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.

My Family

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

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