Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How Can I Get My Testimony Back?

Q:  I was baptized a little over a year ago. I was baptized because I knew for a fact all of the things most people do: Jesus Christ is our Savior, Thomas S. Monson is a prophet, the church is true, etc... But now, I just don't. I'm no longer sure if the Book of Mormon is true. I can't read any scriptures. I don't even know if they are true. I'm not sure Thomas S. Monson is a prophet. But I want to be sure. I want to be like I was a year ago. But I don't know how.

A:  When you first got baptized no doubt you were on a spiritual high, and your emotions were probably running high as well. Now that time has passed, your emotions have cooled somewhat, and you have had to face the relatively mundane task of maintaining (and nurturing) your testimony from day to day. C. S. Lewis declared that such a change in mood is natural, and that it is precisely in moments such as these that faith is most useful:

"Now faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.

The first step is to recognize [sic] the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious reading and church-going are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?" (Mere Christianity, 140-141)

C. S. Lewis lists three things which he tells us are "necessary parts of Christian life," if we are to keep our faith "fed" and nurtured. I call these things "the three pillars of personal testimony," because they are essential in the maintenance and development of a healthy testimony and a robust faith.

*Daily prayers (Constant prayer)
*Religious readings (Consistent scripture study)
*Church-going (Regular & worthy observance of the sacrament)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Why Gethsemane is as Important as Calvary

Q:  Do you really think Jesus bled from every pore, or do you think it’s symbolic?

A:  I believe that Christ DID, in fact, literally bleed from every pore. The reality of this event has been confirmed by the Book of Mormon and other Latter-day scriptures, and modern prophets have also borne witness to the truth of Christ’s bleeding from every pore in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Mosiah 3:7  And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.

Even Christ himself is recorded bearing witness to the reality of His suffering in the garden:

D&C 19:17-19  For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;  Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

It has also been demonstrated scientifically that the human body can indeed bleed from the pores when subjected to enough stress, as evidenced by these medical references:

"Those who assert that it is impossible for a body to sweat blood are not acquainted with the facts. The possibility of this phenomenon was known to the ancients...And if one will take the trouble to consult a modern medical dictionary under hemathidrosis or hematidrosis, reference will be found to the phenomenon. Thus in The American Illustrated Medical Dictionary (1947, Phila.) we find this entry:  'Hematidrosis—The sweating of blood or of fluid mixed with blood. In Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary (1955, Phila.) occurs this reference:  Hemathidrosis, hematidrosis—Condition of sweating blood.'  In a much older medical work we find this interesting note: 'Haematidrosis is a functional disturbance of the sweat apparatus whereby blood, through diapedesis into the coils and ducts from their surrounding vascular plexus, becomes mingled with the sweat and appears with it upon the normal skin, producing the phenomenon of so-called "bloody sweat." It is an exceedingly rare occurrence, ....' (C. T. Dade in Reference Handbook of the Medical Sciences, IV, 466. 1902.)  Thus it is clear that the sweating of blood can occur, even if rarely" (Dr. Sydney B. Sperry, Answers to Book of Mormon Questions, 139-140).

However, physical suffering was only part of what the Savior experienced during His sojourn in Gethsemane.

“It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance, could have suffered so; for his human organism would have succumbed, [producing] unconsciousness and welcome oblivion. In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all the horrors that Satan, ‘the prince of this world’ could inflict…In some manner, actual and terribly real though to man incomprehensible, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world” (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 613).
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