Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Notes for Romans Ch. 1


Editor's note: these notes were developed for my own use during the Bible study that I teach, and are intended to accompany the text in Chapter one of The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans. Any other use than that which was intended could result in catastrophic comprehension failure on your part, and should not be undertaken.

a) Written from Corinth within a year or so of Paul’s writing 2 Corinthians (between 57-58)

b) Paul wintered in Corinth for 3 Months (v. Acts 20) to wait for safe sailing weather-also good business ( paul was a sail-maker/leather-worker/tent-maker)

c) Jews (including Jewish Christians) had been expelled from Rome in 49 CE by the emperor Claudius over unrest concerning “one Chrestus” (according to Suetonius)-likely refers to Christ.

d) It is likely that the Christian population in Rome consisted largely of gentile Christians (see 1:13), however there are hints of a culture clash that may have resulted as Jewish Christians began to trickle back into Rome.

V1 Servant The Greek for this word means: 1) a “slave” who completely belongs to his owner and has no freedom to leave, and (2) a “servant” who willingly chooses to serve his master.

[In OT] can refer to one who holds the status of a high official in the Lord’s kingly administration. As in Ex. 14:31

1 Cor 7:20-21

Thursday, November 25, 2010

LDS Church clarifies policies regarding social issues with the release of new administrative handbook


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently released a new two volume handbook for use by it's lay leaders. In an unprecedented move, however, the Church leadership has made the second volume of the handbook available to the public through lds.org. The second volume deals mainly with administrative and leadership issues, but it also contains many statements on various social issues which have never before been available to the public. This has been greeted enthusiastically by some members and even some non-members who have sought instruction concerning specific church policies regarding issues such as: birth control, abuse, surrogate motherhood, suicide, artificial insemination, homosexuality, and many other issues. However, according to LDS Newsroom, "Church leaders have emphasized that while the handbook is an essential guide in a large church with a lay ministry, it is not scripture, and individual leaders [and presumably individual members to a lesser degree] are expected to seek inspiration and use judgment when administering their church duties."

Below is a link to the LDS Newsroom article, and below that is a link to the actual handbook.

Church Leaders to Release New Administrative Handbook

http://new.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church?lang=eng

Here is a direct link to the section of the handbook devoted to "policies on moral issues":

http://new.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/selected-church-policies?lang=eng#21.1.7

Saturday, September 25, 2010

How to Give a Simple Answer to a Casual Question About the Church.

The 2 most basic points you should cover, plus 7 points of introduction to the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, followed by tips on how to effectively share the gospel in an informal setting.

My friend D.T. sent me the following question which I feel is an important one for all church members who know that they need to share the gospel, but don't feel like they quite know how to go about it.

"How would you answer a question about your religion in an informal sense, for instance in an impromptu online chat?"


Naturally, my answer would depend on the contents of any specific question, but I would generally respond to a casual question about what we believe by touching briefly on two major points, with an emphasis on establishing common ground with those who are curious about our faith.
      1)  We believe in Jesus Christ.  The first of our thirteen principal articles of faith states that, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”  We believe that Jesus Christ died for the sins of all mankind and that he was resurrected so that all mankind might live again.  We worship Him as the living Son of the living God, and we believe that it is through Him that all men may be saved if they will have faith in His name, repent of their sins, and follow the principles and ordinances of the Gospel that He taught.

2)  The gospel blesses families.  Most people care very little for a history lesson, or a complicated discussion regarding doctrine or scripture, but they do have a family, and the knowledge that they can be together with their family for eternity is a big deal to many people. More importantly, I found on my mission that a lot of people responded even more enthusiastically to the idea that by living the gospel as a family they would actually WANT to be together for eternity.
In most casual interactions regarding the church the curious person generally only wants and/or needs a small amount of information about the church. Therefore I find it is wise to stick to the most basic and fundamental elements of our faith.  If someone asked me to give them more than just the basics which I have mentioned above, I would focus on some or all of the following elements (I would probably stick to some variation of these simplified headers alone, depending on the situation, and most importantly, on the guidance of the spirit):

1) Jesus Christ organized a church: We believe in Jesus Christ, which is an important thing that we have in common. What you may not know is that while Jesus walked the Earth He organized a church that was built on a foundation of apostles and prophets, who were called and ordained by Jesus Christ himself. Jesus gave the twelve apostles power to work miracles, teach, and baptize in his name. These men were also authorized by God to direct the Church after Christ’s death. You can read about this in the Bible. We also use the Bible, and we consider it to be God’s word.

2) The Church of Jesus Christ was lost: Not long after Christ’s death, the Lord’s apostles and prophets were killed and not replaced. Without the guidance of the Lord’s chosen apostles and prophets many of the truths that were taught by Jesus and His apostles were lost or polluted over time through the mistakes of well-meaning but uninspired men, or through deliberate interference by enemies of the gospel. This meant that the church that Jesus Christ set up, and which was guided by those He had called and ordained, was lost.

3) The same Church of Jesus Christ was restored: Many different churches arose over the centuries since the death of the apostles, each one using the same basic Bible, and each claiming to represent the will of the Lord. In 1820, a young boy named Joseph Smith prayed and asked God which church he should join. God and Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision and told him not to join any of them because the church that Jesus had set up was no longer on the Earth. Joseph was chosen by God to become the first prophet on Earth since the death of the prophets and apostles of New Testament times. As a prophet of God, he was called to restore and organize the same church that Jesus Christ set up, which had been lost with the death of the original apostles.

4) “By their fruits ye shall know them” The Savior Himself taught us how to recognize a true prophet of God in Matthew 7:15-20:

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

The “fruit” of Moses was the Ten Commandments; the “fruit” of Noah was the Ark, and so on. The fruit of a prophet is the work that he does at God’s command. By it you can know whether or not he truly speaks for God.

5) The Book of Mormon is the evidence (the “fruit”): In New Testament times, The Lord’s apostles and prophets kept a record of their testimonies concerning the reality and divinity of the Savior Jesus Christ. They also bore witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament is the “fruit” by which you can know that the apostles and prophets who wrote it truly acted under God’s direction. On the other side of the world, at around the same time, other prophets kept a similar record of their testimonies of the reality and divinity of the Savior, and they bore witness of His resurrection when the resurrected Lord appeared to the people here in the Americas. This record is called the Book of Mormon. God gave the Prophet Joseph Smith this ancient record, and with it he was given the ability to translate this record for our day. The Book of Mormon is his “fruit”, and also the fruit of the Lord's church in our day.

*You may also wish to emphasize that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also believe the Bible to be the word of God, and that we value it equally as scripture alongside the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is in no way intended to replace or supersede the Bible, and we live our lives according to the precepts taught in both books.

6) You can know that this is Christ’s church if you will read the Book of Mormon and ask God in prayer if it is true. You have to taste a fruit to know if it is good. If you will read from the Book of Mormon and sincerely pray and ask God to tell you if it is true, the Lord will tell you that it is true through the Holy Ghost. If it is the word of God, then Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. If Joseph Smith is truly a prophet, then the Lord truly has called him to restore and organize the Church of Jesus Christ today, just as it was organized by Jesus and His apostles and prophets in New Testament times. The only church that you need to join is the one that Christ set up, so shouldn’t you find out if this is the one?

7) We are the Church of Jesus Christ in this day. The name “Mormon” is just a nickname. The actual name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As you might have gathered from our name, we are The Church of Jesus Christ (the same church that Christ set up during New Testament times). The “Latter-day” part of our name refers in part to the fact that we are that same church but in this day and age instead of two thousand years ago. In New Testament times, the members of Christ’s church were called saints. Since we are members of the same church we are also called saints. We have a prophet and twelve apostles, who are called of God just like those prophets and apostles in New Testament times. You should come to church with me Sunday to see what the Church of Jesus Christ is like.

Sharing the gospel naturally

Any returned missionary can tell you that my seven points closely mirror certain portions of the introductory lesson that the full-time missionaries teach to their investigators. That is because these points are a good simple introduction to our church.

Many members worry that they do not know enough about the gospel themselves to feel secure about sharing it with others.  While I encourage everyone to learn more about the gospel and church of Jesus Christ, most people do not want to hear a long-winded discussion of doctrine, so you don’t have to worry about your scripture-knowledge (or your relative lack thereof). A simple testimony that this is Christ’s church is often sufficient, and you can leave the tough stuff to the missionaries.

Beyond that, I would suggest sharing what Jesus Christ and His gospel (and your membership in His church) have done for you personally to bless you in your life. Most people are missing something in their lives, and that something is usually true joy. If you can help them to see that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought you true joy in your life, they will want for themselves that which you have already obtained.

If the opportunity presents itself, I have often found that the best answer to almost any question about the church is an invitation along these lines: “Why don’t you come with me to my church this Sunday and find out?” If this is too direct for you, consider inviting them to a ward or stake party or service project, or to a mutual or FHE activity (if those apply).  At the very least this will help you to introduce the Church and its members to your friend in a relatively non-threatening way.  I prefer inviting people to church because I feel that the spirit is there more strongly, plus your guest is more likely to hear discussions about our beliefs at church than he is at a ward potluck dinner, but you have to start somewhere.

Who am I?  I’m a Mormon!

I think that the church's new campaign that showcases various regular folk who declare "I’m so-and-so, and I'm a Mormon" is inspired. It is a lot easier for people to understand us and feel friendly toward the church if they know that the coworker they respect, or the teacher who cares so much about their children, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Conversely, it is a lot easier to demonize a group with whom you have never knowingly had any meaningful contact.  The church will seem a lot less strange to others when people no longer see Mormons as strangers.

You as an individual can be a walking testimony of the gospel and for the church if you are worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Most people won't be able to put their finger on what makes you different, but they know that they want it, whatever it is. Your job then comes down to prayerfully seeking the direction of the Holy Ghost to know when, where, and with whom to share the gospel. On the whole, though, there aren't a lot of people who don't need to hear the gospel, so don't over-think it. You can turn almost any inquiry into the church into an invitation to join you at church on Sunday, where the spirit will be strong, and at the very least they will see that Mormons aren't crazy Satan worshipping cult members.

Don’t worry too much about losing your friends by bringing up religion.  As long as you are sensitive and appropriate in your approach to sharing the gospel, your friends will stay your friends, especially if they know that your invitation proceeds out of sincere feelings of friendship, and that you will not hold it against them if they decline. You should also take steps to help your friends to understand that you will not harass them about religion if that makes them uncomfortable. Most of your friends will be flattered that you thought enough of them to ask, even if they ultimately do not take you up on your offer. Most importantly, keep it casual-don't think that you have to fall down weeping with the power of your testimony-the person in question probably will be happiest if you give them an answer to their question in the most simple and direct way possible.

Here is an article called “Sharing the Gospel Naturally,” which features some good tips for ways to break the ice with your friends without making a big production out of it. It was published on the LDS church’s own official website, and it also includes links to ten church produced videos which you can share with your friends online.

Sharing the gospel online

As for a situation in which you may be chatting with a stranger online, short and sweet is the best, and if they become impolite (as anonymous people on the internet are often wont to do) you can bear your testimony and get out of there, which is essentially what our young missionaries are told to do when a person tries to draw them into an argument. The spirit will leave when you start arguing with someone, so you are just wasting everybody's time if you think that an argument will convince someone of the truth of the gospel message (only the spirit can truly do that). If you feel that a belligerent individual is simply misinformed, you can send them a link to Mormon.org for answers to their concerns.  Here is a list of helpful tips for sharing the gospel online:


For more tips on the sharing the gospel (especially online) you should read the full article "The Do’s and Don’ts of Defending Your Beliefs" from which the above graphic is taken.  This article contains excellent advice from the Church magazines about the right way and the wrong way to go about defending the faith, sharing our beliefs, and standing up for what is right.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has also recently provided a series of short online videos designed to give a simple introduction to the church which you might find convenient and useful when you are called upon to explain and introduce the church and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to others:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bible Study 2 Corinthians 3 Notes, Quotes, and Cross-references


Due to popular request I have decided to post my notes from my most recent Bible study. Those of you who were there might be interested to find that I skipped over roughly three quarters of the material contained here for the sake of time.

After 3:3 3 Nephi 9:19-20
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. 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, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Can Men Be Gods? What the Bible says about exaltation.

My friend T. S. sent me this question the other day, and I was somewhat amused to receive it, as I have been waiting for someone to send me just such a question since I started writing this blog.

Q: I have a nonmember friend who read a chapter in a world religion book about Mormons and it said that we believe we will become God and have our own planet someday and now she thinks we are freaks.  How do you respond to this and what scriptures are there in the Bible that support such a claim?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Why Being a Child of God is Not Enough

“It is good to remember that you are always a child of God. This knowledge will carry you through the most difficult times in your life and will inspire you to accomplish remarkable things. However, it is also important to remember that being a [son or] daughter of eternal parents is not a distinction you earned or you will ever lose. You will always and forever remain a [son or] daughter of God. Your Heavenly Father has high aspirations for you, but your divine origin alone does not guarantee you a divine inheritance. God sent you here to prepare for a future greater than anything you can imagine.

The promised blessings of God to the faithful are glorious and inspiring. Among them are “thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths.” And it takes more than a spiritual birth certificate or a “Child of God Membership Card” to qualify for these incomprehensible blessings” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Living the Gospel Joyful,” General Women’s Meeting Address, Sept. 27, 2014).

We are all born “naturally” as natural descendants of Adam, who was God’s son. We are also the spirit sons and daughters of God. It is in this general sense that all men can be called children of God. All men are children of God, and (all things being equal) all men have the same claim to the love of their Father in Heaven.  Therefore we gain no particular distinction nor can we derive any special status above our fellows simply due to the fact of our divine heritage.  Our divine origin is important, and vital to know about, but being born into this world as a child of God does not automatically confer any kind of righteousness, merit, or status upon us; nor does our divine pedigree, in and of itself, guarantee salvation for us in any way.

“But how do we attain [these blessings]? The Savior has answered this question in our time: “Except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory.  “For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation. “… Receive ye, therefore, my law.”

For this reason, we speak of walking the path of discipleship.  We speak of obedience to God’s commandments.  We speak of living the gospel joyfully, with all our heart, might, mind, and soul” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Living the Gospel Joyful,” General Women’s Meeting Address, Sept. 27, 2014).

If we wish to inherit all that the Father has, then we must become bound to him through more than just the mere fact of our parentage.  We were placed on this Earth in order that we might have the opportunity, over time, to prove ourselves, and our loyalty, to God. We demonstrate this loyalty and love by steadfastly and valiantly keeping His commandments, and by binding ourselves to God through covenants made by means of ordinances such as baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.

Putting Off the Natural Man

Why must we do all of these things in order to inherit all of the blessings which the Father wishes to give His children?  As His children, should we not have some natural claim to our divine inheritance?

Unfortunately, we each make mistakes, and commit sins and transgressions. In our “natural” fallen state, which comes upon us as a consequence of the fall of Adam and Eve, we become “carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good” and thus, through sin, we become estranged from our Father in heaven. If we persist in our willful defiance of God’s laws (to say nothing of His love for us), we will become estranged from Him to the point that we may become “an enemy to God” even in this life (see Mosiah 16).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How to Become a Scripture Master: Tips to Improve Personal Scripture Study


I have divided this article into two parts. The first deals with the practical aspects of improving your scripture study, and the second deals more with the spiritual aspects of scripture study, especially the importance of incorporating the Lord's word into your life in every aspect of your life.

Part I: Just Do it! How to "find time" to read your scriptures, and how to make that time count.


Most people know that they should be reading their scriptures, but most of us struggle to incorporate meaningful scripture study into our daily lives. Many people that I talk to say that they don’t really need tips to improve their reading, but they would like tips on how to “get motivated” to read their scriptures. While I would argue that improving your understanding of the scriptures can only help in motivating you to read more often, I agree that this subject deserves a section of it’s own.

I have drawn up a list of tips that I have found personally useful in gaining motivation to search the scriptures, ponder upon them, and eventually gain insight into them through meaningful prayer. I have also included tips that will help make your personal study more meaningful, which will also help you to feel more inclined to study.

1. Just do it! If you wait until you “feel like it” it will never happen. According to W. Terry Whalin in his book “The complete idiot’s guide to Teaching the Bible” “feeling like it” is the least important factor that we should consider when it comes to living any aspect of the Gospel.

“Some Christians say they don’t feel like studying the Bible, or they don’t feel like praying, or they don’t feel like witnessing. Feeling has nothing to do with living the Christian life, for feelings come and go. The key to spiritual maturity is to live for Jesus Christ not because it makes us feel good, but because we know it is the right thing to do. I have discovered that if the only time I study the Bible, pray, or witness is when I feel like it, the devil makes sure I never feel like it.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Priesthood and Women: Are men and women equal in the church? What role does the priesthood play in a strong marriage?


Q: "Does it say in 1 Timothy that women should not be pastors?"

A friend of mine sent me this question some time ago in the wake of some controversy among a group of conservative churches concerning the role of women in the ministry. At the time she was interested in hearing what the Bible had to say on the question of whether or not women can hold the priesthood, and she was interested to see if my interpretation of certain passages coincided with that of certain factions within the debate. Recently I revisted my answer and expanded it to address an issue which more directly relates to women as they approach the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (both from within and from without). Namely the relationship between women and the priesthood (both in the time of Christ and His apostles as well as in this day and age), and the question of whether or not the seeming "exclusivity" of the priesthood constitutes sexism or gender discrimination. This is an issue that this particular friend had before she joined the church, and I know that she is certainly not alone in these misgivings. As I sought to address this question, I found that gaining an understanding of the role and function of the priesthood in an eternal marriage is crucial to finding the answer to these questions.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Hard Facts About Temple Marriage as a Requirement for Exaltation.


A friend of mine (who is fairly knowledgeable about the church, even though he is not a member) asked me a series of questions after his (member) girlfriend made him read my post on the importance of and necessity for eternal marriage in the temple. Most of his questions dealt with our views on life after death, and they resulted in my seven part series on that subject. After all was said and done, he pinned me down and made me give him this direct answer concerning the hard facts when it comes to the requirements for exaltation. I deliberately elected to employ language which I felt was appropriately vague in my previous post on temple marriage, however he needed a more definite answer. My first post on temple marriage is more eloquent and exhaustive, and so you might find it helpful to review my previous post on Temple Marriage.


Q: I feel like I am missing one thing to tie it all together. Where in scripture (besides D&C 76:50-54,69-70) does it say that you need the saving ordinances performed at the temple (namely marriage) to be allowed into the celestial kingdom?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Christ and the Healing Power of the Atonement


 Q: I was wondering if you have some good advice on how to strengthen your faith in Christ's ability to heal you?

A: My answer will be in two parts: The first will deal with Christ, and his power to heal all wounds (both physical and spiritual) through the atonement. The latter portion will deal with the faith that each individual must exercise in order that we might more fully partake of the power of the atonement. (p.s. I think some of the best stuff is at the end, so read the whole thing so it will make sense to you.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Are You A Christian If You Don't Believe In The Trinity?


A friend of mine asked me to explain the doctrine of the trinity and its origins, and the nature of the Godhead, esp. according to the Bible. She asked me verbally at Bible study last week, so I will have to paraphrase her question.

Q: I have a friend that has several issues with the doctrines of the LDS church. One of them centers around your belief that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are each separate beings. This does not conform to the doctrine of the trinity, which he holds to be one of the basic criteria for true Christianity. Where did the doctrine of the trinity (that says that God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost are the same being) come from? What does the Bible say about it?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Do all roads lead to God? Why does there have to be one true church?


This is part of a question that I received from a friend of mine. I have edited my answer both for the sake of clarity, and also to remove any personal references that might infringe on the privacy of my friend. 

Q: What’s with the one true church thing? Sometimes it just feels like they (the LDS church) want me to join some elitist club or something. Is the whole “one true” thing really necessary? Like I said, I believe in logic, and the LDS seem to make the most sense, but what does it matter if I’m a card carrying member if I believe?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

You Are Never Beyond The Reach of God's Love

Even in the depths of sin, hope comes through the Savior. Don't give up, and don't give in to despair.

I read an article the other day about a young woman who was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her high school teacher. Her parents, who were already devastated, are broken-hearted because she is convinced that she is meant to be with this teacher (who is now in prison), and she apparently has come to despise her parents because they won’t let her be with him. She has left home, she smokes and drinks and does drugs (whereas she apparently didn’t do so before), and she won’t talk to her parents. Apparently she has gone a little wild in these and other ways.

It is my opinion that this unfortunate girl believes that she is lost and damned forever, and that it doesn’t matter anymore what she does with her life. I believe that, despite her apparent devotion to her abuser, deep down she feels as if she is a sinner because of what he did to her.

Firstly, I would like to declare unequivocally that victims of abuse (sexual or otherwise) are just that: victims. Despite feelings of guilt and shame that accompany such abuse, the victim is never responsible for the abuse, and they are certainly not guilty of sin where the abuse is concerned. I cannot state this strongly enough. When I was a child I was the victim of long-term physical and emotional abuse, and I was informed by several of my fellow church members on several separate occasions that I should not have provoked my abuser, or they merely made implications that there must have been something wrong with me because I was abused. More often I was just treated like a liar because they did not want to believe that this person that they knew and respected could beat his wife and children.

The actions of these church members were in complete disharmony with the stated policy and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as explained on the official church website lds.org:

“Victims of abuse should be assured that they are not to blame for the harmful behavior of others. They do not need to feel guilt. If they have been a victim of rape or other sexual abuse, whether they have been abused by an acquaintance, a stranger, or even a family member, victims of sexual abuse are not guilty of sexual sin.”

It is not my intention to dwell on the issue of abuse today (a subject for another day perhaps). I chose to share this tragic story in order to examine the self-destructive choices that are being made by a girl that is undoubtedly confused and hurting in the wake of this horrendous incident. The reason I chose to address this subject today is that the story of this unfortunate girl who is making a whole slew of bad choices in the wake of what she apparently perceives to be one major sin (as I stated above, she didn't commit a sin, but she doesn't understand that), is altogether too common. As I read her story, I was strongly reminded of people that I know and have known who feel that they are hopeless cases who are beyond the reach of the Savior. I speak now of those people who generally have not been abused but rather who, through their own human weakness, have committed a serious sin, and instead of seeking the solace of forgiveness through repentance and the atonement of Jesus Christ, they choose instead to sink deeper and deeper into sin. I see this happening around me almost continually. I have friends who, for whatever reason, have fallen into the depths of transgression. Some of them have managed to find their way back to happiness and righteousness, others still struggle with sin, and still others may never free themselves from the snare of sin. Some of my friends and acquaintances have become so hardened, through sin, that they might not come back even if they felt like they could. Many of these people were raised in good homes in which they were taught the principles of the Gospel, and yet they have chosen to reject all that they learned as a child. What motivates such a departure from what they must know is good and right?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What happens to us when we die? Part V: Degrees of Glory

Click to go to a previous installment:

Part IV: Judgment

Part III: Resurrection

Part II: The Spirit World

Part I: Death

V. Degrees of Glory

Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 15 that while all men will be resurrected, not everyone will be resurrected to the same state of glory. He compares these degrees of glory to that of the sun, the moon, and the stars respectively. In so doing he is merely using a comparison to illustrate the glorious nature of the resurrection of our bodies, and the difference in glory among the states to which a man may be resurrected.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What happens to us when we die? Part IV: Judgement


Follow these links to go to a previous installment:

Part III: Resurrection

Part II: The Spirit World

Part I: Death


IV. JUDGMENT

a. Jesus Christ performed the atonement in order to bring mankind back into the presence of God. All mankind will be brought to stand before Christ so that they might be judged.
Helaman 14:17 But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.

3 Nephi 27: 14-15 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

b. We will be brought to stand before the Savior to be judged.
John 5:22-23 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

What happens to us when we die? Part III: Resurrection

This is a treatment of resurrection as it fits into the larger plan of salvation, and therefore it is concerned primarily with the nature and characteristics of our resurrected bodies, and the state that we will be in upon receiving them. For a more detailed examination of every aspect of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, click here.

III. RESURRECTION

There is nothing to fear in death. It is a natural part of life, and a part of God’s plan for his children. We could not progress to the next life without it. (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

"Viewed from an eternal perspective, we live to die; and we die to live again....Birth is the gateway to mortal life; death is the gateway to immortality and eternal life."  (Russell M. Nelson, The Gateway We Call Death, pg. 5)

The only fear in death is to die in one’s sins, as Paul says “O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (See 1 Corinthians 15:55-56). This great victory that comes through Christ is the victory of resurrection and immortality over death and corruptible mortality.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fundamental Premises of Our Faith - Talk Given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks at Harvard Law School - LDS Newsroom

This is an excellent talk that addresses issues of religion that affect the nation at large, and details some of the basic tenets of belief held by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was especially interested to read the following (in light of my own experiences in talking to many others about religion):

"...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."

Fundamental Premises of Our Faith - Talk Given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks at Harvard Law School - LDS Newsroom

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What happens to us when we die? Part II: The Spirit World

Before you read this, it may interest you to know that I have added a section on the nature and characteristics of our spirit bodies to the previous entry in this series. You may find it of some value as you approach the subject of the spirit world. Click here to view the updated entry.

II. THE SPIRIT WORLD

The scriptures teach us that there is a time or a period between death and the resurrection (see Alma 40:6-7), and that this experience is not the same for everyone.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What happens to us after we die? Part I: Death


A friend of mine sent me a question concerning life after death, and I gave him more answer than I think he wanted. With his permission, I am publishing my response in installments, as it is quite long.

In order to fully address your question, it becomes necessary to make a distinction between what happens to us when we die, and what happens to us when we are resurrected, which as you’ll see, are actually two separate and distinct aspects of life after death.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Is the atonement of Jesus Christ enough for all of us?

A friend of mine sent me this question, and I responded, quite a while ago. I happened to re-read my response to her question this morning, and I decided that I had not covered all of the points that should properly be covered in addressing a subject such as this. In light of the things that I have learned since I wrote this, I thought that I could add some new insights to an old question.

Q: Why was the suffering and death of Jesus Christ ENOUGH to atone for the sins of all of us?

A: In the Book of Mormon, the great teacher Amulek taught that "there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world" (Alma 34:12).  That means that only a sacrifice which endures for eternity, and which is infinite in capacity, can satisfy the debt which each of us has incurred through our transgressions. What is it about Christ, and the atonement which He performed, that made his sacrifice sufficiently infinite to atone for the sins of the world?

Christ kept the whole law (see 1 Peter 2 :21-25 and 1 John 3:4-5 and James 2:10) so he could intercede for us based on his own merits, a claim that no other can make. (See Hebrews 5:8-10)  Also, Christ (in concert with God) was acting in accordance with the lawfully prescribed method for expiating sins (by offering himself). (I deliberately chose not to use the term "legally" though one might make the argument that it applies in this instance.) He did so namely by complying with the ordinance that called for the sacrifice of blood to atone for sins (see Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 17:11). Alma 34:11-16 explains this rather well. I refer you also to Hebrews 8:18-22, and Hebrews 9:13-14. Hebrews 10 explains in great detail the ways in which animal sacrifice was only a precursor to and ultimately an inferior shadow of that great and last sacrifice wherein "we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all". Christ’s sacrifice not only surpasses the power and effectiveness of the old law of sacrifice, but it is also in perfect harmony with (and in fact fulfills the requirements of) that same Law, as Paul explains in Hebrews. Paul goes on to explain that the demands of the Law required Christ to make that final redeeming sacrifice by “ the offering of [his] body…once for all” (see Hebrews 10:10) and he declares further that “… by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (See Hebrews 10:14).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Just in: Latest church growth statistics - Belief Blog - Washington Times




Just in: Latest church growth statistics - Belief Blog - Washington Times

The National Council of Churches 2010 yearbook of American and Canadian churches has published the latest membership figures for denominations around the country, as reported by the churches themselves.

Click the link at the top of this post to see the whole story.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Is temple marriage necessary?

A friend of mine sent me this question last week, and I thought that it might be worthwhile to share it with others, since she's probably not the only one who wants to know the answer. Therefore I am publishing a modified version of her question (to preserve her anonymity) and my answer with her permission.


I was curious about some things. With all this talk lately about Temple marriage and stuff, I was wondering, is it necessary? Being sealed to your family and all that.
Reason: A friend of mine mentioned that she didn't think she would ever get married. And one of her friends said the same thing. And I think they are pretty great girls, and I actually think they will get married to someone, but whatever. My point is, what if they don't? Also, I have some good friends who are married, they are great and love each other, but what if they don't get sealed to each other? What if I don't? Is that going to stop their, or my, progression?

And what about the kids thing? Say, those girls do eventually get married to someone, neither of them want kids. And you know that my married friends don't want kids. Does that mean that's it?

Also, on a personal front, I want to get married. I want to have a family. However, I don't think that will happen. I really want to progress. I want to continue to go on a path, I just want to know what is expected. That wasn't quite the right word. I don't know how to express what I am asking here, but I am hoping that you know me enough to know what I am asking.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Atonement Defined II: Sanctification

Click here to see also: The Atonement Defined I: Justification

Sanctification:  Sanctification represents the actual cleansing of one’s soul from sin through the shedding of the blood of Christ. We are sanctified by the blood of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is the process through which we are made holy as our natures become truly changed (or converted)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

He is Risen! The Case For the Resurrection of Christ


“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 121.)

I recently had a conversation with a friend who did not seem entirely convinced of the reliability of the accounts given by the apostles (and/or the writers of the gospels) concerning the literal reality and veracity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. More to the point this person did not seem to have a clear grasp of the function and consequences of the resurrection itself. Unfortunately he is not alone, nor is he unique, among Americans. According to Newsweek magazine: “The number of Americans who say they believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ has dropped 10 points since 2003 to 70 percent, according to the most recent Harris poll; only 26 percent of Americans think that they'll have bodies in heaven, according to a 1997 Time/CNN poll.” (Lisa Miller, “Far from Heaven,” Newsweek, Mar 25, 2010).

My friend is at least nominally a member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and so his skepticism puzzles me somewhat since, like Paul, I feel that "if Christ be not raised...we are of all men most miserable."  The resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the hope that it brings, is the central message of the New Testament and it is the principal doctrine of the restored gospel.  The resurrection and its consequences are firmly established  by the Bible, as well as by the scriptures of the restoration, and so there is no reason for a Christian of any stripe to doubt the reality of the living Christ, and it makes no sense that so few people believe that (thanks to Christ) we ourselves will rise in the resurrection with glorified physical bodies.  Given that ignorance and disbelief in a doctrine as fundamental as the resurrection of Jesus Christ seems to run rampant even through the ranks of Christianity, I feel that it is my duty to make a case for the veracity of Christ's resurrection and to explain the effects and mechanics of the resurrection itself.  Such knowledge is crucial for anyone who claims to be a Christian and who wishes to obtain understanding in this life and salvation in the world to come.

2 Nephi 2:8  Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

It may be that resorting to the Biblical account may do little to convince someone of the fact and reality of the resurrection when they are already somewhat doubtful of the veracity of the Bible record itself. However I hope to establish the doctrinal and historical veracity of the Biblical account of the resurrection through scriptural sources outside of the Bible, and in so doing clarify the exact effects that resurrection has upon an individual (both in the physiological as well as in the redemptive sense) and perhaps explain the reasons behind those effects. I also hope to explore some aspects of the doctrine of resurrection contained in the scriptures that seem to be poorly understood by my peers. It is my hope that in gaining more knowledge about the details of the resurrection we can all gain a stronger testimony of the wondrous (and wondrously simple) fact that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again after three days, and that he lives even to this day and forevermore.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do Mormons Read The Bible? 6 Tips to Unlock The Bible.


Do Mormons believe the Bible to be the word of God?  Do they regard it as scripture?

The answer is: yes, the Bible is revered as scripture by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  However many Mormons, like many other Christians, likely do not read and study the Bible as much or as diligently as perhaps they ought to do. To the end that I might foster a greater love for and familiarity with the Holy Bible among all Christians, and especially among my fellow Latter-day Saints, I have provided six suggestions to help make the Bible more approachable and enjoyable.

1)  Context is everything.  Find out who is speaking (or writing), and to whom it is that this person is speaking or writing. Find out when (roughly) the passage of scripture that you happen to be studying was written, and try to find out where it was written as well. It’s hard to understand anything when you take it out of context, and you might even enjoy the discoveries that you make as you delve into the ancient cultures and environments that formed the backdrop (and informed the writers) of the Bible.

"It will greatly help you to understand scripture if you note – not only what is spoken and written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows." --Miles Coverdale (1488-1569), in his introduction to his Bible translation (the first complete English translation of the Bible to be put into print).

2) Bring a dictionary to your study table. The language of the King James Bible, while deeply poetic and beautiful in the majesty of its prose, is written in a form of English that people today would doubtless consider archaic at best. Some people find it much too difficult to understand, though I would submit that it just takes some getting used to, and that the language of the King James is not so far removed from ours as one might think at first glance. Sometimes it might be helpful to use a modern language  translation of the Bible, but I would caution you to take care concerning which translation you decide to use, because some translations are better than others.  The New International Version is probably the most scholarly and reputable of the newer translations, and I often find additional insight into the meaning of certain verses by consulting this Bible as a supplement to my study in the King James Bible.  However, you should not assume that a simpler, more modern, translation alone will allow you to fully grasp the principles and doctrines of the Bible if you are not willing to engage in rigorous study and diligent application of the teachings you find therein.  The doctrines and concepts are no less complex just because the language is a little more contemporary, and so you should not view a more modern translation as a shortcut to understanding.  For that reason, even if you were to choose to read a modern language translation, you would probably still find it helpful to define words and terms (and concepts) that might be unfamiliar to you using a standard dictionary, a Bible dictionary, or a scripture encyclopedia.

3) Consult study guides and commentaries. Much has been written both inside and outside of the Church by way of Biblical analysis, and history.  Many of these books can be invaluable as aids to increase and enhance your understanding and appreciation of the Bible text, and the world that is chronicled within it. A note of caution, however. When consulting study guides that were produced by people who are not members of the Church, it is helpful to remember that they do not have modern revelation from which to draw, and therefore these authors must depend largely upon their own learning. This is true, to a slightly lesser degree, of those authors who may be members, but who are not ordained general authorities of the Church. In other words, these authors may not have all of the answers, and may in fact have erred in some of their analyses if the Bible and its doctrines. Accept what they write with a grain of salt, and as always follow the guidance of the spirit when studying these things.

4) Read the Book of Mormon. You heard me. The best study aid for the Bible is the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon testifies of the truth of the Bible, and helps to clarify and bear witness to many of the doctrines contained within it. These books were intended to be read together (see 2 Nephi 3:12, Ezekiel 37:15-20, and D&C 20:8-12). You will find that your understanding and enjoyment of the Bible will increase as you study the Book of Mormon, and that studying the Bible will do the same for your appreciation of the Book of Mormon. Heber J. Grant found this to be true, as he stated in a 1936 edition of The Improvement Era: "All my life I have been finding additional evidences that the Bible is the Book of books, and that the Book of Mormon is the greatest witness for the truth of the Bible that has ever been published" (IE 39 [Nov. 1936]:660).


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The 7 REAL reasons why you need to go to church

What are the REAL reasons why you need to go to church?  Not just the good reasons, or the reasons why going to church is good for you, but rather the actual practical reasons why God asks each of us to show up to a building every Sunday.

As I was browsing around the Internet recently, I came across a question and answers forum in which someone asked the question, “Why do we need to go to church on Sunday?” The answer that was voted the best was this one word in all caps: FELLOWSHIP. Most of the other answers tended to sound something like this (I’m paraphrasing): "You don’t need to go to church; God can hear your prayers wherever you are." Others said things like: "We’re hardcore Christians, and we still skip church all the time, but I guess it’s good to learn things with other Christians." Some maintained in a somewhat derisive tone that you are a sinner if you don’t go to church (this was usually followed with the person saying something along the lines of how glad they are that they aren't a christian, so they don't have to worry about it). One person provided a very detailed argument that you should go to church on Saturday instead of Sunday. This, along with some related questions that a friend asked me recently, got me to thinking about the ACTUAL reasons why we need to go to church. Not just the good reasons, or the reasons why going to church is good for you, but rather the actual practical reasons why God asks each of us to show up in a building every Sunday.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why Do We Need The Book of Mormon?


A friend of mine sent me this interesting question about the Book of Mormon last year, and I thought that I would share my response with you, my loyal readers.

Q:  J. and I were wondering what the purpose for the Book of Mormon is. We understand the Doctrine and Covenants, but are a bit lost otherwise. Figured we would ask you.

A:  A helpful way to look at it is to lose the artificial distinction between one piece of God's word and another. The Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price all consist of God's word given to his Prophets who in turn were authoritatively commissioned to teach His laws and institute His ordinances, and keep records of God's dealings with his people. While the prophets in the Book of Mormon happen to be different men than the prophets in the Bible and other books of scripture, that doesn't change the fact that they were called by and ordained through the power of the same God.  It would be illogical to accept Isaiah, but reject Matthew, just because they came from different eras.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Special Missionary Bible Study


The full-time missionaries will be teaching us a quick refresher lesson on The Plan of Salvation. I feel that in view of some of the subjects that we will be covering in depth as we move into such epistles as 1 Thessalonians, we can all stand to review some of the basic concepts contained in God's plan for his children. This is a golden opportunity to invite your non-member (or lapsed member)friends to hear the Gospel in a fun and informal setting. I strongly encourage anyone who plans to attend to seek the guidance of the spirit to help each of us know whom to invite. As usual, Bible study will be held at Jami's place at 7 pm, Wednesday Jan. 6. For more information, please contact me via e-mail or facebook.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Christian Martyrs

The Great Apostasy-Part III: Apostasy and Dissension from within the Church

Apostasy and Dissension from within the Church

This is the third installment in my series of presentations on the Great Apostasy. In this segment we examine the catastrophic effect that internal heresy and strife had on the primitive church, and the Apostles' responses to and prophecies about this increasingly widespread apostasy.  If you have not already done so you should go back and view Part 1 and Part 2 first before you start Part 3.

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