I would like to thank Sean Skelton for his willingness to share this talk with us.
First Principles of the Gospel:
I was a convert to the Church, but at 10 years old, I had a slightly different path of learning the gospel than do many converts. I did not meet the missionaries, but was taught by the mother of one of the boys that I went to Church with, in their home, and the Gospel Discussions were made up of the First Principles of the Gospel as found in the Fourth Article of Faith: Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Now, I don’t often think of that time of my life, but when I was asked to address you about the first principles of the Gospel, namely Faith and Repentance, memories of that time of change, self evaluation and commitment were brought back clearly. And although I have come to understand those principles much better than I did at 10 years old, the principles of faith and repentance are so central to the Gospel and our spiritual growth that truly understanding and implanting them in our everyday existence is a lifelong endeavor. I hope that what I share today will bring you some small amount of increased understanding of these great Principles, and will bring us all closer to Heavenly Father, building a greater desire to overcome our sins and become pure once again.
At the start of my preparation, I decided to re-read the Wentworth Letter, just to get a better understanding of the background of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s revelation of the Articles of Faith. Now, as most or all of us have, I have sweat through my share of writing assignments, and have attempted to summarize subjects far less complex than the Gospel of Jesus Christ…and I know how difficult it can be to write accurately and interestingly. But the Wentworth Letter to me was nothing short of amazing. Joseph Smith’s understanding of the Gospel was so complete that he was able to bring together the experiences of the early Saints, and the key beliefs of our religion, in a very simple and concise way, which I deeply believe was divinely inspired.
“The letter is one of the choicest documents in our church literature; as also it is the earliest published document by the Prophet personally, making any pretension to consecutive narrative of those events in which the great Latter-day work had its origin. … For combining conciseness of statement with comprehensiveness of treatment of the subject with which it deals, it has few equals among historical documents, and certainly none that excel it in our church literature.” Elder B. H. Roberts (1857–1933) of the First Council of the Seventy
I hope I haven’t digressed too far from my subject, but reminding myself of the background of the Articles of Faith made a very strong impression on me as I prepared to talk about the First Principles of the Gospel. The Fourth Article of Faith may be all too familiar to us in the Church, but bears repeating: :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.”
It can be difficult to talk about a single article of faith without relating it to and discussing the others as well, and that is doubly true of trying to discuss only half of an article of faith…but I think I can do it most effectively by talking about how Faith in Jesus Christ relates to, and even leads us to, Repentance. Both Faith and Repentance are so vital that they can, and most times are, spoken of by themselves; but the question of how Faith in Jesus Christ brings us to Repentance is vital to our progression in the Gospel.
After Alma likens faith to a seed in Alma Chapter 32 and 33, Amulek stands and reminds the people to plant that seed in their hearts, and the first thing he tells them to have faith in is Jesus Christ, and in the Atonement.
15And thus he shall bring asalvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
16And thus amercy can satisfy the demands of bjustice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of cjustice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal dplan of eredemption.
17Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your afaith unto repentance, that ye begin to bcall upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you; Alma 34: 15-17
Faith in Jesus Christ leading us directly to Repentance is the vital step which brings us to enacting the Atonement in our lives. Just look at the order of the Articles of Faith: the Third Article of Faith reads “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” Then follows an explanation of Faith in Christ, followed by Repentance. The natural progression of the development of our Faith, starting in a believe in God, then in His Son, in His Atonement, followed by the importance of Faith leading us to Repentance and partaking in the Ordinances of the Gospel, is beautifully and simply laid out in the Articles of Faith. The key to our faith in being able to one day return to Heavenly Father’s presence is Jesus Christ: He is the key to the Plan. Once we understand His importance, then the faith that God loves us so much that He sent us a Savior becomes so important, and we are led directly to the need to repent of our sins, to once again become clean from our imperfections.
One very clear example of the First Principles of the Gospel working together is in Mosiah 4: after King Benjamin finished preaching to his people about the cost of sin at Judgement Day, they cried out: “O have mercy, and apply the datoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be epurified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who fcreated heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men. And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a aremission of their sins, and having peace of bconscience, because of the exceeding cfaith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come,… Mosiah 4:2,3
In my own life, I have felt the weight of sin on my heart…and I have let my understanding of Jesus Christ as my Savior lead me to repentance. And I have experienced that same joy, the understanding that Heavenly Father can, with Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf, forgive me. That promise of peace and of joy is there for each of us.
Neil A. Maxwell said: In the anguishing process of repentance, we may sometimes feel God has deserted us. The reality is that our behavior has isolated us from Him. Thus, while we are turning away from evil but have not yet turned fully to God, we are especially vulnerable. Yet we must not give up, but, instead, reach out to God’s awaiting arm of mercy, which is outstretched “all the day long.” (Jacob 5:47; Jacob 6:4; 2 Ne. 28:32; Morm. 5:11.) Unlike us, God has no restrictive office hours. No part of walking by faith is more difficult than walking the road of repentance. However, with “faith unto repentance,” we can push roadblocks out of the way, moving forward to beg God for mercy. (Alma 34:16.) True contrition brings full capitulation. One simply surrenders, caring only about what God thinks, not what “they” think, while meekly offering, “O God, … make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee.” (Alma 22:18.) Giving away all our sins is the only way we can come to know God. Neil Maxwell, Nov 91 Ensign
It takes great faith to start on the path of repentance, and even more faith in Jesus Christ to stay on that path until we have reached our journey’s end. But the Lord has bolstered our faith by giving us the scriptures, and in them are many accounts of those who’ve gone before us, and suffered greatly through their own personal repentance, and obtained a forgiveness of their sins.
1. Consider the Lamanites who after killing so many, buried their weapons and had to watch as their own children had to go to war for them because of their promise to the Lord to fight no more.
2. Remember Enos, who prayed all the day, and into the night for forgiveness.
Even Nephi, whose strength and righteousness is an example to all in the world, “grieved because of his iniquities,” his heart groaning because of his sins.
1. In each of these cases and more, the children of the Lord had to show forth faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repent of their sins, and then show more faith to stay on the path of salvation. This is our purpose here on Earth, to learn all that we can of Jesus Christ, to believe in Him, and to allow that seed of understanding take root in our hearts. We are inevitably led to a need to repent, to take part in the Gospel ordinances, and our faith is then rewarded with a knowledge of the truth of what we may have only believed at first.
2. In his sermon to the people in Alma 32, vs 23, Alma said before he finished and gave over to Amulek: “And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall aplant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, bspringing up in you unto ceverlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your dburdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye ewill. Amen.”
3. It is my prayer that we will, that we will remember the purpose of the Savior’s mission, to repent, and to experience the joy of being once again pure. It is through the repeating this process of building faith unto repentance that we will one day return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. In the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
This is a talk that was given recently in Sacrament meeting by Lori Jacox, and I am grateful to her for allowing me to share it.
The most basic principles of the gospel are sometimes those least understood. One of the most fundamental gospel principles is repentance. Repentance is necessary for personal growth and development. The principle is so basic to the gospel that the Lord stresses its importance again and again throughout the scriptures. For example, in the Doctrine and Covenants, as mission calls were given to the early Saints, the Lord often repeated the admonition:
“And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father.” (D&C 15:6)
These revelations were not only intended for those to whom they were given, but also for us. They help us understand that what is of greatest worth to us is to declare repentance to others and to practice it ourselves.
When I was 16 my family moved to Simi Valley, California during the summer. When I registered for my Junior year of High School I was told that I needed to take a PE class and the only class that was available was a basketball class. I really didn’t like playing basketball and I stressed over having to take this class. So on the first day of class I asked the coach if I could transfer to a different class and he said, “If you like you can run on the track instead of playing.” I was grateful for the option of not playing basketball and I started running. At first I could only run a lap and then two and then three and then I began running after school I enjoyed it so much. After a couple of months I was running up to 8 miles a day. I continued to run almost daily through college. Then I met my husband and we married and I had 5 children in 10 years and I quit running daily and keeping track of my miles, and instead I started running after my wonderful, busy children. This year for my birthday my younger sister gave me a pair of running shoes and challenged me to start running again…she signed us both up for the Santa Barbara half marathon in November. I have started to run again after 30 years and be assured that there is no little amount of pain in returning to running.
Elaine S. Dalton, the Young Women General President, asks this question in a talk she gave:
“If I were going the wrong way in the middle of a marathon, and I realized my mistake, would I keep going? I would immediately turn around! Why? Because I would have lost valuable time and precious energy and strength, and it would be much harder for me to finish the marathon because of this extra distance and added time. I wouldn’t stay on the wrong course because no matter how long I ran there, I would never reach the finish line.”
And yet for many who have made a mistake, a little voice keeps saying, “You blew it. You can’t change.” To you I would say, “Don’t believe it.” Satan wants you to think that you cannot repent, but that is absolutely not true.
A return is always possible because of the Savior’s atonement. President Monson has said to each of us who have made mistakes, “If any of you has slipped along the way, there are those who will help you to once again become clean and worthy. Your bishop or branch president is anxious and willing to help and will, with understanding and compassion, do all within his power to assist you in the repentance process, that you may once again stand in righteousness before the Lord.”
The Savior suffered not only for our sins and imperfections, but He also took upon Himself our sorrows (see Alma 7:11). Through his infinite atonement he will heal you and give you peace. Run to him. Becausae of our Savior’s atonement, God the Father will hear your prayers. He will answer through the Holy Ghost and others who will be placed in your path.
I’ll admit that running in a marathon in November seems like an impossible goal. Right now running a few blocks is agony. Our struggles to repent may also cost us agony of mind and body, but our commitment to our Heavenly Father to do his will will make repentance possible and bearable for us. In our repentance, we should remember that the Lord does not punish us for our sins; he simple withholds his blessings. We punish ourselves. The scriptures tell us again and again that the wicked are punished by the wicked. A simple illustration can show how we do this.
Suppose my mother told me not to touch a hot stove because it would burn me. She would only be stating the law. Suppose I should forget or deliberately touch that hot stove. I would be burned. I could cry and complain of my hurt, but who would be responsible for the hurt I received? Not my mother. Certainly not the hot stove! I woul be responsible. I would have punished myself.
Jesus Christ has paid for your sin and has thus satisfied justice. Therefore, he will extend mercy to you-if you repent. True repentance on your part, including a change in your lifestyle, enables Christ, in mercy, to forgive your sin. The more serious the sin, the greater effort it takes to repent. But if we work daily at turning completely to the Lord, we can stand blameless before the Savior. The key is to allow the Lord to complete the healing process without reopening the wound. Just as it takes time for a wound of the body to heal, so it takes time for a wound of the soul to heal.
Could I run a half marathon today? No. Next week? No. Three months from now? Probably not. But step by step I can get there. Just as training for a marathon is a daily, step by step process, with a goal at the end, Repentance takes daily steps with the ultimate goal of being worthy to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence.
I am so grateful for this doctrine and for the principle of repentance. Without it, none of us could ever return to our heavenly home pure and worthy to dwell in the presence of God the Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the restoration of the priesthood power on the earch in these latter-days that enables us to receive the help we need to return to virtue. This power also enables us to remain “unspotted from the world” (D&C 59:9) as we partake of the sacrament worthily. Each week as we renew our covenants, we promise to keep His commandments, to take His name upon us, and to always remember Him. And He, in turn, promises that we can always have His Spirit to be with us. (See D&C 20:77, 79).
If I were going the wrong way in the middle of a marathon, and I realized my mistake, would I keep going? No! My prayer is that we will each recognize the wrong path’s that are taking us away from our goal of returning to our Father in Heaven. A return is always possible because of the Savior’s atonement.
In our church, we are encouraged to hold a weekly meeting with our family where we have lessons, discussions, learn the gospel together, and do fun activities together. We call this Family Home Evening, FHE, for short. Within the church, Monday nights are set aside so that no other church activities or meetings are held on that night to encourage families to spend that time together. Because our children are involved in extra-curricular activities on Monday nights, we hold our Family Home Evenings on Sunday evening. One of our goals as parents this year was to have more meaningful lessons at our family nights because we recognize the need to bolster our children’s spirituality every chance we get. We decided to start teaching from a pamphlet titled, “For the Strength of Youth”. This is a pamphlet given to young men and women when they turn 12. The first lesson is called, “Agency and Accountability” and I was really inspired to share some thoughts from it tonight.
In the world today, a lot of effort goes in to convincing young people that they are free to make their own choices, that they are individuals, and no one should tell them what to do. Many of these influences come from industries like fashion and entertainment that have no concern at all for a young person’s well being, they are only concerned about their dollar signs. While it is true that we are all free to make our own choices, we believe that is central to Heavenly Father’s plan, we are not free to choose the consequences of those choices. This is where the worldly influence falls flat. They are not interested in helping, or loving, or caring for our children. It reminds me of a scripture from the Book of Mormon in Alma 30:60:
“And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.”
It is so important that we teach our children that agency is a gift from our Heavenly Father. In “For the Strength of Youth” it states, “While you are here on earth, you are being proven to see if you will use your agency to show your love for God by keeping His commandments”. We are not just here to indulge ourselves in the physical pleasures of life. If we want to spiritually progress we need to learn to make choices that will help us stay close to the spirit of the Lord. One example comes to mind easily for me. Recently our state government wanted to legalize marijuana in order to charge large taxes on it. Because of the financial crisis in our state, many argued that this would not be a harmful thing, after all, adults are responsible enough to make that choice right? Their main agenda was dollar signs, completely ignoring the damage this could do to peoples’ lives. On the practical side, many studies have shown that marijuana is many more times carcinogenic than regular cigarettes, but where do you think those politicians would be when you developed lung cancer or heart disease from your tax-generating choice? I’m sure your tax dollars wouldn’t be around to pay your medical bills. This may be over-simplistic, but in my mind it helps to illustrate the point.
Many fall into the trap of placing blame, and wanting someone else to be accountable for our bad choices. I’m not ignoring the fact that many people grow up in extremely difficult environments, or are subjected to extreme injustices in their lives. However, in the end, we are all responsible for how we deal with the challenges we are given in this life. Those who do overcome extreme difficulties are an inspiration to us all. I love this quote from the pamphlet, “You should not blame your circumstances, your family, or your friends if you choose to disobey God’s commandments. You are a child of God with great strength. You have the ability to choose righteousness and happiness, no matter what your circumstances.” Sometimes, in misguided but well-intended attempts to be compassionate, we allow people to shift blame for their behavior onto someone else. This doesn’t actually help the person in the long run, it just enables them to continue in a downward cycle of poor decisions and sorrow. We need to encourage people to learn who they are as children of God and that their potential is huge in the sight of God if they will trust in him and choose righteousness. I don’t think I ever get tired of people telling me I’m awesome (trust me, it doesn’t happen very often, I have teenagers ) I know without a doubt that our young people could never have too much of it. We need to teach our children that it is okay to be the good kid, and make good choices because of the happiness it will bring them in the long run. And we can’t just teach it once, because let’s face it, our real adversary is Satan and he isn’t slowing his pace. If anything he is hastening, and he has been at it a lot longer than we have.
One important aspect of teaching children about good decision-making is teaching them the solid doctrine behind what we are teaching. On a very academic level, children will understand that good choices bring good consequences and bad choices will eventually lead to negative consequences. It’s important to go beyond that and explain in God’s terms why things are “good or bad”. Back to the marijuana example, it is easy for kids to understand that smoking is bad because it makes your teeth yellow, makes you smell bad, and causes cancer because these are physical things that they can see. What they can’t see is the damage it does to your spirit to be dependent on a chemical substance. An article that sheds great insight on this topic is written by LDS author Brad Wilcox and is entitled, “What’s Not on the Warning Label”. A quote that gets to the heart of the issue is this,
“The immediate consequence of any sin is loss of the Spirit. The scriptures make it clear that the Spirit will not always strive with men (see Genesis 6:3; Ether 15:19; D&C 1:33) and that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see 1 Nephi 10:21; Mosiah 2:36–38).
One cigarette may not be enough to give you emphysema, but it is enough to alienate you from the Spirit. One sip of beer may not make you an alcoholic and leave you penniless and homeless, but it is enough to leave you without the Spirit.
“So the Spirit leaves,” someone may say, “so what?” Anyone who would ask such a question is overlooking the fact that when we lose the Spirit, we automatically lose safety, companionship, perspective, strength, peace, and joy.”
I know that our Heavenly Father loves us and has given us agency that we may prove ourselves worthy, with the grace of the atonement, to return to live with him. Sometimes my desire for my children to understand these principles overwhelms me because of my love for them. It is my prayer that this is received in the spirit it is given.
In these weeks leading up to Thanksgiving there has been much said about pondering and expressing gratitude for the many blessings in our lives. I’m sure I miss many opportunities to express to my Heavenly Father sincere thanks for the wonderful life I enjoy. Many times, as people are sharing their testimonies, they will express their gratitude for the gospel in their lives. This is a wonderful sentiment, but I’ve been pondering what exactly it is about the gospel that I am thankful for, and how it directly effects my life. So that is what I would like to share: principles and doctrines of the gospel that have deep meaning in the way I live my life.
First, I am thankful for the principle of prayer. Prayer is our lifeline to the divine. If we are willing to exercise faith and pray to our Heavenly Father, he will answer our prayers through the power of the Holy Ghost. I can pinpoint specific times in my life that I have prayed, and had those prayers answered. As a high school student I can recall praying for protection and peace during a difficult social situation. I can still picture exactly where I was in my high school, and who I was talking to when I became keenly aware that the Lord was aware of me and answering my prayers. As a young married couple, my husband and I experienced an answer to a prayer for safety on a road-trip from Utah to Colorado. As we drove my husband suddenly felt prompted to change lanes and slow down. Shortly after doing this, a tire from a car in front of us came bounding down the highway in our direction. Because my husband had listened to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we had ample time to avoid collision with the tire. Had he not, we would have been directly in the tire’s path. I have experienced many poignant moments in times of personal struggle where the Lord has let me know that He is there, and aware of me. In all of these instances, I knew in my heart, in my spirit, that these were not mere coincidences of fate. We have a Heavenly Father who loves us and answers our prayers. I’m grateful that I have been taught how to pray, and how to listen and understand the promptings of the Holy Ghost in answer to those prayers.
Second, I am grateful for my knowledge of Jesus Christ and His role in the gospel and the great plan of salvation. I mention this second, because it is through prayer that I gained my testimony Jesus Christ. Many times in the church we get caught up in programs of the church, rather than the saving principles of the gospel. We talk about how grateful we are for this program or that…this leader, or friend, or family member. What is easy to forget is that Christ is at the center of it all. In the recent past years I have become more and more aware of what other people, not of our faith, say and believe about us. Many things are silly and inconsequential. But none bother me as much as those who insist we are not Christians, but rather an odd cult of some kind. It stirs something inside me that makes me want to argue back, point by point, until I change their minds. I take comfort, however, in knowing that no matter what others may think and say, no one can take away the knowledge that I have in my heart that Jesus is the Christ. No fancy talk of doctrinal differences can change it. In the year 2000, The Prophet and Apostles of the Church released a statement now known as “The Living Christ-The Testimony of the Apostles”. My knowledge of the scriptures is not as extensive or sophisticated as some. But the feelings I get when I read this statement are unmistakable. The Spirit bears witness to me every time I read it that it is true. I would challenge anyone who is willing to ponder it with an open heart and mind that they could also know it is true. I am grateful for this testimony I have, it is the reason for all the other things that I do in the gospel. I echo the testimony given of our Prophet and Apostles…,
“As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth… We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth—“built upon the foundation of … apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).
We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.”
Third, I am grateful to know that I am a child of God. I lived before I came to Earth as a spirit in the presence of God. I know that as His child, I have been sent to Earth to learn and progress and to exercise my free agency. I know that I will receive blessings in Heaven according to how I use that agency. As a parent, I struggle to help my children learn the lessons of choice and accountability, and I humbly realize that this is the eternal struggle of our Heavenly Father. As I struggle to teach a 3-year old the consequences of coloring on the wall with marker, our Father in Heaven struggles to teach us to avoid the stain that sin can make on our soul. I am grateful to know that there is a reason for the struggles of life, and it is not just all a random scientific phenomenon that propels us along with no end purpose. Our purpose here is that we may one day, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, return to live with those we love in the Heavens for all Eternity. I only know these things because after I have learned them, I have pondered them, and let the peaceful feelings of the Spirit speak to my heart that they are true.
Lastly, I am grateful for the doctrine of eternal families. I am grateful to know that because I chose to keep myself worthy to attend the temple, I was able to be sealed to my husband for time here on earth and all eternity. My husband is my best friend and my children are my greatest joy. To imagine that life with them ended at death would break my heart. I know that families can be forever.
In the end, it’s not so much what I do or don’t drink, what I do or don’t wear, or how much time I spend at church. These behaviors are all extensions of the testimony I have of these, and the many other, principles of the gospel. As we approach Thanksgiving, this is why I am grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my life.
This is an informatory essay written by a San Marcos sixth-grader. She also qualified to enter the school’s “Speech Masters” competition. The speech was given a time limit, and I think she did a great job with such a large topic. It is simple, to the point, and a great example of the quality youth we have.
Mormons…LDS Members…Latter-day Saints…these are all nick-names for my religion. I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We currently have around 13 and a half million members in our church. Even with this number of members, many people know nothing about our religion. Many things people do hear about our church are inaccurate or false. I am sharing this information with you today so that you will know the facts. I will first tell you about our basic beliefs. Then I will tell you some of our code of conduct, and historical background.
“We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost”. This is called Article of Faith number one. There are thirteen Articles of Faith, which are statements that help explain the basic beliefs of our church. Many people think that Mormons aren’t Christians. I am here to tell you, we are. Christians are people who believe in Jesus Christ, and we believe in Jesus Christ. The main message I want you to understand about our church is this:
- Christ came to Earth and established His gospel.
- Christ and His apostles were killed
- Over time, men changed the gospel
- The gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the Earth by the prophet Joseph Smith
On April 6th, 1830 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was officially organized in Fayette Township, New York. Joseph Smith was the first prophet of the Restoration. Many people also think that we do not believe in the Bible because we have another book of scriptures called “The Book of Mormon”. We do believe in the Bible. “The Book of Mormon” was translated from ancient records of God’s people on the American Continent. Our church gets its nick-name “The Mormons” from this book of scripture. We also believe in baptism by immersion and partaking of the sacrament, just like other Christian religions.
“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. Indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul. We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report of praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” This is the Thirteenth Article of Faith. It summarizes our code of conduct. When we trun twelve, we are given a pamphlet called “For the Strength of Youth”. It contains more specific guidelines.
For example, under the category “Dress and Appearance” it says, “Dress modestly to show respect for God and yourself. Do not disfigure your body with tattoos or body piercings.” Under the category “Physical Health” we are encouraged to “Eat nutritious food, exercise regurlarly, and get enough sleep. Do not use hard drugs, alcohol, coffee, tea, or tobacco products. Do not abuse prescription or over-the-counter medications”.
When it comes to our entertainment we are encouraged to avoid anything vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. We believe that we should always behave in a way that reflects our commitment to Jesus Christ.
Although the Church was first organized in New York, hostility and persecution drove the members further west. At one point, the persecution was so bad that the Governor or Missouri issued an extermination order against church members. Eventually, the members embarked on one of the largest pioneer migrations in United States history. Between 1840 and 1890, 70,000 pioneers traveled about 1,300 miles from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah. Church headquarters are now in Salt Lake City where there is a temple, church offices, and a large visitor’s center.
Although the church had small and troubled beginnings, it is now a world-wide church. We have 129 temples and 17 more under construction. (These numbers have gone up) Our current prophet is Thomas Spencer Monson. Some notable people you may recognize like Danny Ainge- NBA basketball coach, Steve Young-former NFL quarter-back, gospel singer Gladys Knight, and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney are all Mormons. Recently, President Obama appointed Church member Jon Huntsman as the U.S. Ambassador to China.
I hope you understand what I have told you about my religion’s code of conduct, historical background, and basic beliefs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a fast-growing church. Please remember that not everything you hear about our church is true, so try not to listen unless it is from a reliable source.
I love the imagery of the watchmen on the tower. In ancient times, to protect a city from outside invaders, the people would build a wall around the city with tall watchtowers in the corners. The watchmen in the towers could easily identify invaders and warn the townspeople of impending dangers. We often look to the Prophet and Apostles as the watchmen for the church. Recently, I have felt a great weight of responsibility in my role, with my husband, as the watchman for our family. My prayers have been sincere and frequent looking for guidance and direction, but I was so caught up in my worries that I forgot to actively seek answers for my prayers. As watchmen of the church, the prophet and apostles have given great counsel on how to keep our families safe and strong amidst the evils of the world today and I would like to quote some of them.
Every time my daughter comes home from middle school with a new example of the immorality running rampant in our society, my favorite reaction seems to be over-reaction. Privately, I begin an new internal struggle: should I be home-schooling? Could we afford private school? What about charter school? Maybe I can just put a paper bag on her head until she’s 25!!!
Recently I came across a talk by Elder David A. Bednar from this April’s General Conference that offered me a better solution. In his talk entitled, “Watching With All Perseverance”, he began by talking about many different early warning systems we have in the world to keep us safe. Electronic signs warn us when traffic or road conditions are bad, news and radio broadcasts can warn us of impending dangers. He then teaches us how, as parents, to tune in our spiritual warning systems. He first encourages regular family study of the “Book of Mormon”. Because it teaches the gospel in a manner that is easy to understand and it focuses on Jesus Christ, it provides the perfect environment for parents and children to feel the spirit and learn together. Second, he encourages parents to bear spontaneous testimony of gospel truths. We all know how quickly kids can tune out when we have a prepared lesson. Every-day life brings many opportunities to bear simple, yet profound testimony…without the sermon-like environment. Third, he encourages us to teach our children to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). Our children cannot gain their own testimony of the gospel until they put the principles to the test. He bears testimony, “I bear witness that parents who consistently read and talk about the Book of Mormon with their children, who share testimony spontaneously with their children, and who invite children as gospel learners to act and not merely be acted upon will be blessed with eyes that can see afar off (see Moses 6:27) and with ears that can hear the sound of the trumpet (see Ezekiel 33:2–16). The spiritual discernment and inspiration you will receive from the combination of these three holy habits will enable you to stand as watchmen on the tower for your families—“watching . . . with all perseverance” (Ephesians 6:18)—to the blessing of your immediate family and your future posterity. I so promise and testify in the sacred name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.”
In his talk, “Help Them on Their Way Home”, Elder Henry B. Eyering said, “So we help God’s children best by providing ways to build faith in Jesus Christ and His restored gospel when they are young. And then we must help rekindle that faith quickly before it dims as they wander off the path.” He encourages participation in church organizations as some of the ways we can help build that faith. He also closes with his testimony saying, ” I testify that the Lord loves you and
every child of God. This is His kingdom, restored with priesthood keys through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s prophet today. I promise each of you, as you follow inspired direction in this, the true Church of Jesus Christ, that our youth and we who help and love them can be delivered safely to our home with Heavenly Father and the Savior to live in families and in joy forever. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
My heart is calmed as I read the words of these apostles of God. The spirit of their message speaks to my heart and I know that it is true. I am so grateful for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m grateful that we have a prophet and apostles who receive revelation to help guide us in this mortal journey back to our Heavenly Father. I bear testimony that they are men of God. In closing I quote our prophet, Thomas S. Monson from his closing remarks of the April, 2010 General Conference. “My brothers and sisters, today, as we look at the world around us, we are faced with problems which are serious and of great concern to us. The world seems to have slipped from the moorings of safety and drifted from the harbor of peace. Permissiveness, immorality, pornography, dishonesty, and a host of other ills cause many to be tossed about on a sea of sin and crushed on the jagged reefs of lost opportunities, forfeited blessings, and shattered dreams. My counsel for all of us is to look to the lighthouse of the Lord…The Lord loves us, my brothers and sisters, and will bless us as we call upon Him.”
This post is taken from a talk given in July in our Ward. July 24th is a special day in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It commemorates the arrival of the first Mormon Pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley. Persecution made it necessary for the early Saints to seek a new home in the unsettled West. In the years between 1847 and 1869 more than 80,000 saints made the treck west in wagon trains and handcart companies. This post, though longer than usual, is a tribute to their faith and sacrifice.
My name is Kristie. I’m a proud wife of brother Arnold and a doting mother of two wonderful little children. I’m also the daughter of a vigilant potato and mint farmer in Idaho, and the daughter of a valiant mother in Zion. Now, did I mention that my grandmother was the queen of everything in high school and I’m not kidding . . . she not only was the best on the swim team but she even received the “best posture award” back in the 1940’s! I say that because grandmother loved it when I’d brag about her in the good ol’ glory days . . .but in all seriousness and in the big scheme of things grandmother is a big part of who I am. Finally and most importantly I am child of God and that knowledge gives me much self-confidence and self-worth as well purpose in this life and of course brings me lots and lots of happiness!
I’ve been listening to the song, “Come, Come Ye Saints” all week in preparation for this talk. This song helps us feel connected to the pioneers as we pay tribute to their great journey this time of year. There is a special bond between our pioneer ancestors and us whether we are directly related to them or have inherited their legacy through our mutual membership in our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom. Yet, we want to learn from them. Truly, the hearts of the children do turn to their fathers, as the prophet Malachi said they would. [Mal. 4:5-5] (Pres. Benson)
First and foremost was the pioneer’s unwavering faith in God and His promises. Prior to the Saints extermination from Nauvoo, mobs, bent on driving the Saints out of Illinois, pillaged, plundered and burned. But in spite of the violence and threats, workers redoubled their efforts to complete the Nauvoo Temple so as many worthy members as possible could receive their endowments. They knew that the blessings of the temple would strengthen them for whatever lay ahead. These pioneers remembered the words of the Lord: “My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion.” (D&C 136:31.)
A powerful example comes from the pen of Eliza Marie Partridge, who lost her 5-month old son in Dec. 1846: “My baby is dead and I mourn his loss. We have done the best we knew how for him, but nothing had done any good…. The Lord took him and I will try to be reconciled and think that all is for the best. He was my greatest comfort and was nearly always in my arms but is gone, and I can’t recall him, so I must prepare to meet him in another, and I hope, happier world than this. I still have friends who are dear to me. If I had not, I should wish to bid this world farewell, for it is full of disappointments and sorrows. But I believe there is a power that watches over and does all things right.”
This tribute is given to the loyalty, patriotism, and integrity of the Mormon Battalion: as they “approached the settlement of Tucson, Ariz., the people were frightened and fled. Though many military groups would have plundered and pilfered through the community, the leaders ordered the members of the battalion to respect all properties, and they did.” (Elder Michael Jensen, “Deseret News,” Jan. 28, 1995) The pioneers were honest and true regardless of circumstances.
We read this entry from William Clayton’s journal under the date, “Wednesday 15th. This morning I composed a new song, All is Well.” He wrote the words to the song, that much of the world knows as the hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” in private moments that he found in a very busy day in Iowa, under the most emotionally and physically stressful and trying circumstances imaginable. Many of the Saints were sick and dying at the time, due to the harsh weather and inadequate living conditions. Nevertheless, as he records, “yet the camp seems in good spirits.” He received word that day that his wife, still in Nauvoo, had delivered their first child, a healthy boy but that she was very sick with ague (AU) and mumps. He was both relieved and concerned. He recorded his thoughts, “Truly I feel to rejoice” and in this state of jubilation he made time to compose “All is well.”
Later in the Salt Lake Valley, Oscar Winters, father-in-law to Pres. Heber J. Grant said, “I believe that the young people of Zion do not thoroughly appreciate what Brother Clayton’s hymn meant to us, as we sang it, night after night, crossing the plains.” He went on to share the story of a solitary man in his company who was late coming into camp one evening.
When he arrived, we unyoked his cattle and helped him to get his supper. He had been quite sick and had to lie down by the road, a time or two. After supper he sat down on a large rock, by the campfire, and sang the hymn, “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” He sang the hymn very beautifully, but with a weak and plaintive voice, and yet with the spirit and inspiration of the hymn. The next morning we discovered that he had died during the night.” His song had obviously been both a call for support as well as a statement of testimony. It was a giving and seeking of shared mutual strength and faith in a moment of need. I find that same sharing of mutual faith and strength when we meet together as latter-day-saints. Like I mentioned earlier, I feel inclusion and inspiration every time we sing, “Come, Come, Ye Saints.”
We have more of everything today than they had, especially distractions. Our challenge as modern pioneers is to stay focused on the things of eternity, as did our pioneer ancestors. As we pioneer, pave, and prepare the way for the Savior to come again, may we look toward the temple so we may know for a surety, “All is Well, All is Well”!
In closing I’d like to share my testimony of the joy that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings into my life. First of all I know Jesus Christ is my Savior and I know he bled and died for me and for all of us, he also overcame death and that he lives again!
“Come, Come Ye Saints”
About a month ago, I watched a movie with my family entitled, “Emma Smith: My Story”. This movie portrayed the life of Emma Smith, the wife of the prophet Joseph Smith, from her point of view. The early saints endured many seasons of intense trials and were called on to make great sacrifices for their beliefs. As I watched, and cried, with my husband and children I began to reflect on the law of sacrifice. I began to ask myself, “what is the cost of discipleship?”
For Emma Smith there were many costs. She was raised in a well-to-do family and was accustomed to the physical luxuries that brings. As the saints were driven by mobs and forced to settle and re-settle many times she definitely learned to live without many of those physical luxuries. She sacrificed her relationship with her family because her father did not believe in the Church and believed Joseph to be a phony. Because of this they were not allowed in his home. As was common in that day, Emma lost many children in childbirth and to childhood diseases. She also lost a child as a result of intense persecution of her husband, Joseph. One night Joseph was dragged out of the home to be tarred and feathered. Emma was caring for twin infants and one of those infants, exposed to the cold night air in the commotion, died from that exposure. And, of course, she eventually lost her husband, who was martyred. Her story, to me, seems so extreme. My sacrifices seem so trivial compared to the heartbreak she endured. Sacrifice is, nonetheless, a law of the gospel and always has been.
The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith , 69). I love this quote because it reminds us of the end goal, eternal life. We are here on this earth to prove to Heavenly Father that we love Him above all else and the only way we can prove that love and gain the faith we need is through sacrifice. Members of our church pay 10% of their earnings in tithes to the church. Even though it is a principle that I have complete faith in, I purposely do not pay attention to the dollar amount so that I do not begin to regard that sacrifice as a burden. One of the most common ways we, as members, are asked to sacrifice is through our time. We do not have a paid clergy. Everyone serving in our church does so voluntarily. Many church assignments require long hours preparing and participating in events in and outside of our regular church meetings on Sunday. We live in an area far away from our extended families because my husband and I have both received personal revelation that this is where the Lord wants us to be at this time in our lives. Though in comparison, my sacrifices are not as dramatic as Emma Smith’s, or even many others in the church today, they will produce the same end result if my heart is pure. In the Mormon when the resurrected Christ appears to the Nephites he instructs them that the Law of Moses is fulfilled in him, ending sacrifice by the shedding of blood. But this wasn’t the end of sacrifice. He instructs them in 3 Nephi 9:19-20, 19 “And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost,…”
I know where my most difficult sacrifice lies. It is in giving up those little pieces of myself that come as part of being human. To be humble and teachable so that the Lord can purify my heart. In the Book of Mormon there is a conversion story of a great king. As he is taught about the joy he can receive through accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ the spirit testifies to him that it is true and he begins to desire this joy. In Alma 22:18 he prays saying, ” O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. “ What a beautifully simple illustration of what the law of sacrifice means. I know that I haven’t discussed all the finer points of the doctrine surrounding the Law of Moses, and the Law of Sacrifice. I wanted to address the spirit of the law on a personal level. What ever personal sacrifice we are called to give, I bear testimony that if we offer it sincerely that the Lord will change our hearts and bring us closer to Him that we may someday have eternal life.
At 9:00 p.m. one night as I exited my favorite store after purchasing all of my Easter “necessities”, I was feeling a bit of a pit in my stomach over how much money I had spent. It’s difficult to make a magical, meaningful, holiday for many children. And then I wondered if we should even be doing the Easter Bunny thing at all, and worrying if I had done enough to teach my children about the real meaning of the holiday. Sound familiar? As I loaded my loot into the car, a scripture kept coming to my mind. Mosiah 3:19, (from
the Book of Mormon), reads, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” I’m sure I’m not the only person worried about finances these days, but I realized that over-spending my budget is just as much a weakness of the “natural man” as other behaviors I strive so hard to avoid.
For some reason, at this Easter time, I appreciated the eternal nature of the atonement of Jesus Christ even deeper than I have in the past. Christ knows how to help us overcome all our weakness because he suffered it all, even living within our means. It seems so simple and basic, yet financial matters cause such huge amounts of conflict in families. I am continually humbled by how much I take the atonement for granted. On Sunday, when I take the sacrament, I know that I can pray for help, guidance, and direction for the financial matters in my family. I can ask forgiveness for areas I need to improve, and Christ’s perfect atonement can help me overcome my natural man. This may seem trivial. But maybe that is what holds us back from greater spirituality, thinking that something is too trivial for the Lord.
Easter did turn out to be a great holiday, especially because we were so blessed to hear many inspiring messages from our Prophet and his Apostles in the LDS General Conference. We were able to provide the fun side of the holiday for the kids, and over dinner we also had a great discussion about the events of Jesus’ last days on earth up to the resurrection. I am so grateful for Heavenly Father’s plan for us that allows us to learn little by little. Mostly, I am grateful for the deeper appreciation I have this year for the life, atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“If any of ye lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” The first scripture I ever memorized. The scripture that drove the prophet Joseph Smith to a grove of trees to pray. He was seeking wisdom about which church he should join. God was listening and answered Joseph’s sincere prayer by opening the heavens and appearing with Jesus Christ in what is known to Mormons as the First Vision. Though we are not all chosen to become prophets or receive grand visions, we all may receive wisdom, answers to our prayers, just as Joseph did. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we believe that we all may receive personal revelation.
I believe that most people genuinely want to be good, and make right choices that will bring them happiness. Some evidence of this is the millions of dollars people spend in the self-help, personal motivation industry every year. I know I have quite a few books on my shelves. Now, there are many different ways to go about finding happiness, and not all of them bring true happiness. But I believe it all stems from our spirit seeking for the eternal truths we once knew. The Bible Dictionary says, “The principle of gaining knowledge by revelations is the principle of salvation. It is the making known of divine truth by communication with the heavens, and consists not only of revelation of the plan of salvation to the Lord’s prophets, but also a confirmation in the hearts of the believers that the revelation to the prophets is true. It also consists of individual guidance for every person who seeks for it and follows the prescribed course of faith, repentance, and obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” What it boils down to is this, Heavenly Father has a plan for each of our lives, and He wants us to know it. All we have to do is ask.
I really started to rely on personal revelation in college where my parent’s influence was not guiding my every move anymore. As I began college I had chosen to be a music major because I thought being a band teacher would be great fun. On the second day of school Brigham Young University handed me my first piece of humble pie. It was actually more like the whole pie…in my face. I failed the entrance exam to the music program. Not just kind-of-failed, I failed every section but one. As I realized that it would take me about 2 years of prep classes to try and pass that test I had to ask myself that huge question; What do I want to be when I grow up? I was devastated and in tears, but determined not to call home to be rescued. I got down on my knees and offered one of the most sincere prayers I had prayed in my young life. I was blessed with a tremendous feeling of peace, and I knew that Heavenly Father loved me and had a plan for me. Unfortunately, He didn’t hand me a road-map to graduation, in fact it took me 2 more changes to my major and 6 years to finish my work at BYU. But the reassurance I gained from that prayer brought me back to my knees again and again as I was finding my way through early adulthood. Many times it felt like I was being bashed around aimlessly like the ball in a pin-ball machine. Looking back now I can see how Heavenly Father was guiding my paths and that even the “bashing” gave me experience that has helped me throughout my life.
My husband has strengthened that pattern in my life as we pray together for direction in our family. Not only do we pray for the revelation we need in spiritual matters, we seek revelation to guide our temporal lives as well. We know that Heavenly Father does not care what kind of car we drive, but we pray that he will guide us to make decisions that will allow us to continue to serve him the way he wants us to. Since we have lived in Southern California my husband has had to change jobs 4 times, but we have never missed a paycheck. We know, through many personal revelations, that Heavenly Father wants us here.
There are many places in the scriptures where we are promised answers to our prayers. Matt. 7:7, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find…”. John 14:26, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things…”. I’ll say again, Heavenly Father has a plan for us and he wants us to know that plan. All we have to do is ask. He will guide our paths if we are humble and faithful. For as Christ said in the great intercessory prayer, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3. I leave this principle of the gospel with you with a challenge: Pray sincerely that you may know if what you are reading is true. I testify to you that it is, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.