Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saving the Dead - a Labor of Love

Our Father in Heaven loves all of His children so much. So He's provided a way that everyone who has ever lived can receive the saving and exalting ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

That way is by vicarious temple ordinances.

We are baptized for our dead. We are confirmed members of the Church for our dead. We are ordained to the priesthood for our dead. We receive the temple endowment for our dead. And we are sealed as husbands and wives, parents and children - for our dead.

The work begins by learning who our dead are. That means performing genealogical research - to learn about our ancestors.

President James E. Faust said:
“The great work of providing the saving ordinances for our kindred dead is a vital part of the threefold mission of the Church. We do this work for a purpose, which is to redeem our dead ancestors. Temple work is essential for both us and our kindred dead who are waiting for these saving ordinances to be done for them. It is essential because “we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.” They need the saving ordinances, and we need to be sealed to them. For this reason it is important that we trace our family lines so that no one is left out.”
This is why the LDS Church has the world's most comprehensive genealogical database and the most extensive search tools available. We are not only interested in our ancestors (and it is very interesting), but we feel a sacred duty to them.

Here's a great summary of temple work. Here's another very informative article. (Explore these for yourself - the knowledge you'll obtain is very valuable.)

The beautiful thing is that the work performed for the dead is done with the hope and faith that the recipients of the ordinances will accept them. That is, temple ordinance are forced on nobody. We simply perform the ordinance just in case the deceased person for whom we are doing the work decides to join the Church. How does that work, you ask?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is being preached to the dead right now. No, there aren't a bunch of missionaries standing in cemeteries teaching lessons to the graves. That work is going on in the spirit world. Faithful members of the Church who pass away are put to work on the other side of the veil, bringing light and truth to those who did not have a chance to hear the Gospel in this life.

If they choose to accept the message, and they want to be baptized, how can they do that when they don't have a body? That's where we come in. By performing vicarious baptisms, we are doing for those people what they can't do for themselves. That is truly an example of service.

I have had the most wonderful spiritual experiences doing the temple work for my own family members who have passed on. So far I have not done very many family members (I have a long way to go, since I am the only one in my family doing the work) - but what I have done has been magnificent. I have done all the work for my grandparents on both sides, and great grandparents on my mother's side, as well as my Dad's cousin. These were such great people, and I feel very strongly that they have accepted the work.

It was a sacred and unforgettable experience. When we finished with the sealings (temple marriage - the final ordinance) for my grandparents, I felt very connected to them - almost felt their presence. I remember reaching out to them with my thoughts and saying, "Okay, now we've got mom and dad sandwiched. I'll work on them from here, you work on them from there."

Curiously, my mom told me a few days later that she'd had a dream the very night we had done the sealings (though she had not known about the sealings until I'd called her a few days later). She said that in the dream she saw her father, and he was beckoning to her. Then he disappeared and she couldn't find him. Then I appeared and took her by the hand, and told her I would lead her, and take her to her father. My mom is known for having powerful dreams, and I think that dream was profound, the timing more than a coincidence.

The sweet thing is, although my parents are not members of the Church, they said that they appreciated us doing the temple work, and Dad said that "wherever they are, I'm sure they appreciate it."

I have a solid testimony of the temple. I know that is is vital that we join our families together, sealed forever, generation to generation, and that the sacred ordinances that bind us can only be performed in the holy temple by God's authorized servants.

It is a great and marvelous work that is to be done - and that work is going on five days a week throughout the world in the 125+ temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (they're closed Sundays and Mondays).

Hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saints voluntarily give up their time to do this work, from before dawn until long after dusk.

Yes, our Father truly loves his children. He gives them another chance. Death is not too late.

Saving the dead.

It is indeed a labor of love.
The Portland, Oregon temple, where I first performed ordinances for the dead.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Brand New Year

Eight days ago, I had the great opportunity to be involved in a special event for the youth of the Church, called "A Brand New Year."

At that link, you can read all about it and watch the cool videos (some very talented kids). One thing that I took away from it all was a set of three personal commitments. The youth were asked to take a look through the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet and choose three areas that they would like to focus on this year.

As a leader, I decided to participate in this, and I chose the following areas:

Language. (This is on page 22 of the pamphlet, which is available here, for free.) Now, I don't have a problem with bad language - that is, I never use profanity - but I thought I could do better on this part:
"Use language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others. Do not insult others, or put them down, even in joking. Speak kindly and positively about others so you can fulfill the Lord's commandment to love one another."
I can sometimes be sarcastic or try to be funny at the expense of others, and so I will work on this.

Sabbath Day Observance. (This is on page 32.) I don't spend money or work on the Sabbath, and I do a pretty good job of keeping it holy. But I could do even better with my reverence and focus on spirituality on Sundays. The part that I am going to work on is:
"Your dress before, during, and after church meetings should show respect for the Sabbath . . . Do not seek entertainment . . . on this day."
I usually strip right out of my suit and tie and slip into jammies after church, but in keeping with this counsel, I will strive to stay dressed nicely after church (though I will remove my tie!). Also, regarding entertainment, I will not watch any TV. Usually, we try to watch something family-oriented or some church programming, but we're just going to try to keep the TV off altogether on Sundays. This will leave more time to read scriptures, read the Ensign magazine, write in journals, keep this blog, spend time together, and feel the spirit.

Physical Health. (This is on page 36.) I keep the Word of Wisdom pretty well (don't smoke, don't drink alcohol, don't drink caffeine, don't do drugs, etc.) - but the part I fall down on is this:
"...exercise regularly, and get enough sleep."
I am terrible about exercise. I've started and failed at so many attempts to get in shape. I need to lose 40 pounds. I hope to achieve that entire amount this year.

I also tend to go to bed too late. So, this year, I am really going to make an effort to exercise and to follow the "early to bed, early to rise" philosophy. Of course, I've already blown it for tonight, since it's 11:30!

So, the event for the youth has also been a blessing to me - and now that I have made these commitments public, hopefully I'll do an even better job of sticking to them. Of course, a key is to not get discouraged: if I fail one day, I can just repent and start anew the next day.

As for my last post, about the Book of Mormon challenge - I've not been doing so well. I am actually way behind, and don't expect to meet the goal. But I'm reading and trying and that is important. And hopefully, the young men are doing the same - and that's a good thing, whether they meet the goal or not.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Book of Mormon Challenge

At church, I teach the 14-15 year old boys, known as the "Teachers Quorum" (as they each hold the Aaronic Priesthood office of Teacher).

Today in the class, I taught about the importance of scripture study.

I'd like to share some of that lesson here.

What are the scriptures?
The scriptures we use today are:
  • The Bible
  • The Book of Mormon
  • The Doctrine & Covenants
  • The Pearl of Great Price
These four comprise the "Standard Works."

In addition, we have the following definition:

When the Lord’s ordained and appointed servants speak or write under the influence of the Holy Ghost, their words become scripture.

So, when we get the General Conference edition of the Ensign magazine - we have just received new scripture in the mail!

Thus, we are provided with an ongoing canon of scripture, which I personally think is an absolutely wonderful blessing.

Why study the scriptures?
Studying the scriptures can greatly bless our lives. And it is a commandment to do so.

In September 1976, President Spencer W. Kimball said:

“I feel strongly that we must all . . . return to the scriptures . . . and let them work mightily within us, impelling us to an unwavering determination to serve the Lord. . . . We must study the scriptures according to the Lord’s commandment; and we must let them govern our lives and the lives of our children . . . So I ask all to begin now to study the scriptures in earnest, if you have not already done so.”

Further, the scriptures bless us with testimony. In 1949, President Marion G. Romney related this story:
“I remember reading the Book of Mormon with one of my lads when he was very young. On one occasion I lay in the lower bunk and he in the upper bunk. We were each reading aloud alternate paragraphs of those last three marvelous chapters of Second Nephi. I heard his voice breaking and thought he had a cold, but we went on to the end of the three chapters. As we finished he said to me, ‘Daddy, do you ever cry when you read the Book of Mormon?’ ‘Yes, Son,’ I answered. ‘Sometimes the Spirit of the Lord so witnesses to my soul that the Book of Mormon is true that I do cry.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘that is what happened to me tonight.’”

The scriptures provide us with a witness of Jesus Christ. On the title page of the Book of Mormon, it says, in part, that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is:
" . . . to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever — And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations . . ."
The Book of Mormon bears powerful testimony of the Savior.

The scriptures can be a source of spiritual joy and happiness. For example, Nephi felt great joy in reading the scriptures.

The scriptures can help you find answers to your questions - about anything. They are a component of communication with God - we pray to Him, and receive answers either via a spiritual prompting or through the scriptures. It's amazing how well it works!

Of course, one of the most powerful examples of this is when Joseph Smith, at 14 years old, was reading the scriptures and pondering on James 1:5.

Here's an account of what happened, in the prophet's own words. (It was this very passage that gave me my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.)

You, too, can find answers in the scriptures, if you search, ponder, and pray.

The scriptures are essential in missionary work for teaching people about the true Gospel of Christ. I am reminded of how Alma explained that the Word of God was more effective than anything in helping people to make good choices.

In speaking to the young men of the Church in April 1986, President Ezra Taft Benson said:

" . . . the Book of Mormon will change your life. It will fortify you against the evils of our day . . . A young man who knows and loves the Book of Mormon . . . who has an abiding testimony of its truthfulness, and who applies its teachings will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and will be a mighty tool in the hands of the Lord."

We're all very busy, but it doesn't take much (besides self-discipline) to set aside 15 or 20 minutes each day to study the scriptures. Doing so daily will really strengthen you, uplift you, and bless you.

And if 15 minutes seems like a long time, think how Parley P. Pratt felt the first time he read the Book of Mormon. He couldn't put it down!

“I opened it with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.

As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true . . . My joy was now full . . . I soon determined to see the young man who had been the instrument of its discovery and translation.”

A scripture challenge

If you've read this far, I challenge you to spend at least as much time each day reading the scriptures as you have spent reading this blog post (including the links).

In fact, if you want a real challenge, I extend to you the challenge I gave my 14 and 15 year old boys today: to read the Book of Mormon in one month. (It works out to about 21 pages a day). I've done it before. You can too!

I testify that the scriptures will strengthen your love for Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the gospel as you spend time studying the important messages found in the scriptures. You will receive answers, inspiration, comfort and joy.

I love the scriptures - they are precious to me. We are so blessed to have them.

My Family

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

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