Sunday, April 26, 2020

A Hidden Threat to The True Church

Many people who think they are following the gospel of Jesus Christ are instead following Moral Therapeutic Deism, a watered-down creed that requires little by way of commitment or conversion. This counterfeit gospel makes personal happiness and "nice-ness" the only virtues that matter and imagines a God whose only job is to love and serve us and then to let us all into heaven without asking anything of us. Moral Therapeutic Deism is a danger to the true church because it can lead to stunted faith and spiritual starvation. This vacuous way of thinking is also causing young people to leave organized religion in droves all across America. What can you and I do to prevent this popular "self-made" religion of complacency and convenience from taking root in our own hearts and homes?
Recent national studies have suggested that more young adults are leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now than ever before.[i] This worrying development follows a larger trend across the country, in which particular groups or demographic cohorts (such as Millennials and Generation Z, or young men without a college degree, etc.) have been observed to be increasingly rejecting traditional religion, and moreover appear to be leaving these religions in droves. Seeing this, some have declared that “Religious commitment is in sharp decline, almost free fall.”[ii] Others have observed that “Almost every organized religion is experiencing losses in this new climate.”[iii] While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not experienced the dramatic losses which other American churches have faced, it is clear that we are not immune to this trend. Even the highest leaders of the Church have acknowledged the growing dissatisfaction among many people with organized religion.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Call For Questions

Do you have a gospel or scripture related question? Is there an aspect of church doctrine which confuses you? Chances are, others would like to know the answer too!

Submit your questions in the comments below, or send a message to this page, and (if I select your question) I will provide an in-depth answer to your question in an article on Scripturesight, based on careful research of the scriptures and the teachings of the general authorities.

*Please keep questions appropriate and on-topic (and gospel-centered). No anti-mormon rants, please. It's OK to ask questions! After all, good, thoughtful questions are an important part of the searching, pondering, and praying that make up meaningful scripture study! To see why, check out my article on the subject: Scripture Master Tip #4: It's OK to Ask Questions!

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this blog are wholly those of the author, and do not represent the official opinions or positions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or any other church.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

5 Things the Missionaries Are Too Nice to Tell Members to STOP Doing

Too often we as members tend to treat missionaries like children. Because we assume many missionaries are immature goof-offs, many members do and say things that denigrate the missionaries, their work, and their devotion to building the Kingdom of God. We aren’t always willing to do our part to help the missionary work go forward. The missionaries are often too nice to tell us what we are doing wrong, but there are at least 5 things the members do which many missionaries wish they would stop. Changing these attitudes and habits would do much make their lives easier, and help the work to progress unhindered.

One: STOP Treating the Missionaries Like Children

Members generally love the missionaries, but even the ones who love them the most can occasionally be kind of patronizing. They often forget that the missionaries they love so much are legally (and also in terms of emotional, and intellectual maturity) adults. They often just want to joke or play around with the missionaries, and they can’t understand why a missionary may not always want to goof around with them. Many who have children who go on missions often forget that their child is in fact no longer a child. They send them care packages filled with candy (which they love) and toys, which they cannot use and they don’t have the space to store or transport. Moreover, certain toys are often banned in the mission because they tend to distract missionaries from the work. However, my main objection has to do with the fact that sending toys to a missionary just shows that many people do not truly consider their missionary to be a responsible adult, and in their minds he or she is still a kid.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

How the Book of Mormon Contains the Fullness of the Gospel

The introduction to the Book of Mormon states that it "contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel," a concept and phrase that is also found in a number of scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 20:8-9). This phrase occasionally causes some confusion among those who read it. Many suppose that a “fulness” must mean that the Book of Mormon must contain a comprehensive catalog of all LDS doctrines, beliefs, and teachings.  This often leads some to wonder why the Book of Mormon does not deal with certain key doctrines of the faith, such as baptisms for the dead, celestial marriage, or exaltation. Others assume that this statement about the fulness must represent some kind of exclusivist truth claim, or a shot at the truth of the Bible. I believe that this confusion stems from a misconception concerning what the gospel actually entails, and a misunderstanding about what the Book of Mormon is actually supposed to do.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A Deeper Reading of Paul's Epistle to Philemon

          This article is a follow-up to an earlier one in which I argued for an allegorical reading of Philemon, which you can find HERE. In this piece I evaluate my earlier claim, and also consider alternate readings of Paul's Epistle.

Evaluating An Allegorical reading of Philemon
Several years ago, I applied my own allegorical reading to Paul’s Epistle to Philemon.  I did this without any real understanding that allegory is just one “sense” in which scripture can be read, and moreover that there are different types of allegory within the overall “spiritual” sense.  In order to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of my allegorical reading of Philemon, I will employ the four senses of scripture as outlined in classical (medieval) exegetical thought.  In the process, I will strive to answer the following three questions:  What other meanings have been (or can be) gleaned from the text? Do the other senses or readings of scripture play a meaningful role in the text? Finally, does my allegorical reading of Philemon lead me to neglect certain dimensions of the text?  In answer to these questions, I assert the following: First, that the most common meaning that has been gleaned from the text generally relies on a literal sense of the text.  Philemon is most often held to be exactly what it appears to be on the surface: a letter from an apostle to a Christian slaveholder, designed to persuade him to be reconciled to a runaway slave.  However, more recent interpretations point out that Paul may have intended a moral reading concerning the equality of Christian brotherhood.  Second, while the literal sense of the text has been accepted in the past, newer commentators have posited that the moral sense ought to be applied to the text instead (or at least as well) (as in the case mentioned above).  Third, an exclusively allegorical interpretation of Philemon has some drawbacks, including the fact that it may lead one to neglect or overlook the valuable moral sense of the text.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Scripture Master Tip #22: Context is Everything

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, the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and (less anciently) The Doctrine and Covenants.

"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).

“All scripture should be studied in context” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985, 686).

It is also important to gain an understanding of the context of a scripture passage within the chapter, book, or book of scripture in which it is found, and also to compare it to the what is taught in the rest of the standard works and the teachings of living prophets. Furthermore, it is also crucial to place what you read in the scriptures within the larger context of the gospel as a whole. Doing so will help you to gain a better grasp of scripture, doctrine, principles, and the gospel overall.

“Context clarifies and deepens understanding of the stories, teachings, doctrine, and principles in the scripture text… [and] gives life and relevance to the doctrine and principles that are found in the [scriptures]” (New-Teacher Training Resource: A Teacher-Improvement Companion to the Gospel Teaching and Learning Handbook (2016).

There are at least three senses that are important when discussing the importance of context in studying the scriptures (Scripture Study—The Power of the Word Teacher Manual (2001), 30–32).

Immediate Context
Context Within the Text
The Larger Gospel Context

Friday, August 3, 2018

When to Follow a Fallible Prophet

Q1: If prophets are fallible (as I believe they are, same as every other imperfect mortal in this world) then how can people trust in their EVERY word as if from God?

This very question is why it is so important to learn how to gain a confirming witness of the truth via the personal witness of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost will bear witness of truth, especially the truth of prophetic counsel. However, sometimes that witness doesn't come until after the trial of your faith. Following the prophet is not blind obedience. It's acting in faith, as informed by the spirit.

“We listen to the Lord’s prophet with the faith that his words are “from [the Lord’s] own mouth.” Is this blind faith? No, it is not. We each have a spiritual witness of the truthfulness of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. By our own will and choice, we raised our hand this morning, declaring our desire to sustain the Lord’s prophet with our “confidence, faith, and prayer[s]” and to follow his counsel. We have the privilege as Latter-day Saints to receive a personal witness that President Nelson’s call is from God” (Neil L. Andersen, The Prophet of God,” Ensign, May 2018, 25).

We can tell when the speakers are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’ only when we, ourselves, are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’ In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak.” (J. Reuben Clark, When Are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture? [address delivered to seminary and institute of religion personnel, 7 July 1954], p. 7).

It is true that not every word a prophet speaks comes directly from God, but their counsel and opinions often have great value. A Prophet's human failings do not mean that they do not have authority and keys that make them worth listening to and heeding. God will always use imperfect servants, because we are all He has to work with. A Prophet's fallibility does not negate the importance or the truth of his teachings.

Q2: But what a prophet teaches isn't always true...In that case, is it still wise to heed their words?

A2: Be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because there have been instances in which prophets have made mistakes, that doesn't automatically make it unwise "to heed their words." Fallibility does not equal or imply deception, intent to deceive, or even simple unreliability.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Avoiding Spiritual Thorns

Image credit: Димитър Найденов / Dimìtar Nàydenov
I'm reading the parable of the sower in Mark Chapter 4, and I was struck by the things which Christ describes as "thorns" which can spring up and choke the word once we have heard it: 
  • ·        The cares of this world
  • ·        The deceitfulness of riches
  • ·        The lusts of other things
This parable is a warning to all of us who have heard the word. Do we allow our preoccupation with success, advancement, wealth, achievement, and recognition or approval to interfere with our efforts to nourish and nurture the word of the Lord in our hearts and our lives?

What are the lusts of other things? Do we spend too much time watching TV, or on social media? Are these things interfering with habits which foster the development of a relationship with God?

Perhaps it is time to examine our lives to identify those noxious thorns which have sprung up to choke the spiritual life out of us almost without our even knowing it.

For more on how to get rid of spiritual distractions, see my article:

Scripture Master Tip #12: Rid Yourself of All Distractions

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Are Temples Too Extravagant?

I served my mission in San Diego, California.  The temple there is one of the most beautiful and striking temples in the world.  Due to its beauty, and its location near a major freeway, the temple has become a well-known landmark in San Diego. In one part of one area in which I served people could see the temple from their front doorstep. It made for an interesting backdrop for tracting.

Accordingly, I must have had some variation of the following conversation at least a thousand times on my mission:  We would knock on a person’s door, and as soon as they found out that we were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they would tell us that they had visited the temple during the 1993 open house, and they would compliment us on the beauty of the building.  However, they would inevitably proceed to complain that they felt that such a beautiful building was unnecessary, and that we ought to be using that money to help the poor instead.  Some people would also complain that we ought to let everyone go inside the temple, and not just certain members.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

5 Christian Classics Every Latter-day Saint Should Read

I have personally amassed an extensive library which consists of books on many subjects.  In particular, I have collected many books on religion, both by LDS authors, and also by non-LDS authors.  I am not a millionaire, and thus I can’t afford to buy every book I come across (as my wife occasionally has to remind me).  I therefore do my best to buy only those books which I consider to be classics on their subject.  However, even among my (admittedly) large collection of excellent books, there are certain books that stand out above the rest. Many of the best books in my library are written by LDS authors, but some of them are not. 
I have noticed in the past that some members of the LDS church tend to view books on religion written by non-Mormon authors as being somewhat suspect, or of being of less value than a book written by an LDS author. However, it is worth noting that many of my most beloved books by non-LDS authors are widely recognized as classics by people of all faiths.  In fact, you may recognize some of the authors mentioned on this list, as their writings are often quoted over the pulpit at General Conference.
It is true that books which come from outside our tradition may contain ideas that do not wholly jibe with our particular teachings, but that doesn’t mean that there is no benefit to be derived from reading such books.
In scripture, we are instructed by the Lord to “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (see D&C 88:118).  In one of the articles of our faith we hold that “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (see A of F 1:13).
Here is a list of some of those “best books,” which I can personally attest are filled with things that are “virtuous, lovely, or of good report [and] praiseworthy.”  This list does not constitute a blanket endorsement of all of the doctrines or ideas contained within them (especially over and above the doctrines and teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).  However, there is much that is good and true in these books, which can be used to help us to better understand our own faith, and which can uplift and instruct us, as we read them under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Can An Eternal God Have Once Been A Man?

This question was posed in an online group regarding the LDS doctrine that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938, p. 345).  Below it I have included my response in three parts.

Premise 1: God does not change
Premise 2: God is eternal
Logical conclusion: God has always been god and could not have once been man because that would have involved him not being god eternally and changing into god.
What is the flaw in this argument?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Why Only Jesus Could Be The Christ

Q: Was Jesus the only one who could have been the Savior? Was it possible for someone else to have been the Messiah?

A: Jesus alone was anointed as Savior because He was the only one who had the right to be the Christ (or the Messiah).  He could claim that right because it was His by birthright and by righteousness, and also by covenant.

“Jesus was chosen from before the foundations of the world to be the Christ, the Anointed One…He was the birthright son, and he retained that birthright by his strict obedience” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and his Apostles, 15).

Christ’s claim to the Messiah-ship is actually fairly well established in scripture (particularly in the Bible).  Here is the case for Jesus’ unique and exclusive claim to the title of “The Christ” as well as to the responsibility and blessings that come with that title.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

5 Scriptures that Testify that God is Real

Countless people throughout time have wondered: “Is there a God?” There are nearly as many opinions on this subject as there have been people who have lived on this planet.  For this reason, many people feel confused or uncertain about whether or not God exists, and if so, what that actually means for us humans.

Many people have rejected the notion of the existence of a God or a higher being altogether.  Still others acknowledge that there may indeed be some kind of higher being who exists in the universe, although they do not know who or what this being may be, or what form he/she/it may take.  Others choose to reserve judgment for a number of reasons, including waiting for more evidence (one way or another) to present itself.

The problem is that many of those who search for God tend to reject scripture out of hand as a reliable source of evidence.  I imagine that this is because they assume that religious texts are essentially biased.  However, this forces them to look for evidence that is inconclusive at best.  There are many who point to the workings of the natural world, and of creation as evidence of a divine presence, but there are just as many people who point to the same evidence to say there is not a god.  There are some who try to use a process of logic to reason their way to God, but once again there are many who would argue that logic suggests that there is no God.  Even some religious people might argue that God is beyond our ability to grasp through human reason alone.  I mention all of this in order to demonstrate the evidentiary value that scripture can have in an honest and open-minded investigation into the existence of God.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thy Grace Is Sufficient For Me: A Psalm of Gratitude

This is my amateur attempt at producing a psalm.  I posted this rather personal work in order that I might uplift and inspire others to grow closer to God.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

Lord, thy grace is sufficient for me
In thy mercy thou givest me rest
Lord, as thou takest my burdens upon thee
Thou makest my burdens light.

Thou forgivest me my transgressions
My sins are blotted out through thee.
Thy lovingkindness and thy mercy are without end
And cannot be exhausted.

Lord God, thou art my master
I deliver myself to thee
I am thy servant
Thou settest me free

Thy yoke is easy, and thy burden is light
Gladly do I take up my cross
Happily do I follow thee
In following thee I find my life

In serving thee I gain dignity
Thou makest me thy particular treasure
No longer am I a slave to sin
Never again will I transgress

Thou makest me thy child
No longer am I a servant in thy house
I am thy son, give me thy spirit
I cry unto thee, Abba, Father.

Thou guidest me when I am lost
Thou art my light in obscurity
By thy word I set my steps
By thy teachings I build my life

In grief I seek thee Ebenezer
In my adversity thou hearest my cry
Thou art my support in sorrow
My balm and surcease in suffering

Thou art my companion in adversity
In thy footsteps I tread the path of woe
Thou hast descended unto hell
In thy suffering thou hast reclaimed my soul

Thou art the captain of my salvation
I will follow thee in all things
Thou leadest the way
Thine example is my guide

Thou teachest me to love mine enemies
To do good to those that despitefully use me.
In love I fulfill thy royal law,
Through love I approach thy throne.

Through thy grace I approach thee with boldness
Thy redemption sanctifieth me
By thy merits hast thou justified me
Thou hast brought me before the mercy seat

I stand before thee revealed
Thy word is quick and powerful
Thou hast discerned the thoughts and intents of my heart
Purify thou me Lord!

Cleanse thou my innermost soul
Give unto me clean hands and a pure heart.
I give unto thee my heart and my will
I surrender unto thee the weapons of my rebellion

Thou desirest not gold or silver
Thy treasure cannot be bought
Thy salvation is a pearl without price
I would give all to obtain it

Thy grace is sufficient for me
In thee I am made whole
The riches of thy blessings defy my capacity to receive them
My gratitude is not sufficient to the bounty of thy grace

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How do I Distinguish the Holy Ghost from My Own Thoughts?

Q: How do I tell the difference between promptings from the Holy Ghost and my own thoughts?

A: For some reason, this is a question which preoccupies members of the church, especially the youth and young adults.  I have heard some variation of this question in countless settings throughout the church.  I have heard it in seminary and institute classes, I have heard it during ward youth activities, and during Sunday school and priesthood classes.  I also noticed that this question cropped up in every single face to face session the general authorities have held with the young adults in the church.  Clearly, there is a burning desire to learn the answer to this question!

I think it is a good sign that so many want to know how to better recognize that voice of the spirit.  It shows that people across the church are thinking about this question, and seeking to better know the Lord.  However, I do think it is a little strange that there should be so much confusion among members of the church.  Presumably, if they are members of the church, then they have been baptized and they have received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Since we are therefore entitled to the companionship of the Holy Ghost to guide, instruct, and direct us in our lives; surely Latter-day Saints must be experts when it comes to receiving and recognizing the spirit.

Why All the Confusion?

Given the particular facility the gift of the Holy Ghost ought to bestow upon members of the church, why is it (clearly) so difficult for us to tell the difference between the voice of the spirit and other influences?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

7 Mistakes Even Good Members Make

On the whole, Latter-day Saints are good people.  Most of us do our best to try to live the gospel. Most of us try to be Christ-like and obedient to the Lord.  Unfortunately, even the best of us tend to fall into traps of bad thinking without even being aware of it.  This flawed thinking can interfere with our ability to fully live the gospel. These mistakes can keep us from experiencing the full blessings and joy that come with gospel discipleship.  More often than not making these mistakes can actively make us miserable.  On my blog I answer gospel questions, and in real life I talk to people of all walks of life about religion, and I have noticed a few common problems that even the best of us may have to overcome in order to progress in the gospel.

I.                 Riding the Line
When I was a young man, I was taught a parable in my Aaronic priesthood Sunday classes about truck drivers and staying away from the line:

“A man was interviewing new drivers for his transportation company. The route was very dangerous and went along several steep cliffs through a mountain pass. The interviewer asked each man how close he could safely drive near the edge of the cliff. The first man responded, “I could drive within six inches of the edge.” The second man responded, “I could drive within two inches of the edge.” The third man responded, “I would stay as far away from the edge of the cliff as I possibly could.” (Aaronic Priesthood Manual,

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Dangers of the Checklist Church

Q: I am a convert of 9 years, and in that time, I have noticed something that bothers me. In particular, I've seen this happen to a couple friends, to two of my own cousins, and even my husband.

They grow up totally devout Mormons, learning to go to primary, young men/women's, serve a mission, get married, go to the temple, etc. But then sometimes people hit a snag. The church says "you must do A,B,C,D and then you get to go to heaven.”  But I've seen some people get to "C" and because of something beyond their control, they can't do that thing. (For example, not qualifying to go on a mission for medical reasons)

For example, one person had a hard time finding a wife. He's only 27 and he acts like his life is over because he's not married yet. My cousin didn't go on her mission and the guy she was with left her, and now she's lost like she has no purpose.

It's like they suddenly don't know what to do with themselves. Like their life just ended. Like they had a map of what to do and the map is messed up so they fall into this really sad and really pathetic depression.

Personally, I don't want my kids exposed to that!  I don't want my son to be depressed and feel like a failure because he didn't follow the A,B,C,D plan to a T.  Watching what this stuff is doing to my friends and family is so sad. My cousin literally just sits in her room crying and feeling sorry for herself because she didn't qualify for a mission. AND ITS NOT EVEN HER FAULT! She's even becoming apostate over it!

I'm so close to pulling my kids out of church and just teaching them at home. I don't want my kids mentally screwed up because of this church and the ridiculous pressure and expectations put on these kids.

Am I wrong? Does anyone else see this?

A:  You are not wrong to be concerned and repelled when you see your friends and family suffering from feelings of inadequacy, depression, and guilt at what they perceive to be their failure to adequately live up to gospel requirements.

Your friends are not alone.  Many Mormons who are doing their best to follow God’s commandments can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight and number of things they have been asked to do as members of the church. Some, like your friends, may wrestle with feelings of inadequacy and failure when they don’t manage to measure up.
“Around the Church I hear many who struggle with this issue: “I am just not good enough.” “I fall so far short.” “I will never measure up.” I hear this from teenagers. I hear it from missionaries. I hear it from new converts. I hear it from lifelong members…. Satan has somehow managed to make covenants and commandments seem like curses and condemnations. For some he has turned the ideals and inspiration of the gospel into self-loathing and misery-making” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually,” Ensign, Nov. 2017).
This is unfortunate, because your friends and many others like them don’t need to feel like failures who cannot hope to measure up.  They don’t have to feel like they are stuck, or like their life is over when something doesn’t happen the way they think it is supposed to happen.  Your friends are laboring under some misconceptions about how the gospel is meant to be lived, and this wrong thinking is making them miserable for nothing.

From where I’m standing, there are two problems: First, they (and you) seem to be proceeding from the assumption that there is a checklist (A, B, C…) that we have to follow to a tee if we are going to go to heaven.  Second, they also assume that getting into heaven is the whole point.  Also, as you may have noticed, the problem with this checklist mentality is that it almost immediately starts to fall apart when things in life don’t go according to plan.

Serving a mission, marrying in the temple, paying your tithing, and so forth are all important things, but none of these things is the ultimate goal of gospel discipleship.  Accordingly, the church does not teach that you have to follow a rote list of A, B, C, and D to get into heaven.  What the church does teach is simultaneously simpler and also more complex and elegant than that.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

5 Scriptures to Help You Overcome Temptation

1.      3 Nephi 18:15, 18-19  Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him. Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;

The Savior is the only one who ever lived who was perfectly righteous.  Even though he was tempted in all the same ways that we are, he never gave in, and he faithfully followed His Father in all things, and he lived a wholly sinless life (see Hebrews 4:14-15).  This makes Christ the unopposed champion of resisting temptation.  Not only do we have his powerful example of obedience to guide us, but he also left us valuable teachings concerning how best to resist temptation and how to avoid it when possible. Given Christ’s sinless life and example, it makes sense to look carefully at the things he taught about resisting temptation.  Namely, he exhorted His disciples to “watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation.”

Why is it that constant prayer so effective a remedy in staving off temptation?  One answer has to do with the fact that the devil never sleeps.  He and his angels have nothing better to do than to try to lead you astray, and he is obsessed with your destruction.  I don’t know what it feels like to be sifted as wheat, but if Satan wants to do it to you, you can bet it’s not pleasant.  The only way to combat an enemy that never rests is to turn to God, who will never rest in providing and guiding us in the way to joy and salvation.   God is more powerful than the devil, and his voice can dispel the seductive tendrils of temptation.  We need Him in our lives, and prayer is the way for us to access God and His power.  That is why the devil works so hard to get us to neglect the habit and practice of prayer in our lives.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Why the Church has the Right to Speak Out on Political Issues

Q:  Is it typical for the church to [speak out] for or against voting for something [specifically in letters regarding impending state votes on the questions of doctor-assisted suicide and the legalization of recreational marijuana]? Does the church feel like the congregations can't make informed decisions on their own without out an official statement? Do they believe that…we have to be spoon fed our opinions?
A:  The church does not endorse any particular candidate or political party, however:

“The Church does… Reserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church” (Official Statement on Political Neutrality,

This has been the case throughout the church’s history.  For instance, the church expressed support for the so-called (and much praised) “Utah compromise” (Utah senate bill 296) which contained language designed to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination, while also protecting and preserving religious freedoms.  In the case of California Proposition 8, the church sent a letter to congregations in California encouraging members to get involved in efforts to pass the proposition, but the church was not directly involved, nor did it donate any money to those efforts.  Less recently, church leaders encouraged members to speak out against ratifying the proposed Equal Rights Amendment in the United States.  There are many other examples of the church urging members to speak up on one issue or another on “issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church.”

Note the careful wording in the passage quoted at the top of this article.  The church reserves the right to “address” issues.  In the recent letter about marijuana, the strongest language used by the first presidency is that they “urge” the members to speak up in opposition to the legalization of marijuana.  (Note that nowhere in the letter is anyone specifically told to vote one way or another). That’s because such letters constitute counsel rather than commandment.  As such, they do not represent any kind of direct mandate to the members to vote one way or another.  That means that you are left to reason for yourself as to what the right course of action should be.  Even if they could force the members to vote a certain way, the brethren would not do it.

“Some may believe that reason is not free when religious leaders have spoken, but I doubt that any religious leader in twentieth-century America has such a grip on followers that they cannot make a reasoned choice in the privacy of the voting booth. In fact, I have a hard time believing that the teachings of religions or churches deprive their adherents of any more autonomy in exerting the rights of citizenship than the teachings and practices of labor unions, civil rights groups, environmental organizations, political parties, or any other membership group in our society.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Religious Values and Public Policy,” address given 29 February 1992, Brigham Young University Management Society,

Thursday, October 13, 2016

5 Scriptures to Help You Overcome a Faith Crisis

1.      Ether 12:6  And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.

If you are experiencing doubt, or even a crisis of faith, don’t despair.  All who desire a witness of the truth of the gospel must endure a trial of faith (or several).  Part of that trial is the expectation that we are to strive to cultivate faith before we obtain evidence that our faith is not in vain.  In fact, Paul goes so far as to preach that faith is, in itself, the evidence which we seek:

Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The apostle Peter taught that our faith will be refined if we maintain it even as we experience the fires of doubt.  If we love God, and believe in him, even “though now ye see him not,” we are promised that we will receive our sought after witness, the end (or object) of our faith. If you will stay faithful, even when “ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations [and trials]” (see 1 Peter 1:6), your faith will be rewarded, and you can "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

1 Peter 1:7-9  That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:  Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:  Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
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