Posted in Inspirational, Jesus Christ

Christ-like attributes – obedience

We are living in difficult times but the Lord desires to bless us as individuals and as families. But what do we know about blessings form the Lord? We know that there is a divine law –

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21.)

If we want the Lord to bless us then we have to live the commandments.

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Let’s look at some more scriptural evidence:

“And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

“And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

“And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever.” (Mosiah 2:22-24.)

“And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord hath spoken it.” (Mosiah 2:41.)

For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world” (D&C 132:5).

Yet obedience to the commandments seems to be one of man’s challenges. Sometimes it is not convenient – some of us have got too comfortable in our arm chairs to go and do the work of the Lord. We find it too much hassle to go to the temple. Some of us say to ourselves – I’ve done my share – some one else can do it know. Some of us are reluctant to leave our comfort zones. And then we wonder why we don’t fell the same sense of excitement about the gospel that we used to.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have voluntarily entered into holy covenants, promising to obey the Lord’s commandments. Willing, righteous obedience leads to celestial life; indeed, there is no eternal progress without it.

President Spencer W. Kimball asked: ‘What is the price of happiness?’ One might be surprised at the simplicity of the answer.

The treasure house of happiness is unlocked to those who live the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity and simplicity. Like a mariner without stars, like a traveler without a compass, is the person who moves along through life without a plan. The assurance of supreme happiness, the certainty of a successful life here and of exaltation and eternal life hereafter, come to those who plan to live their lives in complete harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ—and then consistently follow the course they have set” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 259).

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that

“in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness … he never has—He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 256-57).

Of course there is a flip side to the Lord’s promises. In the Book of Mormon we read that “despair cometh because of iniquity.” (Moro. 10:22.)

“When I do good I feel good,” said Abraham Lincoln, “and when I do bad I feel bad.”

While a man may take some temporary pleasure in sin, the end result is unhappiness. Eternal laws have both punishments and opportunities for happiness attached to them. When we disobey God’s laws, we suffer the punishments, but when we obey, we reap the happiness

 

Posted in Inspirational, Jesus Christ

Christ-like attributes – diligence

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Diligence is the opposite of laziness. Preach My Gospel tells us that  ‘Diligence is steady, consistent, earnest, and energetic effort in doing the Lord’s work. The Lord expects you to work diligently—persistently and with great effort and care.’

 Jorge F Zeballos at General Conference in October 2009 said:

God will not require more than the best we can give because that would not be just, but neither can He accept less than that because that would not be just either. Therefore, let us always give the best we can in the service of God and our fellowmen. Let us serve in our families and in our callings in the Church in the best manner possible. Let us do the best we can and each day be a little better.

In Mosiah 6:9 we read:

……….let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.

Mosiah 4:27 sets out the balance we all need to find – we must not run faster than we are able; yet at the same time we must be diligent:

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order. (See also D&C 10:4)

Elder M Russell Ballard discussed finding this balance and counselled:

Often that will mean temporarily postponing attention to one priority in order to take care of another. Sometimes family demands will require your full attention. Other times professional responsibilities will come first. And there will be times when Church callings will come first. Good balance comes in doing things in a timely way and in not procrastinating our preparation or waiting to fulfill our responsibilities until the last minute. (General Conference, October 2006).

Elder Neal A Maxwell shared his experience of trying to do more than he had resources to do:

On my office wall is a quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh: “My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds.” For me, it is a needed reminder. A few years ago, already weary, I foolishly went late one afternoon to two different hospitals to give blessings to three individuals who were dying of cancer. Not only was I worn out, but worse, the last person really didn’t get much from me. Things had not been done in “wisdom and order.” I was running faster than my supply of strength and energy on that occasion. Those blessings would have been better given over two or three days, and I would have had more empathy and energy. (“Wisdom and Order,” Ensign, June 1994, 41)

Elder Ballard and Elder Maxwell are not saying that we should not be diligent, that we should not do the best we can: they are saying that we should use wisdom and prioritise.

Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews (Chapter 6), promises us that God will recognise and reward our efforts to be diligent:

10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Posted in Inspirational, Jesus Christ

Christ-like attributes – humility

Preach My Gospel says that ‘Humility is willingness to submit to the will of the Lord and to give the Lord the honour for what is accomplished. It includes gratitude for His blessings and acknowledgment of your constant need for His divine help. Humility is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of spiritual strength.’

Humility is the opposite of pride. President Benson explained: “Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.” (Ensign, Nov. 1993, p.16)

Humility is what is needed to live in peace and harmony with all persons, to dissipate anger and heal old wounds. Humility distinguishes the wise leader from the one who seeks unrighteous dominion. Self-righteousness is one aspect of pride that is hard to avoid because for most of us it is so much easier to see other people’s faults than to see our own. Rather than look for faults in others, we should look for the good in others and try to correct the faults within ourselves. Jesus’ humorous parable of a person with a beam (or plank) in his eye trying to see to remove a speck from another’s eye reminds us that we probably have bigger faults within ourselves than the faults we would criticize in others. Consciousness of our own failings can help to keep us humble.

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The search for humility is a difficult one as humility is a very evasive quality – as soon as you think you have mastered it you are guilty of pride! President Kimball said:

“When one becomes conscious of his great humility, he has already lost it. When one begins boasting of his humility, it has already become pride-the antithesis of humility… Somebody asked me this morning, ‘How do you keep humble? Sometimes I am humble and sometimes I am unhumble.’ I think there is a formula that will never fail. First, you evaluate yourself…I would be nothing without the Lord. My breath, my brains, my hearing, my sight, my locomotion, my everything depends upon the Lord. That is the first step and then we pray, and pray often, and we will not get up from our knees until we have communicated. The line may be down; we may have let it fall to pieces, but I will not get up from my knees until I have established communication-if it is twenty minutes, if it is all night like Enos…If it takes all day long, you stay on your knees until your unhumbleness has dissipated, until you feel the humble spirit and realize, ‘I could die this minute if it were not for the Lord’s good grace. I am dependent upon him-totally dependent upon him,’ and then you read the scriptures.” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball)

As with all virtues, Jesus is our model. He did not come to be served, but to serve and we must we commit ourselves to serving others in humility. Jesus was not ashamed to humble Himself as a servant. In his humility, he was always obedient to the Father and so should we be willing to put aside all selfishness and submit in obedience to God.

Posted in Inspirational, Missionary work, Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley

Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley – Chapter 2: An Ensign to the Nations, a Light to the World

From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

As a newly returned missionary Elder Hinckley gave a report to the First Presidency at the request of his mission president. This report led to Gordon receiving an assignments as the Executive Secretary of the Church Radio, Publicity, and Missionary Literature Committee. This began a lifetime of full-time Church service and advocacy of the Church in the media.

From the manual:

“I believe and testify that it is the mission of this Church to stand as an ensign to the nations and a light to the world. We have had placed upon us a great, all-encompassing mandate from which we cannot shrink nor turn aside. We accept that mandate and are determined to fulfill it, and with the help of God we shall do it.”

What opportunities do we have to be an ensign to the nations and a light to the world?

Video: Ministry of Gordon B Hinckley – Bringing the Church out of obscurity: https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2012-05-1505-ministry-of-gordon-b-hinckley-bringing-the-church-out-of-obscurity?lang=eng

1 Like the stone in Daniel’s vision, the Church is rolling forth to fill the whole earth.
The growth of the Church from six members to a global faith.
“There is one thing very certain, … and that is, whatever men may think, and however they may plot and contrive, that this Kingdom will never be given into the hands of another people. It will grow and spread and increase, and no man living can stop its progress.” (President John Taylor)
The First Presidency has issued the following statistical report of the Church as of December 31, 2015.
Church Units
Stakes 3,174 Missions 418 Districts 558 Wards and Branches 30,016
Church Membership Total Membership 15,634,199
New Children of Record 114,550
Converts Baptized 257,402
Missionaries Full-Time Missionaries 74,079
Church-Service Missionaries 31,779
Temples in Operation at Year End 149
What are your feelings as you consider the growth of the Church from 1830 to the present day?
2 Early Church leaders had a prophetic view of the destiny of the Lord’s work.
Brigham Young and associates scaled Ensign Peak in July 1847 and surveyed the Salt Lake Valley.
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‘Section 2 of the lesson makes some important points about the fulfillment of the many prophecies of the progress of the Lord’s kingdom in the last days. It points out that many prophets were shown the work that we are currently engaged in. They wrote about it in our scriptures to let us know that the Lord has been preparing for this day for millennia. Brigham Young was shown our day. Isaiah was shown our day. If we look to the Book of Mormon, many of those prophets speak directly to us and tell us of our responsibilities as members of the Church in the last days. Witnesses of the mission and responsibility of the Lord’s Church are all around us.’ (Kelly Merrill, LDSliving.com)
From the manual:
I marvel at the foresight of that little group. It was both audacious and bold. It was almost unbelievable. Here they were, almost a thousand miles [1,600 kilometers] from the nearest settlement to the east and almost eight hundred miles [1,300 kilometers] from the Pacific Coast. They were in an untried climate. The soil was different from that of the black loam of Illinois and Iowa, where they had most recently lived. They had never raised a crop here. They had never experienced a winter. They had not built a structure of any kind. These prophets, dressed in old, travel-worn clothes, standing in boots they had worn for more than a thousand miles from Nauvoo to this valley, spoke of a millennial vision. They spoke out of a prophetic view of the marvelous destiny of this cause. They came down from the peak that day and went to work to bring reality to their dream.
What can we learn from this account? How have we benefited from the prophetic vision of early Church leaders? What do you think it means to be “an ensign to the nations”?
3 We must never lose sight of the divine destiny of God’s work and the part we play in it.
From the manual:
Each of us has a small field to cultivate. While so doing, we must never lose sight of the greater picture, the large composite of the divine destiny of this work. It was given us by God our Eternal Father, and each of us has a part to play in the weaving of its magnificent tapestry. Our individual contribution may be small, but it is not unimportant. …
Why do we need to see this grand picture? Why do we sometimes lose sight of it? In what ways can our small efforts contribute to the growth of God’s kingdom?
Sometimes the things that God wants us to do are not the things that we want to do. Sometimes we we think that we know better than Heavenly Father what would be best for us, including where and how we should serve. Part of faith is having faith in God’s plan for our development. We will have more freedom, liberty and independence if we learn to submit to God’s will.
4 We can become as an ensign to the nations from which the people of the earth may gather strength.
The increasing gulf between the standards of the  Church and the world.
From the manual:
We must stand firm. We must hold back the world. If we do so, the Almighty will be our strength and our protector, our guide and our revelator. We shall have the comfort of knowing that we are doing what He would have us do. Others may not agree with us, but I am confident that they will respect us. We will not be left alone. There are many [who are] not of our faith but who feel as we do. They will support us. They will sustain us in our efforts.

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means. ” Albert Einstein

“You can be a good example or you can be a bad example, but you are always an example.” Hartman Rector, Jr.

“I challenge you to stand up to your peers as an example of righteous living.” Elder L. Tom Perry Ensign, Nov. 1996, 38,  “Run and Not Be Weary”

How can we develop greater vision and courage in moving God’s work forward? How can we live in the world without being of the world? How can we “take on more of the luster of the life of Christ”? Why is it important for us to stand for what is right?
Posted in Joseph Smith, LDS Church History, LDS Doctrine

Joseph Smith the Prophet

Joseph Smith was born on 23 December 1805 in Sharon, Vermont. To celebrate his birthday here are a selection of his teachings.

Love

A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race. (History of the Church, 4:227.)

It is a duty which every Saint ought to render to his brethren freely—to always love them, and ever succor them. (History of the Church, 2:229)

Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind. (History of the Church, 5:23–24 (9 June 1842))

The First Vision

The Lord does reveal himself to me. I know it. He revealed himself first to me when I was about fourteen years old, a mere boy. . . . I kneeled down, and prayed, saying, ‘O Lord, what Church shall I join?’ Directly I saw a light, and then a glorious Personage in the light, and then another personage, and the first personage said [of] the second, “Behold this is my beloved Son, hear him.” (Interview by David Nye White, Aug. 1843, published in “The Prairies, Nauvoo, Joe Smith, the Temple, the Mormons, etc.,” The Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, Sept. 15, 1843)

Acceptance

I will try to be contented with my lot, knowing that God is my friend. In him I shall find comfort. I have given my life into his hands. I am prepared to go at his call. I desire to be with Christ. I count not my life dear to me, only to do his will. (Joseph Smith letter to Emma Smith, 6 June 1832)

I was grieved to hear that Hiram [Hyrum Smith] had lost his little Child I think we Can in Some degree simpathise with him but we all must be reconciled to our lots and Say the will of the Lord be done. (Letter to Emma Smith, 6 June 1832)

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Missionary work

Do not be discouraged on account of the greatness of the work; only be humble and faithful. . . . He who scattered Israel has promised to gather them; therefore inasmuch as you are to be instrumental in this great work, He will endow you with power, wisdom, might, and intelligence, and every qualification necessary. (History of the Church, 4:128–29.)

Knowledge 

We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true “Mormons.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 316 (23 July 1843))

A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 137 (25 March 1839))

Faith

Great blessings await us at this time, and will soon be poured out upon us, if we are faithful in all things, for we are even entitled to greater spiritual blessings than they [the faithful at the time of Christ] were, because they had Christ in person with them, to instruct them in the great plan of salvation. His personal presence we have not, therefore we have need of greater faith.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 90)

 

Posted in Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, LDS Church History, Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley

Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley – Chapter 1: The Restoration of the Gospel—The Dawning of a Brighter Day

From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

This section tells a story shared by President Hinckley in 2000 about a visit to the Sacred Grove and a spiritual witness he received there about the First Vision.

We can all receive a spiritual witness of the First Vision, just as President Hinckley did, and we don’t have to go to Palmyra!

1 Following the Savior’s death, the Church He had established drifted into apostasy.
President Hinckley quotes prophecies of the apostasy by Isaiah.
Why did the people of the world need the Church and gospel of Jesus Christ to be restored?

One by one, the apostles were killed as they went out to preach the gospel in foreign lands. At first, successor apostles were chosen such as Matthias (Acts 1:22), James (Acts 12:7; Galatians 1:19), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), and Paul (Acts 14:14; Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 9:1).3 

These were called before A.D. 50. But neither scripture nor other historical evidence gives us any indication of the calling of others.

Peter,  Philip, Andrew, Jude, Bartholomew, and Simon were crucified;

  • James the son of Zebedee was beheaded;
  • Matthew was slain by a spear and a battle-axe;
  • James the son of Alphaeus was beaten and stoned by the Jews;
  • Matthias was stoned and then beheaded;
  • Thomas was thrust through with a spear.

While the exact dates of death are not known in many cases, it is believed that with the exception of John, all met their deaths well before the end of the first century.

Eventually there were no authorized priesthood keys upon the earth. Fragments of the original teachings and remnants of the original ordinances remained, but the priesthood, the power that gave the Church its spiritual life and sustenance, was gone. As prophesied the Church dwindled in unbelief and over time the doctrines became corrupt.

The Roman Empire which had first persecuted the Christians later adopted and adapted Christianity. The Emperor Constantine worshipped the Sun God but recognized the growing influence of the new religion of Christianity and saw the political advantage to be gained by adopting Christianity as the state religion.

Important religious questions were settled by Councils rather than by revelation. The simple truths taught by the Saviour were debated and changed. Plain and precious doctrines were removed from the scriptures.

2 The Renaissance and Reformation helped prepare the way for the restoration of the gospel.
From the lesson manual:
‘Somehow, in that long season of darkness, a candle was lighted. The age of Renaissance brought with it a flowering of learning, art, and science. There came a movement of bold and courageous men and women who looked heavenward in acknowledgment of God and His divine Son. We speak of it as the Reformation.’
What are some ways the Lord prepared the way for the restoration of the gospel?
The Reformation not only is a major event in world history but also is generally considered one of the important events leading up to the Restoration. Elder M. Russell Ballard declared, “I believe these reformers were inspired to create a religious climate in which God could restore lost truths and priesthood authority.”

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3 The Restoration was ushered in with the appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith.
From the lesson manual:
‘Nothing like it had ever happened before. One is led to wonder why it was so important that both the Father and the Son appear. I think it was because They were ushering in the dispensation of the fulness of times, the last and final dispensation of the gospel, when there would be gathered together in one the elements of all previous dispensations. This was to be the final chapter in the long chronicle of God’s dealing with men and women upon the earth.’
Video of Joseph Smith’s First Vision:
In what ways has your testimony of the First Vision influenced you?

What truths were revealed in the First Vision?

Discuss Elder James E. Faust’s answers to that question:

“1. The existence of God our Father as a personal being, and proof that man was made in the image of God.

“2. That Jesus is a personage, separate and distinct from the Father.

“3. That Jesus Christ is declared by the Father to be his Son.

“4. That Jesus was the conveyor of revelation as taught in the Bible.

“5. The promise of James to ask of God for wisdom was fulfilled.

“6. The reality of an actual being from an unseen world who tried to destroy Joseph Smith.

“7. That there was a falling away from the Church established by Jesus Christ—Joseph was

told not to join any of the sects, for they taught the doctrines of men.

“8. Joseph Smith became a witness for God and his Son, Jesus Christ.” (In Conference Report, Apr.1984, pp. 92–93; or Ensign, May 1984, p. 68.)

4 Priesthood authority and keys were restored.
President Hinckley talks about his priesthood line of authority.
Why is important that Melchizedek Priesthood holders can trace their priesthood authority to Jesus Christ?
5 Through Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed truths that distinguish us from other churches.
  • The Godhead
  • Priesthood authority and Church organisation
  • The family
  • The innocence of little children
  • Salvation for the dead
  • The nature, purpose and potential of God’s children
  • Modern revelation

How have these truths blessed your life?

David W. Bercot, a student of the early Christian authors, wrote a book entitled  Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up::

When I first began studying the early Christian writings, I was surprised by what I read. In fact, after a few days of reading, I put their writings back on the shelf and decided to scrap my research altogether. After analyzing the situation, I realized the problem was that their writings contradicted many of my own theological views. . . . They frequently taught the opposite of what I believed, and they even labeled some of my beliefs as heretical. . . .

If there’s any single doctrine that we would expect to find the faithful associates of the apostles teaching, it’s the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. …… In fact, we frequently say that persons who don’t hold to this doctrine aren’t really Christians. However the early Christians universally believed that works or obedience play an essential role in our salvation.

Clement of Rome, who was a companion of the apostle Paul, . . . wrote, “A person who does not do what God has commanded shows he really does not believe God.'”

Polycarp, the personal companion of the apostle John, taught, “He who raised Him up from the dead will also raise us up—if we do His will and walk in His commandments.

The letter of Barnabas states: “He who keeps these [commandments] will be glorified in the kingdom of God.”

David Bercot concluded: “In fact, every early Christian writer who discussed the subject of salvation presented this same view.” Bercot was careful to note that the early Christian writers also taught that we cannot be saved without the grace of Christ. In other words, he noted that grace and works are inextricably tied together.

Which is precisely the LDS view – because that is the truth taught by the Saviour.

Posted in Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, LDS Church History

Gospel Doctrine 2017 – Lesson 4 -“Remember the New Covenant, Even the Book of Mormon”

1. Joseph Smith’s preparation to receive and translate the Book of Mormon

JS-H 1:27 I continued to pursue my common vocations in life until the twenty-first of September

‘From this time until the twenty-first of September, 1823, Joseph continued, as usual, to labor with his father, and nothing during this interval occurred of very great importance—though he suffered every kind of opposition and persecution from the different orders of religionists.
The third harvest time had now arrived since we opened our new farm, and all our sons were actively employed in assisting their father to cut down the grain and store it away in order for winter.’ (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 101)
JS-H 1:28 Native cheery temperament

‘When Joseph warned the Saints against mortal imperfections, he did not raise himself above them, and they loved him for it. He cautioned a group of Saints newly arrived in Nauvoo against the tendency to be dissatisfied if everything was not done perfectly right. “He said he was but a man and they must not expect him to be perfect,” an associate recorded. “If they expected perfection from him, he should expect it from them, but if they would bear with his infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren, he would likewise bear with their infirmities” (The Papers of Joseph Smith, Volume 2, Journal, 1832–1842, ed. Dean C. Jessee [1992], 489).

Joseph had a “native cheery temperament”  JS—H 1:28 He delighted in the society of his friends. “He would play with the people,” one acquaintance recalled, “and he was always cheerful and happy” (Rachel Ridgeway Grant, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Young Woman’s Journal 16 [Dec. 1905]: 551). He loved little children and often frolicked with them in a manner shocking to some accustomed to the exaggerated sobriety of other ministers. These warm, human qualities caused some to deny Joseph’s prophetic role, but they endeared him to many who knew him. Our records contain numerous adoring tributes like that of an acquaintance who said, “The love the saints had for him was inexpressible” (Mary Alice Cannon Lambert, Young Woman’s Journal, 16:554).

Despite his familiar and friendly style, the Prophet Joseph Smith was resolute in doing his duty. During a meeting to consider disciplining a man who had rejected the counsel of the Presidency and the Twelve, he declared: “The Saints need not think because I am familiar with them and am playful and cheerful, that I am ignorant of what is going on. Iniquity of any kind cannot be sustained in the Church, and it will not fare well where I am; for I am determined while I do lead the Church, to lead it right” (History of the Church,5:411). On another occasion he wrote, “I am a lover of the cause of Christ and of virtue chastity and an upright steady course of conduct & a holy walk, I despise a hypocrite or a covenant breaker” (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, ed. Dean C. Jessee [1984], 246).’ (Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, April 1996)

JS-H 1:33-35 First appearance of Moroni

‘In 1822, Joseph began helping his older brother Alvin build a new frame house for the family. By September of 1823, it was two stories high but without a roof. The family continued to live in their small log house.

Here late in the evening on Sunday, 21 September 1823, seventeen-year-old Joseph retired for the night. Concerned about his standing before the Lord, he earnestly prayed for forgiveness of his sins. He was confident that he would again receive a divine manifestation. Suddenly his room filled with light and a heavenly messenger stood by his bedside in partial fulfillment of the great prophecy of John the Apostle (see Revelation 14:6–7).’ (Church History in the Fulness of Time Institute Manual)

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2. The miracle of the Book of Mormon’s preservation

JS-H 1:60 Persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually to get them from me

‘After bringing home the plates, Joseph now commenced work with his father on the farm in order to be as near as possible the treasure that was committed to his care.
Soon after this, he came in from work one afternoon, and after remaining a short time, he put on his greatcoat and left the house. I was engaged at the time in an upper room in preparing some oilcloths for painting. When he returned, he requested me to come downstairs. I told him that I could not leave my work just then, yet upon his urgent request, I finally concluded to go down and see what he wanted, upon which he handed me the breastplate spoken of in his history.
It was wrapped in a thin muslin handkerchief, so thin that I could see the glistening metal and ascertain its proportions without any difficulty.
It was concave on one side and convex on the other, and extended from the neck downwards as far as the center of the stomach of a man of extraordinary size. It had four straps of the same material for the purpose of fastening it to the breast, two of which ran back to go over the shoulders, and the other two were designed to fasten to the hips. They were just the width of two of my fingers (for I measured them), and they had holes in the end of them to be convenient in fastening.
The whole plate was worth at least five hundred dollars. After I had examined it, Joseph placed it in the chest with the Urim and Thummim.
Shortly after this circumstance, Joseph came to the house in great haste and inquired if there had been a company of men there. I told him no one had come to the house since he left. He then said that a mob would be there that night, if not before, to search for the record, and that it must be removed immediately.
Soon after, one Mr. Braman came from the neighboring village of Livonia, a German man in whom we reposed much confidence and who was well worthy of the same. Joseph told him his apprehensions of a mob being there that night and that they must prepare themselves to drive them away; but the first thing to be attended to was to secrete the record and breastplate.
It was resolved that a portion of the hearth should be taken up and the plates and breastplate should be buried under the same, and then the hearth relaid to prevent suspicion.
This was carefully and speedily done, but the hearth was scarcely relaid when a large company of armed men came rushing up to the house. Joseph threw the door open and, taking a hint from the stratagem of his Grandfather Mack, hallooed as if he had a legion at hand, giving the word of command with great importance. At the same time, the males that belonged to the house, from the father down to little Carlos, ran out with such vehemence upon the mob that it struck them with terror and dismay, and they fled before our little Spartan band away into the woods, where they dispersed themselves to their several homes.
We had but a few days rest, however, before Joseph received another intimation of the approach of a mob and the necessity of removing the record and breastplate again from their hiding place. Consequently, Joseph took them out of the box in which they had been placed, wrapped them in clothes, carried them across the road to a cooper’s shop, and laid them in a quantity of flax which was stowed in the shop loft. He then nailed up the box as before and tore up the floor and put the box under it.
As soon as it was dark, the mob came and ransacked the place, but did not come into the house. After making a satisfactory search, they went away.
The next morning we found the floor of the cooper’s shop taken up and the wooden box which was put under it split to pieces.
In a few days we learned the cause of this last move and why their curiosity had led them in the direction of the cooper’s shop. A young woman, who was a sister to Willard Chase, had found a green glass through which she could see many wonderful things, and among the rest of her discoveries, she said she had found out the exact place where “Joe Smith kept his gold bible.” And so in pursuance to her directions, they gathered their forces and laid siege to the cooper shop, but went away disappointed.
This did not shake their confidence in Miss Chase, for they still went from place to place by her suggestion, determined to get possession of the object of their research.’ (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 148-151)
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3. Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

‘The three men chosen as witnesses of the Book of Mormon were Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. Their written ‘Testimony of Three Witnesses’ has been included in all of the almost 100 million copies of the Book of Mormon the Church has published since 1830. These witnesses solemnly testify that they “have seen the plates which contain this record” and “the engravings which are upon the plates.” They witness that these writings “have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us.”

…People who deny the possibility of supernatural beings may reject this remarkable testimony, but people who are open to believe in miraculous experiences should find it compelling. The solemn written testimony of three witnesses to what they saw and heard-two of them simultaneously and the third almost immediately thereafter-is entitled to great weight.

…Measured against all…possible objections, the testimony of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon stands forth in great strength. Each of the three had ample reason and opportunity to renounce his testimony if it had been false, or to equivocate on details if any had been inaccurate. As is well known, because of disagreements or jealousies involving other leaders of the Church, each one of these three witnesses was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by about eight years after the publication of their testimony. All three went their separate ways, with no common interest to support a collusive effort. Yet to the end of their lives-periods ranging from 12 to 50 years after their excommunications-not one of these witnesses deviated from his published testimony or said anything that cast any shadow on its truthfulness.’ (Dallin H Oaks, “The Witness: Martin Harris,” Ensign, May 1999, 35-36)

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4. Our duty to “remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon”

D&C 84:55 The whole church under condemnation

“Some of the early missionaries, on returning home, were reproved by the Lord in section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants because they had treated lightly the Book of Mormon. As a result, their minds had been darkened. The Lord said that this kind of treatment of the Book of Mormon brought the whole Church under condemnation, even all of the children of Zion. And then the Lord said, ‘And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon.’ (See D&C 84:54–57.) Are we still under that condemnation? …

“… Grave consequences hang on our response to the Book of Mormon. ‘Those who receive it,’ said the Lord, ‘in faith, and work righteousness, shall receive a crown of eternal life;

“‘But those who harden their hearts in unbelief, and reject it, it shall turn to their own condemnation—

“‘For the Lord God has spoken it.’ (D&C 20:14–16.)

“Is the Book of Mormon true? Yes.

“Who is it for? Us.

“What is its purpose? To bring men to Christ.

“How does it do this? By testifying of Christ and revealing his enemies.

“How are we to use it? We are to get a testimony of it, we are to teach from it, we are to hold it up as a standard and ‘hiss it forth.’

“Have we been doing this? Not as we should, nor as we must.

“Do eternal consequences rest upon our response to this book? Yes, either to our blessing or our condemnation.

“Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of this book a lifetime pursuit. Otherwise he is placing his soul in jeopardy and neglecting that which could give spiritual and intellectual unity to his whole life.” (Ezra Taft Benson, In Conference Report, Apr. 1975, pp. 96–97; or Ensign,May 1975, p. 65.)

Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2017, Joseph Smith, LDS Church History

Gospel Doctrine 2017 – Lesson 3 -“I Had Seen a Vision”

1. After the Apostasy, God prepared the way for the Restoration.

JS-History 1:8 it was impossible… to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong
‘There was division throughout all the religious world. Ministers of religion were quarreling as to points of doctrine and as to the plan of salvation. Every denomination had a different method which they taught to all who enquired as the method by which they should obtain salvation. In the midst of all this uncertainty, honest souls groped about, seeking here and there for the right path. There is but one path—”one faith, one Lord, one baptism,” as the great Apostle said; and these honest souls in the various nations were groping for this path, enquiring of these professed leaders where it lay and how they could enter it, and each minister pointing out his path, his little track, as the right one. What were men and women to do under such circumstances? Filled with doubt and anxiety concerning their future, they did not know what to do.’ (George Q Cannon, Collected Discourses)
JS-History 1:19 Having a form of godliness

‘In the process of what we call the Apostasy, the tangible, personal God described in the Old and New Testaments was replaced by the abstract, incomprehensible deity defined by compromise with the speculative principles of Greek philosophy. The received language of the Bible remained, but the so-called “hidden meanings” of scriptural words were now explained in the vocabulary of a philosophy alien to their origins. In the language of that philosophy, God the Father ceased to be a Father in any but an allegorical sense. He ceased to exist as a comprehensible and compassionate being. And the separate identity of his Only Begotten Son was swallowed up in a philosophical abstraction that attempted to define a common substance and an incomprehensible relationship.

These descriptions of a religious philosophy are surely undiplomatic, but I hasten to add that Latter-day Saints do not apply such criticism to the men and women who profess these beliefs. We believe that most religious leaders and followers are sincere believers who love God and understand and serve him to the best of their abilities. We are indebted to the men and women who kept the light of faith and learning alive through the centuries to the present day. We have only to contrast the lesser light that exists among peoples unfamiliar with the names of God and Jesus Christ to realize the great contribution made by Christian teachers through the ages. We honor them as servants of God.

Then came the First Vision. An unschooled boy, seeking knowledge from the ultimate source, saw two personages of indescribable brightness and glory and heard one of them say, while pointing to the other, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”  (JS—H 1:17). The divine teaching in that vision began the restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God the Son told the boy prophet that all the “creeds” of the churches of that day “were an abomination in his sight” ( JS—H 1:19). We affirm that this divine declaration was a condemnation of the creeds, not of the faithful seekers who believed in them. Joseph Smith’s first vision showed that the prevailing concepts of the nature of God and the Godhead were untrue and could not lead their adherents to the destiny God desired for them.’ (Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, April 1995)

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JS-History 1:21-24 Bitter persecution

“Why should so many religionists unite against an unknown youth of no renown or standing in the community? Would the whole sectarian world shiver and shake and call for a sword if some other unknown fourteen-year-old youth in an obscure frontier village should claim that he was visited by angels and that he saw the Lord? The problem when Joseph Smith announced such a claim was that it was true and that Lucifer knew of its verity.

“… Is not the persecution itself a witness of the reality of the First Vision? Or if it were not true, would the worldly wise and the intellectual religionists today devote their talents and means to defaming Joseph Smith and the work that bears his imprint? What is it to anyone else what we believe unless they in their unbelief fear lest our doctrines are true and our practices may have divine approval?” (Bruce R McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 8–10).

2. God prepared Joseph Smith to be the prophet of the Restoration.

JS-History 1:7 In my fifteenth year

‘I have wondered at times why the Lord would have him go in as a 14-year-old boy. Why didn’t He wait until [Joseph] was 20 or 30 or 40, when he would have had the weight of authority that comes with age? He went in—the Lord permitted it—and responded to his inquiry because he came in perfect trust as a boy. There was no doubt in his mind. He said that if anyone needed wisdom, he needed wisdom, and he asked for it, with full confidence that something would happen as a result of his prayer.’ (Gordon B Hinckley Ensign, Aug. 1997, 3)

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JS-History 1:11-12 I was one day reading the Epistle of James

‘Let me tell you of a wonderful mother whose life was an example of faith. When the Prophet Joseph Smith was a very young boy, he watched and learned about faith in God from his mother, Lucy Mack Smith. Lucy sought answers by searching the scriptures, [See Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor (1996), 50.] and Joseph too employed the practice, turning to the Bible for guidance as his mother had.

Lucy also solved family problems by privately seeking the Lord’s help through prayer. One day, experiencing discord in her family regarding the subject of religion, Lucy said she “retired to a grove of handsome wild cherry trees not far distant and prayed to the Lord.” [Smith, History of Joseph Smith, 58.]

Lucy also prayed with great faith when faced with personal health issues, when Joseph nearly lost his leg to osteomyelitis, and when Joseph’s sister Sophronia almost died from typhoid fever. Regarding Sophronia’s illness, Lucy wrote: “I gazed upon my child. … My husband and I clasped our hands together and fell upon our knees by the bedside and poured our grief and supplications into his ears.” [Smith, History of Joseph Smith, 69.] Sophronia lived. I am confident that Lucy’s children often witnessed her praying with faith and receiving answers to those prayers.

Lucy prayed in faith for guidance, and Joseph too retired to a grove of trees, where he prayed with faith, seeking an answer from the Lord as his mother had.

Like Lucy, we must show our children and youth how to strengthen their faith and testimony of Jesus Christ by strengthening our own through studying the scriptures and through prayer, personally as well as with them.’ (Mary N Cook, General Conference, October 2010)

3. The First Vision ushered in the restoration of the gospel.

JS-History 1:14 I retired to the woods

‘Amid the war of words and feelings that surrounded the boy Joseph, his mind was drawn to the scriptures. He reflected upon the message of James 1:5 again and again and decided for the first time in his life to pray vocally about the matter. After months of mental and spiritual struggle, he finally knew what he must do. Sometime in the early spring of 1820 he went to a familiar spot in the woods near his home to make the attempt. Joseph told an editor of the New York Spectator: “I immediately went out into the woods where my father had a clearing, and went to the stump where I had struck my axe when I had quit work, and I kneeled down, and prayed” (in Allen, Improvement Era, Apr. 1970, 13).

Joseph’s “months of anguish had resulted in obvious spiritual maturity, and he had at least three serious questions on his mind: (1) He was concerned for his own salvation and sought forgiveness of his sins; (2) he was concerned for the welfare of mankind in general, for, he said, ‘I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world’; (3) he wanted to know which, if any, of the churches was right, and which he should join” ‘ (Allen, Improvement Era, Apr. 1970, 9). (Pearl of Great Price Institute Manual)

JS-History 1:15 I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me

“Satan… knew who this young boy was—he knew Joseph was a spiritual redwood; he knew Joseph was destined to be a ‘disturber… of his kingdom’ (Joseph Smith-History 1:20). Satan could see the plane in its landing pattern, and he knew Joseph Smith was the anointed pilot. But before the advent of something good and great, Satan always works the hardest. It happened at the birth of the Savior with the slaying of the innocents. It occurred again when the Savior commenced his mission and was confronted with the three temptations… And so it would be with the Prophet Joseph before the advent of this great and glorious contributions—Satan would be there in all his diabolic opposition. At all costs, Satan knew he must stop this young boy from proceeding to carry out his destined work. Satan was poised to make his preemptive strike. He was ‘as a roaring lion… seeking whom he may devour’ (1 Peter 5:8).” (Tad Callister, The Inevitable Apostasy, [SLC: Deseret Book, 2006], 339)

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JS-History 1:16-17 I saw two Personages

‘Joseph Smith saw God, the Eternal Father, and Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. This was Joseph’s First Vision. In the years that followed, Joseph translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. Numerous other heavenly beings visited him, restoring truths and authority that had been lost for centuries. These divine communications to Joseph Smith opened the windows of heaven and the glories of eternity to our view. Joseph’s life stands as a testimony that if any of us lack wisdom, we can ask God in faith and receive answers—sometimes from heavenly beings but more often by the power of the Holy Ghost, who speaks to us through inspired thoughts and feelings. [See  Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 It is through the Holy Ghost that we can “know the truth of all things.”’ (Craig C Christensen, General Conference, October 2016)

4. Many truths were revealed in the First Vision.

Significance of the First Vision

‘The First Vision was a pivotal event in the rise of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. Joseph Smith, although only an unlettered youth, learned profound truths that have become the foundation of the faith of the Latter-day Saints. He had actually seen and spoken with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. Therefore, he learned that the promise in James is true. God will answer sincere prayer of inquiry and not chastise. To Joseph, God became an approachable reality, a vital source of truth, and a loving Heavenly Father. Joseph Smith’s belief in the reality of God was no longer a matter of faith; it was based on personal experience. Thus, he was qualified, as was the Apostle Peter, to be a witness who was chosen of God and commanded to preach and testify of Jesus Christ (see Acts 10:39–43). He could also testify that the Father and Son were separate and distinct glorious beings in whose literal image man is made.

Joseph Smith now also knew of the reality of Satan, a being who possessed formidable power and a foe determined to destroy the work of God. Satan failed in the Sacred Grove, but the conflict had just begun. Joseph would fight many battles with this adversary of righteousness before his work was done. Moreover, the Lord’s answer to his question about which church was true, was a sweeping indictment of nineteenth century Christianity, for no church then on earth had divine approval. Just as the Savior warned his disciples against the doctrinal “leaven” of the Pharisees and Sadducees (see Matthew 16:6–12), he taught Joseph Smith that the existing churches taught the “commandments of men” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19). Therefore, he was to join none of them.’ (Church History in the Fulness of Times Institute Manual)

Posted in Christmas story, Jesus Christ, Scriptural advent calendar

Scriptural advent calendar 2016 – December 25

D&C 76: 40-42

And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—

 41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;

 42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;

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Jesus’ name was determined premortally to be the loftiest, and the only name under heaven offering salvation to mankind. Yet on earth He willingly lived, wrote Paul, as a person ‘of no reputation’ (Philippians 2:7).

As the Creator Lord, He constructed the universe, yet in Galilee He was known merely as ‘the carpenter’s son’! The Lord of the universe was even without honour in his own provincial Nazarene countryside.

He issued the original commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, but was accused of violating the Sabbath because He gave healing rest to the afflicted.

The irony was constant. This whole earth is actually Jesus’ footstool, but at Bethlehem there was ‘no crib for his bed’. (Neal A Maxwell)

Posted in Inspirational, Jesus Christ

The Story of the Three Trees

Our high councillor shared this story with us on Sunday (thanks Karl):

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.

The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!”

The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!”

The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. “I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.”

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Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain.

The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell.

“Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest. I shall hold wonderful treasure!” the first tree said.

The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell.

“Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!”

The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven.

But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me,” he muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals.

The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, nor with treasure. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.

The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead, the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail on an ocean, or even a river; instead, she was taken to a little lake.

The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard.

“What happened?” the once tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God…”

Many, many days and night passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams.

But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox.

“I wish I could make a cradle for him,” her husband whispered.

The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful,” she said.

And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake.

Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain.

The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun.

And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her.

She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.

But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth tremble with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything.

It had made the third tree strong.

And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.

That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.