Sunday, December 28, 2008


Last night I had the opportunity, with my family, to attend the baptism of a 22-year-old man in our ward (local church unit).

It was a really nice experience, and reminded me of my own baptism just over 12 years ago. I really felt the spirit as we sung "I Am a Child of God" (which Seth sung really loudly - quite cute), heard a talk on baptism, witnessed the baptism, heard some nice piano music, heard a talk on the Holy Ghost, and sung "The Spirit of God" (one of my favorite hymns).

It was great to see a convert, like me, join the Church. He's just taken the first step on a wonderful journey.

Baptism is one of the "first four principles and ordinances of the Gospel."
They are:
  • Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  • Repentance
  • Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins (by one with authority)
  • Laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost (also by those with proper priesthood authority)
The first two of those are principles, the latter two are ordinances.

Now, our new convert will continue to progress, including ordination to the priesthood, endowment in the temple, sealing (temple marriage) and enduring to the end.

Following that, exaltation and eternal life.

I'd say that's an awesome first step on an amazing journey with eternal consequences.

Once baptized, you are perfectly clean and sinless. Of course, you will make mistakes and fail as you are subject to your weaknesses, shortcomings, and temptations. But as you sin, you can repent and be forgiven and be cleansed again by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And each Sunday at church, you can renew your baptismal covenants as you listen to the sacramental prayer and partake of the sacrament (bread and water that represent the body and blood of Christ).

During the administration of the sacrament, it's important to take a genuine, honest personal inventory, to think about the ways you could do better, repent of your shortcomings, recommit to do better, and think of Jesus and all he has done for you personally by paying for your sins.

I am so thankful for Jesus, and I love Him. I am so glad that I have been baptized by one with proper authority, received the Holy Ghost, and continued on that path by being ordained to the priesthood, receiving my endowment in the temple, and being sealed to my eternal companion.

Now I'm just working on enduring to the end!

I have a lot of shortcomings, and I am so thankful I can rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ to make me whole as I repent. I sure need it - I'd be lost without it.

Baptism is "the gate." The path beyond that gate is not always easy, but is always worth it. I highly recommend it. If you are interested in being baptized and joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I invite you to take the preparatory lessons from the LDS missionaries serving in your local area.

You can arrange to have them come over and teach you by following this link. (That site also contains lots of great information for you to explore on your own.)

It's worth checking out - you've got nothing to lose by trying, and everything to gain!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

What does that mean, anyway?

Well, it is simply my way of expressing a desire that your Christmas be a happy one. But what makes you happy?

For me, it's all the things I mentioned at the bottom of this post, especially the family.

Of course, with Christmas, we remember the reason for true joy, Jesus Christ.

Each year in early December, the First Presidency of the Church has a special event held at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, called the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. It is a program of special music and talks. It's really a great way to feel the Christmas spirit. I invite you to click on the link above to enjoy the program!

As Nephi said, "We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." That is what Christmas is really about - the Savior.

There are many great scriptures associated with the birth of Christ. It can be enjoyable to read Luke 2:1-20 on Christmas Eve. Also, I offer these great Christmas messages, here and here. And here's one more. Okay, and just ONE more.

Guaranteed to touch your heart, these are really wonderful messages that are worth taking a few minutes to read, especially if you're struggling with feeling the spirit this Christmas due to all the other attendant concerns, frustrations and distractions that come with the season.

May these great words be my gift to YOU this Christmas! They have made a big difference in my life, and I hope they can for you, too.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Update: How Do You Know That You Know?

I just came across this great talk, and wanted to share it with you as a supplement to my earlier post.

That's all for now. Expect a Christmas post sometime soon!

Sunday, December 14, 2008


No, not the "Book of" - the last book of the New Testament (as compiled). What I'm talking about here is revelation in general, and more specifically revelation in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Revelation is, put simply, communication from God to man. This is most commonly achieved through the Holy Ghost. Here is an excellent piece on the subject - worth the read.

There are different types of revelation, ranging from personal revelation to revelation given to the entire Church. In each case, the revelation is specific to the sphere of influence of the receiver. For example, each person is entitled to receive revelation that applies to his or her self, a parent may receive revelation that applies to the family, a bishop receives revelation for the ward, a stake president for the stake, and the president (prophet) of the Church is the only one entitled to receive revelation that applies to the whole Church (all 13.5 million members).

All things are in their proper place and order.

It always troubled me, prior to learning of the LDS Church, that all the other churches believed that God stopped talking to man 2,000 years ago, and hadn't been heard from since. It didn't sit right with me that our Father would just leave us to fare on our own with no further contact. That didn't feel right to me - no loving father would do that.

True, there was a long period of darkness, known as the Dark Ages (or in the Church as
the Great Apostasy) during which there was very limited communication from God. But that's a lengthy subject for another post.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church on the earth that believes in ongoing revelation - that God still communicates regularly with man, and guides His Church by revelation. It is, after all, His Church, not man's.

I know that these things are true because I have experienced them for myself. That is, I have received personal revelation - many times, in fact. And I can attest to the reality of revelation given to my bishops in the past. And I definitely know that the revelation given our prophet is true and right for the Church.

I know this because I have felt the powerful confirmation of the Spirit, letting me know it's true, as sure as I know anything is true.

I am very thankful to be a member of the Church, with ongoing revelation, because I know that in these times, we need sound guidance more than ever.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Godhead

Who are these Beings we worship, anyway?

Yep, it's time for another meaty doctrinal post.

The Godhead consists of three personages: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The Father
The Father is our Heavenly Father - literally the Father of our spirits. He is God, the Almighty. He is not a floating rainbow cosmic sparkle spirit; He is a person like you and me, with a body of flesh and bone. However, He is glorified and perfected and supreme. He loves His children just like we do, only with a far superior and more powerful love than we can even imagine. He has no beginning and no end. He has created an infinite number of worlds. He has all power and knows everything.

The Son
The Son is, of course, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not His own father. He is not the same person as our Heavenly Father. Before I joined the Church, it never made any sense to me that other churches believed the Father and the Son to be the same person. It never made sense to me that Jesus would pray to Himself, or say that He had sent Himself, etc.

This is because Jesus is not God the Father - He is His only begotten Son. It can be a little confusing sometimes in the scriptures, because it often says that they are "one." But that just means "one" in purpose, not "one" as in "the same person." My wife and I are one, but we are not the same person - we each have our own bodies and minds. (Jesus wasn't suggesting gene splicing when He said that a man and his wife should be "one flesh.")

A great description of who Jesus is can be found here, and also in the Church document, The Living Christ. President Gordon B. Hinckley's awesome testimony of Jesus can be read here.

The Holy Ghost
This is the third member of the Godhead. As such, He too is a god, all-powerful and all-knowing. He is the only member of the Godhead who does not currently have a body. This is so that He can inhabit people's hearts and be in more than one place at once. Additional names for the Holy Ghost include the Comforter and the Holy Spirit. Read more about Him here.

What Makes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Different?
To me, the definitive discourse on the nature of the Godhead can be found in Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk from the October 2007 General Conference, The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent. Here he clearly spells out the Church's position and beliefs and explains them and offers detailed reasons for them, and bears powerful apostolic testimony.

What I Believe
I add to that my own testimony that I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are three distinct individuals, and that they know me and love me. I testify that God makes sense - that He is not some incomprehensible pseudo-being whom we cannot know, understand, or strive to be like. He is a perfect, all-powerful, all-loving being, and we, His children, are in a lot of ways as much like him as our own children are like us - at least the analogous relationship is more accurate if you think of a parent and a newborn baby, since God is so much greater than us.

Like any other parent-baby relationship, He created us, we depend on Him for everything, we learn from Him, He sets the example, He is always there for us and loves us, He wants us to be with Him forever, and we have the potential to become like Him as we keep His commandments.

He will always be our Eternal Father, will always be supreme, and loves us perfectly. Wouldn't you sacrifice anything for your own child or children? That's what He did when He sent His son.

The Godhead, and our understanding of it in the Church, is a key differentiator from other Christian churches and an important reason that I know this is the true church of God.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

One More "Thank You"

I'd like to thank the many people who have signed a letter of support to President Monson and the LDS people, regarding the uncivil response to Prop 8. It's found here. Read the letter - if you agree, sign it!

Again, thanks.

Giving Thanks

I'll begin with a lengthy quote:
"It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

"Know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

"But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

"It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States , and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."
~ Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863

Wow. I think this is very apropos for these times. (Of course, no public official, let alone the President of the United States, could get away with saying something like this today. Far too spiritual for the taste of the vocal minority.)

Lincoln provided what I believe is an inspired exhortation regarding what is known as the
"Nephite pride cycle," (humility -> obedience -> prosperity -> pride -> downfall -> humility -> obedience -> prosperity -> pride etc.). Contemplating such an announcement being said in today's political climate, I am reminded that the guilty taketh the truth to be hard - that is, it would not go over well.

But Lincoln's admonishment is as true today as it was then - we need to stop and give thanks to God for our many, many blessings - and not just in late November, but DAILY.

Prophets throughout history have warned that prosperity can be a great test - that it can cause people to forget God, who has given them all they have. President Brigham Young said:

“The worst fear that I have about this people is that they will get rich [and] forget God. … This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greater fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth.”

I'd also like to point out that in the scriptures it says:

And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.

Doctrine and Covenants 59:21
It is really important to give thanks to God. Let us remember God, thank Him, and show our gratitude by keeping His commandments and sharing of our abundance with others.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in the most recent General Conference:
"Let me recommend that periodically you and I offer a prayer in which we only give thanks and express gratitude. Ask for nothing; simply let our souls rejoice and strive to communicate appreciation with all the energy of our hearts."
I am so thankful for my wife and son, for the rest of my family and extended family, for a home and a job and food and clothing and cars that run.

I am thankful for having the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my life, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the Holy Temple, for being sealed to my family forever, and for holding the priesthood of God.

I am thankful for the scriptures, for a living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, for good leaders in the Church, for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

I am thankful for the Ensign magazine, for good books, and beautiful music.

I am thankful for the mountains and all the beauty of the Earth.

I am thankful for my talents, for a healthy body and mind, and for the many opportunities that I have.

I am thankful to live in this great land, the United States of America, and to be alive at this great time in history.

I am thankful for good friends, for my safety, for my faith and knowledge of the glorious eternal future, and for a million other things.

And I owe them all, and so much more, to God.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Warning: Prophecy and Today's Economy

I'm no doomsayer, but let me just say, "Doom. DOOM!"

Okay, I'm kidding - but my topic today is a serious one: preparation for the tough times ahead.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members are assigned to give talks in sacrament meeting. In a sacrament meeting talk today, the brother speaking brought up an interesting point - a connection I hadn't noticed before.

He mentioned the October 2001 General Conference, wherein President Gordon B. Hinckley (the prophet at that time) spoke of the condition of the world, an especially apt and poignant message given about three weeks following the September 11th attacks on America.

In this talk, the prophet said, "I cannot forget the great lesson of Pharaoh’s dream of the fat and lean kine and of the full and withered stalks of corn." The scriptural lesson to which he referred is here. The full text of his General Conference talk is here.

One thing I've noticed is that often the prophecies in the scriptures are cyclical in nature - they foretell of events that occur in biblical times, yet those events are often precursors to similar events that are to occur later in the "end times." In this case, Pharaoh's dream was nigh at hand for him - yet I believe a similar event is again nigh.

Here's the interesting thing: here we are SEVEN years (almost exactly) after President Hinckley's talk, and we've enjoyed a period of prosperity, and now we are seeing the economy taking a turn toward those prophesied seven years of famine.

And, I believe, we should be following the admonitions we've received to do as Pharaoh did: stock up for the lean times. (Those links contain solid, practical advice on how best to ready yourself.)

We've been counseled that "if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear." I know that my own house is not nearly in as much order as I would like it to be, but I am also aware of my many blessings and I'm grateful for them. In an effort to ready ourselves, we're looking for ways to consolidate our debt so we can pay it off and be in a better financial position.

I just know that all the prophecies are true, and will indeed come to pass, as we've been warned over and over again. (As with most lessons, it seems to take many repetitions for us to finally learn.)

It's time to start heeding the warnings - not to freak out all Y2K-style - but to really get it together and consider our circumstances, and ask ourselves if we are prepared for lean times.

Joseph told Pharaoh that the seven years would be so bad that people wouldn't even remember how good they had had it before. Let's appreciate how good we have it now, and also prepare for the hard times, so that we aren't so bad off we can't even remember what it's like to be comfortable.

As President Harold B. Lee said, "The Gospel is intended to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

If you're feeling a little "itchy" feeling in your gut, maybe it would behoove you to assess your current level of preparation for the times that are surely ahead, and then take appropriate action to ensure your future well being.

"Every man who has been warned [should] warn his neighbor."

Consider yourself warned.

[UPDATE: This 1980 talk by President Benson is entirely applicable today, and worth a read.]

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Victory for Marriage

It is my intent to keep this blog uncontentious and apolitical (which is quite a challenge for someone as political as me). However, the events of the past week are relevant enough to the purpose of this blog that I choose to comment nonetheless.

One silver lining that came out of election day was the passage of California's Proposition 8, which added the following 14 words to the California State Constitution:

"Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

It seems a no-brainer, but apparently there are some who think that marriage should consist of other arrangements beside the union of a man and a woman.

The long political story short is that the passage of Prop 8 reversed a California Supreme Court decision that had overridden the voice of the people. So now it is back to how it was before the Court got involved.

So, why am I talking about this here?

1) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes strongly in marriage.
2) The passage of Prop 8 was in part due to the strong support of members of the Church.

Sadly, Latter-day Saints in California and in Utah found themselves on the receiving end of hatred, bigotry and even vandalism at the hands of those Prop 8 opponents who pride themselves in their "tolerance." I guess they're only tolerant if you agree with them.

[UPDATE: Add terrorism to that list.]

The Church even issued a statement regarding the poor treatment members were receiving as a direct result of their civic involvement in this important cause. Thankfully, the Church has also received much gratitude and words of support and solidarity from other members of the broad coalition that supported Prop 8, including the Catholics and the National Organization for Marriage (the president of which expressed thanks for all the LDS have done to protect marriage, in a personal email to me).

Ironically, same-sex couples in California still have all the same benefits as married couples via the state's "civil union" laws. The homosexuals claim that they are being denied a "fundamental right" - but in reality, they are just being denied the societal legitimization which they seek. It is not a "fundamental right" to marry someone of the same sex. It is amazing to me that such a thing is even debated. It illustrates how far from basic principles this world has strayed.

So why does all this marriage stuff matter? Because marriage is important - as the ancient Roman orator Cicero said, it is "the first bond of society." Children deserve to have a mother and a father who are married. Simply put, marriage is right. And marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. Anything else is just an improper relationship masquerading as acceptable.

That sounds harsh, but I am simply stating the facts. Sometimes in today's "politically correct" world, the truth sounds harsh. But I make no apology, for I do not state these things with malice. In fact, I love and pray for those who have so clearly gone astray (and may not even realize that they have, because of the world's current obsession with tolerating everything, including sin).

For a thorough understanding of the Church's (and my) position on same-gender attraction, please read this interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles & Elder Lance B. Wickman of the Seventy. It succinctly lays out the facts and is well worth the read.

I am a firm believer in the old adage, "hate the sin, not the sinner." I think homosexuality is wrong - that it is contrary to God's commandments, unnatural, and I personally find it repulsive. But the same can be said of any number of other sins. That doesn't mean that I feel animosity toward those who are caught up in those sins. It's a cliche, but I have had friends who were homosexual, and I thought they were very nice people and I got along with them very well. That doesn't mean I condoned their behavior, but I appreciate that we are all sons and daughters of God and we all have our failings and weaknesses.

I am pleased that marriage won in California last week, but this is an ongoing battle in a world that is fraught with moral decay. And there are many other moral issues that will continue to be fought out as time goes on. We will win some, and we will lose some. We know from prophecy that things will get much, much worse before they get better.

But we must still stand up for what's right, and we can still savor the little victories along the way.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

General Conference: guidance for the next six months

It's been a long time since I posted. I had a very busy October - half of which was spent on the Oregon coast at a professional fiction writers' workshop called the "Master Class" - 15 straight days of intense learning about the publishing business and the craft of being a commercial fiction writer, with a set of teachers who are well-published and experienced writers themselves who are "paying it forward" to upcoming writers. I worked very hard, and it was well worth every penny.

However, there was, for me, a considerable down side to the workshop (other than the obvious: missing my wife and son tremendously) - for the first time in about ten years, I missed watching the semi-annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also missed attending regular Sunday church, which is extremely rare for me. I really missed these opportunities to refuel my spirit.

For this post, I'd especially like to focus on General Conference.

I have to admit: I am a HUGE lover of Conference. In fact, I am very particular about making sure not to miss any part of this twice-a-year event. In most places in the world, Church members gather in their meetinghouses to watch a satellite broadcast of the Conference sessions (always the first full weekend of April and October). Here in Utah, we are blessed to be able to watch it in the comfort of our own homes on the local NBC affiliate, KSL. (Of course, there's a down side to that - it's easy to get TOO comfortable and fall asleep while watching.) And although it's more convenient to watch at home when you have little children, I do miss the increased feeling of reverence that I got when I had to dress in my Sunday best and sit in a pew among fellow Saints to watch Conference (back when I lived outside Utah).

Each General Conference consists of five two-hour sessions: Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon, and a special Saturday evening session for the Priesthood holders of the Church. (There is also a special session for the women of the Church the week prior.)

Ten hours of church in one weekend? Yep, and I truly relish every minute of it.

Twice a year, I get the opportunity to listen to the prophets of the Lord present amazing, powerful, important, loving messages to the Church. This is a chance to hear from Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ; to hear what is needed for the church membership to know for the next six months. And there is always such beautiful, uplifting music provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Since I joined the church I have always held these Conferences sacred, and count myself truly privileged to be able to watch and listen to them (of course, anyone, church member or not, may listen to or watch Conference). And I have even been so blessed as to have been able to attend General Conference in person a couple of times over the years.

The month following General Conference, the Church magazine, Ensign, collates all the talks from Conference into one convenient resource. This is great, since it is always edifying to read and re-read the Conference talks, refresh one's memory, or fill in blanks where you may have been distracted or sleepy. It's also a great resource for developing lessons and talks that you give in church during the following few months (or any time thereafter).

I love hearing from the living Prophet. I love knowing what the Lord wants me to know in a contemporary setting. Not only can I look to the ancient scriptures for guidance, but I know that the Lord loves me and wants what is best for me here and now, and will not leave me alone without ongoing guidance. General Conference provides that ongoing guidance, and if we listen to the wonderful lessons taught, we can become better people, learning to serve others, make good choices, and prepare ourselves for what is ahead.

As disappointed as I am to have missed this most recent General Conference, the good news is I can read or listen or watch any of the talks online, and I can also buy them on CD or DVD (very inexpensive at the LDS Distribution Center).

General Conference has truly been a blessing in my life, and I encourage all to spend some time reading, listening to, or watching the excellent talks.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

How Do You Know That You Know?

Today in church I told the congregation that I know the Gospel is true. That I know Heavenly Father loves me and cares about me. That I know Jesus Christ atoned for my sins. That I know the Church is led by a real prophet. That the Book of Mormon is a true record. In short, I bore my testimony.

This blog is a sort of a journal of my testimony. That is, it is a recitation and explanation of the things that I know are true. You may ask, "How can you know?"

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

"What do we mean when we testify and say that we know the gospel is true? Contrast that kind of knowledge with 'I know it is cold outside' or 'I know I love my wife.' These are three different kinds of knowledge, each learned in a different way. Knowledge of outside temperature can be verified by scientific proof. Knowledge that we love our spouse is personal and subjective. While not capable of scientific proof, it is still important. The idea that all important knowledge is based on scientific evidence is simply untrue."

I know that the things of which I testify here on this blog are true. These things have been confirmed to me - to my spirit - by the Holy Ghost. This, to me, is a more sure and reliable method of confirmation than any kind of empirical measurement of evidence. Your eyes can be fooled. Scientific "knowledge" can be later disproved.

But if one follows this method for determining truth, the confirmation that comes is powerful and undeniable.

It follows, with perfect logic, that if God knows all things, and that He communicates to us through the Holy Ghost, that by the Holy Ghost we can know the truth of all things. The key is to ask sincerely, believing that you shall receive an answer from God. But, you must also be patient, since the answer may not always come how or when you expect.

Gaining a testimony of truths that are of eternal significance may or may not be easy, but it is always worth it.

There is such a profound and wonderful peace and assurance that comes with knowing that these things are true. I no longer have to wonder, no longer have to search for the truth. Now I can use my effort and energy to try to live the Gospel and improve myself. Really, having a strong testimony is indescribably awesome. It really makes you want to share what you have with others, that they may know that same peace and joy.

Finally, a note about the bearing of my testimony here in this public setting.

Elder Oaks also said:
  • "We live in a time when some misrepresent the beliefs of those they call Mormons and even revile us because of them. When we encounter such misrepresentations, we have a duty to speak out to clarify our doctrine and what we believe. We should be the ones to state our beliefs rather than allowing others the final word in misrepresenting them."
And that's why I'm doing this.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Priesthood of God

Like any child growing up, I wanted to be a variety of things when I got older - an architect, a designer of fine sports cars, a teacher - maybe I even thought about being a writer of some sort.

But one thing I never thought about was being a priesthood holder.

All worthy males over the age of 12 in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the opportunity to be ordained to the priesthood. You can find out more about the priesthood(s) of the Church here (and here), but in this post, I would like to just talk about the blessing it is to hold and use the priesthood.

As stated in that link above, the priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God. That brings with it a great power. Like Uncle Ben taught Peter Parker, great power brings with it great responsibility. The power of the priesthood is the power to bless the lives of others. A priesthood holder cannot use it to bless himself (at least not directly - but selflessly serving others brings blessings back to you).

President Spencer W. Kimball said:

"The Priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all things pertaining to the salvation of men. It is the means whereby the Lord acts through men to save souls. Without this priesthood power, men are lost."

I am so thankful that I hold the priesthood. With it, I can serve others by providing priesthood blessings for healing or comfort, and can perform a variety of other ordinances with authority from God. I know this authority comes from God, and not of man, since I have a priesthood line of authority - a document tracing the authority directly back to Jesus Christ.

Here is that line of authority:
  • I was ordained an Elder June 25, 1997, by Wayne Cowley.
  • Wayne Cowley was ordained a High Priest Sept. 11, 1977 by Von W. Pulsipher.
  • Von W. Pulsipher was ordained a High Priest Nov. 22, 1964 by Thomas S. Monson (our current prophet).
  • Thomas S. Monson was ordained an Apostle Oct. 10, 1963 by Joseph Fielding Smith.
  • Joseph Fielding Smith was ordained an Apostle Apr. 7, 1910 by Joseph F. Smith.
  • Joseph F. Smith was ordained an Apostle July 1, 1866 by Brigham Young.
  • Brigham Young was ordained an Apostle Feb. 14, 1835 under the hands of the Three Witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.
  • The Three Witnesses were called by revelation to choose the Twelve Apostles and on Feb. 14, 1835 were blessed by the laying on of hands of the Presidency; Joseph Smith, Jr., Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams to ordain the Twelve Apostles. (See History of the Church, Vol. 2, pp. 187-188).
  • Joseph Smith, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery received the Melchizedek Priesthood in 1829 under the hands of Peter, James and John. (For details of this event, please see the link above.)
  • And, of course, these Apostles were ordained by Jesus Christ.
I cannot overstate how amazing the power of the priesthood is. This is the same power with which the Lord Jesus Christ created the Earth, and the same power with which He healed the sick and raised the dead. Of course, He, being perfect, was able to use the full power of the priesthood, to the maximum extent. Still, with sufficient faith, I know that I could move mountains, or at least heal the sick, using the priesthood.

The key to proper and effective usage of the priesthood is staying worthy by keeping the commandments, and being humble, and being a willing servant of God. As long as a priesthood holder is thinking of the well being of others, he can be led by the Spirit to be able to do good in the world.

Since priesthood holders are representatives of Jesus Christ, holding the priesthood helps keep me on the straight and narrow, as I must always be worthy and prepared to act in that capacity at a moment's notice. When a friend, neighbor, or family member is in need, I must always be at the ready to don a white shirt and tie, and go forth and serve. That alone is a great blessing to me. Staying cognizant of the importance of the priesthood, and never taking it for granted, helps me to not take the Gospel for granted, or become complacent in my life.

I have had some phenomenal personal experiences with the priesthood. I have experienced the reality of its power, both as a recipient of a priesthood ordinance, and as a conduit for God's power. I have been healed, I have helped heal. I have felt that power course though me as I laid my hands on the head of someone in need. I have felt, while providing a priesthood blessing, the sacred and profound feeling of having words come to my mouth that I myself did not even think of. It is an indescribable experience, and something that has built in me a powerful testimony of the true priesthood of God.

I am very thankful for the priesthood. I am thankful that this great blessing is in my home, upon my family, and a key component of God's true Church.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Why Am I Doing This?

I know, I know - I already posted about why I started this blog, and how important it is to share the "good news" of the Gospel.

But on a personal note, there are other reasons that I am doing this.

1) I do love to write. I feel my greatest expression comes through my written words - I am far better at communicating via writing than through speaking. Indeed, it is one of my few gifts.

2) The topic of this blog - my religion - is so central to my life, such a key aspect of who I am - that I really need this opportunity to expound on it. What I believe truly defines who and what I am, how I live my life, how I relate to others, and my place in the universe. My religion is the focal point of my existence; to not express myself about it would be like being a musician and never playing a song.

3) This blog constitutes a sort of window to my soul. All are invited to peer within and see what makes me up. As of tonight, I have finally gotten around to inviting my friends and family to view this. It's like an invitation to get into my head and heart and take a look around. It is my hope that this will enable stronger bonds to be formed with others through this intimate sharing and bearing of my soul.

4) It is critical that when we have something beautiful and wonderful and life-changing that we share it with others. There are people in my life who I care about very much. It is my hope that by thus sharing, they can benefit from my experiences and beliefs, maybe gain something from it, take something away for themselves that can enrich their lives. And it can be done in a non-confrontational way, just sharing through writing and reading. I don't hold forth these things for the sake of debate, merely to share and hopefully to bring a measure of happiness to others.

5) If only one person in the world comes unto Christ as a result of my blog, then it will all have been worthwhile. I may never know if I have any kind of impact, but at least I will know that I tried.

So, again, I welcome you to my blog. If you haven't been following along, I suggest you scroll down to the bottom and start at the beginning, working your way up to the top to the latest post. I've only been at this for a few weeks, and only posted seven posts so far (though a couple of them are a little long).

I hope that the things I write here will have some meaning to you.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Death and the Eternal Perspective

Our family has suffered a tragedy: Jean's youngest brother, James, was killed two days ago in an accident. He was 28.

Times like this cause us to reflect on mortality and the existence that transcends this life.

Two excellent perspectives are found here and here.

Knowing that our loved ones continue to live, beyond this life, can bring comfort, even though we know it will be a long time before we see them again. But the knowledge that we will see them again helps to mitigate the sting of death.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What's This All About, Anyway?

It occurs to me that I jumped into this whole blogging thing without taking the time to set the context for this blog. I know I explained what inspired me to start the blog, but I never really explained, in basic terms, what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is (other than the church to which I belong).

I want to step back for a moment and just give a basic overview - a kind of "layman's" description for those who know NOTHING about the Church. Admittedly, most people have heard of the Church (many call us "Mormons," though that is not our actual name), but many people's understanding doesn't go much beyond, "no smoking, no drinking, and pairs of clean-cut missionaries knocking on doors."

So, here are the basics (just typing from memory here):
  • In 1820, at the age of 14, Joseph Smith received the First Vision, in which he was visited by God, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.
  • An angel (Moroni) delivered golden plates (like a book of metal pages) to Joseph Smith and from the plates he translated the Book of Mormon.
  • In 1830, Joseph Smith organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS for short). Members of the Church are called "Saints."
  • The members suffered much persecution in the early days.
  • On June 27, 1844, a mob murdered Joseph and his brother Hyrum. Joseph was only 38.
  • Starting in 1847, the Saints migrated west under the leadership of Brigham Young, 2nd prophet of the Church, and settled in Utah.
  • Nearly two centuries later, the Church has grown to more than 13 million members in hundreds of countries around the world. (By comparison, there are currently about 13 million Jews in the world). About 6 million members of the Church reside in the United States. (By comparison, about 5.3 million Jews live in the United States). I only mention the Jewish population as a reference point, since numbers in the millions can be hard to comprehend.
  • In Utah, 72% of the population is LDS.
  • The 16th President and prophet of the Church is Thomas S. Monson.
  • There are currently about 53,000 missionaries serving in the Church, all around the world.
  • The Church's official scriptural cannon includes The Bible (Old Testament & New Testament) - we use the King James Version, the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the Book of Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. We also consider the words of the prophets, from Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson, to be scripture.
  • The Articles of Faith provide a basic summary of our beliefs.
  • We are very family-centered. The recent Proclamation on the Family (1995) provides the Church's official perspective on the importance of the family.
  • The Church is set apart from typical Christian churches by our belief in a Godhead comprised of three distinct individuals: God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ (both of whom have glorified bodies of flesh and bone) and the Holy Ghost (who does not have a body); and our belief in ongoing revelation from God (he did not stop talking to us 2,000 years ago). Additionally, we believe that a Great Apostasy occurred after the deaths of the original apostles, and that the true priesthood authority has been restored (in 1829). We also believe that good works must accompany faith, we must endure to the end to be saved, and that families can be forever.
  • But most importantly of all, we believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of the world. Jesus is my personal Savior - he suffered and died for me, to pay the price of my sins, and he was resurrected on the third day. The Church has issued an excellent brief on our belief in Christ.
  • We believe in healthy living and trying to live a morally clean, honest life.
  • Members of the Church can be found in politics, the entertainment industry, the sciences, education, arts, literature, and many other areas of life.

So, those are the real basics. I will talk more about some of these things later, but I just wanted to give a brief overview to put all this in context. Now that you have some idea about the Church, I must go to sleep, as it is after midnight!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sending our sons

This is a digression from the series of posts I had planned to make, inspired by a discussion I was having with my Dad last night. He was having difficulty understanding why we LDS people send our sons on missions for the Church, rather than, say, having them skip a mission and continue their education without interruption. Dad said, "What if this kid could become a doctor and start saving lives - it would be a waste to be off on a mission instead." My response was that it is far more important to save souls than to save bodies, and that two years devoted to serving others without pay would make anyone a much better doctor in the long run.

But, as always, I had a hard time explaining my thoughts and feelings on the subject, because my forte is writing, not speaking (especially not extemporaneous speaking about important matters). So, after the conversation, I experienced some Treppenwitz, and decided it would be best to just blog my thoughts on the subject.

First, I had tried to explain that serving a mission is not mandatory, but expected. Nobody is forced to serve a mission - it is a choice. Dad had said that we "indoctrinate" the kids to serve a mission, and I explained that "indoctrination" is fine, as long as the "doctrine" is true. For instance, Dad and Mom had "indoctrinated" me to believe in God, and to try to do what's right. Nothing wrong with that - it's called good parenting.

I want to focus on two words here: expect and hope. I expect my son to serve a mission, the same way I expect him to go to college, expect him to not cheat on tests, expect him to not shoplift, and expect him to treat his mother with respect. I hope he will serve a mission, the same way I hope he will read his scriptures, hope he will say his prayers, and hope he will find a good woman to marry in the temple. In order to help these expectations and hopes come to fruition, I will teach my son what is right, tell him what I hope for, and explain to him what is expected. I will pass along my values to him.

That is one reason I want him to serve a mission.

Dad had said that he would have never sent me out "into harms way" like that. Well, of course not - he doesn't believe the same things I do. But doing the right thing isn't always easy, and worthwhile things always require effort and sacrifice. Personally, nothing would make me more proud than for Seth to serve an honorable mission for the Church.

Serving a mission will better prepare him for life than any two years of college (which he would complete when he got back anyway). Not to mention the immense reward of serving God and his fellow man. Besides, serving a mission is a priesthood duty. And if you have a strong testimony, you want to share it with your fellow brothers and sisters in the world.

I joined the Church too late to go on a mission - a fact I regret. My only consolation is that I will have the opportunity to serve a "couple" mission (or missions) with my eternal companion, Jeanie, when we are older (retirement age).

In the meantime, I will most definitely be spending the next 16 years encouraging Seth to serve a mission. It is a large part of what we are on earth for. Assisting in God's work and glory is a privilege, and those of us who are so blessed as to have the Gospel in our lives have an obligation to share it with others.

I know this concept can be hard to grasp or accept for those who do not have a testimony of the Church. But once you know it's true, it makes perfect sense.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Temple and Eternal Families

This is such a huge subject – I’ll only be able to give a few thoughts here.

It seems to be a virtually universal human desire that family relationships continue beyond this mortal life. It also seems that for most people who do believe in an “afterlife” it is taken for granted that they will see their loved ones again on the “other side.” What most people don’t realize is that this great blessing – the blessing of having eternal families – is not automatic: it is the result of sacred ordinances. And those sacred ordinances can only be performed by those with authority in the house of the Lord: the holy temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

There are currently more than 125 temples operating worldwide. Our local temple is the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple. Thankfully, it is only about an eight minute drive from our home. Faithful Saints in other parts of the country, or other parts of the world, have to travel an hour, six hours, or even three full days just to get to the temple, often at great sacrifice.

In the temple, we receive special priesthood ordinances, including the Endowment (which consists of sacred instruction and covenants), the sealing ordinance, and baptism for the dead. We are sealed as husband and wife for time and eternity – not just “until death do you part.” The “celestial marriage” is one that lasts forever, sealed on earth and sealed in heaven. We are also sealed to our families. Ordinances can be performed by proxy for the dead, so that those who did not get the chance when they were alive have the opportunity to choose to accept those ordinances in the hereafter. This is why researching our genealogy is so important – so that we can perform these ordinances in behalf of our ancestors.

There are many scriptural precedents for these ordinances, as well as much modern revelation to support these activities. I’d be glad to discuss this further at another time.

The things that take place in the temple are sacred. Some people who are not members of the Church, or who are members who have not attended the temple, mistake this sacred nature for secrecy. We do not talk in detail about the temple ordinances because they are sacred. Anyone who wants to know the details is welcome to join the Church, live worthy to enter the temple, and see for themselves.

Worthiness is an important issue: only Saints with a recommend signed by their bishop and stake president can enter. This recommend is obtained by undergoing an interview with these ecclesiastical leaders. The member is asked a series of questions about how they are living their life. This is to maintain the sanctity of the temple – so that it can be kept “clean.”

The temple is a beautiful, peaceful refuge from the world. In the temple, I feel very close to my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It is calm and quiet. I can perform a special service there for those who are unable to do so for themselves. It takes a sacrifice of time, but the rewards are well worth it.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“Every man or woman who goes to the temple comes out of that building a better man or woman than he or she was when entering into it. That’s something that’s remarkable that happens with all of us. … Do you have problems and concerns and worries? Do you want for peace in your heart and an opportunity to commune with the Lord and meditate upon His way? Go to the house of the Lord and there feel of His Spirit and commune with Him and you will know a peace that you will find nowhere else.”

This is so true.

I am grateful to live so close to a temple, and hope that I can attend more frequently than I do – there is always room for improvement. I also need to do more genealogy. It was a wonderful feeling to perform the ordinances in behalf of my grandparents and great-grandparents and second cousin, Doreen.

I hope to do more, soon.

It is awesome to know that because of the temple, I can be with my family forever. There is great peace that comes with that knowledge. It affords one an eternal perspective. It helps inoculate against the fear of death and brings comfort to assuage the sorrow of loss.

The temple provides real joy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Testimony: How It All Started

First, a little background.

I have always known - always had a testimony - of the divinity of Jesus Christ. It seems that I've always known he is the Savior and Redeemer of the World. I thank my parents for helping me to know that from early on. My mom is Russian Orthodox, and my Dad was raised Church of England. Growing up, we attended a few different churches, focusing mostly on the Methodist church, but sometimes going to the Russian Orthodox church at Christmas and Easter. But overall, we were not very regular in our church attendance. But I was taught to pray, and I believe that went a long way toward helping me to recognize the Spirit.

Once I was a young adult, I searched for the truth in various places. The closest I came, it seemed, was in the non-denominational Christian churches. However, something important was missing for me there - the spirit didn't seem right, and it seemed to me to be more of a group "feel-good" session than a true religious lifestyle centered on Christ and His teachings. The messages promulgated in these settings came from various modernized translations of the New Testament, but could probably have been issued as "good philosophies" from any other source just as easily. They lacked the distinctive connection to the Savior that I craved. I don't mean to speak poorly of these other churches - they just weren't working for me.

Having a desire to know the truth, but starting to lose my direction in life just a little (I'd started going to bars, drinking, staying out late) I ended up gaining my testimony of the restored Gospel late in the summer of 1993, from a very unlikely source. You could say that the truth found me.

The woman I was dating at the time was an extremely inactive member of the Church - in fact, I met her in a bar. Although she was unrecognizable as a member, and had abandoned the Church in practice, she must have still believed at some level, because she gave me a Book of Mormon.

The first thing I read was the prophet Joseph Smith's testimony of the First Vision (found in the Pearl of Great Price). I knew right away that what Joseph Smith said was true. I knew it was true because the Holy Ghost witnessed to me, directly, spirit-to-spirit, with an amazing power. And that knowledge has only grown stronger in me over the years, bolstered by a thorough study of doctrine, careful reading of the scriptures, regular prayer, and undeniable personal experiences.

Since I immediately knew that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, it followed logically that the Book of Mormon was true. So I read it without skepticism, knowing that what I was reading was an inspired translation of actual ancient records.

I nearly finished the Book of Mormon in 1993, but unfortunately, I allowed my life circumstances to get in the way, and I put it aside until 1996.

When I first started attending the LDS church in about 1996, the experience was very different from what I had had in the non-denominational "Christian Fellowships." I quickly realized what had been missing in those other churches: the Holy Spirit. I felt it strongly in the LDS sacrament meetings, and I felt truly at home for the first time in my life. Indeed, I was home.

That year, I picked up the Book of Mormon again and this time I finished it, and felt strongly inspired to call the missionaries and get baptized. So, I took the "missionary discussions" at a friend's house who was a member of the local ward, and on December 14, 1996, I became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Since that time, I have been a faithful member of the Church. In December 1996, I was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood. In the spring of 1997, I received my Patriarchal Blessing. In June 1997, I was ordained an Elder, receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood. On February 27, 1999 I was endowed in the Portland Oregon temple. On April 16, 2002, I was sealed for time and eternity to my beautiful wife, Jean, in the Salt Lake temple. I attend church every Sunday (with practically no exceptions), and also spend some of my time during the week serving in my callings.

I have served in many callings in the Church, including secretary in an Elders Quorum presidency, a counselor in an Elders Quorum presidency, Primary teacher, Ward Missionary, Ward Mission Leader, and counselor in a Branch Presidency for Young Single Adults. I currently serve as an assistant to the Teachers Quorum Advisor, which means that I work with 14 and 15 year old boys who hold the Aaronic Priesthood. (I am also a Home Teacher, and will hold that calling for life.)

This is a summary of how I was introduced to the Gospel, how I came to know it is true, and a general time line of my membership activities. Please stay tuned for some of the many other facets of my testimony, including my testimony of essential Gospel principles including:
I look forward to sharing my very personal thoughts and feelings on these 18 subjects (and many more) over the next few weeks.

Being the first member in my family, it is important to me to share my thoughts and feelings on these things with family, friends, and strangers. But especially my family.

Monday, July 7, 2008

And thus it begins . . .

On Sunday I read an article in the Ensign magazine by Elder M. Russell Ballard in which he encourages members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to use the "new media" (e.g., blogs) to share the Gospel.

The article really impressed me to do this: start a blog of my own.

A few things in particular struck me about Elder Ballard's article. First, he said, "There is truth in the old adage that 'the pen is mightier than the sword.' In many cases it is with words that you will accomplish the great things that you set out to do." Since working with words is both my vocation and my passion, it makes sense that I should use this talent and my love of the written word to try to make a positive difference in the world.

Second, Elder Ballard said, the "effort is certainly worth the outcome if but a few are influenced by your words of faith and love of God and His Son, Jesus Christ." He used the word
"influence" a number of times in the article, and that word has special significance to me because of what it says in my patriarchal blessing about my using my influence for good.

And so, here it is. Hopefully I will be able to keep up on this fairly frequently - though it will be a challenge with my busy schedule. And, I hope it makes a difference.

My Family

My Family
THIS is what it's all about. (July 2013)

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