Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The True Meaning of Christmas

We all know that on Christmas Day we celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, who is considered to be the ultimate Savior and Redeemer by Christian believers. But there are a myriad of myths and traditions associated with Christmas, many of which trace their origins beyond Christianity. For example there is ample speculation secularly as well as among various Christian denominations, that Christ was not born on December 25th. Instead of a more likely spring birthday, December 25th was likely chosen for celebration as a melding between the expanding old world Christian faith, paganism, Winter Solstice and popular Roman festivals of the time.

We also know of many characters that usher in Christmas festivities. We sometimes hear of Father Christmas, which is a relic of the Germanic Pagan god Odin. The 1930’s movie A Miracle on 34th Street popularized the name of Kris Kringle, which is translated loosely in German to Christ Child. We know of the third century St. Nicholas of Myra who was the son of wealthy parents in what is now modern day Turkey. His parents died while he was still young and Nicholas used his entire inheritance to serve the poor and needy, secretly giving gifts and often hiding coins in the shoes of the downtrodden. Later, while still young, he was named as Bishop of Myra and his image is often depicted in long Ecclesiastical robes, perhaps a similar look to another crimson suit. Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Nicholas was exiled and imprisoned. We also have the most popular version of Santa Claus, a kind of amalgam of all these other characters from history and myth.

The historical root of much of our cultural Christmas celebration is confused and rooted in non-Christian traditions. We often yearn for the good ole days when the celebration of Christmas was really centered on the birth of Christ but ironically even the oldest of the good ole days were not really Christ centered either. It is also interesting to note that the original Puritan settlers in America made the celebration of Christmas illegal precisely because it did not represent the true worship of the Christ child.

While there is much confusion about the history, myth and traditions surrounding Christmas there should be no confusion regarding the Biblical account of Christ’s birth as accounted in Luke 2. It is not a bedtime story or a myth. It is truth. It really happened as miraculously as portrayed in the Bible. As we go throughout the Christmas season it is fun to think of Santa or even revere good men of history like St. Nicholas of Myra, but it is crucial that we maintain our focus on the worship of Jesus the Christ. His birth was certainly a miracle of our Heavenly Father’s love in blessing the world with a Savior, and Christ’s atoning mission is a further miracle of love and compassion. Perhaps we should attempt to find ways to express our love and compassion to the Christ by serving our family, friends and neighbors, as well as the needy around us and not pay as much attention to the cultural traditions surrounding us.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Merry Christmas!



Christmas is the warmth of Love
A bright and shining star
The shepherds on a hillside
And wise men from afar

Christmas is a heavenly Child
Lighting the lost sheep’s way
A time to share the joy we know
A time to kneel and pray

Christmas is an angel’s song
Of joy and peace on earth
Now all the world will know God’s love
Because of Jesus’ birth

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Book of Mormon Christmas

Approximately six years before the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ, on the American continent, a Lamanite prophet foretold the coming of Christ and the signs that would accompany his birth. As found near the end of the book of Helaman in the Book of Mormon, Samuel went to the Nephite nation to prophesy and share the good news of the Saviors impending birth. Unfortunately, this good news was met with ridicule and anger by a majority of the Nephite population and he was forced to flee.

By command of the Holy Spirit, Samuel returned and preached again, climbing high upon a wall, prophesying of the birth that was to come just five years later. Again he was reviled, maybe partly because of his Lamanite heritage, but more likely because of his prophetic message and calls to repentance for the people of Nephi. The Nephites attempted to slay him by throwing rocks and shooting arrows, but nothing could hit the mark. The wicked attempted to lay their hands on him, but were unable. To many watching, this was a miracle that inspired them to look more closely at Samuel’s message of repentance and the upcoming birth of Jesus Christ. Many were converted, or maybe reactivated, as they looked eagerly to the birth of the Son of God.

Samuel fled and was never seen again among the Nephites, but the message he was sent to share lived on within the church of God. The people of God’s church, led by Nephi, waited in anticipation of the great event. They looked forward to the time when the signs, of light in the sky after the sunset and the new star, would be revealed, indicating the birth of Christ. But as they waited, the wicked designed to destroy the people of the church of God because of their faith. After five years passed, the wicked claimed the time Samuel had prophesied of had come and gone with no miraculous signs and they appointed a day wherein the believers would be put to death if they refused to denounce their belief, or the sign did not appear.

3 Nephi 1:9 Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.

There must have been great fear and trepidation as the appointed day for their execution drew closer, but the people of God’s church continued to wait for the signs of the Savior’s birth. In the first chapter of 3 Nephi, we learn that Nephi’s heart was “exceedingly sorrowful” and he cried unto the Lord “mightily” all that day, and the voice of the Lord came to him…

3 Nephi 1:13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

3 Nephi 1:14 Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfill all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.

As promised the signs of Jesus Christ’s birth were given and the people of God rejoiced, not only for the sustaining of their own lives, but more importantly because, as prophesied, the Son of God, who would redeem them from eternal destruction, was born. The wicked sorrowed because their destructive plan was frustrated. The greatness and glory of Jesus Christ, even in birth, overpowered their wicked designs and foreshadowed the ultimate victory of Christ over all forces of evil.

Jesus Christ came into the world to save all mankind, and in this instance, on the American continent, even the signs of his birth saved the righteous people of Nephi. Christ saved them, just as he will save us from the eternal destruction that threatens us. Just as the people of Nephi, we must have faith in Jesus Christ, endure to the end, and follow His words and the words of His servants, and we too will taste of the same joy and salvation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Source of Governmental Power

Leaving aside, for a moment, the question of the divine origin of rights, it is obvious that a government is nothing more or less than a relatively small group of citizens who have been hired, in a sense, by the rest of us to perform certain functions and discharge certain responsibilities which have been authorized. It stands to reason that the government itself has no innate power or privilege to do anything. Its only source of authority and power is from the people who have created it. This is made clear in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, which reads: "WE THE PEOPLE... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The important thing to keep in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form? A hypothetical question? Yes, indeed! But, it is a question which is vital to an understanding of the principles which underlie the proper function of government. Of course, as James Madison, sometimes called the Father of the Constitution, said, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." (The Federalist, No. 51)

In a primitive state, there is no doubt that each man would be justified in using force, if necessary, to defend himself against physical harm, against theft of the fruits of his labor, and against enslavement of another. This principle was clearly explained by Bastiat:

"Each of us has a natural right - from God - to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but and extension of our faculties?" (The Law, p.6)

Indeed, the early pioneers found that a great deal of their time and energy was being spent doing all three - defending themselves, their property and their liberty - in what properly was called the "Lawless West." In order for man to prosper, he cannot afford to spend his time constantly guarding his family, his fields, and his property against attack and theft, so he joins together with his neighbors and hires a sheriff. At this precise moment, government is born. The individual citizens delegate to the sheriff their unquestionable right to protect themselves. The sheriff now does for them only what they had a right to do for themselves - nothing more. Quoting again from Bastiat:

"If every person has the right to defend - even by force - his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right --its reason for existing, its lawfulness -- is based on individual right." (The Law, p. 6)

So far so good. But now we come to the moment of truth. Suppose pioneer "A" wants another horse for his wagon. He doesn't have the money to buy one, but since pioneer "B" has an extra horse, he decides that he is entitled to share in his neighbor's good fortune. Is he entitled to take his neighbor's horse? Obviously not! If his neighbor wishes to give it or lend it, that is another question. But so long as pioneer "B" wishes to keep his property, pioneer "A" has no just claim to it.

If "A" has no proper power to take "B's" property, can he delegate any such power to the sheriff? No. Even if everyone in the community desires that "B" give his extra horse to "A", they have no right individually or collectively to force him to do it. They cannot delegate a power they themselves do not have. This important principle was clearly understood and explained by John Locke nearly 300 years ago:

"For nobody can transfer to another more power than he has in himself, and nobody has an absolute arbitrary power over himself, or over any other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life or property of another." (Two Treatises of Civil Government, II, 135; P.P.N.S. p. 93)

Ezra Taft Benson (1968)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving

Edward Sanford Martin has said “Thanksgiving Day comes by statute once a year. To the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.”

It was not until 1863 that Thanksgiving Day became a national Holiday as declared by President Abraham Lincoln. At this time of year and particularly on Thanksgiving Day, we are reminded to offer our gratitude to the Lord, as well as to our family, friends and neighbors. As citizens of this great nation we have a rich heritage we can appreciate and be thankful for. Our American heritage, including the trials and efforts of our Pilgrim ancestors, is a blessing given to us from the Lord.

Instead of sharing a history of the Pilgrims and the origins of Thanksgiving I think it is more important to discuss the value of giving thanks to the Lord, to our neighbors, and how we can show our gratitude.

Luke 17:12-19

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole

Only one man, a Samaritan who was despised of the Jews, returned to offer gratitude to the Lord. Even Jesus asked “ Where are the 9”? Why did the others not return to offer gratitude to the Lord for being healed? We may look at this story, and think how simple it should have been to return and give thanks. But do we return and give thanks to the Lord for our blessings, and do we return and thank others.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul counseled “ In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

To the Corinthians Paul proclaimed “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” ( 2 Cor 9:15 ) How often do we thank God for his unspeakable gift.

From the passages I have just shared we can see that showing gratitude is important to the Lord. But why is it so important? What is the purpose of showing thanksgiving and gratitude? I believe there are a couple of purposes and a reason why He desires that we are a grateful people.
In Matthew 22:36-39 Jesus responds to the question about which is the greatest of all commandments.

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself


We are to Love God and we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. How can we Love God, and how can we love our neighbor if we do not have the humility to show gratitude to them.

The first reason it is important to show gratitude is that it shows our humility before the Lord and our love of Him. Like the Samaritan who returned to “Glorify God” and offer thanksgiving, we too can acknowledge the greatness of God by offering our grattitude directly through prayer, as well as indirectly by serving others and being grateful to others.

The 2nd important reason we show gratitude is to show our love of our neighbors.

Acts of gratitude may be simple, but they are also powerful. A story is told of a grown man who had his memory pricked concerning a favorite teacher from grade school. He made the effort to locate this teacher and wrote her a brief note, offering his thanks for her teaching and care. The man later received a letter back from this elderly teacher, overcome by the note of thanksgiving she received. She explained that in all of her years of teaching, his note of gratitude was the first she had ever received. The simple note became a treasure to her.

I believe as we are kind to others and as we thank others, our words and deeds of thanksgiving also praise God.

A familiar passage comes to mind in Matthew 25: 35-40.

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me

What we do unto our neighbor is the same as doing it unto our God. As we love our neighbor we love our God. As we thank our neighbor, we thank our God and we are keeping the 2 great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbor.

Thomas S. Monson has said- “ Whatever language is spoken, “Thank you”, frequently expressed will cheer your spirit, broaden your friendships, and lift your lives to a higher pathway”

Just think about how the man showing gratitude to his teacher or the Samaritan who was healed, praised God and offered his thanks. How did that affect his life?

Offering a simple thank you is easy to do and can have a tremendous impact on both the giver and the receiver.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

When we give repeatedly, we become a cheerful giver. When we are stingy in giving, the rare times that we do give become more of a struggle and we are less cheerful in giving. When we give our thanks and gratitude we are also giving a touch of joy and happiness. As we practice and make a habit out of showing gratitude to others we become cheerful givers.

We have so much to be thankful for. As we offer gratitude we please the Lord and we are blessed with great joy and happiness in our lives. We can share that joy with others. Lets be like the Samaratin, and the man who gave thanks to his teacher, and the boy who was offered a gift. Let us be cheerful givers of gratitude to the Lord and our neighbors.

2 Cor 9:15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. Lets be thankful to our Heavenly Father for his unspeakable gift. The gift of the Saviors life touches each of us.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Determined Discipleship


Recently, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles advocated the passage of Proposition 8 in California. The Church aggressively supported and encouraged its members to support with manpower and finances, the passage of this initiative. Its aim was to defend traditional marriage by defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This doctrine has been clearly taught by the brethren in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. It states, “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.” It continues, “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother…” This doctrine is not hateful, it is not cruel or even na├»ve. It does not seek to hurt or cause damage to others. It is simply a statement of truth, as voiced by prophets of God.

It is disappointing to read accounts of the disgruntled opponents of Prop 8 protesting outside the temples and at churches, and possibly even participating in anthrax hoaxes to a couple LDS temples. It is disappointing, but not surprising that individuals who oppose God’s law would also oppose the church trying to support God’s law. What is more discouraging is the lack of support, both for the original proposition and the aftermath, by some members of the LDS church.

I read reports of so called “enlightened” church members who support gay marriage and I have to scratch my head. They support their position by making inane comments like, “God loves everyone equally” or “it is not our right to deny happiness to anyone”. Of course these statements are true, but the statements are being misapplied to behaviors, not people. God certainly loves everyone, and because of that love he wants them to know his law and live by it which will ultimately bring them true joy and happiness.

These same “enlightened ones” further comment that they “want to be supportive” of gay friends or family members, or “they don’t want to discriminate” which of course implies that the rest of us, including the Prophet, do wish to discriminate and be non-supportive. The truth is, these “enlightened” members likely have one of 2 problems. 1- They lack a steadfast testimony that God makes his will known to his servants the prophets, or 2- they lack the moral courage to stand up and be counted on the side of God and his law, worried more about the potential loss of business, or the thoughts and words of their peers, family or friends.
To the LDS proponents of gay marriage I simply ask, what’s next? If you are willing to cast aside the words of the prophet in exchange for your own faulty wisdom in this matter, where will your arrogance stop? There is safety in the counsel of the prophets. Conversely there is danger in following our own path in opposition to God. It is called apostasy and it does not end well for the individual.

I have included some of the words from a talk Neal A. Maxwell gave 30 years ago. It could not be more appropriate today. Please read and enjoy.

Neal A. Maxwell, “A More Determined Discipleship,” Ensign, Feb 1979, 69–73
Excerpts from an address delivered at Brigham Young University, 10 October 1978

Discipleship includes good citizenship. In this connection, if you are a careful student of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions—especially when the First Presidency has spoken out—the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. The declarations are about principles, not people; and causes, not candidates.

Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions. (See 1 Kgs. 18:21.)

President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional or political life” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ!

We are now entering a time of incredible ironies.

“What the secularists are increasingly demanding, in their disingenuous way, is that religious people, when they act politically, act only on secularist grounds. They are trying to equate acting on religion with establishing religion. And—I repeat—the consequence of such logic is really to establish secularism. It is in fact, to force the religious to internalize the major premise of secularism: that religion has no proper bearing on public affairs.” (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, pp. 51–52, 60–61.)

Your discipleship may see the time when such religious convictions are discounted. M. J. Sobran also said, “A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it” (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, pp. 58–59).

This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as un-trendy and unenlightened.

But there is occurring a discounting of religiously based opinions. There may even be a covert and subtle disqualification of some for certain offices in some situations, in an ironic irreligious test for office.

If people, however, are not permitted to advocate, to assert, and to bring to bear, in every legitimate way, the opinions and views they hold which grow out of their religious convictions, what manner of men and women would we be?

It may well be that as our time comes to “suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41), some of that special stress will grow out of that portion of discipleship which involves citizenship.

If the challenge of the secular church becomes very real, let us, as in all other relationships, be principled but pleasant. Let us be perceptive without being pompous. Let us have integrity and not write checks with our tongues, which our conduct cannot cash.

Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel. There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds, which was, till then, unconscious of itself.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Prop 8- Sore Losers?

On November 4th, 2008 elections were held across the United States of America. A new President and Vice President were chosen. Congressmen and women, Senators, State Legislators, and Governors were all elected. Even County & City Officials were elected to their respective offices. Whether they were the incumbent or running for the first time, individuals placed their faith in the electoral process, and placed their name on a ballot. Each candidate made their case to the electorate and when the votes were counted there were winners and losers.

Chances are, most people were disappointed in the outcome of at least one of the multiple races they had the privilege of voting in. I know I was. But at the end of the day, there was a peaceful, respectful transition of power, from the old to the new. This is the way the United States operates and it is truly a wonderful thing.

Many of us also had the opportunity to vote for various ballot initiatives. Nationwide these initiatives ranged from increased smoking regulations to tax increases for school funding, from parental notification for minors seeking abortions to State constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. Like the candidates we voted for, some initiatives were more controversial than others. In the end we voted to make our will known regarding these initiatives and chances are good we were pleased with some outcomes and disappointed in others. But still, the voice of the people was heard.

I understand disappointment. I experienced a great deal of it on the 4th, but I can’t understand the anger and hatred generated in some when they don’t get their way. It’s as though some are spoiled children throwing a temper tantrum in the store, kicking and screaming when mom tells them they cannot have a piece of candy. Of course the tantrum embarrasses mom when everyone in the store turns to look scornfully at the inept parent, but it should also embarrass the child who knows better.

Opponents of California Proposition 8 are acting like these spoiled children at the store and they should be embarrassed by their behavior. The State Constitutional Ban on Same Sex Marriage passed. While it’s reasonable for the opponents to present a legal challenge if one exists, it is not reasonable to target individuals and churches in hopes of embarrassing them, ruining them financially, or coercing them by threat into a different action. It is shameful to call for financial or physical harm to be inflicted on people who simply disagree with them.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was a strong proponent and a member of a broad coalition making the case for protecting the traditional institution of marriage by banning same sex marriage. I am proud of the church for taking such a strong stand and I applaud the entire coalition for their efforts. The coalition made their case, the election was held, and they came out victorious. The coalition of churches and individuals exercised their constitutionally protected free speech and now are being targeted by the angry, petty, electoral losers.

Whether we agree with the outcome of every race or not, we need to keep in perspective our great privilege of living in a free society. We must recognize the rights of others to disagree without vilifying or seeking to cause them harm. It would be shameful for McCain supporters to protest the election of Barrack Obama and threaten his supporters. It is equally shameful for the opponents of Proposition 8, nationwide, who are protesting against churches and individuals, seeking to damage and intimidate them. Honestly, their behavior is embarrassing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Law of the Fast- Part Two


What are the benefits and blessings of obeying the law of the fast?
The benefits and blessings of fasting are as numerous as the reasons for which we fast. We know that fasting increases physical well-being. We know fasting helps us to master our own body, appetites and desires and this self mastery increases our ability to follow all of Gods commandments. We know that the Lord hears the desires of our hearts when we fast and pray and contribute a generous offering. This brings about many unique and individual blessings. We also know that fasting helps us to develop spiritual strength. Moses received spiritual strength from fasting. The four sons of Mosiah exemplified the powerful combination of fasting and prayer when they”searched the scriptures” and “they had given themselves to much prayer and fasting”.

Esther 4 - Through the power of fasting, Esther was able to save the lives of her people. After personally fasting for 3 days and 3 nights and asking others to fast with her for the common purpose, Esther invited the king and Haman to attend a banquet she had prepared. At the banquet the king asked her what she would like and she responded that she would like to invite the King and Haman to another banquet the next day. It was that night that the King was unable to sleep and had scriptures read to him. It was at this time that he was reminded of the heroism of Mordecai and asked the question of his servants what had been done to reward Mordecai for saving his life. When they told him nothing had been done be began to think about what he could do to reward Mordecai. It was this night and early the next day, after Esther, Mordecai and others had completed their 3 day fast, that the King was unable to sleep and was reminded of the good that Mordacai the Jew had done.

I believe the righteous desires of the fasting heart were answered. The Jews were spared from their death sentence, Mordecai and Esther were raised up in power along side the king, and Haman was hanged by the gallows he had constructed for the purpose of hanging Mordecai.

-The Law of the fast is not new. David O McKay taught, “Historians tell us that the custom of fasting dates back to the early history of the human race. Whatever its origin, it is significant to note that several virtues are attached to the observance of the custom. All the principles associated with fasting seem to point to the fact that it produces, first physical well-being, then, Self mastery, next, an opportunity to help others, and finally, spiritual strength.” “But the greatest of all benefits from fasting is the spiritual strength derived by the subjection of physical appetite to the will of the individual.” (David o McKay Gospel Ideals- Improvement Era 1953 pp 208-213)

We have been invited to experiment with a proper fast. Adhere to the 4 steps of a proper fast and see if the results are different than when you cut corner, or don’t fast at all.

1- Abstain from food
2- Pray
3- Testify (youth- this means you too)
4- Contribute

Gaining a testimony of fasting = fasting properly = increased spiritual strength, self mastery, physical well being, and ability to help others.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Law of the Fast- Part One


In every major world religion, from Budhism to Islam, from Hinduism to Judaism to Christianity, fasting has been taught as a vital component to true worship.
We are taught in the LDS tradition that obeying the law of the fast provides each of us with the opportunity to access great blessings from our Heavenly Father, as well as the ability to bless the lives of our friends, neighbors and family. Fasting produces physical well-being, self mastery, opportunity to help others, and spiritual strength.

Why is it important to fast? The Church Handbook of instructions states, “fasting, accompanied by prayer, is a form of worship. The Lord has commanded His people to fast to help them draw close to Him, overcome worldliness, gain spiritual strength, increase their compassion, and prepare themselves for service. Fasting is fundamental to spiritual well-being and temporal welfare.”

Matthew 22:37-40 (What is the greatest Commandment?) We can show our love for our Heavenly Father and our Savior, as well as our neighbors by observing the law of the fast. The Law of the fast “Hangs” on these 2 commandments.

Joseph B Wirthlin stated “ When we fast, brethren and sisters, we feel hunger. And for a short time, we literally put ourselves in the position of the hungry and needy. As we do so, we have greater understanding of the deprivations they might feel.” (The Law of the Fast, Ensign May 2001)

President Gordon B Hinkley has said “ Out of a sense of love for the less fortunate among our own, let us observe the law of the fast, going without a little food which we do not need—and contributing the value thereof and even more to help those who are in desperate circumstances.” (Let Love Be the Lodestar of your life, Ensign May 1989) When we fast properly we show our love to God and our Neighbors and we succeed in being obedient to the 2 great commandments.

What is involved in a proper fast? 4 factors in proper observance of fast day.

1- Abstain from food and drink for 2 consecutive meals. This means 24 hours. I have been a bad example of what a true fast should be. Saturday night dinner and snacks. I haven’t planned ahead to make my fast meaningful.

2- Pray- Elder Wirthlin teaches us that “without prayer, fasting is not complete fasting; it is simply going hungry.” D&C 88:76 “Ye shall continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth. “
When the deciples were unable to cure a boy who was possessed of an evil spirit, they asked the Savior “Why could we not cast him out?” Jesus responded “ This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matt 17:19, 21)

Speaking to BYU students about fasting, President Hinkley said “I hope you haven’t prayed for snow with the hope that you could go skiing on Sunday. I believe that the Lord will hear our earnest supplications, if we will back up our fasting and prayers with goodness in our lives.”
Without prayer, there is no purpose to the fast. We are not offering up the desires of our heart to the Lord. In addition to beginning and ending our fast with prayer, we should seek the Lord often in personal prayer throughout the fast.

3- Testify- This is a part of fast day that I personally forget about. I know we have testimony meeting, but I forget that testifying is part of my personal worship.

4- Contribute- President Hinkley says “ It is not a burden to refrain from two meals a month and give the value thereof to assist in caring for the poor. It is, rather, a blessing. Not only will physical benefits flow from the observance of this principle, but spiritual values also.” Another time he stated “ If every member of this Church observed the fast and contributed generously, the poor and the needy—not only of the Church, but many others as well, would be blessed and provided for. Every giver would be blessed in body and spirit and the hungry would be fed, the naked clothed according to need.”

When we humble ourselves by fasting properly, we will be strengthened spiritually and the Lord will listen to the desires of our hearts. If we know what a proper fast is, but we cut corners, what message are we sending to the Lord? I think the message is that whatever we are fasting about is not THAT important to us, or that we do not truly desire to gain the spiritual strength that we know we could achieve through proper fasting.

Elder Carl B Pratt said “ I fear that too many of us are either not fasting on fast day or we are doing so in a lacksidaisical manner. If we are guilty of taking our fast day for granted or simply fasting Sunday morning instead of making it two complete meals –24 hours- we are depriving ourselves and our families of the choice spiritual experiences and blessings that can come from a true fast.” (The blessings of a proper fast, Ensign, Nov 2004)

When do we fast? Elder Pratt has taught “ In addition to occasional special fasts that we might have for personal or family reasons, we are expected to fast once a month on the first Sunday.” He continues “For those who are physically able, fasting is a commandment.” President Joseph F. Smith said “Those who can are required to comply… it is a duty from which they cannot escape. It is left with the people as a matter of conscience, to exercise wisdom and discretion.”

The first Sunday of each month has been set aside as fast Sunday and worship services include fast and testimony meeting. We are commanded, if we are physically able, to fast on this day and it is our duty to do so.

President Joseph Fielding Smith explains the genesis of why we hold fast and testimony meeting on the first Sunday of each month. “ From the organization of the Church the principle of fasting in the spirit of prayer has been a commandment of the Lord (See D&C 59:8-13 & D&C 88:76, 119) On December 8, 1867 President Young said.. ’You know that the first Thursday in each month we hold fast day. The Prophet Joseph said there should be a fast day, which was decided upon. It was to be held once a month, as it is now, and all that would have been eaten that day, of flour, or meat, or butter, or fruit, or anything else, was to be carried to the fast meeting and put in the hands of a person selected for the purpose of taking care of the poor. If we were to do this now faithfully, (Said President Young) do you think the poor would lack for flower? No! There would be more than could be used by all the poor among us.’ (End Brigham Young)

Joseph Fielding Smith continues, "This custom of holding fast meetings on Thursday was continued in Nauvoo and also after the coming of the members of the church to the Rocky Mountains."


The change from the first Thursday to the first Sunday of the month came about in this manner. Hyrum M. Smith, who later became a member of the Council of the Twelve, was a missionary in Newcastle England, in the year 1896. On the Thursday of the fast meeting, members of the Church in that land had to get excused from their employment with a loss of pay. Some of them were workers in the coal mines. When these came from the pits, they had to go home, bathe, and change their clothes. This was a loss both of time and compensation.

Hyrum wrote to his father, President Joseph F. Smith, and asked why, under such circumstances, the fast day had to be a Thursday and not a Sunday. President Smith took the letter to the meeting of the First Presidency and the apostles and presented it there.” That is how our fast and testimony meetings came to be on Sundays instead of Thursdays as was originally appointed by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Despite this change in administration, the doctrine of the fast has not changed.


We can fast whenever we have special needs, when we need to humble ourselves or simply want to commune with God. After Moses broke the original tablets on which the commandments were written, he returned to mount Sinai to create new tablets. While on the mountain he communed with the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights and he fasted to be purified and to show his humility and devotion to the Lord.” (Exodus 34:1-2, 28)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Raising a Righteous Posterity


As parents, protecting our family is the most critical function we serve. We protect our families from physical danger or neglect by providing the essentials of life, food, shelter and clothing. We teach our children to be safe in their behavior and attitudes. We also protect our families from spiritual danger. We teach our children the standards our Father in Heaven has taught us.

We are blessed to live at a time when prophets live on the earth. They teach, counsel, love and correct, according to the Word of God. If we follow their counsel and accept our role as parents with soberness and dedication, we will be successful in truly protecting our children and raising a righteous posterity.


Finding Safety in Counsel (Henry B. Eyring- May ’97 Ensign)

“We are blessed to live in a time when the priesthood keys are on the earth. We are blessed to know where to look and how to listen for the voice that will fulfill the promise of the Lord that he will gather us to safety.”

“Sometimes we will receive counsel that we cannot understand or that seems not to apply to us, even after careful prayer and thought. Don’t discard the counsel, but hold it close.”

“When a prophet speaks, those with little faith may think that they hear only a wise man giving good advice. Then if his counsel seems comfortable and reasonable, squaring with what they want to do, they take it. If it does not, they consider it either faulty advice or they see their circumstances as justifying their being an exception to the counsel.”

“Having listening ears requires humility.”

Worldwide Leadership Training: Building Up A Righteous Posterity
Thomas S. Monson –A Sanctuary from the World (Feb 9, 2008)
Jeffrey R. Holland- General Patterns and Specific Lives (Feb 9, 2008)

Elder Holland, quoting a 1999 First Presidency Letter, said- “We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church… However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform”

“As more and more families are in disarray and as many cultural forces devalue marriage, children, and traditional family life, the General Authorities and general officers of the Church feel increased urgency to speak of the ideals and gospel-centered principles.” These are “divine expectations in marriage and eternal family standards”.

“We talk about the pattern, the ideal, of marriage and family when we know full well that not everyone now lives in that ideal circumstance. It is precisely because many don’t have, or perhaps have never even seen, that ideal and because some cultural forces steadily move us away from that ideal, that when we speak about what our Father in Heaven wishes for us in His eternal plan for His children”.

President Monson, quoting President McKay, “the home is the basis of a righteous life and no other instrumentality can take its place nor fulfill its essential functions”

President Monson continues, “When our families are united in purpose, and an atmosphere of peace and love prevails, home becomes a sanctuary from the world.”

“Whatever the makeup of our particular family, if we follow the guidelines which have been set before us… we will draw closer to the Lord and bring more of heaven into our homes.”

Good, Better, Best (Dallin H. Oaks, Nov ’07 Ensign)

President Gordon B Hinckley has said that we “work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it”.

Elder Oaks- “Some of our most important choices concern family activities.” … Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent”.

“In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better, or best.”

“Just because something is good, is not a sufficient reason for doing it.”

“The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth.”

“But here is a caution for families. Suppose Church leaders reduce the time required by Church meetings and activities in order to increase the time available for families to be together. This will not achieve its intended purpose unless individual family members- especial parents- vigorously act to increase family togetherness and one-on-one time.”

President Monson- (WWLT 2/9/08)

"3 guidelines to help ensure that our homes will be havens of happiness"

1- “Establish a pattern of prayer. As we pray with our families each day, we will help to provide the protection we all so desperately need in today’s world.”
2- “May our homes be a library of learning …’Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith’ (D&C 88:118) “An essential part of our learning library will be good books. The standard works offer the ultimate library of learning”
3- “May we enjoy a legacy of love. May our families and homes be filled with love: love of each other, love of the gospel, love of our fellowman, and love of our Savior. As a result, heaven will be a little closer here on earth. Let us make certain that our examples are worthy of emulation.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Redeeming the Dead

Intro:
I remember attending a Religion class at BYU in the Spring of 1998. My professor was involved in developing and writing the curriculum for the Sunday School, priesthood & Relief Society and he had just returned from a meeting with the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. At this meeting President Hinckley announced a goal to have 100 Temples in operation by the year 2000. I remember being amazed and a little skeptical of this goal.

*By the end of 2000, 102 temples were in operation. Sunday, Aug 24, President Monson dedicated the Twin Falls Idaho Temple, making it the 128th operational temple in the world and at General Conference on October 4, 2008, he announced the locations for 5 new temples, including one in Kansas City Missouri. This brings the total number of temples in operation, planned, or under construction to 140. In 1995 when President Hinckley became the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there were 47 temples in operation. In the last 13 years 81 new temples have been dedicated, an average of over 6 per year. Contrast this with the 47 temples that were dedicated in the first 165 years of the Church’s existence.

These Temples are being built to speed the work of redeeming our dead. At the ground breaking of the St Louis Temple, President Monson said, “We build temples so that we might redeem our dead, and so that we might have an opportunity to perform those ordinances which we will take with us through eternity.”

This is absolutely amazing. We are witnessing a remarkable work. Everything about the work for redeeming the dead testifies of the divinity of Jesus Christ. It testifies of His resurrection, the infinite reach of His atonement, that He is the sole source of salvation, that He has established the conditions for salvation and that He will come again.

We are living at a time when we are able to witness and participate in the fulfillment of prophesy. We are living in a time with great opportunity, a time that every generation has looked forward to with great anticipation. It is a time when the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and all keys from the various dispensations of time are on the earth, and there is work for us to do.

We learn from the vision granted to Pres. Joseph F. Smith as recorded in D&C 138, that those who have died without knowledge of the Savior are being taught the gospel of Jesus Christ in the spirit world. As spirits they are able to exercise their agency in expressing faith in Christ and accepting His gospel. But as spirits, they are unable to physically receive the ordinances of the gospel, including baptism for the remission of sins. President Gordon B Hinckley has said “the dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,” but only if they accept those ordinances.

We know it is the work and Glory of our Father in Heaven to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. It is our great blessing and opportunity to be about the same work by endeavoring with all our heart to assist our brothers and sisters, both living and dead, to receive the fullness of the gospel and receive eternal life.

To better understand our role in this vicarious work of redeeming our dead, I would like to use D&C section 2 as the outline for my talk.

D&C 2- An extract from the words of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith the Prophet, while in the house of the Prophet’s father at Manchester, New York, on the evening of September 21, 1823. Chronologically, it is the first section received by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Compare with Malachi 4:5-6

Elder Ray Christianson, in a Conference report in April 1960 said, “‘The beginning and the end of the gospel is written in section two of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is the keystone of the wonderful gospel arch; and if that center stone should weaken and fall out, the whole gospel structure would topple down in unorganized doctrinal blocks.’”

1 Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
2 And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.
3 If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.

Vs 1: Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

Prior to the 2nd coming of the Lord Elijah is prophesied to come and restore the priesthood keys of the sealing ordinances.

President Joseph Fielding Smith noted an interesting aspect of Elijah’s return to the earth on 3 April 1836.

“Edersheim in his work, The Temple, says: ‘To this day, in every Jewish home, at a certain part of the Paschal service the door is opened to admit Elijah the prophet as forerunner of the Messiah…’
“It was, I am informed, on the third day of April, 1836, that the Jews, in their homes at the Paschal feast, opened their doors for Elijah to enter. On that very day Elijah did enter—not in the home of the Jews to partake of the Passover with them—but he appeared in the house of the Lord, erected to his name and received by the Lord in Kirtland, and there bestowed his keys to bring to pass the very things for which these Jews, assembled in their homes, were seeking.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:100–101.)


By the time Elijah appeared in the Kirtland Temple on 3 April 1836, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had already received the Melchizedek Priesthood under the hands of Peter, James, and John (May 1829); however, they received no priesthood office until nearly a year later when the Church was organized and they were ordained as the first 2 Elders of the Church on April 6, 1830. At the time they received the M. Priesthood they also lacked essential keys to that priesthood. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained the priesthood keys Elijah came to restore on April 3, 1836:


“The keys that Elijah held, (and conferred upon Joseph Smith) were the keys of the everlasting priesthood, the keys of the sealing power, which the Lord gave unto him. That included a ministry of sealing for the living as well as the dead and it is not confined to the living and it is not confined to the dead, but includes them both…
“Elijah’s mission was the sealing power. He held the keys by which the parents could be sealed together and children sealed to parents. He bestowed these keys upon the Prophet Joseph Smith. And [this] applies to the dead as well as the living since the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Some wonder why Elijah was the one who had to restore the keys to the earth. Joseph Fielding Smith answers this question by stating, “Without question Peter, James, and John could have bestowed this authority, if they had been commissioned; so could Adam, for he held the keys of all the dispensations.” But Joseph Smith adds “‘Elijah was the last prophet that held the keys of the priesthood, and who will, before the last dispensation, restore the authority and deliver the keys of the priesthood, in order that all the ordinances may be attended to in righteousness.”
It was prophesied that Elijah would return before the Lord’s 2nd coming to restore priesthood keys and sealing power. This prophesy has been fulfilled and the power to accomplish this work preparatory to the 2nd coming of the Savior, is on the earth today.


Vs 2: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.
Promises to Fathers- hearts of children will turn to fathers (Like Malachi)

Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “What was the promise made to the fathers that was to be fulfilled in the latter days by the turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers? It was the promise of the Lord made through Enoch, Isaiah, and the prophets, to the nations of the earth, that the time should come when the dead should be redeemed.”

Jeffrey R Holland has further taught “God made those promises to the ancient patriarchs-Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and so forth—and we undoubtedly made them to our own lineal fathers and mothers, those who came to earth before the gospel was restored but whom we promised to provide its saving ordinances”

In 1841 Wilford Woodruff returned to Nauvoo after serving a mission to England. For the first time he heard the prophet Joseph Smith preach the doctrine of redeeming the dead. He said, “It was like a shaft of light from the throne of God to our hearts. It opened a field wide as eternity to our minds. I felt he was consistent with both love, mercy, justice and judgment and I felt to love the Lord more than ever before in my life…. I felt to say hallelujah when the revelation came forth revealing to us baptism for the dead. I felt that we had a right to rejoice in the blessings of Heaven”.

He continued in saying “The first thing that entered my mind was that I had a mother in the spirit world. She died when I was 14 months old. I never knew my mother. I thought to myself, [I] have the power to go forth and seal my mother to my father. She will have a part in the first resurrection; and this alone would pay me for all the labors of my life”.

It is inspiring to hear Wilford Woodruffs enthusiasm about this doctrine. He was overjoyed that his mother could receive the same eternal blessings he was receiving. Do we feel that same joy and enthusiasm?

Wilford Woodruff’s heart was turned to the promises of his fathers as was prophesied and his ministry revolved around redeeming the dead. As President of the St. George Temple he was actively engaged in performing vicarious work for his own ancestors as well as work for many great founding fathers of our nation. As President of the church he dedicated the Salt Lake City Temple and at the April 1894 Conference announced this revelation, “we want the Latter Day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents and run this chain through as far as you can get it… This is the will of the Lord to his people.”

Following this revelation, in November 1894 the Genealogical Society of Utah was organized to teach members how to research and organize records to trace their family histories. Ever since the Church has continued to be a world leader in teaching, gathering, maintaining and making available resources for individuals to research their ancestors, in fulfilling the promise of turning the hearts of the children to their fathers.


“God is no respecter of persons; he will not give privileges to one generation and withhold them from another”. Wilford Woodruff

The hearts of the children are being turned to their fathers as promised, and the work of redeeming the dead is moving forward.

Vs 3: 3 If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
We learn the Earth would be utterly wasted without this work- This is why Temple work is essential

The 3rd verse of D&C Section 2 is a warning. What does it mean?

Why would the whole earth be utterly wasted at the Lord’s coming if the sealing power was not restored and the hearts of the children were not turned to their fathers?

One of the primary purposes of life on earth is to establish eternal family relationships. Without the sealing power, this would be impossible.

Elder Holland teaches us that, “without the sealing power, no family ties would exist in the eternities, and indeed the family of man would have been left in eternity with neither root [ancestors] or branch [descendants]. Inasmuch as a sealed, united, celestially saved family of God is the ultimate purpose of mortality, any failure here would have been a curse indeed, rendering the entire plan of salvation ‘utterly wasted’”.

Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “Some among us still have neither perceived the Spirit of Elijah nor its power. Yet, we are bound by this warning.”

He continues, “These are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over… For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation… they without us cannot be made perfect- neither can we without our dead be made perfect.”

Conclusion:
No people in history have ever had the opportunity to do so much for so many people as we do today. We are blessed with the opportunity to receive ordinances vicariously for our deceased ancestors, that they may receive the same eternal blessings we do.

Elder Nelson said “ We know that Elijah did return- at least twice- after Malachi’s promise. At Christ’s transfiguration, Elijah appeared on the mount to Peter, James, and John. At the Kirtland Temple, April 3, 1836, Elijah appeared to the prophet and Oliver Cowdery and said “The keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands”.

“This is a work that rests upon the Latter-day Saints. Do what you can in this respect, so that when you pass to the other side of the veil your fathers, mothers, relatives and friends will bless you for what you have done”. Wilford Woodruff

When we meet our ancestors in the spirit world, it will be a time of either joy or regret, depending on the work we have done for them here.

President Howard W. Hunter said “The uniting and redemption of the family of God was the divine plan before the foundations of the earth were laid. This exalting service for others unseen is one of the most noble acts of human kindness.”

He continued, “Let us be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people. Let us hasten to the temple…not only for our kindred dead, but let us also go for the personal blessings of temple worship.”

Elder D Todd Christopherson said, “Our efforts on behalf of our dead bear eloquent witness that Jesus Christ is the divine Redeemer of all mankind. His grace and promises reach even those who in life do not find it.”

He continues, “Our anxiety to redeem the dead, and the time and resources we put behind that commitment, are above all, an expression of our witness concerning Jesus Christ- [and His infinite atonement].

We live at a time where we are a part of the fulfillment of prophesy. Elijah has returned and the Sealing Keys of the priesthood are on the earth. Revelation directing the work of redeeming the dead has been received, temples are being built & dedicated at a rapid pace. Advances in technology allow for great strides in Family History research.


79 temples are now online with the new.family search program for preparing family names for temple ordinances.

What specifically should we be doing?

1- Gain a testimony of redeeming the dead and the sealing keys of the priesthood
2- Be worthy and receive blessings of the Temple for ourselves
3- Receive training in Family History Research and new.familysearch program
4- Research, verify and clear names for Temple ordinances
5- Attend the temple regularly and receive ordinances for the benefit of our deceased ancestors
6- Organize and assist others in attending the temple regularly in any way possible- perhaps by sharing rides, babysitting or other resources

Only 15 Temples were operational when I was born in 1974, which means 113 Temples have been dedicated in my lifetime of 34 years. This work is not meant for a past or future generation, it is meant for each of us living now, whether we are a youth, middle aged, or elderly.

The stage has been set and the work is in front of us to do. We have great family history consultants and others in the Ward who are very skilled in this work. If you need help, please ask. Others can help teach us how to do the work, but we must first have the desire and dedication to try.

Remember, as Elder Christopherson said, “Our anxiety to redeem the dead, and the time and resources we put behind that commitment, are above all, an expression of our witness concerning Jesus Christ-

D&C 128:24 “Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.

References:
Malachi 4:5-6
D&C 2
D&C 138
D&C 127-128

1. The Redemption of the Dead and the Testimony of Jesus- Christopherson, Nov 2000
2. D&C/Church History Teachers Manual- The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn to their
Fathers- Lesson 39
3. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church- Wilford Woodruff Chapter 18: Temple
Work: Becoming Saviors on Mount Zion
4. The Spirit of Elijah – Nelson, Nov 19945. D&C Institute manual- D&C Section 2 The Promises Made to the Fathers

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Clay County Missouri

When the LDS saints were violently evicted from their homes in Jackson County, Independenc Missouri, they fled and were welcomed by the residents of Clay County. Clay County is directly to the North of Jackson County and includes Liberty, Missouri. Perceiving the injustice inflicted on the LDS community by the Missourians, Clay County residents permitted LDS refugees to stay in Clay County for a period of time while they appealed to the State government to have their lands restored. The lands in Jackson County were not restored and eventually it became necessary for the Saints to relocate out of Clay county.

In a compromise deal, the State legislature created two new counties north of Clay County where the saints could settle. These counties are Caldwell County where the saints settled Far West, and Daviess County where the saints settled Adam Ondi Ahman.

On October 4th, 2008LDS Church President Thomas S Monson announced the building of a temple in the greater Kansas City area. Not knowing what "greater Kansas City area" really meant, we waited for additional information. On October 7th, the official LDS church website posted on their newsroom the following....

"For the temple serving the greater Kansas City area, the site will be in Clay County, Missouri, on residential land within the Kansas City limits that is already being developed by the Church. The development is known as Shoal Creek."

This land is located on 152 highway between US I35 & US I435, located in the Liberty Missouri Stake. Perhaps the residents of Clay County are being rewarded for their kindness to the saints over 170 years ago. The new temple will certainly bring great blessings to the area and opportunities for increased missionary work and interfaith dialogue between the LDS church and other denominations and members of the community.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Best of Times, Worst of Times?


We tend to view the world through the prism of our own life. If things are going well for us, then things are generally good everywhere. If things are going badly for us, everyone must be struggling, right? We hear the news of financial crisis, terrorist plots and governemental turmoil. Sometimes we are so bombarded with negative news, we fail to focus on the blessings in our lives.

Times may be difficult, but there have been tough times before. Do we stop to realize how blessed we are to live in a world where the restored gospel is alive and well. A world where prophets lead us, and offer words of comfort and counsel? We cannot afford to become pessimistic. As President Hinkley said, "We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy is around, yes. Problems everywhere, yes. … You can’t, you don’t, build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen" (from Ensign, June 1995, 4).

We can choose to dwell on the negative, or we can choose to focus on the positive in our lives. President Hinckley continued, "The gospel is a thing of joy. It provides us with a reason for gladness. Of course there are times of sorrow. Of course there are hours of concern and anxiety. We all worry. But the Lord has told us to lift our hearts and rejoice."

So what should we be focused on? The Savior and the blessings of His gospel. The gospel is the "good news" because through the Savior we can all be saved from spiritual and physical death. If we simply follow God's plan, we will have success and joy, regardless of the temporal trials that come upon us. We should focus on the good around us, the caring, the giving, the people who serve others faithfully. We should focus on our families, on friends and the generosity and helpfulness of those around us. We need to focus on the words of the living prophet and set our lives according to his counsel so that we follow the Lord in all things.

Just two days ago, during the Saturday morning session of the LDS General Conference, President Monson announced the plans for 5 new temples to be built, including one in the "greater Kansas City area". The phrasing of the "greater Kansas City area" is interesting and unique, and lends itsself to some speculation among members about the exact location where the temple will be built. As a resident of this "greater Kansas Cirt area" I am thrilled. Regardless of whether the temple is built at Far West, Adam-Ondi-Ahman or Independence, where dedicated Temple Sites already exist, or in Lenexa Kansas or Lee's Summing Missouri, this announcement is proof positive that the work of the Lord continues to roll forth.

If we are prepared, if we are on the Lords side, we need not fear, come what may. We hope the financial crisis corrects so that the pain and suffering is limited and remedied quickly. But whether it is or not, we can be optimistic in the plan of the Father. He will not fail, and any suffering that we experience is but for a moment, and if we allow, will strengthen us to make us better instruments in His hands.

Some may say it is the worst of times, and in some ways they may be right. But it is definitely the best of times, living in the days of restoration and fulfillment of prophesy. The Lords work will progress. If we avoid discouragement and despair, if we stay happy and optimistic, we may have the opportunity to serve Him, and be a part of the miracles that are already happening as well as those to come.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Debt Repayment Strategies


University of Wisconsin- Extension Family Living Program

Strategy #1: The Power of Negotiation
Look for another credit card that offers a lower rate than your current credit card. Be sure it is not just a short-term introductory rate, but a
lower rate that will continue as you use the card. Then call your current credit card company to ask them if they will match that lower interest rate to keep you as a customer. It doesn’t hurt you to make the call, even if they say no. If they say no, transfer the amount you owe on the credit card with a higher interest rate to the new credit card with the lower interest rate. For example, if you are paying 24% interest on your MasterCard you may want to transfer that balance to your Visa card with an 18% interest rate. However, before making the transfer, read the contract and look for hidden fees.

Name Balance Monthly Pmt. % Time to Pay Off Interest Paid
MCard $3,000 $80 24 5 yrs. 11 months $2,600.00
VISA $3,000 $80 18 4 yrs 8 months $1,442.12
Savings by Reducing Interest Rate: 6 1 yr 3 months $1,157.88

Strategy #2: Maintain Level Payments (Power Payments)
The key to this strategy is maintaining the same amount of payment even as the total amount due decreases. For example, if your debt payment is $80 a month, you keep paying $80 a month toward your debt even when minimum payments decrease to $65 a month.

Here’s how this works. If you paid off a credit card debt of $3,200.00 with an interest rate of 14.9% by making the minimum payments the credit card requested, it would take you 18.5 years to pay off this debt and you would have paid $2,919 in interest. Using the strategy of maintaining level payments you continue making payments of $80 a month even when the minimum balance decreased. As a result you will pay off the debt in 4.8 years and pay $1,259 dollars in interest, saving $1,660.

Balance Interest Rate Method Time to Repay Interest Paid
$3,200 14.0% Min. Pmts. 18.5 yrs $2,919
$3,200 14.0% Level Pmts 4.8 yrs. $1,259
Savings using Maintaining Level Payments: 13.7 yrs. $1,660

Strategy #3: Consistently Pay More Each Month
By consistently paying a little extra each month you can make a big impact on your debt. This is especially true for longer-term debts like mortgages.

Mortgage loans are a great way to demonstrate how this works. If you have a $70,000 mortgage at 8% for 30 years and you pay $50 more a month, you will pay off your mortgage 8 years sooner and save over $35,000 in interest.


Name Amount Owed % Monthly Pmt Time to Repay Interest Paid
Mortgage $70,000 8 $ 514 30 years $114,500
Mortgage $70,000 8 $564 22 years $ 79,130
Savings by Consistently Paying More: 8 years $35,370

Credit Card Example:
Name Amount Owed % Monthly Pmt Time to Repay Interest Paid
VISA $4,900 14.4 $ 140 3 yrs. 10 months $1,493
VISA $4,900 14.4 $ 170 3 yrs. $1,149
Savings by Consistently Paying More: 10 months $374

*The Most Powerful Affect On Debt Repayment Is Combining Strategies

Pitfalls and Traps of Other Debt Strategies

1. Restructuring Your Debt
A. Consolidation Loans. These loans take several debts and consolidate them into one loan, preferably with a lower interest rate. This can decrease your monthly payment and often reduce the overall amount of interest you are paying. A consolidation loan can be a good idea for people who already can pay their monthly bills and just want to be more efficient with debt repayment.

You need to have good credit and collateral in order to get aconsolidation loan without paying excessive interest.

Pitfalls and Traps:
• Recycling Debt
When people who are having trouble managing their money consolidate their debt, they often recycle their debt--continue to create debt. That’s because they haven’t changed any behaviors. People may intend to change but once the pressure and stress of the debt is reduced through the consolidation, the motivation to change is gone.
• Increase Risk or Cost of Credit
Often people want to use equity on their home to repay debt. They do this because they have no other collateral for a consolidation loan. Failure to make payments on a home equity loan puts their home at risk. They have increased their risk by converting unsecured debt (credit card debt-- debt not secured by any property) into a secured debt. They also have increased the amount of interest they will be paying and perhaps the length of time they will pay off their debt.

B. Refinancing Your Home
People refinance their homes to take advantage of lower interest rates or to decrease their monthly payment. Sometimes it is done to create extra money for purchases (like a car) or debt repayment. This type of “cash-out refinance” adds to the total debt and increases the time and cost of repaying the loan.

Pitfalls and Traps:
• Affect on retirement - Consider the age of the person thinking of refinancing and the impact this may have on paying off their home before retirement.
• Costly - If they do this often it can be very costly and they will make little headway on paying off principle.

C. Transferring balances
Another way to consolidate debt is transferring balances from one credit card to a lower interest credit card. Be careful, read the contract.

Pitfalls and Traps:
• Some creditors are charging balance transfers at the same rate of a cash advances.
• Look at contract for a provision that states if you fail to meet any aspect of the contract including being one day late on a payment, the interest rate is increased dramatically with a contingency that there will never be the option of reducing it.
• Sometimes the billing cycle is too short to comply with timely payments.
• Be aware of the cost of extra charges: late fees, over limit fees, cash advance fees, yearly fees.
• If you switch balances often you may be stretching out the time it will take to pay off your debt.

D. Use a Credit Counselor to Negotiate Debt
A non-profit consumer credit counseling agency may be able to negotiate a debt management plan with your creditors. This often includes reduced interest rates, lower monthly payments and consolidates them into one monthly payment. Costs are usually based on your ability to pay. In Wisconsin the initial setup fee is limited to $50 or $25 if you sign up for a debt management plan. Monthly fees vary so check costs before signing an agreement. In Wisconsin the maximum monthly fee can’t exceed 10% of the money sent to creditors or $120, whichever is less. Check your phone book or on the internet to find a consumer credit counseling service in your area. Four national debt phone counselors are:

Myvesta.org 1-800-680-3328
Consolidate Credit Counseling Services 1-800-728-3632
Money management International 1-800-762-2271
Consumer Credit Counseling Services 1-800-388-2227


Pitfalls and Traps:
• If a repayment plan cannot be accomplished in three to five years, usually this is not an option.
• Debt repayment plans that decrease interest or monthly payments will show up on credit reports as late or reduced payments.
• It can be expensive, especially if you have several creditors and the fee is based on the number of accounts in your debt management plan.
• There are disreputable companies claiming to do credit counseling, so choose carefully. They could overcharge for their services. Others may take your money and not pay your creditors, or they may not even have called your creditors. Many states, including Wisconsin, require licensure of credit counseling agencies that do business in the state.

2. File Bankruptcy—the Last Resort
There are two common consumer bankruptcies-- Chapter 7 (liquidation) and Chapter 13(restructuring debt). In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you surrender all your property that is not exempt so it can be sold to pay off your debts. Any debt that’s dischargeable is then discharged(forgiven). A Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains on your credit report as a negative mark for 10 years. You are not allowed to file again for 6 years. Chapter 13 bankruptcy sets up a courtsupervised plan for you to pay back your debt over a 3-5 year period. Debt that remains is then discharged. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy remains on your credit report for 7 years. You can file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy as often needed, once the previous one is completed. Both kinds of bankruptcy have a fee; a Chapter 13 is usually more expensive. Fees run from $500-$1500 depending on the complexity of the filing. In most cases attorneys will require their fee up front. There are assets that are exempt from bankruptcy, such as your home as long as you agree to continue making your mortgage payments. You are allowed one vehicle and some personal property. The value of these items is determined at a state and federal level. Each has its own guidelines. Certain debts are protected from bankruptcy, for example you must continue to pay alimony, student loans, child support, and back taxes.

Unclaimed debt cannot be attached later. You must claim all your debt when you file. If you forget something you cannot include it once the bankruptcy is started. Timing is everything. Do not look to your bankruptcy attorney to determine the best time to file. Your accountant or bookkeeper is a better judge. If you have pending debt, like future hospital bills, now may not be the best time to file. You can’t file again for six years. Bankruptcy is a specialized law practice; use a qualified attorney. Questions for selecting a bankruptcy attorney:
-How long have you been handling bankruptcy cases?
-About what percent of your business is bankruptcy?
-What will be the total cost of this bankruptcy?
-Will I have extra charges later on that are not included in the original fee?

Pitfalls and Traps:
• Consequences of filing bankruptcy -It can be difficult to rent or obtain employment if a credit check is required. It can be difficult to borrow money from a financial institution. Loans that are approved will have a higher rate of interest.

• Recycling -Behavior must change or debt will reoccur. Often people file bankruptcy and then turn around and start to incur more debt.

• Determining if it’s the best option - A bankruptcy attorney will almost always recommend bankruptcy if a person is eligible. They do not determine if this is the best option for a client. They also do not address behavioral changes that might put them at risk after the debt is discharged.• Shame- People who file bankruptcy often feel ashamed.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Financial Management



Marvin J Ashton: "The wind and waves will periodically interfere with our chosen course, even in financial matters, but the laws of the gospel can bring us back on course and guide us to peaceful waters."

We have been counseled numerous times about the need to get out of debt.

President James E Faust: “Debt is bondage because the borrower is the servant of the lender”
President Ezra Taft Benson: “No man is truly free who is in financial bondage”
President Thomas S Monson: “We urge all Latter-day Saints to be prudent in their planning, to be conservative in their living, and to avoid excessive or unnecessary debt. The financial affairs of the Church are being managed in this manner,”

We are also told by Elder Ashton, in One for the Money,“money management should take precedence over money production” & “financial peace of mind is not determined by how much we make, but is dependent upon how much we spend.”

Elder Tanner in a 1979 talk entitled Constancy Amid Change, shared 5 areas in which we must be constant in our finances:
1- Pay an honest tithing- This is a discharge of a debt to the Lord
2- Live on less than you earn
3- Distinguish between needs and wants
4- Develop and live within a budget
5- Be honest in all your financial affairs

President Faust also says “some debt may be necessary, such as to acquire a home and get an education. The Lord’s counsel on the subject is to “pay the debt and release thyself from bondage” (D&C 19:35)

Consistent Counsel: The church is consistent and clear on its counsel for its members to live within their means and get out of debt. To get out of debt we must change the behavior that got us into debt. It doesn’t matter what debt reduction strategy you choose, if you fail to change your spending behavior. (Definition of insanity: Continuing the same behavior while expecting a different result)

Strategies for Debt Reduction:

*Level payments *Sell assets *Negotiate rates
*Restructure Debt *Increased payments *Do not add to debt
*Credit Counseling *Bankruptcy *Compound payments

Which strategy is best? What will work for you?

Must Do

1- Distinguish between Needs & Wants: Elder Tanner’s #3 constancy
We must be able to prioritize and cut back on unnecessary spending- if you can’t find any way to cut back spending, have a trusted friend or family member look at your spending and make suggestions.

2- Create a Budget and follow it: Do not over extend- Set a goal and target $$ for how much is responsible for you to pay in debt payments each month. Debt ratio: Lenders use a 33% debt ratio to figure how much credit/debt an individual can qualify for. (net your calculations to allow for tithing)

Example:
Annual Family income of $50,000 = $4167 monthly Gross income
$4167 - $417 (tithing) = $3750.00 adjusted gross income
$3750 X .33= $1237 in monthly debt payments ($140 diff)
$3750 - $1237 = $2513 for other monthly expenses
Debt payments include: mortgage or rent, home equity loans, auto loans, credit cards, charge cards, bank loans, student loans
Other monthly Expenses include: fast offerings, food, clothing, utilities, insurance coverage, inter-net, cell phone, gasoline, school expenses, cable TV, vehicle maintenance, etc

3- Stop adding to your debt: Enough said.

4- Choose a Strategy: This may be a combination of strategies. Know the benefits and possible pitfalls of each strategy.

5- Be Disciplined: Do not recycle debt. Often times, when the immediate pressure of debt payments is relieved, individuals return to their same spending habits, creating new debt.

6- Bail Out: If you get over your head in debt, make sure you owe so much money that the Federal Government feels they need to bail you out. Ha! Are you paying attention?

7- Live Debt Free: Tips for living debt free (Forbes.com)

1-Remember the basics- debt HAS to be paid back
2-Write a budget
3-Keep accurate records
4-destroy extra credit cards
5-Increase credit card payments
6-Be aware of interest rates- adjustable or promotional teaser rates
7-Consolidate your debt (Short term) Control spending (long term)
8-Stash cash- if possible 3 months of accessible cash
9-Plan for retirement 1
10-The glory of compound interest- let it work for you in your savings

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Marvel


Period of Preparation:

September 21, 1823, more than 3 years since the 1st vision, Joseph Smith prayed earnestly to
- 1. know God’s purposes for him
- 2. to pray for forgiveness of sins
- 3. for a manifestation that he may know his state before God

“In answer to his prayer Joseph saw a light appear in his room that grew brighter & brighter until the room was lighter than at noonday. A heavenly messenger appeared at his bedside, standing in the air, wearing a robe of exquisite whiteness”. This messenger was Moroni.

The next day, Joseph went to the hill where the Book of Mormon plates were buried. There he met Moroni and saw the plates, but was told that he would not receive them for four years. He was to begin an important period of preparation that would make him equal to the sacred task of translating the Book of Mormon. Joseph returned to the hill each September 22 for the next four years to receive further instructions from Moroni.

From this experience we learn that Joseph was eager, patient, and humble (teachable), but that he needed to be prepared for the work he was called to do. Like Joseph, we should feel this same eagerness in serving, and we must remain humble, that we may be taught the way the Lord would have us perform His work. Just as Joseph had to be prepared for the work the Lord called him to, we also must be prepared to accomplish the work we are called to. We must be prepared to recognize the spirit so we may do things as the Lord would have them done. This is true whether we are a Bishop, a Sunday school teacher or a scout leader.

On September 22, 1827 Joseph and Emma went to the Hill. Emma waited nearby while Moroni delivered the plates into the Prophets hands.

Period of Translation:

In December 1827 Joseph & Emma moved to Harmony and the Prophet began the work of translation. Then in February 1828 Martin Harris was inspired to go to Harmony to assist Joseph as scribe.

Plates: 6 inches wide, 8 inches long, “not quite so think as common tin”, @ 6 inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed.
Urim & Thummim: Delivered to Joseph with the records were 2 transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breast plate. “Through the medium of the Urim & Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God”

What role did the Urim & Thummim play in the translation of the Book of Mormon?

Neal A Maxwell- “The Prophet Joseph alone knew the full process [of translation], and was deliberately reluctant to describe details.” David Whitmer observed that as the Prophet used “divine instrumentalities” provided to help him “the hieroglyphics would appear, and also the translation in the English language…in bright luminous letters”.

Martin Harris related of the seer stone: “Sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin”.
Oliver Cowdery is reported to have testified in court that the Urim and Thummim enabled Joseph “to read in English, the reformed Egyptian characters, which were engraved on the plates.”

Maxwell- “If by means of these divine instrumentalities the Prophet was seeing ancient words rendered in English and then dictating, he was not necessarily and constantly scrutinizing the characters on the plates” “The revelatory process apparently did not require the Prophet to become expert in the ancient language. The constancy of revelation was more crucial than the constant presence of opened places”.

“We do know that this faith-filled process was not easy, however. This fact was clearly demonstrated in Oliver Cowdery’s own attempt at translation”. … “Oliver failed because, lacking faith and works, he “took no thought save it was to ask”. He was not properly prepared to do it.

“Whatever the details of the process, it required Joseph’s intense, personal efforts along with the aid of the revelatory instruments. The process may have varied as Joseph’s capabilities grew, involving the work of translation.” Orson Pratt of the quorum of 12 apostles said “ Joseph told me that he used the Urim and Thummim when he was inexperienced at translation but that later he did not need it.”

A Marvel of Inspiration:

Marvel #1 - Speed. An estimated averate rate of 8 of our printed pages per day. The total translation time was about 65 working days. Comparison- It took more than 50 able English scholars 7 years, using previous translations, to produce the King James version of the bible- @ 1 page per day.

Marvel #2- Accuracy. Joseph rarely reviewed or revised what had already been done. Emma said “ after meals, or after interruptions, Joseph would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him.

Marvel #3- Unlearned. Joseph was translating an ancient record but had no knowledge of ancient things. Early in the work Joseph came across words concerning a wall around Jerusalem and asked Emma if the city indeed had walls. She affirmed what Joseph simply hadn’t known.

Marvel #4- No reference sources. Emma Smith said “he had neither manuscript nor book to read from, and if he had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me. Elizabeth Cowdrey said “Joseph never had a curtain drawn between him and his scribe.” Emma also said “ Joseph dictated hour after hour with nothing between us”. None of the 12 people who participated or observed translation never mentioned Joseph’s having any reference materials present.

What do these marvels mean? The Book of Mormon came through, but not from Joseph Smith. Translation was a spiritual gift. The history and process is interesting to us and can help strengthen our testimonies, but the core of our testimony of the Book of Mormon must be based on the doctrines contained therein. The history and process by which the Book of Mormon was brought forth is truly a marvelous work and a wonder, but even more marvelous is the way lives are changed by adhering to the principles and doctrines found within the book.

What is the purpose of the Book of Mormon?

We revere Joseph Smith Jr. as a prophet who was instrumental in the Lords work of the restoration, but we worship Jesus Christ as the Son of God. As described on the title page of the Book of Mormon, the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to the “convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.” The Book of Mormon is truly “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”. We can come unto Him by studying the doctrines and patterning our own lives after His. We come unto Him when we accept Him as our Savior & Redeemer.