High Priest of our profession" (Hebrews 3:1) ordained them as Apostles. David was anointed by the prophet Samuel. Moses had direct contact with the Lord on more than one mountain.
These were humble men who the Lord chose to establish His Church. It is the same today. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints young men, beginning at 12, are interviewed, and if found worthy, are ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood. This is the same Priesthood that John the Baptist held and it was by his hands, as a resurrected man, who restored this Priesthood to Joseph Smith, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery:
"Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of the Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness." (Doctrine and Covenants 13)
This Priesthood is sacred. It is through the higher priesthood, the Melchizedek Priesthood, where the Gift of the Holy Ghost is administered. In the book of Acts a man by the name of Simon saw Peter and John exercise this Priesthood in administering the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He then tried to offer them money for the privilege to do the same. Peter admonished him and through the Holy Ghost was able to discern this man's heart and intent (see Acts 8).
It is a privilege to have this Priesthood. It is such a privilege that I have had for 30 some years. With this Priesthood I have had the privilege of baptizing my children and giving them the Gift of the Holy Ghost. It is through this Priesthood that I was able to ordain my sons to the Priesthood. It is through this Priesthood that I have been able to bless my children and wife when sick, prior to the beginning of school years, and to give them comfort as a father. It is a privilege worth having and keeping...
"We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth."
Resurrected Christ with His Apostles
This particular Article comes directly from the New Testament where it is found in a letter from Paul to the Ephesians as well as a letter to those in Corinth:
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets;
and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and
teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the
work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body
of Christ..." (Ephesians 4:11-12)
Jesus had set up, by example and by pattern, how He expected His Church to be run. Their were definite positions and roles that were to be issued and to be carried out.
What happened to the twelve apostles once the Savior ascended? That was one of my primary questions as I grew up in another faith. Jesus hand picked 12 men to become leaders of His Church. One of them, Judas, betrayed Him. This left only eleven. Was Judas replaced or did the remaining apostles stumble along?
In reading the Book of Acts one finds out that Judas was replaced by another. In so doing the Apostles had their full complement again. In chapter 1 of Acts it details the replacing of Judas by a man named Matthias. Was this the only replacement that occurred during this time? Not necessarily. In reading the New Testament I have been able to read that their were others who were referred to as apostles. One of those was Saul/Paul who was referred to as the apostle to the Gentiles. It would seem then that their was a continuation of the Lord's Church in a manner that He had set up.
What of today? Are there apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers etc. today? One of the premises of the Church of Latter-Day Saints is that the Church that Jesus set up during his life became corrupt shortly after the death of the Apostles. This corruption came from several sources. One source was outside persecution from Rome and also the Jewish Hierarchy. Another major issue was division and false teachings that infiltrated the Church, especially when the Apostles were no longer around to correct false teachings. As you read Paul's letters you can get a sense of some of these false teachings as he writes to correct the teachings that he sees creeping into the Church. Paul continues the above writings:
"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and conning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." (Ephesians 4:13-14)
The Church that Jesus set up no longer existed. Eventually it became corrupt and over the years has splintered into various different churches. Most have evolved from the Catholic Church. Martin Luther and others tried to reform the Catholic Church. In their attempts to do so other Churches were created. In the early 1800s the Lord stepped in and began the process to restore His Church as He had originally meant for it to be. Part of that restoration was the return of "...apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth."
Current LDS Prophet- Thomas S. Monson
Today the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has prophets and apostles. The Church is guided and directed by the Person whose name it bears- Jesus Christ. He does so through a living prophet-Thomas S. Monson- who is assisted by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles...
Current 12 Apostles
"We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth."
We are God's children. What parent doesn't want to give their children gifts? The gifts that are mentioned in Article 7 are referred to as gifts of the Spirit.
As the Savior concludes His discourse to His disciples (commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount) He touches this particular subject:
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it
shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a
stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give
good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good
things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:7-11)
What may be commonly heard is that such things don't exist anymore. That God is done with such things or (to me it seems a very arrogant thing to think or say) we live in the 21st century- "we don't need things such as revelation or visions." To me that is a very sad commentary on our understanding of a loving Heavenly Father.
Examples are found throughout scriptures. My favorite is of Peter teaching in the temple following their receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Most are familiar with the Lord's senior apostle. Most are also familiar that the Lord had told Peter that he, Peter, would deny the Savior three times. To this prophecy Peter strongly told the Lord that he would do no such thing. It is interesting to read about Peter's denial. He followed the Savior and His captors back to where they would interrogate Him. Peter was hanging back to see what would occur. Three times people approached him saying they had recognized him as being one who had followed the Savior. Three times he denied knowledge of the Savior (see Mathew 26; Mark 14). This was done in the dark of the night and with people who were not leaders or of consequence.
Peter Teaching at the Temple
Contrast this to the Peter who has received the Gift of The Holy Ghost. Here is a man who stands in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the temple at Jerusalem. Some he stood in front of may even have been those that had crucified the Savior. He is not ashamed of who he is or who he represents. He had been blessed with the Holy Ghost and with that blessing he was able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully
come, they were all with one accord in one
place...And they were all filled with the Holy
Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance...Now when
this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every
man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying
one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man
our own tongue, wherein we were born?" (Acts 2:1,4, 6-8)
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we continue to believe and claim that these gifts are still active and in use today. Our Heavenly Father does not love us any less then those who have passed on before us. We are as in much need today, or even more so, as our ancestors who have traveled before us.
David O. McKay
The Church has nearly 14 million members. These gifts are experienced through them and others. Just one example can be found with a former Prophet of our Church- David O. McKay. Having recently been called as the newest Apostle of the Church he was sent on a world-wide tour to visit the members of the Church. In one occasion those that heard him speak experienced the interpretation of tongues. "While in the Pacific Islands, Tahitian Saints were able to understand his words in their own language." During his tour in the Holy Lands he prophesied that "...although the land would run red with blood, the Jews would yet be gathered." (Presidents of the Church Student Manual, 2004. pp 144-160).
These gifts are truly from a loving Heavenly Father. They are to bless His children. It is a wonderful time to be alive!
"We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is known today for its missionary work and missionaries. They are spread out all over the world. This is following the command of Jesus Christ as He commanded His early apostles to:
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen"(Matthew 28: 19-20)
There is a process that is gone through before missionaries ever enter into a country. Part of that process is the dedication of the country for the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as it occurred in the early part of the Church it still continues today.
Shortly after the Church was formed in the early 1830s missionaries were sent to England to share the Gospel. Unlike today the missionaries sent out then were not usually 19 year old young men. Nor did they serve for a set period of time of two years- sometimes it was shorter and sometimes longer. A number of those sent were married and left families behind to be cared for by family members and friends. The Gospel message in England was well received and hundreds and thousands of people entered the waters of baptism to join the restored Church.
Shortly after that one of the early Apostles of the Church was assigned to go to the Palestine to dedicate that land for the gathering of Israel. The Apostle's name was Orson Hyde. From April 1841 to December 1842 he was in Jerusalem. Part of his dedicatory prayer included the following:
"Now, O Lord! Thy servant has been obedient to the heavenly vision which Thou gavest him in his native land; and under the shadow of Thine outstretched arm, he has safely arrived in this place to dedicate and consecrate this land unto Thee, for the gathering together of Judah's scattered remnants, according to the predictions of the holy Prophets -- for the building up of Jerusalem again after it has been trodden down by the Gentiles so long..."
The gathering of Israel continues...
"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."
Our country was founded with some basic freedoms. We refer to them as rights. These rights were derived from Heaven:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by
their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness" (American Declaration of Independence)
Many of our forefathers came to this country seeking the opportunity to worship without fear. The irony is that when they arrived on this 'new' continent many practiced a similar religious intolerance towards those who did not share their beliefs. Catholics in Delaware were able to practice with little restriction. Cross the border into Maryland you would find much intolerance towards the Catholics from Presbyterians. These measures weren't overturned until after the American Revolution. Such freedoms as voting, bearing arms, holding public office, teaching. and public worship were not afforded Catholics in Maryland. (see Beginnings of the Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware by Donn Devine. Retrieved 11/12/2012 from http://nc-chap.org/church/stpeter/devine.pdf)
It is interesting to watch what is going on in the world today. People, again, are beginning to impose others with their beliefs. In some cases, if you are not like they are, you are shunned, ridiculed, and, in extreme cases, killed for holding different beliefs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was subject to this type of behavior early in the formation of the Church. The early Saints were driven from Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. The state of Missouri, until 1976, had an executive order from their Governor that was used to drive the Saints from Missouri to Illinois. In part it read:
I do believe that men and women have the right to worship as they will. Please don't impose your belief system on me or my family. Please don't use my tax money to interfere with natural consequences of decisions made by others. Please don't force insurance companies, those that provide for religious groups, to
make them cover for things that are contrary to their belief system.
There is a difference between amicable dialogue and imposing of beliefs. Unfortunately this country is dwelling on the latter much more than the former these days. (I have to stop now because my tongue is beginning to bleed from me biting on it...)
"We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law."
I would like to share a news release that the Church released following the election past:
SALT LAKE CITY —
The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement Tuesday: "We congratulate President Obama on winning a second term as President of the United States. After a long campaign, this is now a time for Americans to come together. It is a long tradition among Latter-day Saints to pray for our national leaders in our personal prayers and in our congregations. We invite Americans everywhere, whatever their political persuasion, to pray for the President, for his administration and the new Congress as they lead us through difficult and turbulent times. May our national leaders reflect the best in wisdom and judgment as they fulfill the great trust afforded to them by the American people. We also commend Governor Romney for engaging at the highest level of our democratic process, which, by its nature, demands so much of those who offer themselves for public service. We wish him and his family every success in their future endeavors." It would be very easy to rant and rave about this past election. Even more so if the candidate that you were pulling for didn't win. It is much harder to take the high road and strive for unity. It is interesting to see how those in power wield it today. Compare that to the Savior. His motives were pure. His intent was to heal both spiritual and physically. He rendered unto Caesar what was Caesar's (see Matthew Matthew 22:21). The Savior of mankind was focused on the Kingdom of Heaven. The Church's mission is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The best way to do that is by "obeying, honoring and sustaining the law." Perhaps that is why their are nearly 60,000 missionaries in over 350 missions worldwide. In order for missionaries to serve in a country the Church is formally recognized by that government. How is that done? Perhaps it is by "obeying, honoring and sustaining the law." Below is a whiteboard video shares the Churches stand on politics:
"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul- We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
Spencer W. Kimball
As stated earlier in these posts we, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, believe in living prophets. The prophet at the time that I joined the Church in 1979 was Spencer W. Kimball. This quote is from the book From the Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball p. 552:
"We say to our friends of the world, we love and admire you. We are grateful for your resolve to be righteous in an increasingly wicked world. Bring all that you have that is good and wholesome with you, and let us add to all that you have, that which we have-the fullness of the gospel and the even greater blessings that can follow unto you through membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! ..."
This teaching is not unique just to President Kimball. Seventeen years later President Gordon B. Hinkley stated the following in an interview in 1996:
"We recognize the good in all people. We recognize the good in all churches, in their efforts to improve mankind and to teach principles that lead to good, stable, productive living. To people everywhere we simply say, "You bring with you all the good that you have and let us add to it. That is the principle on which we work."—From Interview by Philippines Television, April 30, 1996.
Gordon B. Hinkley
Truth is truth no matter where it is found. Fortunately there is no corner on the market on truth. It can be found- if you look hard enough.