Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What Does A Prophet Actually Do?

A friend of mine, who is only nominally a member of the LDS Church, recently posted this short (34 second long) video on Facebook. While I find the video to be a little childish, and feel that it shows a distinct lack of understanding on the part of its creators, I also find it useful as a gateway through which to address certain misconceptions in the world and among the members of the church concerning precisely what it is that a prophet of God does (and does not) do, how prophecy functions, and how each of us can recognize a true prophet at work.

This video was posted on Youtube by someone who goes by the name "Smithbusters," which by itself should tell you that it is not intended to flatter the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that those who posted the video hardly represent a credible or objective source. However it does raise some interesting questions like: "Why isn't General Conference filled with predictions about the next big financial crash or weather disaster?" or, "Why haven't there been any major changes to the standard works in 20 or more years?"

I feel that I should respond to these questions, and this video, by first stating that I feel that the people who posted the video do not have a proper understanding of what it is that a prophet actually does, but then again if they did, we wouldn't be having this discussion. More to the point, there are many people (including some members of the church) who are less than entirely clear as to what exactly it is that a prophet actually does.

For many people (in America anyway) this problem has much to do with the fact that, in my experience, most Americans seem to get the bulk of their religious knowledge from sources such as the movies, the History channel, and the Discovery channel.

If you rely on sources like these to get your knowledge, here is what you will learn:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Death Is Not The End

I wrote this post a few weeks after my mother died of breast cancer.  At the time I was mostly interested in collecting those scriptures that testify of a life that continues beyond the grave, and I wasn't in a place emotionally in which I could write down my own thoughts on the subject.  After a few years I finally feel like I have some perspective from which I can approach this tender issue, and so I decided to revisit this subject in order to add my own thoughts and perspective.

Since the beginning of time, man has been confronted by the awful reality and immutability of death.  Death is our universal heritage, and it will come to all who have lived, are living, and who will ever live upon the Earth.  In its implacable certainty and chilling finality, death has inspired fear and worry in countless generations as long as there have been humans who have survived after losing those closest to them to death.  One of the great mysteries of existence is what happens to us after we die.  Where do we go?  What happens to us when we get there?  Should I be afraid when my time comes?  Do we go anywhere at all, or do we end up as worm food because there is nothing after this life but oblivion?  Is death the end?  These questions have puzzled, tormented, and fascinated us throughout our history; however, on a more personal level, questions like these proceed out of the genuine ache of loss and the deep, painful, and sincere desire to know:  Will I ever see my loved ones again?

In every age, poets, artists, parents, priests, and oracles have struggled in an effort to provide answers to the universal question which confronts all men.  They have produced elaborate mythologies and cosmologies in order to explain a mystery which in truth confounds them as much as it does the rest of us.  Without a true understanding of where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going how can these people, however well-meaning they may be, provide any answers that shed any real light on our fate after mortality?  The fact is that they can't, because they lack the basic truths that are necessary to provide meaningful answers to the deep questions of the soul.  Fortunately there is someone who knows exactly why we are here, and where we are going, because He is the one who put us here in the first place.  God cares about His children, and He mourns when we mourn.  From His earliest recorded dealings with men, through the means of His holy prophets, God has provided answers and comfort to those in every age who seek solace in the knowledge that death is indeed not the end.

In the grand scheme of things, our time in this life is incredibly short, or as Macbeth opines upon hearing that his wife is dead, "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more." (William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5).  How great it is to know that there is hope beyond this short life!  That although our lives are altogether too brief, there is an answer to the question "If a man die, shall he live again?"
Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;

For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. (Job 14:1-2; 5;7-12; 14)

Monday, December 5, 2011

First Presidency introduces at Christmas Devotional

"The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) urged Church members to focus on Jesus Christ this holiday season, and also announced the launch of a new “Life of Jesus Christ” Bible video website at the annual First Presidency Christmas devotional."

Click HERE for full article.

Click HERE to "Learn about Jesus Christ through free videos based on the King James Version of the Bible. Watch online or download mobile app."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"If You're So Righteous Why Aren't You Rich?" and other dumb ideas about how God's blessings work.

This post is divided into three parts, each one dealing with a common misconception about how prayer and blessings work, and about our relationship with God.  The one dealing with riches and righteousness is number two, however I recommend that you read each part in order, as I intended each point to build off of each preceding principle.

1) God owes me blessings because I earned them through my own obedience.

This one is tricky because it arises out of a true statement made in D&C 130:20-21 which says:

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

This scripture is a fairly straightforward statement that says that if you want to experience the blessings that come from living the law of tithing, or the Word of Wisdom, or Temple worship or any other law of God then you have to be willing to obey that particular principle before you can enjoy said blessing. What this statement DOES NOT say is that God owes us blessings for obedience, whether that be obedience in general or obedience to a particular principle.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why Repentance Brings Hope

Repentance is probably one of the most poorly understood terms in all of the gospel, despite the fact that it is among the first principles and ordinances that form the basis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many people are afraid of repentance; some are afraid of the consequences that are likely to occur if they were to admit to any wrong doing, and others dread the potential loss in social standing and status that can come with an admission of sin. There are those who resent the notion that they need to repent, because they insist that they do not sin and they therefore resent the implication that they might be a sinner.  Others will not accept that they even need to repent, because they do not think that what they are doing is wrong and they therefore resent those that suggest that they might need to change.  Almost all of these people mistakenly think that repentance involves punishment and suffering, and therefore they tend to react badly when someone (a loving family member, a bishop, or a general authority) counsels them to repent.  The reasons why people may have a problem with repentance are many, but principal among them is surely a fundamental misunderstanding of what actually constitutes true repentance.  However, when one takes the time to contemplate and comprehend the true meaning of repentance, it becomes a sublime doctrine of love and forgiveness and relief from the burden of sin.

"[Repentance is] perhaps the most hopeful and encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary. We thank our Father in Heaven we are allowed to change, we thank Jesus we can change, and ultimately we do so only with Their divine assistance." (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Broken Things to Mend,” Ensign, May 2006).

Where Does the Word 'Repent' Come From?

When repentance is taught in the Old Testament, the original writers used either of two Hebrew verbs, nacham and shub. According to The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, nacham means “to be sorry, come to regret something, to repent.”  Repentance is more than just feeling sorry for one’s actions though, and the prophets who wrote the Old Testament knew that, which is why they also chose to employ the verb shub. "Shub means ‘to turn from’," as Elder Theodore M. Burton explains:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

From 1611 to 2011, King James Version of Bible Blesses Lives

Today is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. In honor of this milestone, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published an examination of the ways that this particular translation has blessed generations since it's publication.

From 1611 to 2011, King James Version of Bible Blesses Lives

In that same spirit, I have included some related posts from my own blog:

How to Become a Scripture Master

Do Mormons read the Bible? Six Tips to Help Make the Bible More Accessible.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What To Do When Church is Boring: 3 Truths and 5 Tips to Make Church More Fulfilling.

Q:  I feel frustrated because my church meetings often seem boring and unfulfilling.  What can I do to make church more exciting or at least enjoyable?

A:  You find church to be boring on occasion?  Congratulations!  That means that you are normal!  My first piece of advice would be to relax about it and understand that it is OK to feel restless in church from time to time.  I used to complain about boring church meetings all of the time, because I have had my own share of troubles when it comes to feeling engaged and fulfilled by my meetings. Then one day I noticed that I had stopped complaining.  I was puzzled enough at this discovery that I paused to examine exactly what had changed to cause such a shift in my habits.  As I reflected, I decided that I don’t think that my church meetings have changed all that much, but I am fairly sure that a vital change has happened in me to help me to overcome my boredom and appreciate my time in church.  In this post I have tried to distill what helped me to resolve this problem in my own mind and heart, and to that end, I have divided my response into two parts:
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