Thursday, May 28, 2015

Doubt Your Doubts Before You Doubt Your Faith

One-Life Changing Question from the Book of Mormon (& the Answer)

            Over the last couple centuries, a lot of questions have surrounded the Book of Mormon—queries about its origins, its authenticity, and its teachings have been perpetuated by skeptic and believer alike. The book's contents are no different. From the first writings of Nephi to the dying testimony of Moroni, the Book of Mormon contains questions from an astounding 61 individuals—including prophets, missionaries, investigators, and apostates. Alma the Younger asked a grand total of 103 questions, Nephi posed 41, and the Savior Himself included 35 questions during his short ministry among the Nephites.
            Luckily for us, this abundance of inquiry need not go unanswered. In their book 52 Life-Changing Questions from the Book of Mormon, authors John Hilton III and Brad Wilcox help us to not only recognize difficult questions from scriptures, but to discern the answers through true doctrine. The following is a brief sample taken from their text.
            Question: Wherefore can ye doubt?
            When Nephi was trying to convince his brothers to try to obtain the brass plates from Laban, he said, “Now behold ye know that [what I say] is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt?” (1 Nephi 4:3). Laman and Lemuel had seen an angel—yet they still had doubts. Some people today are in a similar situation—they are in a position where they should know, but they remain unsure.

            “Could I . . . uh . . .” The dark-haired elder approached his teacher at the Missionary Training Center and shifted his weight awkwardly. “I mean, I was wondering . . . if we could talk.” The teacher had just finished teaching a class, and the group was enjoying a short break.
            “No problem,” the teacher assured him. They walked down the hall, away from classrooms and companions for a moment. The teacher had noticed how this elder’s enthusiasm had waned as his time in the MTC had increased.
             “I feel like a terrible elder,” the missionary said. “I have so many doubts. You must think I’m wrong and weak.”
            The words shocked the teacher, and he responded, “Wrong? Weak? Are doubts wrong? Are questions a sign of weakness? No.  Didn’t Joseph Smith himself doubt and question as he learned?” The teacher opened his Pearl of Great Price to Joseph Smith-History and read: “In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties is right or are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (Joseph Smith-History 1:10).
            The teacher looked up from the page and said, “If doubting and questioning are wrong, then the whole missionary system of the Church is wrong, for isn’t it our invitation to the world to escape tradition’s chains and test present beliefs against revealed truth? Don’t we openly invite people to doubt and question?”
            All of us have doubts—doubts about the future, doubts about decisions we have made or will make, doubts of a thousand kinds. But these doubts do not need to destroy us—answers will come. One woman spent long hours pondering struggles she was having with her testimony. As she weighed the assurances she had previously felt with the doubts she was currently encountering, she felt prompted to turn to the scriptures. As she did so, her scriptures fell open to Doctrine and Covenants 6, and she read these words: “If you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:22-23). She felt the Spirit wash over her, and her doubts were replaced by faith.
            Sometimes our doubts are quickly resolved and sometimes we have to put them “on the shelf” for a time. But one thing is certain: the Lord has done great things for us and our ancestors and He will continue to do great things in the future. As Nephi said, “Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers” (1 Nephi 4:3). Even though there may be things we do not fully understand, we can move forward as Nephi did, trusting in the God who has always stood by us.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Relationship with God

3 Things Your Relationship with God Relies On

            It might seem like there are too many things we all should be doing to build our relationship to heaven, but there is definitely one formula that will get us there.

            One of the things I love about Joseph Smith is how young he was when he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The Father and the Son appearing to a relatively uneducated 14-year-old farm boy isn’t exactly a run-of-the-mill experience. But does the uniqueness of that experience mean that only Joseph Smith could be that close to God? 

1. Don't think you're less valuable than Church leaders.

            Joseph wanted us to know that “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 149).
            In other words, our relationship with God isn’t contingent upon the callings we receive. And it doesn’t require us to be anyone with a specific calling or priesthood. It simply requires a humble heart and a desire to always follow the Savior. 
            President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in his October 2011 conference talk, “God knows that some of the greatest souls who have ever lived are those who will never appear in the chronicles of history. They are the blessed, humble souls who emulate the Savior’s example and spend the days of their lives doing good.”
            Similarly, President Boyd K. Packer explained in an October 2007 conference talk that “There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!”
            Don’t let Satan tell you that you’re capable of less than others or that you have a “rank” inside or outside the Church. All of God’s children have infinite potential. We each need to work out our own salvation before Him! 
            Take the Israelites, for example. They struggled and wandered for 40 years because they relied on Moses to be their connection to God instead of building a personal relationship with Him. As a result, they missed out on a lot of the blessings the Lord and Moses knew they could have received: 
            “Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; 
            “But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
            Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also” (D&C 84:23-25). 
            The Lord offered all the Israelites the opportunity to dwell with Him, but they didn’t have enough faith or understanding to build their own personal connections with heaven. They thought Moses’ connection to God was enough for them as well. They shirked what was required for them to personally be in the presence of God. 

2. Don't rely on others for your testimony.

            I know that this is something I’ve done all too often in my own life. I’ve naively thought, “I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If I need to know something, someone else will tell me—because we have the fullness of the gospel.” Little did I understand that no one but Christ Himself can save me. Now I know I need to know Him for myself, and neither you nor I can rely on someone else to build that relationship for us. 
            That is why the story of Joseph Smith illustrates, to me, why the gospel is so amazing. Though the experiences of others provide witnesses that cause us to begin trying to gain our own, we don’t live the gospel of Jesus Christ because a 14-year-old boy saw God in 1820, or because of the experiences of anyone in our day. We live the gospel of Jesus Christ because we believe that we can see the Lord for ourselves. Joseph Smith is an example of someone who strove to live the gospel and saw God and Jesus Christ because of it. What Joseph Smith experienced is, like a scientific experiment, both observable and repeatable. And the formula is in Moroni 10
            That’s why most of us are members of the Church today: because we’ve tested out the method The Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith put forth and have seen good fruits from doing so. We’ve seen blessings come into our lives. We’ve felt the comfort and the peace and the love of the Savior through the Holy Ghost, and we’ve had numerous prayers answered. We’ve had the Spirit bear witness to us of truth, and we’ve had enough personal experiences with the Spirit to verify that witness. We may not have seen the Lord as Joseph Smith did, but we’ve received enough preliminary “evidence” to believe it’s possible that we one day can.
            As the Prophet Joseph explained, We cannot claim these promises which were made to the ancients for they are not our property, merely because they were made to the ancient Saints, yet if we are the children of the Most High, and are called with the same calling with which they were called, and embrace the same covenant that they embraced, and are faithful to the testimony of our Lord as they were, we can approach the Father in the name of Christ as they approached Him, and for ourselves obtain the same promises. These promises, when obtained, if ever by us, will not be because Peter, John and the other Apostles . . . but it will be because we, ourselves, have faith and approach God in the name of His Son Jesus Christ; even as they did; and when these promises are obtained, they will be promises directly to us, or they will do us no good” (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 66, emphasis added).

3. Live up to your privileges.

            And President Dieter F. Uchtdorf adds, “Think of what a glorious thing it is to reach beyond our earthly limitations, to have the eyes of our understanding opened and receive light and knowledge from celestial sources! It is our privilege and opportunity . . . to seek personal revelation and to learn how to know the truth for ourselves through the sure witness of the Holy Spirit.”
            I, for one, want to always try to avoid living below my privileges.  Don’t go through life unaware of something you could have enjoyed the blessings of—take the time to build a personal relationship with God.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Nice Things to Do for Your Mum or Your Wife!

51 Nice Things To Do for Your Mother

Doing something for your mom without being asked will go a LONG WAY in her book! It doesn’t have to be big...the small things add up!

      1.     Make the bed.
2.     Take the kids for a whole day so she can be a person, not a mom for a bit.
3.     Grab her hand in public.
4.     Take her for a walk, sans kids.
5.     Plan an ENTIRE date yourself. Book a sitter, a restaurant and plan an activity. Promise, she will absolutely love this.
6.     Give her a no-strings-attached massage.
7.     Give her a spa certificate.
8.     Do one of her chores for her...without being asked.
9.     Take the kids on a date. She will love the time off and love the fact that you are spending time with them.
10.  Buy her a birthday, Christmas gift without asking her what she wants. Put some thought and effort into it.
11.  Bring her flowers or chocolates for no reason.
12.  Do the dishes after dinner. She spends a lot of time preparing a great’s no fun to do the dishes on top of cooking.
13.  Cook dinner. Even if it’s only your best effort.
14.  Send her to get a manicure/pedicure. Watch the kids of course.
15.  Look at her and tell her she’s beautiful.
16.  Give your phone a break and pay attention to her and your family.
17.  Let her pick the movie...even if it is a chick-flick. No complaining.
18.  Fill up her car with gas. Wash it and vacuum it too.
19.  Surprise her with an entire planned weekend getaway. That would blow her mind. Dawn from FB: “Wake me up first thing in the morning, telling me to get dressed. He has our bags packed and we are headed on romantic getaway. Everything has been done. Kids at babysitter, house already set to leave. We are good gone for the weekend. No one else just us. If he did this, it would blow my mind.”
20.  Play with her hair.
21.  Carry her to bed...and let her take a nap! Uninterrupted.
22.  Heat the bed for her.
23.  Pick up your things.
24.  Book a hotel room for her for a day. Give her a break from the craziness at home.
25.  Paint her toenails.
26.  Take an active role in planning and preparing for your family (i.e. packing kids’ lunches wrapping gifts, helping with holidays, etc)
27.  Clean something...anything...without being asked.
28.  Put the kids to bed and let her read a book.
29.  Do the grocery shopping for her.
30.  Make her hot chocolate in the morning.
31.  Lead her to the couch, pick up her feet and give her a foot rub.
32.  Give her the credit card and let her go shopping.
33.  Clean the bathrooms.
34.  Write her a song or poem
35.  Give her a DIY pedicure/manicure.
36.  Make her a bath.
37.  Hire professionals to clean the entire house.
38.  Dance with her.
39.  Get her little gifts. Grab her favorite candy bar when you’re at the store. Get a single rose, some chapstick ... sometimes the little things speak volumes.
40.  Get in the car and go for a drive.
41.  Make her breakfast.
42.  Get up with the kids on a Saturday and let her sleep in.
43.  Pack a picnic and go.
44.  Tell her you love her more often.
45.  Write her a love note.
46.  Bring home her favorite ice cream.
47.  Send her a sweet text during the day.
48.  Bring home dinner (give her a heads up first).
49.  Compliment her on something specific.
50.  Thank her for something specific.
51.  Give her the remote.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Magna Carta & the Limits of Power

Magna Carta, Summer 1215
The Great Charter and the Limits of Power
by Charles J Chaput, O.F.M., Cap. (a Capuchin Franciscan, is archbishop of Philadelphia. This essay is taken from an address delivered at BYU on 23 Jan 2015. 

Eight Centuries ago Magna Carta asserted an idea upon which our society depends: religious faith is an important guide and moderator for democracy.

            Exactly 800 years ago, in the summer of 1215, King John of England had an interesting exchange of views with his barons and bishops in a meadow called Runnymede. The result was a list of 63 royal commitments and concessions that we know as Magna Carta.
            The Great Charter—Magna Carta in Latin—has gone through long periods of being ignored or belittled. Designed to make peace, it resulted in civil war. In its original wording, it was poorly organized and never had the force of law. It survived only a few months and was annulled by the pope. Despite all of this, Magna Carta emerged over time as the cornerstone of English liberties. Its genius is this: It limited a sovereign’s power. It started the process of carving out space for what would become civil society.
            The charter said that free men had the right to be judged by their peers under the law of the land. It said that justice could not be sold to the highest bidder. The Great Charter thus holds the earliest seeds of due process. Its impact can be seen on the Bill of Rights of the United States, on the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and on national constitutions around the world.
            What’s most interesting, though, is this: Magna Carta begins and ends with a royal oath that “the English Church shall be free and enjoy her rights in their integrity and her liberties untouched.”
            Our political system presumes a civil society that pre-exists the state. It’s an idea that is already emerging in Magna Carta’s demand for recognition of the rights of the church and the rights of persons. In the American model, the state is meant to be modest in scope, constrained by checks and balances. Mediating institutions like the family, churches, and fraternal organizations stand between the individual and the state. And when they decline, the state fills the vacuum they leave. So protecting these mediating institutions is vital to our freedoms. Alone, individuals have little power. But organized communities—including communities of faith—are a different matter. They can resist. They can’t be ignored.
            We need to remember that democracy is not an end in itself. Majority opinion doesn’t determine what is good and true. Like every other form of power, democracy can become a means of repression and idolatry. When we divorce our politics from a grounding in virtue and truth, we transform our country from a living moral organism into a kind of golem of legal machinery without a soul.
            This is why working for good laws is so important. This is why getting involved politically is so urgent. This is why every one of our votes matters. We need to elect the best public leaders, who then create the best policies and appoint the best judges. This has a huge impact on the kind of nation we become. Democracies depend for their survival on people of conviction fighting in the public square for what they believe—legally and peacefully, but zealously and without apologies. That includes all of us.
            The terrain of our lives in the 21st century is very different from the world in 1215. But the power of religious faith even today to limit the power of the state might be very familiar to the men who gathered at Runnymede.
            As the Founders knew, and we forget at our peril, the American project of ordered liberty can’t work without the support of a moral people—a people formed by living faith in a living God. Religion is to democracy as a bridle is to a horse. And only religious faith can guide and moderate democracy because it appeals to an Authority higher than democracy itself.