Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Fresh, Clean Smell of Hypocrisy in the Morning

The next part of my prophets series is coming soon. But first, this brief interruption for breaking news satire:

As you know, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held an important news conference yesterday to explain and reaffirm the Church's views on religious freedom. 

This news conference comes in light of recent actions by the church, including the following:
  • Excommunicating faithful church members who question LDS practice or beliefs in light of scripture
  • Seeking to silence religious expression by demanding that books, blogs, and public speech be curtailed or eliminated
  • Threatening to excommunicate minor children due to their parents' beliefs
  • Insisting on the right to control private family religious observance in the home
  • Excommunicating faithful members for simply asking questions and requesting the prophets go to the Lord for answers
  • Labeling unorthodox thinkers as "apostate" and warning other church members not to associate with or listen to such people
  • Threatening to excommunicate those who advocate for the rights of gays, women, dissenters, scholars, and other Mormon minorities
In other words, the Church has reaffirmed its commitment to treat those they call "apostates" with love, compassion, tolerance, and fairness, while guaranteeing the rights of such people to practice their deeply held religious beliefs, unmolested.  

This is a wonderful development!

Here are their words, cut and pasted directly from the official transcript (emphasis mine):

Elder D. Todd Christofferson: 

"To those who follow the Church closely and who are familiar with its teachings and positions on various social issues, it will be apparent that we are announcing no change in doctrine or Church teachings today. But we are suggesting a way forward in which those with different views on these complex issues can together seek for solutions that will be fair to everyone." 

Sister Neill Marriott:

"My name is Neill Marriott and I’m pleased to be here today with Elders Christofferson, Oaks and Holland on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to share our views on the ongoing discussion of religious freedom. While we speak primarily to an American public, we include our own members who number 15 million worldwide, many of whom reside in other nations wrestling with the same issues we face here in the United States. 

"This nation is engaged in a great debate about marriage, family, individual conscience and collective rights and the place of religious freedom in our society. The eventual outcome of this debate will influence to a large extent whether millions of people with diverse backgrounds and different views and values will live together in relative harmony for the foreseeable future.  

"In any democratic society, differences often lead to tensions. Such tensions are not to be feared unless they become so extreme that they threaten to tear apart the very fabric of society. While that's happened sometimes in our history, we're at our best as fellow citizens when the push-pull of different viewpoints, freely and thoroughly aired in national debate, lead ultimately to compromise and resolution and we move on as a nation, stronger than before. 

"God is loving and merciful.

"His heart reaches out to all of His children equally and He expects us to treat each other with love and fairness. There's ample evidence in the life of Jesus Christ to demonstrate that He stood firm for living the laws of God, yet reached out to those who had been marginalized even though He was criticized for doing so." 

Elder Dallin H. Oaks: 

"Meanwhile, those who seek the protection of religious conscience and expression and the free exercise of their religion look with alarm at the steady erosion of treasured freedoms that are guaranteed in the United States Constitution. 

"Sadly, the list is expanding. Accusations of bigotry toward people simply because they are motivated by their religious faith and conscience have a chilling effect on freedom of speech and public debate. When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser." 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: 

"The precious constitutional right of free speech does not exclude any individual or group, and a society is only truly free when it respects freedom of religious exercise, conscience and expression for everyone, including unpopular minorities. 

"At the same time, we urgently need laws that protect faith communities and individuals against discrimination and retaliation for claiming the core rights of free expression and religious practice that are at the heart of our identity as a nation and our legacy as citizens.   

  • We claim for everyone the God-given and Constitutional right to live their faith according to the dictates of their own conscience, without harming the health or safety of others.
  • We reject persecution and retaliation of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief, economic circumstances or differences in gender or sexual orientation. 

"Accommodating the rights of all people—including their religious rights—requires wisdom and judgment, compassion and fairness.

"These are serious issues, and they require serious minds engaged in thoughtful, courteous discourse. 

"Certainly, religious rights must include a family’s right to worship and conduct religious activities in the home as it sees fit, and for parents to teach their children according to their religious values—recognizing that when children are old enough they will choose their own path. 

"Let us conclude by emphasizing this point as an alternative to the rhetoric and intolerance that for too long has come to characterize national debate on this matter. We must find ways to show respect for others whose beliefs, values and behaviors differ from ours while never being forced to deny or abandon our own beliefs, values and behaviors in the process. Every citizen’s rights are best guarded when each person and group guards for others those rights they wish guarded for themselves.  

"Today we have spelled out the Church’s concerns about the erosion of religious liberties, while at the same time calling for fairness for all people." 

Well Said! Bravo! Three Cheers!

No doubt, then, we can all look forward to civil discourse in the LDS church on religious topics, and an end to persecution and punishment of church members for simply sharing ideas, having questions, or worshipping in their own homes according to their own beliefs. 


Because anything less would be wildly hypocritical.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Prophets, Part 5:
Crying in the Wilderness

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
—Isaiah 53:1 

If you haven't yet read the prior 4 parts of this series, I recommend you read them first, in order, before reading this installment. 

We've come to the point in this series where it's time for some introspection. Let me outline the situation.

The church is prospering and succeeding. All the church’s efforts meet with success, the leaders are respected and loved, and the religion is popular and accepted. The people are faithfully living their leaders' teachings that tell them of their relationship with God, and the responsibilities they must live up to as His chosen people. They are busy doing all that is asked of them.

Your tithes are being put to good use; the building program has produced many beautiful and impressive buildings, including a new conference center, office tower, and a gorgeous temple. 

Prior attacks by those not of your faith have been put to rest, and you can live and practice your religion in peace, without fear of persecution. 

All is well in Zion. Yea, Zion prospereth.

Then in the midst of this comfortable prosperity, out of nowhere, a crazy man begins to publicly level accusations against your church. He says that you are not chosen, but are instead horribly wicked. He tells you your religion is an abomination, and claims that terrible destruction is coming if you don’t repent. What’s worse, he begins attacking your leaders as being corrupt, greedy, ignorant, and uninspired.

The man who makes such accusations has no authority, title or office. He’s a “nobody,” neither known nor respected in the church. He’s so deluded he actually claims God talks to him and tells him to say all these horrible, unkind, and hurtful things about your church and its leadership.

Of course, he is wrong. All the evidence shows that God is pleased with your church and pouring out His choicest blessings on the leadership. Anybody can see that.

Consequently, many are hurt and angered by this man. They feel threatened. They fear him and his message.

Oh, sure, he preaches about God, but he obviously has no idea that a loving God would never say such things and cause such pain. The God that you know delights to pour out blessings, not destruction. He rewards you for proper behavior, rather than punishing you for error. He raises up chosen leaders to show you the right way, and would never allow them to lead you astray. Why would God ever let his church fall into corruption?

The crazy man is deluded, and easily dismissed. Efforts to ignore him ensue, though he just won’t shut up. Ultimately, as one who may potentially mislead, and even eternally damage those who listen to him, he must be stopped in any way possible. He’s threatening the peace and stirring up unrest. Isn’t it better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief?

Unfortunately, efforts to arrest and punish him for his crimes fail, as he gets wind of what’s coming and leaves the country. He makes a clean getaway, and is safe. 

But happily, that dark episode seems to have passed—which is why it’s so shocking when, two years later, he comes back and tries it again, only this time—get this—wearing a disguise. The disguise even works for awhile, until he starts in preaching the same stuff as before, evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed and telling all the church members how wicked they are.

But the people aren’t quite so patient this time around. Abinadi is caught, tried, and punished for his crimes, including treason and sedition. He dies an ignominious death, pathetic and screaming. So much for those who dare preach against God’s chosen leaders.

Except the crazy man was right, and destruction comes just as he said.

Now, for the introspection part. Here’s an incredibly important question: 

Would you have listened to the crazy man? 

In the face of overwhelming voices to the contrary, would you have believed God’s messenger who told you of God’s coming judgment? Despite the opinions of all your friends, family, society and church leaders, would you have recognized and believed God’s messenger? Or would you have stuck with King Noah and his priests, who taught you, after all, flattering things much easier to bear—in exchange for your idolatrous devotion to them.

Fortunately, one man did believe God’s messenger. And if you’re a Mormon, you owe everything to Abinadi and his one convert, Alma.

How so?

As you may recall, the Book of Mormon is the continuing record of apostasy and restoration. Time and again, people turn away from God’s true gospel, lapse into apostasy, and practice various forms of wickedness. Oddly, such people are always very religious and devoted to their falsehoods. And time and again, the Lord, ever merciful, sends messengers to call the people back to the truth. 

Let me reiterate: this doesn’t just happen once, but continually. There is NO group in the book that manages to maintain fidelity to truth. From the opening verses with Lehi preaching to apostate Jerusalem, through  Nephi, Jacob, Mosiah, Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma (both of them), Helaman, more Nephis, Christ Himself, Mormon and Moroni, the Lord gives us so many illustrations we cannot possibly miss the point. 

But then, just in case we did miss it, we have the Jaredite record inserted to show us yet again that when apostasy prevails, the Lord sends prophets to preach before destruction. 

There is not ONE single example of a group of believers that managed to hold onto truth. They ALL slipped into apostasy. 

The same is true of the Bible record, with the mysterious exceptions of Enoch and Melchizedek, who both managed to establish Zion societies that were taken away from Earth. These are certainly the exception, not the rule. And we're still here, aren't we?

Now, getting back to the example at hand, if there had been no Abinadi, there would have been no Alma, no Nephite restoration, and ultimately no Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith or Mormon church.

Of course, the Lord could have tried again with another messenger—but that’s exactly my point. It’s a pattern. The Lord ALWAYS sends prophetic messengers when there is apostasy.

And so, to the question again. If you had lived in those days, would you have recognized God’s messenger? 

If yes, why? And how?

What makes you think that you would have been among the very small number of believers who accept the Lord's messengers? Belief in the Lord's messengers is a very rare thing, after all.

John the Baptist preached outside the church, had no recognized authority, railed against the religious leaders of the true religion, and had strange personal habits. He was "the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." (Matthew 3:3)

Would you have submitted to John's baptism? According to Joseph Smith, John wrested the keys of the kingdom from the Jewish leaders, and they didn’t even know they had lost their authority (TPJS 276.) They still had the temple, the ordinances, the fine trappings of wealth and prestige that came with priesthood office. And they were rejected by God. Yet the multitudes still followed them and John was killed.

Jesus came out of obscurity, preached against the legitimate leaders of the true religion, broke the traditions and rules of His faith, and was ultimately killed for His message. Would you have recognized Him? Few did. His own disciples were so shocked when He died, they gave up and went back to fishing. They had thought He would redeem Israel, but now He was dead. 

Even after He rose, they were slow to understand that the most important event in the history of the world had just taken place before their eyes. Israel had been redeemed, and Israel didn’t even know it. His own disciples were slow to recognize God's marvelous work.

But God's work is seldom ever recognized until after it is complete. Obscure men and women labor against persecution and rejection to accomplish God's will, and the world rejects them while alive, and honors them when dead. These are the "weak things" spoken of:

The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—(D&C 1:19)
Would history have found you in the desert worshipping the golden calf, or on the mount with Moses, talking to God? The odds overwhelmingly favor the calf, not the climb. And so the people rejected the invitation offered through Moses, and both Moses and the fulness of the priesthood were taken out of their midst. They were left with something lesser.
Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;
And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; (D&C 84:25-26)
We sit in Sunday school, wagging the finger and clicking the tongue at those apostate Israelites who rejected and killed the prophets over and over. How could they have been so blind?

And yet our own scriptures tell us WE lost the Fulness of the Priesthood over 174 years ago. It has not returned.
For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood. (D&C 124:28)
We, like the Israelites of old, are left with something lesser. And like the Israelites of old, we insist we certainly would not fall into the same error as our predecessors. Said the Lord:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. (Matthew 23:29-32 emphasis mine)
And then, just to drive the point home, WHY, exactly, do you suppose Mormon chose to include the following warning in his book, and WHO, exactly, do you suppose he was attempting to warn? Those who would never read his book, or us, who the Lord showed to him in detail and who claim to believe the book he gave us? Read this carefully:
And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.  
Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil. 
But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. 
Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him. 
O ye wicked and ye perverse generation; ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light? (Helaman 13:25-29 emphasis mine)
More introspection: Suppose you had lived in the days of Joseph Smith. Would you have recognized him as a prophet? What makes you think so? He was an obscure and little-noted farm boy who eventually led the church for 14 years, mostly through persecution and hardship, and was ultimately killed because of the actions of current and former church members. Yet through it all, there were many more who considered him an impostor or worse, than there ever were that believed him.

We lost much when we lost Joseph (and Hyrum) and I’ve attempted to illustrate as much with this series on prophets. Four generations have passed without that same light, while we ignorantly declare to each other that nothing at all has changed, that we have not lost the fulness, and that it is impossible for us to be led astray.

Yet God always works in patterns. His house is a house of order.

When faced with “prophets” that do not, in any way, meet the scriptural definition or follow the scriptural pattern, and yet who preach to us that we must follow them because they are incapable of leading us astray…and tell us that our very salvation depends upon following them, what do we think? 

Let's review the prophetic pattern in history and scripture:

  • Prophets aren’t sent to the non-religious. The pattern is to send prophets when religion has become corrupt. The most religious people on earth killed the Savior.
  • Prophets come in times of apostasy to bring a restoration.
  • Prophets come before destruction.
  • Though there may be a legitimate priesthood hierarchy, God's messengers are almost never part of it. Instead, they are outsiders, without title, position or church authority.
  • True messengers fearlessly preach repentance.
  • They openly declare their witness of having met the Lord and received their commission from Him.
  • True prophets are not popular, widely recognized or generally accepted.
  • They are often cast out or killed. They are nearly always rejected.

And now to the point of today’s post.

What if the Lord repeated His pattern today? What if we indeed lost much light with Joseph, and what was left has continually dwindled since, to the point that the religion we practice now bears little resemblance to the one Joseph taught, and is left barren of any saving power? And what if God, seeing this condition and knowing of the coming destruction, sent another true messenger to warn us? 

Would you recognize God’s messenger? Would you have the courage to listen and believe? Would you have the fortitude to fearlessly evaluate your religious traditions against the light of scripture and consider the possibility you might be lacking something important?

Or would you speak, nay, shout your testimony that we follow a living “prophet” and we CANNOT ever be led astray? In the face of prophets who do not prophesy, seers who cannot see, and revelators who reveal nothing, would you be humble enough to go to the Lord and seek answers for yourself?

Every dispensation has been led astray. They’ve all lapsed into darkness. What on earth makes us think we are any different? Do we not have exhaustive records before us, attempting to inoculate us against this deadly lie told by the enemy of our souls—that we’re somehow different, special, better than those who went before? Though THEY were mistaken, WE cannot possibly be?

Suppose God sent a messenger today who had been in His presence, was empowered with a message, and sent to cry repentance. 

How would the church respond to such a messenger? History tells us such a messenger would be rejected.

But the more important question—the MOST important question is how will YOU respond? 

My next post will deal with how God is following His pattern in our day. 

(And for those who are determined to jump to the wrong conclusion, this has nothing to do with me. I am not a prophet, nor do I intend to proclaim anything about myself at all.)

I don't expect you to believe me, but I hope you will believe God. I hope you'll spend some time asking God if the things written here so far are true. Ask if He is indeed following His pattern in our day. Ask that your heart may be softened to recognize and accept God's works. There is no danger in asking God, and you have nothing to fear. 

Trust God, not me. Stop seeking to be "right" and instead seek to know where you may be wrong. Become as a little child as Christ counseled.

If you truly want to understand the role and meaning of prophets in the Lord's plan, I recommend you download and read this article. It's long, at 48 pages, but it's also the most cogent, well-researched and documented statement on prophets I've found. I realize few will want to put in the effort to read this article, but that's expected. Some will. I hope you will.

Until then, here's some food for thought:

It happens the same way EVERY TIME. Here's how it happened last time:
Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; (D&C 1:17)
If it happens again; if the Lord does indeed call and empower another "voice crying in the wilderness" in our day, will you recognize him? How?

Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more! And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall. Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!
—2 Nephi 28:27-29

Friday, January 9, 2015

More Details about the Reunion

Bret and Samantha Corbridge (and others) have been working very hard behind the scenes to put together the reunion coming up in May. I think they're doing a wonderful job and it looks like an excellent event. I plan to attend, and I'm pleased to be able to post the following details. This document should answer many of your questions.

(Click the image to download the PDF)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Prophets, Part 4:
Presidents, Popes and Politicians

 Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.
—Psalm 149:2-3

This series on prophets has brought up a number of questions for various people about how to identify a true prophet. God works in patterns, and His prophets generally fit the patterns He established. 

If you haven't yet read the prior 3 parts of this series, I recommend you read them first, in order, to lay the groundwork for this installment. 

I've put together the following table to help us recognize and identify the patterns before us, as seen in scripture, church history, and modern practice.

In the following table, "Then" refers to prophets in scripture, up to and including Joseph Smith. "Now" refers to the modern LDS prophets, most particularly during the last 30 years or so. 

The statements in this chart are all factual, and the pattern items noted are generally applicable. Of course, there are isolated exceptions to all the items here, but my purpose is to point out the widely applicable patterns, not the exceptions.

I have made no attempt to categorize any items as good or bad, right or wrong. I am merely stating things as they are. I didn't take the time to link to proof of each item noted, but they are all factual statements. If you doubt anything you read here, please investigate it further.

One more thing: If you are uncomfortable or angry with the facts presented, ask yourself why you feel that way. Since I have not attempted to make judgments about the facts, the judgments you make, and the resulting emotions are your own. I suggest that allowing emotion to cloud your logic and intellect puts you in great danger. Therefore, I think it's a good idea to suspend emotion and simply read as if you were seeking to understand a topic in school. If these facts bother you, it is because you find them negative.

More discussion will follow after the table. But for now, here are the obvious parts of the prophetic pattern, then and now: 

Some thoughts:
  1. Take a look at the columns on the right, but forget we are talking about one we call a prophet. In fact, let's take it out of the realm of religion altogether. Read the list on the right as if we are talking about a business leader. What would we call such a man? Chief Executive Officer? President? Boss? Read the list and see how well it fits.
  2. Now think in terms of political leaders. What would you call such a man? President? No, that doesn't go quite far enough. Presidents are limited in power and sometimes opposed, threatened, contradicted, and ultimately even rejected by voters. No, such a man at the head of a state would be an absolute monarch. A king. A dictator. One need look no farther than North Korea to see the results when hero worship and propaganda are combined with absolute power. 
  3. Now getting back to religion, but not the LDS church. What would you call someone described in the right-side columns—but in some other church? Is he Catholic? You would call him Pope. Does he lead a small movement with strange ideas? You would call him a cultist. 
  4. And now, bringing it back to the modern LDS church. What do we call such men? Prophets, seers, revelators, and the Lord's mouthpiece on earth. We revere the "keys" they hold, though we can't tell you what those keys are. We teach and believe our very salvation hinges upon the keys they exercise in our behalf. We view such men as lights and give them praise. Most LDS members will vehemently defend the holy and exalted status of such men, while being utterly unable to point to any prophetic fruit. Many will bear testimony that such men are exactly, precisely what the Lord wants us to look to and emulate for salvation, while being unable to support their ideas with a single scriptural reference.
  5. And what will the Book of Mormon call such men as are described in the right columns? 
He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. (2 Nephi 26:29).
Look at the right columns again, and look at the Book of Mormon definition of priestcrafts. Then think carefully.

(Incidentally, priestcraft is a largely misunderstood, but nonetheless very negative term among Latter-day Saints. One who practices priestcraft would not want to be accused of such. That's why I find it curious that if you visit and search on the term "priestcraft," the above scripture will not come up. And yet there it is in the Book of Mormon.)

We'll talk more about the prophetic pattern in my next post. But until then, here are some important things to consider:

You are no longer ignorant of the Lord's prophetic pattern. It has now been pointed out to you in specific detail. You have the facts before you, and you must make a judgment. You can choose to follow or believe whomever you want, but if you accept a man described in the right columns as the Lord's mouthpiece and representative, you cannot later claim you did so in ignorance.

Similarly, if you intend to lay claim on your salvation or excuse your errors by pointing to such a man as your leader, you will have no defense in the face of the justice of an offended God. Claiming you "followed the prophet" will provide you NO protection at the day of judgment. The Lord never commanded you to follow any mortal man. You, and you alone, will be responsible for your errors.

If you conclude all may not be well in Zion, and the man we call a prophet doesn't seem to live, act, work or teach like a prophet, take heart. All is not lost. First and foremost, you can go to the Lord yourself. You do not need a man to stand as intermediary between you and God. Whoever said you do was deceiving you.
O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; (2 Nephi 9:41)
As I said, all is not lost. Through this all there is actually good news to consider as well. But first, it's necessary to remove the scales from our eyes so we can see what the Lord has done in the past and is doing in our day. We'll discuss the good, hopeful, and inspiring modern works of God in a future post.

I'll close with a personal story. 

My local LDS temple was extensively renovated and rededicated in 2012. As is standard church-wide practice, the youth in my stake were recruited to perform in a "cultural celebration" the night before the dedication. This occasion was touted as an opportunity for the youth to "dance for the prophet." I thought that sounded troubling, but chalked it up to some over-exuberance on the part of the one promoting the event. 

Three of my children participated. As they prepared, I attended one of their rehearsals at my stake center. There, in the gymnasium, there must have been 300 kids crammed wall to wall, all facing the same direction and practicing their dance moves while trying not to step on one another. The dance instructor was at the front calling them through their moves, and above the dance instructor, taped to the wall at least 12 feet high, was a photo of President Monson. The picture was there to remind the children they would be "dancing for the prophet" when they performed. The phrase was used as motivation for the kids to give it their best. After all, they wouldn't want to let the prophet down. 

This is a true story. I won't share the thoughts and pictures it brought to mind. I'll just summarize by saying it gave me a lot to think about.

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
—Luke 4:8

Update 9/13/17: The Meridian, Idaho temple is nearing dedication. Just saw this announcement: 

Youth Cultural Celebration practices start tonight! Who's ready?!

If you are a youth who wants to strengthen your testimony, develop your love for the temple, increase in your self-esteem, develop your talents, make new friends, and have a lot of fun, then the Youth Cultural Celebration is for you! Your participation in the YCC will be a treasured memory and a spiritual highlight in your life. This is your opportunity to perform for our beloved prophets and apostles and to feel of their Spirit and their great love for the youth of the Church. Come join us as we celebrate how we can prepare now to receive the blessings of the temple by being “Strong, Steadfast, and Immovable.”

PS: I probably could have saved you a lot of time by simply sending you to this link. It summarizes in 30 seconds what I've taken several minutes to explain.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Correlated Book of Mormon

I can't take credit for this. It was written by a friend of mine. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

2 Nephi 31: 12- 21 (Correlated Version)

"And the voice of the Brethren came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in Christ's name, to him will the Father give the prophet; wherefore follow us, and do the things which ye have heard us do.

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the prophet, with full purpose of heart, acting no apostasy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the bishop that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Mormon by baptism- yea, by following your Lord and Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the conference; yea, then cometh the warm fuzzies; and then can ye speak with the words of the living prophets, and shout praises to the Presiding High Priest of Israel.

"But behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Brethren unto me, saying: After ye have confessed your sins, and witnessed unto the prophet in an oath-like gesture that ye are willing to keep his commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the conference talks, and can speak with new quotes, even the quotes of the brethren, and after this should deny us, it would have been better for you that ye had not known us.

"And I heard a voice from the Prophet, saying: Yea, the words of the brethren are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.

"And now, my beloved saints, I know by this that unless man shall endure to the end, in following the words of the prophet of the living church, he cannot be saved.

"Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen your prophet and president do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter, For the gate by which you should enter is repentance and baptism by water, then cometh a remission of your sins by confession and approval of the bishop.

"And then are ye in this strait and narrow path, which leads to the eternal life; yea, ye have entered by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the prophet and the brethren, which witness of each other, unto the fulfilling of the promise which they have made, that they cannot lead you astray.

"And now my beloved saints, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of the prophet with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to lead.

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in correlated doctrine, having a perfect brightness of confidence, and a love of God and all the brethren. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of the brethren, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the prophet: Ye shall have eternal life.

"And now, behold, my beloved saints, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of the prophet, and the only and true doctrine of the first presidency, and of the prophet, and of the holy apostles, which is one leadership, without end. Amen."