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

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.”

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 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.

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: 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.