Two Brothers – A Mormon Messages Video for Youth

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As someone who is training as a clinical psychologist (although I plan on an academic and research career), the following video resonated with me. The gospel of Jesus Christ has great power; that power comes from Christ – from His Priesthood and His Atonement. This video gives a perfect example of how through faith, repentance, and much prayer our weaknesses can become strengths. I am not saying that mental health issues should be tackled only by faith and prayer. Competent mental health professionals can provide necessary treatment for problems. Just as we should rely on the best medical care we can acquire – in addition to relying on faith in Christ – when we have physical illness, so should we seek out professional help when necessary for mental health issues. However, many mental health issues can be solved by faith in Christ and by His Atonement through repentance.

Forgiveness – What It’s All About

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The LDS Church recently released a video that perfectly summarizes what the Church is all about:

That is what it means to be a Mormon – that is what it means to be Christian.

Another video that explains what “Mormonism” is all about is this one on the new Mormon.org website: http://mormon.org/me/1MQC-eng

That is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can learn and spout of theology and scriptures all day but without repentance and forgiveness – without the Atonement, the grace, of Jesus Christ – our religion and our lives would mean very little. Those two videos demonstrate the power of Jesus Christ working in people’s lives.

Lessons from Life Part 5 – The Beach

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Yesterday as a family we went to a nearby beach. With three children ages 5 and under, going to the beach is quite a production. Packing the car, preparing meals and snacks, making sure we have sunblock and sources of shade, and, most importantly, making sure we have our swimming suits, is a daunting task. Successfully getting to the beach with everything we need sometimes feels like a Pyrrhic victory. After a 90 minute drive we spend another 30 minutes getting swimming suits and sunscreen on everyone. Then there are the inevitable diaper changes, baby feedings, and child chasings. But then we make it down to the beach and everyone has a great time running in the sand, building sand castles, and playing in the waves.

The one thing we usually forget to do is reapply sunscreen after a while. Being quite fair skinned, our family tends to turn crimson with relatively little exposure to the sun; this means that regardless of how much sunblock we apply we invariably return home with some sort and size of sunburn. They are usually mild but the burns are there. Another thing we often bring home from the beach is a lot of sand – sand from the shoes and clothes of all of us and sand in the folds and crevasses of the children’s bodies. Sand, especially the fine sand of our beaches, seems to get everywhere. It covers our bodies with a fine dusting, stuck to the sunblock that protects our bodies. Today (after two showers and a number of hours) I discovered more sand trapped in the crevasses of my ear (am I the only one who occasionally misses cleaning out some of the grooves in my pinna?).

All Latter-day Saints have been charged with remaining free from the sins of the world: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). The world is a dirty place – there is sand and grit that gets you dirty. This sand can stay with you even though you shower and get clean. Then there is the sun. It gives life but too much sun can result in burns and, eventually, cancer. So we slather ourselves up with protection – we don our whited armor, our helmets and breastplates and shields of titanium dioxide, in order to protect ourselves from the fiery darts of the sun. It works well, most of the time, but if we are not careful and make sure we cover every exposed part and then reapply our armor as needed, we will still end up burned. Over time, the sun can have lasting effects – wrinkles, spots, and cancers (I wrote about this topic of sunburns previously). But with well-applied sunscreen we can be protected and safe in the sun.

We can protect ourselves and we can wash ourselves when we get dirty but sometimes there is still residual dirt. But over time we can become clean again. There is a story told about a dream Joseph F. Smith had while serving as a missionary in Hawaii. Here is his dream as told by Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley in the April 2007 General Conference:

“I was very much oppressed [when I was] on a mission. I was almost naked and entirely friendless, except [for] the friendship of a poor, benighted . . . people. I felt as if I was so debased in my condition of poverty, lack of intelligence and knowledge, just a boy, that I hardly dared look a . . . man in the face.

“While in that condition I dreamed [one night] that I was on a journey, and I was impressed that I ought to hurry—hurry with all my might, for fear I might be too late. I rushed on my way as fast as I possibly could, and I was only conscious of having just a little bundle, a handkerchief with a small bundle wrapped in it. I did not realize . . . what it was, when I was hurrying as fast as I could; but finally I came to a wonderful mansion. . . . I thought I knew that was my destination.

As I passed towards it, as fast as I could, I saw a notice [which read BATH], ‘Bath.’ I turned aside quickly and went into the bath and washed myself clean. I opened up this little bundle that I had, and there was [some] white, clean [clothing], a thing I had not seen for a long time, because the people I was with did not think very much of making things exceedingly clean. But my [clothing was] clean, and I put [it] on. Then I rushed to what appeared to be a great opening, or door. I knocked and the door opened, and the man who stood there was the Prophet Joseph Smith. He looked at me a little reprovingly, and the first words he said: ‘Joseph, you are late.’ Yet I took confidence and [replied]:

“‘Yes, but I am clean—I am clean!’

“He clasped my hand and drew me in, then closed the great door. I felt his hand just as tangible as I ever felt the hand of man. I knew him, and when I entered I saw my father, and Brigham [Young] and Heber [C. Kimball], and Willard [Richards], and other good men that I had known, standing in a row. I looked as if it were across this valley, and it seemed to be filled with a vast multitude of people, but on the stage were all the people that I had known. My mother was there, and she sat with a child in her lap; and I could name over as many as I remember of their names, who sat there, who seemed to be among the chosen, among the exalted. . . .

“[When I had this dream,] I was alone on a mat, away up in the mountains of Hawaii—no one was with me. But in this vision I pressed my hand up against the Prophet, and I saw a smile cross his countenance. . . .

“When I awoke that morning I was a man, although only [still] a boy. There was not anything in the world that I feared [after that]. I could meet any man or woman or child and look them in the face, feeling in my soul that I was a man every whit. That vision, that manifestation and witness that I enjoyed at that time has made me what I am, if I am anything that is good, or clean, or upright before the Lord, if there is anything good in me. That has helped me out in every trial and through every difficulty” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 542–43; emphasis added).

Being clean gives us power to face any trial that might come our way. Being clean allows us to have the Spirit of the Lord with us. Being clean allows us to face opposition knowing that we have integrity and fidelity to God. We can walk with our heads held high knowing that the blessings of God attend us. As we remain unspotted from the sins of the world – whether because we do not sin or because we repent and become clean – we will have increased faith in Christ and increased power from God.

Easter Births and Rebirths

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Having a child born on Christmas day and now another one born at Easter time (he’ll have an Easter birthday some years), my children’s births serve as a reminder to be of the Savior Jesus Christ. As I was involved in the birth process of my son I thought of Jesus’ birth but more importantly, His rebirth through the resurrection. On that first Easter morn, Jesus escaped the cold clutches of the grave. Jesus is not only the Conquering King of His death but also of all our deaths. What a miraculous and supernal gift! All who ever lived on the earth will be given the gift of immortality. All will live again.

There is another rebirth to which all are entitled should they follow the Lord’s commands. This is a spiritual rebirth, a shuffling off of the old man of sin into a new creature in Christ. When we are born we are born through water (amniotic fluid), blood, and the spirit. When we are spiritually reborn, we are buried in the waters of baptism, sanctified by the blood of Christ, and justified by the Holy Ghost. A spiritual rebirth really is just that – a rebirth; we become completely new spiritual beings. Just as birth is merely one stage in our development – and quite early at that – so is our spiritual rebirth merely one stage in our development. It is just a start to our new lives in Christ. Our spiritual rebirth is not the end, it is the beginning to a glorious new life!

In honor of this Easter season, I hope we all take more time to think about our Lord’s sacrifice – His blameless life, His agonizing Atonement, His painful death, and His glorious resurrection! Many of you might have seen this video before but it is worth watching again in order to ponder its message.

Come Ye, and Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the Lord

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I posted a version of this talk previously (link goes to first of six parts) but I’ve edited since then.

The year was 1834. The saints were building the Kirtland Temple but the temple was in serious trouble. The mortgage loan on the temple lot was approaching due but the Saints did not have money to repay the loan. Faced with this problem, the Prophet Joseph Smith and other church leaders gathered in prayer and asked the Lord to send someone or some people who had money to save the temple. 200 miles from the birthplace of the Restoration lived the man who was the answer to that prayer. John had joined the Church in 1832. He was a wealthy man but one who always was generous. One night he had a dream that he was urgently needed in Kirtland, Ohio. Within two weeks, John sold his land, homes, hotel, and everything else he could and prepared to leave. On Christmas Day, John and his family left their mansion in New York in search of a mansion in heaven. John and his family headed west to Kirtland, the home of the saints. As soon as John arrived in January after 500 miles and a month of travel, he found the prophet (whom he had not previously met) and discovered why he was needed in Kirtland. John loaned Joseph and the Church the money needed to pay the mortgage. Without John’s money, the loan would have defaulted and the temple land would have been repossessed. Without John Tanner’s consecration, the Kirtland Temple would not have been completed.

From the days of Adam, temples have always been important to the followers of God. In the ancient world, temples were often at the center of city life. This also is how some modern cities are designed. A good example of this in our day is Mesa, Arizona. The temple is built on Main Street and very close to Center Street – right in the middle of the city. The city radiates out from that point. Salt Lake City is designed in the same manner. Wherever the saints of God lived, they built temples. Adam built an altar upon which he offered sacrifices. This was the first temple. Many years later, the Lord commanded Moses to build a tabernacle – a portable temple. Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem that was alternately destroyed and rebuilt over the years. Shortly after Nephi and his family reached the Promised Land, they built a temple. Following the Restoration, the prophet Joseph was commanded to start building temples. The saints built one in Kirtland, Ohio. The saints fled Ohio because of persecutions – leaving behind the precious house of the Lord. They dedicated land in Missouri for a temple. That structure has not yet been built.

Once in Nauvoo, the saints built a temple, finishing it with a trowel in one hand and a wagon in the other as they fled the country to head to the Salt Lake Valley. Brigham Young dedicated the Nauvoo Temple before it was fully completed so at least portion of the saints could receive their temple blessings before they had to cross the plains. I’m sure those blessings gave courage and strength to many who faced the grueling journey ahead. The Prophet Joseph stressed the importance of temples: “The main object [of gathering the Jews, or the people of God, in any age of the world] was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose” (as cited in R. Millet, The Power of the Word, p.218).

The prophet Isaiah saw in vision latter-day temples and the church members who attend them: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths” (2 Ne. 12:2-3). One of the first things President Brigham Young did upon entering the Salt Lake Valley was designate the land for the future Salt Lake Temple – the mountain of the Lord’s house that is built in the top of the mountains. Isaiah saw that temple in vision as he prophesied of the last days.

In the last days – in our day – comes the clarion call to the temple. It is a call to go to the temple to hear the words of the Lord. This is what King Benjamin asked of his people: “And now, it came to pass that Mosiah went and did as his father [King Benjamin] had commanded him, and proclaimed unto all the people who were in the land of Zarahemla that thereby they might gather themselves together, to go up to the temple to hear the words which his father should speak unto them.” (Mosiah 1:18). Mosiah called the people to come to the temple to hear the words of the prophet. In our day, temples are being brought to us – new temples are built every year. Pres. Hinckley started the veritable explosion in temple growth; it continues with a fast pace. As temples are being brought to us we should make sure we are bringing ourselves to the temple.

This call to come the temple is a call to learn the ways of God and to walk in the paths the Lord marks. It is a call to one and all to visit the house of God as individuals and as families in order to receive the blessings of time and eternity. Why is the temple so important? A temple is literally the House of the Lord. It is the place where ordinances necessary for exaltation are performed. Temple ordinances weld generation to generation, husband to wife, mother to daughter, and sister to brother.

We learn further of the importance of the temple in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name. And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people; For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.” (D&C; 124:39-41).

What we learn from this scripture is that the temple is a place of revelation. Within those walls we can know things that have been hidden from “before the foundation of the world.” The temple is a place of covenant – it is a house of holiness.

To be holy means to be dedicated, set apart, or consecrated. When we are holy we consecrate all our lives and everything we have to the work of the Lord. The prophet Zechariah spoke about consecration: “In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD…Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 14:20-21). Zechariah envisioned the day when even the horses and dishes would be consecrated for the work of the Lord. Many of us do this in our lives – we drive our children and the children of others to church activities or we drive to our visiting or home teaching appointments; we also use our dishes to take food to those who are ill or
in need. Those may seem like small matters, but that is the essence of consecration – it is using our means and lives to serve and support others and further the work of the Lord. John, whose money saved the Kirtland Temple, gave almost everything he owned to the Church without ever being repaid. Elder Maxwell taught, “Consecration is the only surrender which is also a victory. It brings release from the raucous, overpopulated cell block of selfishness and emancipation from the dark prison of pride” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Settle This in Your Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 66). Consecration is holiness.

Being holy also requires us to be clean. The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the cleansing that comes in the temple and through temple service: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:25-27). The Lord promised a new heart, a heart softened by the Spirit, to those who receive saving ordinances and keep His statutes. This new yielding heart allows us to be better people: better saints, better citizens, better mothers, fathers, and friends. It is a rejuvenated heart that beats warmly within our chests, filling us with love and charity for our friends, neighbors, and the entire world. The temple is a place where we learn to live as better people in this world while striving to remain spotless from the sins of the world; Elder Maxwell stated, “Temple work is not an escape from the world but a reinforcing of our need to better the world while preparing ourselves for another and far better world. Thus, being in the Lord’s house can help us to be different from the world in order to make more difference in the world” (N.A.M. Quote Book, p. 339). Inner change is not enough, we need to take that inward change and turn it outward by seeking to bless the lives of others. The temple is a place that should inspire us to improve the world. The temple should inspire us to be more like Jesus Christ.

The Savior likened the gospel and the kingdom of heaven unto a pearl of great price; this pearl had such great worth that a man sold all that he had so that he might obtain it (see Matt. 13:45-46). The kingdom of heaven is something for which we need to be willing to give up everything. Hopefully, none of us view the gospel as a pearl of great pride instead of a pearl of great price. A pearl of great pride is something we hide away and don’t share; we may have worked hard to obtain it and we want the world to know that. We might use that prideful pearl to bolster up our own feelings of superiority over others – to look down on them in the condescension of conceit. A pearl of great price, on the other hand, is something that we give our all for and then share it with others so they too can experience the beauty and blessings of that pearl. We have this great treasure, a great blessing, and we want the entire world to also have that treasure. With this attitude there is no superiority or pride, there is only love and selflessness. That’s what Elder Maxwell said about the temple – it’s not a place that removes us from the world; it’s a place that moves us to improve the world. The temple is not an exclusive club that keeps out the rabble (it’s not a pearl of pride), it’s an education center that gives us the opportunity to, as the BYU motto states, “Enter to learn, [and] go forth to serve;” the temple is a pearl of great price – something we should be willing to give our all for; it’s not just a one-time purchase but something that requires our whole lives. The price – the responsibility – of the temple is a life of willing sacrifice and service and of obedience and repentance.

The Savior used the pearl analogy again when he stated that we should not cast our pearls before swine – meaning that holy things are to remain sacred and pure. We need to keep the ordinances and teachings of the temple sacred. The same goes for our lives, if we are to be holy. Once we receive temple blessings we need to remain worthy of them and not drag them through the mud. However, we all sin and fall short of our covenants. When we become physically dirty or muddy we can wash ourselves and be clean. Similarly, when we become spiritually dirty or muddy, when we sin and are become as lost sheep, then there is a way prepared for us to become clean again. “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isa. 53: 6) but the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to search for the one who has wandered and who seeks forgiveness. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who watches over the flocks of Israel but He is also the Lamb of God. His sacrificial blood atones for our sins as we repent. Through Christ’s Atonement, our scarlet sins can be made white as snow (see Isa. 1:18). The light of repentance disperses the darkness of sin.

The Lord promises great blessings to those who return unto him. During the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith pleaded: “And when thy people transgress, any of them, they may speedily repent and return unto thee, and find favor in thy sight, and be restored to the blessings which thou hast ordained to be poured out upon those who shall reverence thee in thy house. And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them; And from this place they may bear exceedingly great and glorious tidings, in truth, unto the ends of the earth, that they may know that this is thy work, and that thou hast put forth thy hand, to fulfill that which thou hast spoken by the mouths of the prophets, concerning the last days.” (D&C; 109: 21-23; emphasis added).

If we have transgressed, if we have strayed, we need to repent; when we repent, the blessings of heaven shall be poured out upon us. These blessings not only help wash away our imperfections and uncleanliness but also fill us with goodness and joy. Let me repeat some of the blessings promised unto us by the Lord as we remain faithful to temple covenants: we shall be armed with power – power to do the Lord’s work and power to resist temptation; we shall have God’s name upon us; the glory of the Lord will be round about us – His image will shine in our countenances and He shall be as a pillar of cloud and of fire unto us; and angels will have charge over us, providing strength and comfort. All are powerful blessings. When we receive these blessings I think it is important to remember the words of the Prophet Joseph; he prayed that the saints would go forth from the temple unto the ends of the earth bearing great and glorious tidings. Again, the call is to welcome all people to become worthy to enter the temple. We have a responsibility to share our precious pearl and call to others, “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.”

That is a call I’d like to extend to the youth of our ward. The temple is a place of beauty and blessing. You Young Women and Young Men are able to go perform baptisms for the dead. Performing baptisms for the dead was always a special experience for me as a youth. I remember the peace I felt sitting in the waiting room. I remember the spirit I felt as I was baptized on behalf of others; I hoped that they accepted the work I was doing for them. I strived to remain worthy to enter the temple of the Lord. Living the gospel – keeping the commandments and remaining true to your baptismal (and priesthood, for you young men) covenants can be difficult at times. Pres. Monson stated at a recent General Conference, “[You] youth…in particular, face temptations we can scarcely comprehend. The adversary and his hosts seem to be working nonstop to cause [your] downfall. We are waging a war with sin…but
we need not despair. It is a war we can and will win” (Ensign, May 2008, p. 90).

You youth are in the midst of a war for your souls. On one side are Satan and his followers; on the other are the Lord and His followers. You choose for which side you will fight. Do you fight for the Lord? There will be casualties along the way but we know which side wins in the end. Just as Helaman’s army suffered no losses, with faith and righteousness you can survive the battles and not be counted among the spiritually dead. You might be wounded and suffer greatly, but those are wounds that can be cleansed and healed at the fountain of living waters. Jesus is the source of those living waters and provides healing; He is the Great Physician. Satan will try his utmost to keep you from attending the temple. He will try all sorts of feints and tactics. He will try to get you to lower your guard and remove your armor but you must remain strong and ready. You have inspired parents, leaders, and friends who can help you remain strong and faithful and who can help prepare you to enter the temple and receive its blessings. Temple blessings are shield and armor against Satan.

One of the defining moments in my life was when I was able to attend the temple and receive my own endowment. That’s a day I will never forget – it has eternal significance for me and for my family. I urge you youth to ponder about the importance of the temple and prepare yourselves to enter its doors. Strive with all your energy to keep the Spirit with you in all you do. It will provide the strength and peace needed to face and overcome the temptations of the adversary.

The small and simple actions of prayer and reading the scriptures provide great strength. “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37: 6). Reading your scriptures and praying regularly will help you fight temptations and stand victorious. You are very busy now but life only becomes more hectic as you get older; if these things are not priorities in your lives now it can be hard to make them priorities later.

A couple years ago my family experienced a number of events that brought to our minds the importance of temples and of the sealing of families together for eternity. At the beginning of May 2008 my family and I attended the funeral of my grandmother Beverly. Her spirit slipped out of her mortal frame into the eternal realm and her body was laid in the ground. Her passing was not unexpected but the pain of separation for us was acute. That event was followed by ones of great joy. The day after the funeral my brother was sealed for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord. Two lives were joined as one by the priesthood of God in the holy temple. A few days later my sister had a baby who came from God and “trailing clouds of glory” (W. Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality), to join a family who had been sealed together in the temple. Shortly later, my family had the funeral for my grandmother Maxine, who passed away at the end of May. Her death was also not unexpected but again, the pain of separation was acute. Her husband – my grandfather – then passed away only 11 days later.

Within the space of just one and a half months, my family experienced a death, a marriage, a birth, a death, and another death. It’s as if the Plan of Salvation was compressed into one month for my family.

At times such as these our minds often turn to eternal matters as we experience these emotions of sadness and joy. Three of those events were sad because they involved separation from loved ones; they were events signaling the end of mortal life. However, through the blessings of the temple, these separations are only temporary. My grandparents merely passed from one stage of their existence into another through the door of death. While there is sorrow on our part, there is also joy knowing that they are reunited with other loved ones who have gone on before. We are also strengthened by the knowledge that at some point in the future we will all be reunited as families. The other two family events brought joy unto us; they signaled the start of new life and lives. I’m grateful for the knowledge and blessings of eternal families – this is the greatest blessing of the temple.

Just as the Lord inspired John Tanner to go and save the temple, we should emulate his example and go to the temple, not to save it but to be saved and help save others. The temple not only will bless our lives but also the lives of those around us – most importantly our family for generations to come. The temple is a holy place that has eternal significance and provides eternal blessings. Let us follow the admonition of Isaiah by gathering all who will be gathered and beckon unto them: “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.”

Selected October 2009 General Conference Quotes and Thoughts – Saturday Afternoon Session

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Note: These are not necessarily direct quotes. Many times they are my paraphrasing and additional notes of what was said.
 

Elder Dallin H. OaksGod’s Love and Commandments

God’s love is shown in all the blessings of His gospel plan. God’s love should guide parents in their teachings.

Some people disbelieve eternal laws based on their own understanding of [what God should act like, or what His love should be like].

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. He sent His son to suffer and die for us because He loves us so much!

God’s love is tied to His laws. It is not completely unconditional. Mercy cannot rob justice. Those who receive mercy are they who received the covenant and kept the commandment. God’s anger and wrath are part of His love. He wants us to become like Him and is displeased when we do not follow Him.

We obtain blessings from God based on obedience to His laws. Agency is fundamental to the plan that brings us to earth. God will bless us if we endure the poor choices of others but He will not stop them [most of the time].

Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.

The straying of our loved ones will detract from our happiness but should not from our love.

Elder Robert D. Hales – The Nature of God

Prophets and apostles testify of God.

Some people might be surprised that we look like God. Some theologians even think it is making a “graven image” to even picture God as looking like us. But God Himself said, “Let us make man in our own image and likeness.”

God has a face. He walks and talks. Enoch spoke with Him. God has a body with parts like ours. His glory and countenance are greater than the sun.

Joseph saw and talked with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Joseph’s was a special witness of God.

Korihor not only disbelieved in God but also ridiculed Him. He mocked the believers. Alma replied, “All things denote there is a God.”

Cultivate a diligent desire to know that God lives. This will lead to a softened heart. Most of us will not see God as the prophet has but the still small voice of the Holy Ghost will give us an undeniable knowledge that God lives.

With your own testimony of God you will be able to bless your family, your posterity, your friends, and many others.

Elder Neil L. Andersen – Repentance

The Savior’s arms are open and extended. They are arms of mercy and safety. They are lengthened all the day long, open unto us. God is He who comforts us.

When we sin we turn away from God. When we repent, we turn back unto God. The call to repent is a call to turn around and re-turn to God. It is a call to change and feel the happiness of keeping the commandments.

We each need to feel the arms of mercy through the repentance of our sins.

If it feels too difficult to change and if you feel if no one can understand what you are going through, the Savior understands. He will provide the strength to change.

Repentance becomes part of our daily lives. Partaking of the sacrament is a way to acknowledge our dependence upon the Lord.

The scriptures do not say that we will forget our forsaken sins in mortality but rather that the Lord will forget. [We should not, however, dwell to much upon our sins].

In this life it is never too late to repent.

Pres. Boyd K. Packer – Personal Revelation and Prayer

We are part of God’s great plan of happiness. There was a war in heaven where Satan rebelled against God.

We have been given agency and must use it wisely.

The Holy Ghost can communicate through the mind more than the physical senses. We might feel the promptings of the Spirit more than hear them.

Learn to pray. Pray often. Pray in your mind and heart. Pray on your knees. Prayer is your personal key to heaven.

The Curse of a Broken Law

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“Behold, my son, this thing ought not to be; for repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law.” (Moroni 8:24).

As I read this scripture recently it really stood out to me. “For repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law.” When we sin we go against our Father; we choose to disobey Him and follow ourselves, someone else, the world, or the devil. In sinning we are placed under condemnation. Condemnation is related to damnation but is often used euphemistically and temporarily. For example, we use the word condemned to refer to people who have been found guilty of committing a crime whereas we use the word damned more often in religious contexts. Condemnation thus usually refers to a temporary state of existence whereas damnation is long-term or even permanent (damnation could be short-term but most people tend to view it as chronic and not acute).

By sinning we are condemned; we broke a law and are made to wear cursed shackles. By sinning we turn away from the Lord and become a law unto ourselves. We reject our Father’s plan; however, we can correct these errors through repentance. We can turn again unto the Lord. It is only in repentance that we break free of the curse and remove the shackles. Through repentance we no longer are condemned because we show our willingness to keep the commandments, which includes repenting of our sins. Through repentance we invite the Spirit back into our lives; by the Spirit we are justified – we are brought back into alignment with God (see Moses 6:60). Then through the blood of Christ – His Atonement – we are able to become pure and holy, losing even the desire to sin. We can pray for this purity; like Nephi of old we can plead that we might “shake at the appearance of sin” and have “the gates of hell be shut continually before [us].” (2 Nephi 4:31-32). What qualifies us for these blessings? Having a broken heart and a contrite spirit (see 2 Nephi 4:32).

Through repentance we can sing with Nephi, “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul” (2 Nephi 4:28). We have great reason to rejoice in the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ and in repentance of our sins.

We came to earth to see if we would be faithful to the truths we accepted in the pre-earth life even though we do not remember that life. Heavenly Father knew we would sin and fall short. He prepared a way through His Beloved Son Jesus Christ. It was agreed that the Savior would provide the way to return to our Father in Heaven provided we repent in this life. “And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God” (Alma 42:4). We are all on probation to see if we are faithful to all we are commanded to do. “Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state” (Alma 42:13)

For what do we need to prepare? We need to prepare to live with Heavenly Father again. Even more than that though, we need to prepare to live the type of life God lives. In order to do so we need to be spotless and pure. We need to be sanctified and holy. I’ll rephrase what I wrote earlier because it is important. Repentance puts us in a position to be purified by the Holy Ghost and sanctified through the blood and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Moses 6:60). That’s the wonder of the Atonement – it allows us to become pure and holy like Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father are pure and holy. We can be perfect as They are perfect (see 3 Nephi 12:48).

Perfection seems such a lofty and unreachable goal for us, imperfect people. Perfection is just that though – a lofty goal. It is a process of becoming as our Lord Jesus Christ is. It is important to understand that although Jesus, when living as a mortal on earth, was sinless and divine, He was not perfect – not yet. He only became perfect after His death, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven. While we should strive for perfection we need to realize that we will not and cannot be perfect in this life. Perfection is a holy goal to be achieved in the next life through the grace of Christ. As we repent, we can move out from under the curse of a broken law into the blessing of freedom and fullness that comes in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

A House of Prayer Podcast Episode 8 – Baptism

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In this episode I present a talk about baptism I gave as a missionary at a baptism. The text is not online. Baptism is the gate to eternal life. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ opens the gate but baptism is necessary for eternal life.

If you’ve subscribed to my feed, you should receive the audio file automatically. If you have not subscribed to my feed, it’s never too late! You can also click on the following link to download the podcast directly (right-click {or option-click on a Mac} to save the file): A House of Prayer 8 – Baptism.

You can also subscribe directly from the iTunes Store by clicking on this link: A House of Prayer podcast (notice: requires and opens iTunes).

Let me know what you think!

Credit: The short music clip I use as an entrance and exit to the show is an arrangement of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing from the album Reflections of Christ. Visit that link to find out how you can purchase the music (I’m not associated with the artists; I just enjoy the music).

The podcast album art is an image by Irwin-Scott. Check out his photo stream on Flickr. I thought his photo of the Salt Lake Temple would be a fitting image as a house of prayer. His night-time photo of the illuminated temple surrounded by darkness has a lovely symbolic meaning of the temple as a light on a hill, an ensign to the nations, a lighthouse shining forth in the darkness.

Lessons from Life – Part 1 – Spiritual Sewage

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Originally uploaded by Billy V

I’m starting a series of articles in which I will turn various circumstances and objects of life into spiritual lessons. Most will be brief; hopefully all will be informative and helpful. This first in the series is about spiritual sewage.

Last week the group of townhomes we live in had a sewer blockage that caused sewage to start to come back up out of our downstairs toilet. While we did not have much come out of the toilet, thankfully, I thought about the symbolism of the event. What kind of spiritual sewage are we letting into our homes and lives? Is our spiritual plumbing blocked? If sewage is getting into our homes, how is it getting there?

Unlike the external sewer line blockage that caused the sewage to trickle out of our toilet, having functional spiritual plumbing starts with the individual and within the home. The Book of Mormon king Benjamin cautioned against letting our homes overflow with spiritual sewage: “But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not” (Mosiah 4:30).

King Benjamin prescribed the way to prevent a spiritual plumbing blockage – remember and observe the commandments of God. Further, we must have and continue in our faith in Christ. It is not enough to flush out a sewage system once, we need to prevent blockages from occurring. However, when we do have spiritual sewage seep or pour into our homes, we can have it cleaned out. We can call a spiritual plumber and get our system cleaned. We can remove the filthiness and be clean. “Though [our] sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

I ask again, “What sewage are you letting into your home?” Do you have or watch inappropriate movies? Do you have or listen to inappropriate music? Are your thoughts impure? Are you letting in sewage inadvertently? Are you allowing your neighbors’ (friends, family) actions overwhelm your spiritual plumbing?

Let us watch ourselves – our thoughts, words, and deeds – and keep our lives and homes free from gushing or seeping spiritual sewage.

Solace from the Storm – Part 4

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We are responsible to be open to the spirit. Nephi reprimanded his wicked brethren and taught them about the communication from the Lord: “He hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words” (1 Ne. 17:45). If we are past feeling, the Lord might need to speak unto us with the voice of thunder and destruction. If I get to choose (which I – and we all – do) I’ll take the still small voice over a thundering voice. I enjoy thunder but not when it’s directed at me!

It is also through this still small voice that we can know the truth of all things – whether it is the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the reality of the Atonement, or anything else sacred or secular: “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5).

It is through the power and influence of the Holy Ghost that we have solace through the storms in our lives. The Holy Ghost teaches us truth. Truth is an anchor to our souls. If we are founded upon truth and righteousness and holiness, all which come through prayer and the influence of the Holy Ghost, we will withstand any storms that come our way. Again, it is truth and more specifically, eternal truth, that binds us to the Rock of our Redeemer, even our Savior and Atoner, Jesus Christ.

Alma desired to let all know of the necessity of repentance: “Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth” (Alma 29:2). When we are pure in heart and repentant, we will be protected from that “voice of thunder” that calls all to repentance. This does not mean that we will not need repentance but to those who are already repentant, the voice of the Spirit will come more as a still, small voice than as a voice of thunder and lightning. Even when it does come as a voice of thunder, the righteous will hear the piercing small voice amidst all the tumult.

As we are built upon the foundation of Christ we will withstand the destroying east winds. We will find solace amidst the dust storms and driving winds of mortality. “Yea, when all [Satan’s] 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” (Hel. 5:12).