A Call to a New Life

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There’s a song at the end of the movie Prince Caspian that always makes me think of what it might have been like leaving our Heavenly Father’s presence to be born into mortal life.

It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder
‘Til it was a battle cry

I’ll come back
When you call me
No need to say goodbye

Just because every thing’s changing
Doesn’t mean it’s never been this way before
All you can do is try to know
Who your friends are as you head off to the war
Pick a star on the dark horizon
And follow the light

You’ll come back
When it’s over
No need to say goodbye
You’ll come back
When it’s over
No need to say goodbye

Now, we’re back to the beginning
It’s just a feeling and no one knows yet
But just because they can’t feel it too
Doesn’t mean that you have to forget
Let your memories grow stronger and stronger
‘Til they’re before your eyes

You’ll come back
When they call you
No need to say goodbye
You’ll come back
When they call you
No need to say goodbye

We were born onto a battleground. Earth life is not always easy. There is a battle raging between good and evil; we are all called as soldiers. Do we fight for the Lord or do we desert Him and fight for the enemy of all souls?

“I’ll come back\ When you call me\ No need to say goodbye” We are all here on earth until we are called home (hopefully we don’t try to return before we are called, but it happens). Our time in mortality is short. We are from eternity to eternity so a few years here on earth in mortality is less than a blink. That’s one thing I love about the Narnia stories is all of the adventures that Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy have are long and real in Narnia but when they return home, it is almost like they never left – I say almost because they still remember their time in Narnia when they return back to their original lives. I think that we will find that that is true about our mortal lives – we will find that we were just gone for a blink of an eye. Being gone for such a short time from the eternal worlds, there is almost no need to say goodbye.

“Just because every thing’s changing\ Doesn’t mean it’s never been this way before\ All you can do is try to know\ Who your friends are as you head off to the war\ Pick a star on the dark horizon\ And follow the light.” Life changes so much but we can learn from the past; that’s one of the purposes of the scriptures – the Book of Mormon, the Bible – to help us be able to learn from the past. One thing that is important in life is to know who our friends are, both seen and unseen. If we surround ourselves with good friends, people who will watch our backs in this battle against evil, we will be blessed and protected. Some of our best friends can be our family members. We need to stick together and follow the light of Christ.

“Now, we’re back to the beginning\ It’s just a feeling and no one knows yet\ But just because they can’t feel it too\ Doesn’t mean that you have to forget\ Let your memories grow stronger and stronger\ ‘Til they’re before your eyes\ You’ll come back\ When they call you\ No need to say goodbye.” When we return home, it will all be so familiar; we need to remember what we learned in this life. We will have memories from this life and the previous life, we will have our friends and family there before us, to embrace us in reunions of joy. Above all, we need to remember the words of Christ and build upon His foundation: “And now…remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).

When we all return after the battle of this life, to God who gave us life, I pray we will have a happy reunion knowing that we were true and faithful to all God required of us. Life is a calling, are we magnifying it?

Song: The Call
By: Regina Spektor

Nearer My God To Thee

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One of my favorite hymns is Nearer, My God, to Thee. It has a simple but beautiful melody and powerful lyrics. It conveys the longing of being with Heavenly Father again; it conveys the longing of home. There is the desire to be close to God, regardless the cost – even if it takes our own cross to get us there (which it often does in our own way).

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

There let the way appear steps unto heav’n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv’n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Much of the hymn refers to an experience the patriarch of old – Jacob – had on a journey toward Haran. I’ll quote at length from the Bible (Genesis 28:10-22) and insert italicized commentary as appropriate.

10 And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran [a major city that was possibly located in modern day Turkey].

11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it [this is a metaphorical representation of the connection and pathway between heaven and earth. In Acts 1:9-11 we read of Christ’s ascension in to heaven after His 40 day ministry to His apostles; there are several other similar instances in the scriptures: 3 Nephi 11:5-8; Joseph Smith-History 1:16-17].

13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed [this is the Abrahamic covenant, a topic for a different time];

14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not [Jacob saw God in his dream vision and when he awoke, felt the sanctity of the place].

17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven [Jacob feared because he realized he had been in the presence of God – a wonderful but sometimes fearful thought as well, particularly because of our sins. The place where Jacob slept because the house of God – a temple. Temples literally are the houses of God and the gates of heaven. Through temples can we pass into the presence of God].

18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it [This is a particularly interesting verse. Jacob took his stony pillow and made it into a pillar – an altar. He poured oil, probably consecrated olive oil upon the top of it to consecrate it and sanctify it unto God].

19 And he called the name of that place Beth-el: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first [Beth-el literally means God’s house or house of God. Beth is house and el is God {Elohim would be the title and the plural}].

20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on [this can be viewed as earthly bread and raiment but can also be viewed as the bread and raiment {temple clothes} given in our Father’s kingdom],

21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:

22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house [he dedicated the site as a temple]: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee [this is a reference to Jacob’s paying tithing].

That is the primary scriptural source for the lyrics to Nearer, My God, to Thee.

Here is a recent recording of the most known tune (called Bethany) used with the lyrics. This is Steven Sharp Nelson playing the cello (9 parts). The video was filmed and produced by The Piano Guys.

The Twelve and the Seventy – Part Two

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I’ve written about the LDS Church’s quorums of seventy before: The Twelve and Seventy: An Interview With Pres. Packer, Part 1Organization of LDS Church, Part 2Chart of LDS General AuthoritiesHow Many Children do the Seventy Have?

The LDS Church posted the second part of a discussion of the roles and responsibilities of the Seventies. This is from an interview with Pres. Packer (video embedded at the end of the post).

The interview is interesting but I think that what is equally interesting is the timeline of the Seventy. I’ll highlight a few dates and points that I found particularly interesting.

1835 – First Quorum of the Seventy organized

1846 – At the time of the exodus from Nauvoo, the number of seventies quorums had increased to about 35.

1904 – Number of seventies quorums reaches 146.

1953 – Seventies quorums or units are organized in each stake.

1961 – First Council of Seventy ordained high priests.

1961 – Members of the First Council of the Seventy authorized to organize or reorganize stake presidencies and to call stake presidents on assignment. [This step is particularly important because it allowed members of the First Council of Seventy to bestow keys to Stake Presidents. Seventies were given authority to use the keys of the Apostles (which is still the case) as needed].

1974 – Stake presidents authorized to ordain seventies in stakes.

1984 – Tenure of appointment to be fewer years for some Seventy (3–5 years): “However, tenure of appointment is not important insofar as the work is concerned. … After much prayerful consideration, we have called six men, mature and tested through long years of service, to become members of the First Quorum of the Seventy, to serve for periods of three to five years. … They will be General Authorities with every right, power, and authority necessary to function” (Gordon B. Hinckley, in Conference Report, Apr. 1984, 4).

1986 – Seventies quorums in stakes discontinued.

1989 – Organization of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.

1995 – Area Authorities called.

1997 – First and Second Quorum of Seventy are General Authorities.

1997 – Area Authorities are ordained Seventies; Third, Fourth, and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy organized.

2005 – Area Authority Seventy title changed to Area Seventy.

2005 – Seventh and Eighth Quorums of the Seventy organized.

2009 – Area Seventies replaced by General Authorities in all Area Presidencies.

It is interesting to watch how the organization of the Seventies has changed to provide the authority and training and overview necessary to meet the needs of a growing church.

The Twelve and Seventy: An Interview With Pres. Packer

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I’ve written about the LDS Church’s quorums of seventy before: Organization of LDS Church, Part 2; Chart of LDS General Authorities; How Many Children do the Seventy Have?
I’ve been fascinated by the leadership and organization of the Church for many years. I enjoy watching the Church grow and seeing how the structure of the general church leadership changes to meet the needs of a growing church. What is interesting is how the changes made always fit within the pattern Christ established when on the earth as well as the pattern revealed to Joseph Smith. In other words, the pattern of church leadership established in ancient and modern scripture is sufficient for meeting the needs of any size church. I was thus pleased to see that the Church posted an interview between Elder Ronald Rasband (Senior President of the Seventy) and Pres. Boyd K. Packer.

At one point in the interview Pres. Packer commented about the foresight of Joseph Smith (the foresight was not his own but rather was from God). “President Packer said it is marvelous that Joseph Smith could have anticipated an organization that would expand to meet the needs of the Church worldwide. ‘The revelations came when he was a very young man,’ President Packer said. ‘How he knew what he knew, I was going to say it was incredible. It is not, because he did not have to know much. All he had to do is follow the patterns of revelation.'”

Here’s the video of the interview with Pres. Packer. It’s a nice video that shows the hand of the Lord as He directs the work of His church.

Joseph Smith The Prophet

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Sometimes Mormons are criticized for what others view as placing too much emphasis on the Prophet Joseph Smith. Some even mistakenly believe that we worship Joseph Smith. It is not the case that Mormons worship Joseph Smith. We hold him in high esteem, we sometimes celebrate his birth, his receiving the Priesthood; we sometimes pause to remember his death. That does not mean that we worship him though – those are all things that we might do for family members or friends. That’s precisely what the Prophet Joseph Smith is – family. He is the father of our dispensation.

I wrote some terms that are somewhat unique to Mormonism – Priesthood (unique in our understanding of it) and dispensation. I won’t go in to what those terms mean but Mormons look to Joseph Smith as our spiritual progenitor much in the same way many Jews view Father Abraham as their actual progenitor (we, Mormons, also believe that most of us are literally descended from Abraham).

So, we make much ado about Joseph Smith because it was through him that the Lord restored the fulness of the gospel to the earth, most importantly the priesthood authority and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Our focus at times on Joseph Smith doesn’t (or shouldn’t) detract from the centrality of Christ to the Church. All of Joseph’s work was to bring us closer to Jesus Christ and to Heavenly Father. It is because of the Lord’s work that Joseph Smith did that John Taylor, an apostle and prophet of the Lord, was able to state:

“Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood” (D&C 135:3).

What Joseph did was just the beginning of the work of Christ’s church in these last days. It is in this context that I embed the video of a beautiful sacred work by Rob Gardner about the Prophet Joseph Smith (or, if you prefer, you can watch it on the BYUtv website).

Video Introduction to the Book of Mormon

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There is a new video on the Mormon Messages YouTube channel introducing the Book of Mormon. It’s a great video to share with friends or family who are not members of the LDS Church. It’s also great to show to children (or anyone else). Elder Holland provides a brief overview of where the Book of Mormon came from and how we can know of its truth. Please view and share this video with others.

The Purpose of Life

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Yesterday, I had some very weighty matters to write about. In my post I talked about some hard things, things that shouldn’t happen but do. Some might wonder in the face of such tragedy, “What is it all for? Why do we even try in this life? Why are we even here on Earth?”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently released a beautiful video that explains why we are here, what our Earth life is all about.

Treasure in Heaven

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Update: Apparently with the redone BYUTV website, the film Treasure in Heaven is no longer available to watch online. There are a number of places to purchase it online (Amazon, Walmart) but the best place to get the film is from the LDS Store with the Doctrine & Covenants Visual Resource DVDs, which cost US$4.50. The movie is on disc 3 of the set.

Between General Conference sessions a video called Treasure in Heaven was broadcast. This video is a 20 minute depiction of a few events from John Tanner’s life; John Tanner is my great-great-great-great grandfather. I’ve watched the film many times (we got it on DVD last year); my children love watching it. The film is a powerful message of faith and consecration.

Here is the film (give it a bit to load if the play button is not appearing; or watch it on the BYUtv site – the direct link is below the video):

Here is the link to the video on the BYUtv website. Here is a post I wrote about John Tanner. Here is a post about the temple I wrote that also includes some about John Tanner. He was a great man who gave all he had – repeatedly – for the gospel of Jesus Christ. He helped build temples and Zion. His descendants number in the 10s of thousands, many of whom are faithful members of the Church today. I’m honored to be one of his descendants. He shored up treasure in heaven by his sacrifices.

It is well

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One of my new favorite hymns is “It is well with my soul.” This moving hymn was penned by Horatio Spafford with music by Philip Bliss. You can read all the lyrics on the Wikipedia page I linked to but there’s one part of the hymn that I find powerful:

“My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”

Christ took our sins upon Himself so that we might not have to bear them. He suffered in Gethsemane, He was nailed to the cross, He rose triumphant from the tomb so that we do not have to bear our own sins. We, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do not talk or focus on the cross as much as many other Christian religions do. There are reasons for this, which I won’t go into here but we’re certainly not opposed to the cross. Mainly I think we like to focus on Christ’s resurrection because we believe that we are part of His living church. The cross is important though because not only was the Savior born in the most humble of circumstances but also He was killed in one of the most horrific manners possible. Crucifixion was a fate given to the worst of the worst criminals. Christ was without His own sin but He took all our sins upon Himself. Our sins were nailed to the cross with Him.

The story behind this hymn is sad, which I think makes the hopefulness of the words more significant.

I’ll quote from Wikipedia:

“This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871 at the age of four, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone.” Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.”

Amid all those trials Spafford wrote:

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

Is all well with your soul? Do you turn toward or away from God in your trials?

Here is my favorite recording of this hymn: