Archive for February 2010

Fundamental Premises of Our Faith   Leave a comment


The following is a transcript of a talk given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, member of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles, at Harvard Law School on 26 February 2010.

I welcome this opportunity to speak in what our hosts have called “Mormonism 101.”  In his fine lecture last year Judge Thomas Griffith said he was giving “an introduction to the Mormon faith.”  I intend to do the same, speaking from my special responsibility as an apostle called to speak as a witness of the gospel plan and mission and Church of Jesus Christ.
It is challenging to speak to such a diverse audience—some thoroughly familiar with the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ, some unaware, and many between those extremes.  I will address this diversity by speaking about some of the fundamental premises of our faith and how they affect our interaction with the rest of mankind.  My object is to illuminate several premises and ways of thinking that are at the root of some misunderstandings about our doctrine and practice.
We Mormons know that our doctrines and values are not widely understood by those not of our faith.  This was demonstrated by Gary Lawrence’s nationwide study published in his recent book, How Americans View Mormonism.  Three-quarters of those surveyed associated our Church with high moral standards, but about half thought we were secretive and mysterious and had “weird beliefs.”[1]  When asked to select various words they thought described Mormons in general, 87% checked “strong family values,” 78% checked “honest,” and 45% checked “blind followers.”[2]
When Lawrence’s interviewers asked, “To the best of your understanding, what is the main claim of Mormonism?” only 14% could describe anything close to the idea of restoration or reestablishment of the original Christian faith.  Similarly, when another national survey asked respondents what one word best described their impression of the Mormon religion, not one person suggested the words or ideas of original or restoration Christianity.[3]
Even the “Tonight Show” took notice of this lack of understanding.  In the course of poking fun at Senator Orrin Hatch’s Hanukkah song, Conan O’Brien led a chorus in singing several stanzas, including the following:
“Oh Mormons, Mormons, Mormons,
We haven’t got a clue
Of what you folks believe in,
Or think or drink or do.”[4]
My disappointment with these findings is only slightly reduced by Lawrence’s other findings and observation that on the subject of religion Americans in general are “deeply religious” but “profoundly ignorant.”  For example, 68% said they prayed at least several times a week, and 44% said they attended religious services almost every week.  At the same time, only half could name even one of the four Gospels, most could not name the first book of the Bible, and 10% thought Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.[5]
Many factors contribute to our people’s predominant shallowness on the subject of religion, but one of them is surely higher education’s general hostility or indifference to religion.  Despite most colleges’ and universities’ founding purpose to produce clergymen and to educate in the truths taught in their chapels, most have now abandoned their role of teaching religion.  With but few exceptions, colleges and universities have become value-free places where attitudes toward religion are neutral at best.  Some faculty and administrators are powerful contributors to the forces that are driving religion to the margins of American society.  Students and other religious people who believe in the living reality of God and moral absolutes are being marginalized.
Some have suggested that religion is returning to intellectual life.  In this view, religion is too influential to ignore in these times of the Taliban and the political influence of some religious organizations.  But it seems unrealistic to expect higher education as a whole to resume a major role in teaching moral values.  That will remain the domain of homes, churches, and church-related colleges and universities.  All should hope for success in this vital task.  The academy can pretend to neutrality on questions of right and wrong, but society cannot survive on such neutrality.
I have chosen three clusters of truths to present as fundamental premises of the faith of Latter-day Saints:
       1.    The nature of God, including the role of the three members of the Godhead, and the corollary truth that there are moral absolutes.
       2.    The purpose of life.
       3.    The three-fold sources of truth about man and the universe:  science, the scriptures, and continuing revelation, and how we can know them. 
My first fundamental premise of our faith is that God is real and so are eternal truths and values not provable by current scientific methods.  These ideas are inevitably linked.  Like other believers, we proclaim the existence of the ultimate lawgiver, God our Eternal Father, and the existence of moral absolutes.  We reject the moral relativism that is becoming the unofficial creed of much of American culture.
For us, the truth about the nature of God and our relationship to Him is the key to everything else.
Significantly, our belief in the nature of God is what distinguishes us from the formal creeds of most Christian denominations.  Our Articles of Faith, our only formal declaration of belief, begins as follows:  “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” 
We have this belief in the Godhead in common with the rest of Christianity, but to us it means something different than to most.  We maintain that these three members of the Godhead are three separate and distinct beings, and that God the Father is not a spirit but a glorified Being with a tangible body, as is his resurrected Son, Jesus Christ.  Though separate in identity, they are one in purpose.  We maintain that Jesus referred to this relationship when he prayed to His Father that His disciples would be “one” even as Jesus and his Father were one (see John 17:11)—united in purpose, but not in identity.
Our unique belief that “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit” (D&C 130:22) is vital to us.  But, as Gary Lawrence’s interviews demonstrate, we have not effectively conveyed this belief to our fellow Americans.[6]
Our belief in the nature of God comes from what we call the First Vision, which began the restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Joseph Smith, an unschooled boy of 14, seeking to know which Church he should join, was given a vision in which he saw two personages of indescribable brightness and glory.  One of them pointed to the other and said, “This is My Beloved Son.  Hear Him!” (JS-H 1:17).  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).  This divine declaration condemned the creeds, not the faithful seekers who believed 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.  A subsequent outpouring of modern scripture revealed the significance of this fundamental truth, and also gave us the Book of Mormon.  This new book of scripture is a second witness of Christ.  It affirms the Biblical prophecies and teachings of the nature and mission of Christ.  It enlarges our understanding of His gospel and His teachings during His earthly ministry.  And it also provides many teachings and illustrations of the revelations by which we may know the truth of these things.
In a New Testament letter the Apostle Paul explained his testimony of Christ.  He wrote the Corinthian saints that he did not come to them “with excellency of speech or of wisdom,” because he had “determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2).  He added that his preaching “was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power” (vs. 4).  He did this, he explained, that their faith “should not stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God” (vs. 3).  Similarly, the Book of Mormon condemns those who hearken to “the precepts of men, and [deny] the power of God and the gift of the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 28:26).
These teachings explain our testimony of Christ.  We are not grounded in the wisdom of the world or the philosophies of men—however traditional or respected they may be.  Our testimony of Jesus Christ is based on the revelations of God to His prophets and to us individually.  I will explain this process of revelation in my third premise.
What does our testimony of Jesus Christ cause us to affirm?  Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God the Eternal Father.  He is the Creator.  Through His incomparable mortal ministry He is our Teacher.  Because of His resurrection all who have ever lived will be raised from the dead.  He is the Savior whose atoning sacrifice opens the door for us to be forgiven of our personal sins so that we can be cleansed to return to the presence of God our Eternal Father.  This is the central message of the prophets of all ages.  Joseph Smith stated this great truth in our third Article of Faith:  “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” 
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we testify with the Book of Mormon prophet-king Benjamin that “there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17).
Why is Christ the only way?  How could He break the bands of death?  How was it possible for Him to take upon himself the sins of all mankind?  How can our soiled and sinful selves be cleansed and our bodies be resurrected by His atonement?  These are mysteries I do not fully understand.  To me, the miracle of the atonement of Jesus Christ is incomprehensible, but the Holy Ghost has given me a witness of its truthfulness, and I rejoice that I can spend my life in proclaiming it.
Purpose of Mortal Life
My second fundamental premise concerns the purpose of this mortal life.  This follows from our understanding of the purposes of God the Eternal Father and concerns our destiny as His children.  Our theology begins with the assurance that we lived as spirits before we came to this earth.  It affirms that this mortal life has a purpose.  And it teaches that our highest aspiration is to become like our Heavenly Parents, which will empower us to perpetuate our family relationships throughout eternity.  We were placed here on earth to acquire a physical body and, through the atonement of Jesus Christ and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel, to qualify for the glorified celestial condition and relationships that are called exaltation or eternal life. 
We are properly known as a family-centered Church, but what is not well understood is that our family-centeredness is not just focused on mortal relationships but is a matter of fundamental theology.  Under the great Plan of the loving Creator, the mission of His Church is to help us achieve exaltation in the celestial kingdom, and that can only be accomplished through an eternal marriage between a man and a woman (D&C 131:1-3). 
My faithful widowed mother had no confusion about the eternal nature of the family relationship.  She always honored the position of our faithful deceased father.  She made him a presence in our home.  She spoke of the eternal duration of their temple marriage and of our destiny to be together as a family in the next life.  She often reminded us of what our father would like us to do so we could qualify for the Savior’s promise that we could be a family forever.  She never referred to herself as a widow, and it never occurred to me that she was.  To me, as a boy growing up, she wasn’t a widow.  She had a husband and we had a father.  He was just away for a while.
We affirm that marriage is necessary for the accomplishment of God’s plan, to provide the approved setting for mortal birth, and to prepare family members for eternal life.  Knowledge of God’s plan gives Latter-day Saints a unique perspective on marriage and children.  We look on the bearing and nurturing of children as part of God’s plan and a sacred duty of those given the power to participate in it.  We believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity.  And we believe that we must contend for the kind of mortal families that provide the best conditions for the development and happiness of children—all children.
The power to create mortal life is the most exalted power God has given his children.  The use of this creative power was mandated in the first commandment, to “be fruitful, and multiply” (Gen. 1:28), and another important commandment forbade its misuse.  (“Thou shalt not commit adultery” [Exo. 20:14], and “Thou shalt abstain from fornication” [1 Thess. 4:3].)  The emphasis we place on this law of chastity is explained by our understanding of the purpose of our procreative powers in the accomplishment of God’s plan.
There are many political, legal, and social pressures for changes that de-emphasize the importance or change the definition of marriage, confuse gender, or homogenize the differences between men and women that are essential to accomplish God’s great Plan of Happiness.  Our eternal perspective sets us against such changes.
In last year’s lecture, Judge Griffith explained another characteristic of Mormons that stems from our belief that we are all children of Heavenly Parents.  He said we have “an optimism about human potential that encourages sociality.”  As a result, “we like people and that which we do best is build communities.”[7]  While some people complain that Mormons are not good neighbors because we are focused so intently on our families and our Church programs, I believe Judge Griffith had it right when he said that Mormons are good members of a community.  This is why Mormons are often sought out to lead and staff cooperative community efforts.
Judge Griffith also notes that because our church congregations are defined geographically rather than by personal preference, our Church attendance and associations tend to be racially and socially diverse.  We work side-by-side in church with other Mormons we may never have met or chosen as friends otherwise.  We are assigned to make frequent visits to the homes of a few other members to see what service is needed.  We are responsible to watch over, be with, and strengthen one another.  As Judge Griffith said, we “come to appreciate and even love those whose backgrounds, personalities, and interests are different from our own.”[8]  We learn how to serve outside our personal preferences and this prepares us for volunteer community service.
Finally, our understanding of the purpose of mortal life includes some unique doctrines about what follows mortality.  Like other Christians, we believe that when we leave this life we go to a heaven (paradise) or a hell, but to us this two-part division of the righteous and the wicked is merely temporary, while the spirits of the dead await their resurrections and final judgments.  The destinations that follow the final judgments are much more diverse, and they stand as evidence of the magnitude of God’s love for His children—all of them.
God’s love is so great that He requires His children to obey His laws because only through that obedience can they progress toward the eternal destiny He desires for them.  Thus, in the final judgment we will all be assigned to the kingdom of glory that is commensurate with our obedience to His law.  The Apostle Paul described these kingdoms.  In his second letter to the Corinthians, he told of a vision in which he was “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2).  Speaking of the resurrection of the dead, he described “bodies” with different glories, like the respective glories of the sun, moon, and stars (1 Cor. 15:40-42).  He referred to the first two of these as “celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial” (1 Cor. 15:40).  For us, “eternal life” in the celestial, the highest of these glories, is not a mystical union with an incomprehensible spirit-god.  As noted earlier, eternal life is family life with a loving Father in Heaven and with our progenitors and our posterity.
The theology of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is comprehensive, universal, merciful, and true.  Following the necessary experience of mortal life, all sons and daughters of God will ultimately be resurrected and go to a kingdom of glory more wonderful than any mortals can comprehend.  With only a few exceptions, even the very wicked will ultimately go to a marvelous—though lesser—kingdom of glory.  All of this will occur because of God’s great love for His children and it is all made possible because of the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ, “who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands” (D&C 76:43).
Sources of Truth
I have described some things that may seem doubtful and untrue to some of you.  This concluding part describes our fundamental LDS premises on how one can know the truth of such things.
Mormons have a great interest in pursuing knowledge.  
Brigham Young said it best:
“[Our] religion . . . prompts [us] to search diligently after knowledge. . . . There is no other people in existence more eager to see, hear, learn and understand truth.”[9]
On another occasion he explained that we encourage our members to increase their knowledge in every branch of learning because “all wisdom, and all the arts and sciences in the world are from God, and are designed for the good of his people.”[10]
We seek after knowledge, but we do so in a special way because we believe there are two dimensions of knowledge, material and spiritual.  We seek knowledge in the material dimension by scientific inquiry and in the spiritual dimension by revelation.  In the interest of time I will say no more of the material dimension except to affirm the obvious truth that thousands of Latter-day Saints perform brilliantly in the material world without denying—and, indeed, by using—the parallel truths and methods of the spiritual world. 
I will speak about the spiritual dimension and the way we experience its truth.  This concerns revelation, God’s communication to man—to prophets and to every one of us, if we seek.
Revelation is clearly one of the distinctive characteristics of our faith.  Beginning with Joseph Smith’s First Vision, described earlier, this founding prophet of the restored Church was directed and edified by a continuing flow of revelation throughout his life.  The immense quantity of his published revelations, including the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, carried forward his unique calling as the prophet of this last dispensation of time.  In this prophetic revelation—to Joseph Smith and to his successors as presidents of the Church—God has revealed truths or commandments to His prophet-leaders for the enlightenment of His people and for the governance and direction of His Church.  This is the kind of revelation described in the Old Testament teaching that “the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).  Joseph Smith declared that “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded upon direct revelation, as the true Church of God has ever been.”[11]  “Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion?” he asked.  “We have none,” he answered.[12]
Joseph Smith also taught—and this is the subject most important to this part of my remarks—that because revelation did not cease with the early apostles but continued in these modern times, each person can receive personal revelation for his or her conversion, understanding, and decision-making.  “It is the privilege of the children of God to come to God and get revelation,” he said.  “God is not a respecter of persons; we all have the same privilege.”[13]  The New Testament describes such personal revelation.  For example, when Peter affirmed his conviction that Jesus was the divine Son of God, the Savior declared:  “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). 
Personal revelation—sometimes called “inspiration”—comes in many forms.  Most often it is by words or thoughts communicated to the mind, by sudden enlightenment, or by positive or negative feelings about proposed courses of action.  Usually it comes in response to earnest and prayerful seeking.  “Ask, and it shall be given you;” Jesus taught, “seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7).  It comes when we keep the commandments of God and thus qualify for the companionship and communication of the Holy Spirit. 
Here is a personal example.  Nearly 50 years ago, while I was employed by a large law firm in Chicago, Dean Edward H. Levi, who was later to serve as Attorney General of the United States, approached me with a proposal that I leave the law firm and become a professor at The University of Chicago Law School.  He said, “I know you will want to pray about this.”  He knew that because he knew me.  I had been his student, we had frequent associations when I was the editor-in-chief of his school’s law review, and he had successfully recommended me to be a law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren.  I discussed this unexpected new career path with my wife.  My personal journal for that August 1961 records:  “We prayed about it all through the weekend and shortly felt that this was what we should do.”  I wrote to our parents:  “None of us knows where this will lead, but we feel perfectly peaceful in our hearts that this is another valuable preparation for us.”  This experience illustrates what we Latter-day Saints mean by personal revelation—a feeling of confirmation in response to earnest prayer for guidance in an important personal decision.  To cite other examples, we believe that revelation also occurs when a scientist, an inventor, an artist or great leader receives flashes of enlightenment from a loving God for the benefit of His children.
Some wonder how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accept a modern prophet’s teachings to guide their personal lives, something that is unusual in most religious traditions.  Our answer to the charge that Latter-day Saints follow their leaders out of “blind obedience” is this same personal revelation.  We respect our leaders and presume inspiration in their leadership of the Church and in their teachings.  But we are all privileged and encouraged to confirm their teachings by prayerfully seeking and receiving revelatory confirmation directly from God.
I explain this principle by an analogy from the law.  We are all familiar with official use of certified copies of legal documents like a death certificate or an honorable discharge from military duty.  The official certificate allows such copies to be accepted as if they were originals.  This practice is based on the fact that anyone who doubts the authenticity of the certified copy can verify its authenticity by going to the original.  So it is with the prophetic revelations of prophets of God.  They are the certifying authorities that their teachings or directions are from God.  Anyone who doubts this—and all are invited to ask questions about what is true—can verify the authenticity and content of the message by checking it with the Ultimate Source, by personal revelation.  As Joseph Smith taught, “We never can comprehend the things of God and of heaven, but by revelation.”[14]
Most Christians believe that the scriptural canon—the authoritative collection of sacred books used as scriptures—is closed because God closed it shortly after the death of Christ and there have been no comparable revelations since that time.  Joseph Smith taught and demonstrated that the scriptural canon is open.[15]  In fact, the canon of scripture is open in two ways, and the idea of continuing revelation is crucial to both of these.
First, Joseph Smith taught that God will guide his children by giving new additions to the canon of scriptures.  The Book of Mormon is such an addition.  So are the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.  Sometimes those new revelations explain the meaning of scriptures previously canonized—meanings that may not have been evident in earlier times.  Most often prophetic revelations add new doctrinal understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and new illustrations of His love for and guidance of His children.  Continuing revelation is necessary for us to understand what the Lord would have us do in our own time and circumstances.
Second, continuing revelation also opens the canon as readers of the scripture, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, find new scriptural meaning and direction for their personal circumstances.  The apostle Paul wrote that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16; also see 2 Peter 1:21) and that “the things of God knoweth no man, except he has the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11, Joseph Smith Translation).  This means that in order to understand scripture we need personal inspiration from the Spirit of the Lord to enlighten our minds.  Consequently, we encourage our members to study the scriptures and prayerfully seek inspiration to know their meanings for themselves.  Thus, while Latter-day Saints rely on scriptural scholars and scholarship, that reliance is preliminary in method and secondary in authority.  As a source of sacred teaching, the scriptures are not the ultimate but the penultimate.  The ultimate knowledge comes by personal revelation through the Holy Ghost.
It is time for me to conclude.  In doing so I offer a closing commentary on this “Mormonism” that is so satisfying to so many Latter-day Saints and so puzzling to so many others.
It works.  Jesus taught, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:2).  To me, to countless other participants, and to many observers, the fruits are good—good for the members, good for their families, good for their communities, and good for their nations.  Peter Drucker told a seminar at Harvard that “the Mormons are the only utopia that every worked.”[16]  Whatever one may think of utopias, their participants make good neighbors.  The millions of dollars worth of supplies and services The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members are quietly and efficiently providing to repair the terrible tragedy in Haiti are evidence of that fact.  That effort is worthy of pride by its members and emulation by others.
As an apostle, I am called to be a witness of the doctrine and work and authority of Christ in all the world.  In that capacity I bear witness of the truth of these premises of our faith, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Gary Lawrence, How Americans View Mormonism (Parameter Foundation, Orange, Calif., 2008), p. 32.
[2] Id., at p. 34.
[3] Survey referenced id. at p. 42.
[4] “Conan Mocks Orrin Hatch and the Mormons,” Deseret News, December 16, 2009, C8.
[5] Lawrence, note 1, supra at p. 40.
[6] Lawrence, note 1, supra at p. 49.
[7] Thomas B. Griffith, “Mere Mormonism,” p, 8, a lecture sponsored by the Latter-day Saint Student Association at Harvard Law School, April 7, 2009, manuscript provided to author.
[8] Id., at p. 10.
[9] Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 247 [1978].
[10] Ibid.
[11] Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:  Joseph Smith, p. 195 (2007).
[12] Id., at 196.
[13] Id., at 132.
[14] Teachings, note 11, supra, at 195.
[15] Teachings, note 11 supra at pp. 207-16, 265-66.
[16] Quoted in Mark W. Cannon, “The Mormons are the Only Utopia that ever Worked,” Deseret News, January 13, 2010.

(Wisdom From Elder Jeffrey Holland)

Paul put it candidly, but very hopefully. He said to all of us:

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but [only] that which is good . . . [and] edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God. . . .

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you. . .

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:29–32

Apostle Addresses Harvard Audience on Mormon Faith   Leave a comment

An apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints addressed students at the annual Mormonism 101 series convened at Harvard Law School (Read the full transcript of the speech).

From the Ames courtroom on the Boston, Massachusetts campus, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, discussed the tenets of his Mormon faith seeking to “illuminate several premises and ways of thinking that are at the root of some misunderstandings about our doctrine and practice.” 
In his address, Elder Oaks offered a trio of topics as integral to understanding Mormon theology; our belief in the nature of God, the purpose of mortal life and the universal truth that man can gain earthly and spiritual knowledge through personal revelation. 
“These teachings explain our testimony of Christ,” said Elder Oaks. “We are not grounded in the wisdom of the world or the philosophies of men – however traditional or respected they may be. Our testimony of Jesus Christ is based on the revelations of God to His prophets and to us individually.”
Prior to joining the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984, Elder Oaks served as justice on the Utah Supreme Court. He is also past president of Brigham Young University, a law professor at The University of Chicago Law School and as Law Clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren in the United States Supreme Court.
“To me, the miracle of the atonement of Jesus Christ is incomprehensible, but the Holy Ghost has given me a witness of its truthfulness, and I rejoice that I can spend my life in proclaiming it.”

At the end of his remarks, Elder Oaks answered questions from the audience. 


(Wisdom From Elder Jeffrey Holland)

Paul put it candidly, but very hopefully. He said to all of us:

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but [only] that which is good . . . [and] edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God. . . .

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you. . .

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:29–32

March 17th Brings168 Year Anniversary Of Relief Society!   Leave a comment

Come To The Blog or view the wonderful video commemorating this event!

You will love it! The Sisters Deserve A Cheer.

(Wisdom From Elder Jeffrey Holland)

Paul put it candidly, but very hopefully. He said to all of us:

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but [only] that which is good . . . [and] edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God. . . .

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you. . .

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:29–32

Cardinal George Addresses Religious Freedom in Speech at BYU   Leave a comment

**From The LDS Newsroom**

Catholics and Latter-day Saints are important partners in the defense of religious freedom in the public square. That was the message His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. delivered today at Brigham Young University to thousands of students, faculty and others tuning in by satellite and on the Internet. Two apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Quentin L. Cook, were present for the address, as was Bishop John C. Wester of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City. 

Elder Dallin H. Oaks greets Cardinal Francis George during the Cardinal’s visit to Salt Lake City as Elder Neil L. Andersen and Elder Quentin L. Cook look on.


Elder Dallin H. Oaks greets Cardinal Francis George during the Cardinal’s visit to Salt Lake City as Elder Neil L. Andersen and Elder Quentin L. Cook look on.

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In his address, Cardinal George explained that religious freedom cannot be reduced to just freedom of worship or even freedom of private conscience, but that individual and religious groups must have the right to exercise their influence in the public square. 
“The lesson of American history is that churches and other religious bodies prosper in a nation and a social order that respects religious freedom and recognizes that civil government should never stand between the consciences and the religious practices of its citizens and Almighty God,” he said. 
Speaking of the partnership Catholics and Mormons have in defending religious freedom, Cardinal George acknowledged that “sometimes our common advocacy will make one of us the target of retribution by intolerant elements” but emphasized that such actions should not deter religions from making their voices heard. “In the coming years, interreligious coalitions formed to defend the rights of conscience for individuals and religious institutions could become a vital bulwark against the tide of forces that work in our government and society to reduce religion to a purely private reality.” 
Cardinal George pointed out that “society is based not on individuals but on families, on mothers and fathers with duties and obligations to their children, on children who learn how to be human, in the school of love, which is the family, which tells us we are not the center of the world individually.”
He also lauded the growing relationship between the Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their joint efforts, such as providing aid to the poor and needy and combating pornography. 
“I’m personally grateful that after 180 years of living mostly apart from one another, Catholics and Latter-day Saints have begun to see one another as trustworthy partners in the defense of shared moral principles and in the promotion of the common good of our beloved country,” he said.
“Our churches have different histories and systems of belief and practice, although we acknowledge a common reference point in the person and the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 
Cardinal George is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the first Chicago native to become archbishop of Chicago. He presides over 2.3 million Catholics in the Chicago Archdiocese.
While in Utah to deliver an address at Brigham Young University, Cardinal George toured the Family History Library and Temple Square and met briefly with the First Presidency and later with other senior Church leaders at Church headquarters. 

(Wisdom From Elder Jeffrey Holland)

Paul put it candidly, but very hopefully. He said to all of us:

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but [only] that which is good . . . [and] edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God. . . .

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you. . .

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:29–32

Another Day Blessed By Our Great Savior, The Lord Jesus Christ   Leave a comment

My Beloved Brethren Of The Great Plainview Texas Branch,

Today alone, I have seen the Hand of The Lord in working many…. mighty miracles. I say miracles because without his will they could not be done.

It was so awesome to be able to go out with our marvelous Elders, both Elder Tuttle and Elder Rymer (Whom by the grace of the Lord, and many many prayers has seen to keep these two mighty men of the Lord here in Plainview another set of weeks) and teach and testify of the divine mission of the Savior!

The Lord allowed me, to be able to go and share segments of the DVD Video (Special Witnesses Of Christ) to an investigator family. First, as is typical of all outings, we opened with prayer. The Spirit was very strong, perhaps, stronger than I can recall in most recent times, with exception to my Temple Visits and Baptism of my daughter.

The first clip we watched was of Elder Richard G. Scott of The Quorum Of The Twelve Apostles, concerning Baptism: Please, I now invite you to watch this clip here:

I also jointly testify with Richard G. Scott here, that following the example of the Savior, and being Baptized for the remission of sins, is truly what is taught by the Savior, and the only means of continuing our journey of which journey back to him comes as we know and follow the Principles & Ordinances of the Gospel, as taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” [See Articles Of Faith # 4 ]

Afterwards, we spoke briefly concerning Baptism. There were no questions from the investigators, but a wonderful feeling of peace and the Spirit were truly present. I felt it, and I saw the Spirit moving on the Mother of the investigator family, truly, my emotions were at the surface. After they understood why, and after they understood the significance of the Savior Himself being Baptized, we then moved on to another clip on that same DVD.

The next clip was from Elder Dallin H. Oaks of The Quorum Of The Twelve Apostles, his clip was concerning The Sacrament. The Sacrament has pivotal meaning, and a meaning that is taken much more lightly (In my own opinion) then it should be. It is to be a reminder of special covenants we made at our Baptism; I’ll let The Apostle of The Lord explain it best here:

I love how he said, “… I testify that he lives, and loves us.” I now add that to my testimony. Thinking that fills my soul with great joy and peace, and I will now say that always, knowing that the peace and joy I feel inside of me, is the peace and joy I know you will feel hearing, or, reading it.

Finally, the last clip we showed to this wonderful investigator family, of whom does indeed have a baptismal date set in March, was from our Beloved Prophet Thomas S. Monson (Whom when the DVD was made in the year 2000, was a Counselor in the First Presidency when President Hinkley was our Prophet): This clip was of the red brick building that was the original press for the first copies of The Book Of Mormon to come off a press (From movable type) and some history concerning movable type, followed by a clip concerning the Hill Cumorah, where the Prophet Moroni has deposited the Plates of Brass, near 421 A.D., from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon nearly 1400 years later! Watch this!

That is such a powerful and motivating clip for me. We recently had a member in our Branch, whom is one i’ve been blessed to work with, whom had her cousin killed by brutal means at the hand of a Bounty Hunter from New Mexico. I shared that same scriptural message with her, from Alma 40… the peace it brought her was by no means speakable.

That was not the only blessed opportunity and situation of the night, as there were a few more. I wish to see how the fruits of those visits blossom during this next week, and will happily report next week on the blog, concerning them.

Finally, in a talk given by Elder Jeffrey Holland at the April 2007 Conference, (That I watched recently again) I caught sight of a few things he mentioned…. one which will now accompany our blog title because I love it so much! It says as follows:

“The Spirit of the Gospel is Optimistic; It trusts in God and looks on the bright side of things. The opposite or pessimistic spirit drags men down and away from God, looks on the dark side, murmurs, complains, and is slow to yield obedience.” – Orson F. Whitney

I hope that makes you think, as it has me!! I love you brethren, truly, I do!

[ *VIDEO* ] Finding Peace In A Missouri Mob:   Leave a comment

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Plainview Texas Branch; Lubbock Stake Announcements;

The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God – By President Ezra Taft Benson   Leave a comment

Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, Jan 1988, 3

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “we believe … the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” (A of F 1:8.) God has so declared it, so have its writers, so have its witnesses, and so do all those who have read it and received a personal revelation from God as to its truthfulness.

In section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says that He gave Joseph Smith “power from on high … to translate the Book of Mormon; which contains … the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ … which was given by inspiration.” (D&C 20:8–10.)

Nephi, one of the prophet-writers of the Book of Mormon, testifies that the book contains “the words of Christ” (2 Ne. 33:10), and Moroni, the last writer in the book, testifies that “these things are true” (Moro. 7:35).

This same Moroni, as an angelic being sent from God, showed these ancient records to three witnesses in our day. Their testimony of the records is contained in the front of the Book of Mormon. They state: “We also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true.”

And Joseph Smith, the Prophet, the instrument whom God used to translate this record, testified that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (History of the Church, 4:461.)

The Book of Mormon was written for us today. God is the author of the book. It is a record of a fallen people, compiled by inspired men for our blessing. Those people never had the book—it was meant for us. Mormon, the ancient prophet after whom the book is named, abridged centuries of records. God, who knows the end from the beginning, told him what to include in his abridgment that we would need for our day. Mormon turned the records over to his son Moroni, the last recorder; and Moroni, writing over 1,500 years ago but speaking to us today, states: “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.” (Morm. 8:35.)

The purpose of the Book of Mormon is stated on the title page. It is “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.”

Nephi, the first prophet-writer in the Book of Mormon, states:

“For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.

“Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.

“Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men.” (1 Ne. 6:4–6.)

The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ through two basic means. First, it tells in a plain manner of Christ and His gospel. It testifies of His divinity and of the necessity for a Redeemer and the need of our putting trust in Him. It bears witness of the Fall and the Atonement and the first principles of the gospel, including our need of a broken heart and a contrite spirit and a spiritual rebirth. It proclaims we must endure to the end in righteousness and live the moral life of a Saint.

Second, the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Ne. 3:12.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time.

Now God expects us to use the Book of Mormon in several ways. We are to read it ourselves—carefully, prayerfully, and ponder as we read, as to whether this book is the work of God or of an unlearned youth. And then when we are finished reading the things in the book, Moroni exhorts us to put them to the test, in these words: “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.” (Moro. 10:4.) I have done as Moroni exhorts, and I can testify to you that this book is from God and so is verily true.
We are to use the Book of Mormon as the basis for our teaching. In section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants, [D&C 42] the Lord states: “And again, the elders, priests, and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in … the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel.” (D&C 42:12.)

As we read and teach, we are to liken the Book of Mormon scriptures unto us, “that it might be for our profit and learning.” (1 Ne. 19:23.)

We are to use the Book of Mormon in handling objections to the Church. God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ revealed themselves to Joseph Smith in a marvelous vision. After that glorious event, Joseph Smith told a minister about it. Joseph was surprised to hear the minister say that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days, that all such things had ceased. (See JS—H 1:21.)

This remark symbolizes practically all of the objections that have ever been made against the Church by nonmembers and dissident members alike. Namely, they do not believe that God reveals his will today to the Church through prophets of God. All objections, whether they be on abortion, plural marriage, seventh-day worship, etc., basically hinge on whether Joseph Smith and his successors were and are prophets of God receiving divine revelation. Here, then, is a procedure to handle most objections through the use of the Book of Mormon.

First, understand the objection.

Second, give the answer from revelation.

Third, show how the correctness of the answer really depends on whether or not we have modern revelation through modern prophets.

Fourth, explain that whether or not we have modern prophets and revelation really depends on whether the Book of Mormon is true.

Therefore, the only problem the objector has to resolve for himself is whether the Book of Mormon is true. For if the Book of Mormon is true, then Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was His prophet, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it is being led today by a prophet receiving revelation.
Our main task is to declare the gospel and do it effectively. We are not obligated to answer every objection. Every man eventually is backed up to the wall of faith, and there he must make his stand. “And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye,” said Nephi, “for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things.” (2 Ne. 33:11.) Every man must judge for himself, knowing God will hold him accountable.

The Book of Mormon is to be used “for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel,” the Lord says, and its words “shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth.” (2 Ne. 29:2.) We, the members of the Church, and particularly the missionaries, have to be the “hissers,” or the tellers and testifiers, of the Book of Mormon unto the ends of the earth.

The Book of Mormon is the great standard we are to use. It shows that Joseph Smith was a prophet. It contains the words of Christ, and its great mission is to bring men to Christ, and all other things are secondary. The golden question of the Book of Mormon is “Do you want to learn more of Christ?” The Book of Mormon is the great finder of the golden contact. It does not contain things which are “pleasing unto the world” (1 Ne. 6:5), and so the worldly are not interested in it. It is a great sieve.

Anyone who has diligently sought to know the doctrines and teachings of the Book of Mormon and has used it conscientiously in missionary work knows within his soul that this is the instrument which God has given to the missionaries to convince the Jew and Gentile and Lamanite of the truthfulness of our message.

Now, we have not been using the Book of Mormon as we should. Our homes are not as strong unless we are using it to bring our children to Christ. Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use the book to expose and combat falsehoods in socialism, rationalism, etc. Our missionaries are not as effective unless they are “hissing forth” with it. Social, ethical, cultural, or educational converts will not survive under the heat of the day unless their taproots go down to the fulness of the gospel which the Book of Mormon contains. Our Church classes are not as spirit-filled unless we hold it up as a standard. The situation in the world will continue to degenerate unless we read and heed the words of God and quit building up and upholding secret combinations, which the Book of Mormon tells us proved the downfall of ancient civilizations.

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?

Reading the Book of Mormon is one of the greatest persuaders to get men on missions. We need more missionaries. But we also need better-prepared missionaries coming out of wards and branches and homes where they know and love the Book of Mormon. A great challenge and day of preparation is at hand for missionaries to meet and teach with the Book of Mormon. We need missionaries to match our message.
And now grave consequences hang on our response to the Book of Mormon:

“Those who receive it in faith,” said the Lord, “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 to 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. There is a difference between a convert who is built on the rock of Christ through the Book of Mormon and stays hold of that iron rod, and one who does not.

Over a quarter of a century ago I listened in the Tabernacle to these words:

“A few years ago as I began to practice law, members of my family were a little uneasy. They were afraid I would lose my faith. I wanted to practice law, but I had an even greater desire to keep my testimony, and so I decided upon a little procedure which I recommend to you. For thirty minutes each morning before I began the day’s work I read from the Book of Mormon … and in just a few minutes a day I read the Book of Mormon through, every year, for nine years. I know that it kept me in harmony, so far as I did keep in harmony, with the Spirit of the Lord. …

“It will hold us as close to the Spirit of the Lord as anything I know.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1949, p. 36.)

That was President Marion G. Romney. I echo his counsel.

What, then, are we to say of the Book of Mormon? I bear witness that it is verily true. I know this as I know that I live. We stand with the Prophet Joseph Smith when he said, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

May we know and use the keystone and, as a people, get nearer to God.

[ *As always noted, those whom receive e-mail messages concerning new posts to blog; You will need to visit the blog to watch the videos to do so, go to * ]

Plainview Texas Branch; Lubbock Stake Announcements;

Posted February 23, 2010 by rexfordgbeardsleyjr in Uncategorized