Archive for March 2008
Back in January I mentioned that Carol and I started reading Elder Lund’s new book, Hearing the Voice of the Lord. This is one that we chose to read out loud together at the end of each day. We discuss what we read so we are only halfway through the book even though we have been reading it for over two months. Sometimes a few pages read aloud and discussed together are better than whole chapters read silently alone.
I have come to the conclusion that the book is not just good. I pronounce it a masterpiece. It is destined to become a classic. Obviously Elder Lund knows how to write. Which General Authority other than Elder McConkie and Elder Maxwell has written so many books? Of course, The Work and the Glory series of books are not doctrinal treatises but historical novels. Nevertheless, the man is a skilled writer and this book proves it.
Prior to reading Elder Lund’s book on “Principles and Patterns of Personal Revelation,” my favorite book on the subject was “The Holy Ghost” by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet (Bookcraft 1989). My copy of that book has been marked and highlighted as the results of many readings. I anticipate Elder Lund’s book will soon receive the same treatment. That replaced my earliest book on the subject, N. B. Lundwall’s “Discourses on the Holy Ghost.”
Elder Lund’s book is still in the Top Ten of the bestsellers list at Deseret Book. It was number one for several months. Marketing and name recognition got it there but the content is going to keep it there for a long time to come. Elder Lund wrote an article about the book that contains a great overview of the contents so I won’t duplicate any of that here. I would like to share just one story that touched me deeply and comment on one principle that I have learned from his book. It was a major ‘aha’ moment for me.
Choosing a new Stake President
I had long wondered about the process of choosing a new Stake President. I listened carefully as it was explained by the outgoing Stake President, but still wondered why I was being interviewed. Even though I was a member of the High Council, I knew I was not the man. I dutifully went to the interview and was asked two questions. “Tell me about your family.” and “Who do you think should be the next Stake President?” were the only questions that were asked (OK, so one wasn’t a question – it was more of a command). Then the visiting general authority knew right away what I already knew.
On pages 54 to 59 of Elder Lund’s book he goes into great detail about the process of interviewing the counselors in the Stake Presidency, each high counselor and each bishop. Occasionally they ask the Stake President for others to interview. The two General Authorities confer after each visit and share impressions. After discussion and prayer, the answer is usually clear and known to both the Brethren.
Elder Lund concluded this section by telling an amazing story in which the call was issued based on shared feelings that this was the Lord’s will that had been manifest. However, he said a silent prayer even while issuing the call, “O Lord, this feels right, but it is so important. I hope we read Thy inspiration correctly.” As they stood up to leave, the newly called Stake President said, “Now I understand the dream I had the other night.”
When asked what he meant, he related that in his dream he was being interviewed by the Stake President. This was not unusual because he was a bishop. However at the end of the interview, the Stake President got up and placed his suit coat on this good bishop’s shoulders. To Elder Lund, this was one of the manifestations of the tender mercies of the Lord. It was a “second witness” that they had indeed read the inspiration of the Lord correctly in this calling.
Being taught by the spirit
The “aha” moment I wish to share in conclusion came just last night as we read on page 210 about priesthood keys. The epiphany was not so much from what was written and what I read, but what I felt as I read this simple statement. “Someone who has not been given the right to preside and direct the affairs of the Church…cannot…unveil a new interpretation of scripture.” I know, this is not new and it is hardly deep doctrine.
As I read this statement aloud, the spirit bore witness to me again how important this is for teachers of the gospel. We need to be so careful that we do not teach our personal opinion about a scripture. It is imperative that the doctrine taught is consistent with the official view of the Brethren. Of course, that can best be done by teaching what is found in the manual. If we do not understand a scripture, look on lds.org for additional references that can be used.
It never ceases to amaze me how many Google hits I get on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings from people searching for lesson commentary on some subject that I happen to have written about on a previous post in my blog. Hello people! Read the manual. It has all the quotes you need. Google is the last place I would be looking to find material to teach in Primary or Sunday School. Maybe for the High Priest’s group – nah, I’m just kidding.
I’m happy you are reading my posts but don’t quote my retelling of the apocryphal story about the bullet that was stopped in the Isaiah chapters of Second Nephi. And my insights on the Liahona were shared freely but I would stick with whatever is in the manual. For goodness sake, my opinion on where the Ten tribes are should never be taught in a Gospel Doctrine class. And why is everyone wondering if President Monson will change the doctrine of the church?
I know very little about Darwin and Evolution. I didn’t pay attention when that was taught in school. I wasn’t interested in it then and I’m not sure that I am now. But I am curious to find out why I’ve been hearing and reading more and more about it lately. What’s the big deal? As far as I know Darwinists believe that we evolved from apes or that life was created in primordial slime.
I don’t believe that we evolved from apes and frankly, I can’t believe that Darwinists believe that either. Tell me I’m wrong. That must be what the people who oppose Darwinism say that Darwinists believe. I’m a Mormon and I believe that God placed Adam and Eve here upon the Earth a long time ago. I believe that Adam and Eve became mortal about 6,000 years ago.
I don’t know that it was 6,000 years ago that Adam and Eve were placed here because who knows how long it was before they became mortal? But I don’t believe they evolved from apes or slime. They were born to immortal parents. Adam was a son of God. They were immortal before the Fall. I believe in the Fall of Adam and believe that there was no death before the Fall.
So is it true that all Darwinists and Evolutionists don’t believe in God? Do they really believe that life began by chance and that there was no intelligent design? I am a creationist, not an evolutionist. I believe God created the Earth, the heavens, the stars, animals, plants, man and just about everything that we see. I believe he organized it from material that he created.
There are some things I can’t explain about the creation. One of them is did God organize the material for this earth from pre-existent material? I believe he did. I believe the dinosaurs must have come from another planet, simply because there was no death before the fall. That is a very important point for me. The earth must have been organized from older planets.
I know the First Presidency has published official statements on evolution several times early in the 20th Century. I also know that President Joesph Fielding Smith wrote a book about the subject when he was President of the Quorum of the Twelve. I also believe that even President McKay did not support it, responding when asked, “It is not official doctrine of the church.”
According to the contributors of the Wikipedia article on Mormonism and Evolution, there is no official church position on the subject of biological or organic evolution. I am satisfied that when God wants us to know more about it, he will let us know. Perhaps we can ask Him when he comes again. It just doesn’t bother me very much. For some people it has become a problem.
I ran across a YouTube video today from Ben Stein on the subject of scientists losing their jobs because they are questioning evolution. Amazingly enough, he has written a documentary about this controversy and it has been made into a movie that comes out April 18th. I had not heard about it. It is called, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” YouTube has short and longer trailers.
This must be a controversial subject. There are 2,700+ comments on Ben’s blog. Ben has been going to college campuses across the country to talk about the movie. What little I have read on his blog, in Wikipedia and in the blogs of several of my visitors on the subject has convinced me that it is a very complex matter. I am glad the church does not yet have an official position.
A recent visitor to my blog, Gary Shapiro, has a blog dedicated to the idea of No Death Before the Fall. In fact that is the name of his blog. I recommend a visit. Another visitor, S. Faux, also LDS, has posted a thought-provoking essay on Evolution on his blog, Mormon Insights. He is a life scientist (biology), and writes regularly on many subjects. I enjoy his essays very much.
Isn’t it great that we can disagree on the subject of evolution and still be considered faithful members of the church? I wish that others in the world would take note of this idea. We can get along and dialog intelligently on a controversial subject without descending to name-calling or personal attacks. We also show respect for each other’s point of view. Take note you anti’s!
Mosiah 3:19 has long been my favorite scripture. I was pleased to learn many years ago that it was also one of the favorite scriptures of Elder Neal A. Maxwell. I think I have maybe half of Elder Maxwell’s nearly thirty books in my library.
Elder Maxwell wrote so much about discipleship. He also was the epitome of humility and submission. The man was an intellectual genius but wrote in such a way that the focus was never on him; it was always on the Savior.
FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) was renamed the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship in honor of Elder Maxwell. It is a fitting tribute. He loved scholarship. Bruce C. Hafen, who has also served in various capacities in church education, wrote a wonderful biography of Elder Maxwell appropriately entitled “A Disciple’s Life.” It was and is a welcome addition to my library when published in 2002. Elder Maxwell died in 2004.
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)
Elder Maxwell has pointed out that the word “submit” is used several times in this verse. It is closely correlated to the act of yielding, in this case to the enticings of the Holy Spirit. The natural man has no desire to be submissive to anybody let alone to the loving encouragement of a God who only has his eternal happiness in mind. The natural man views submissiveness as a weakness.
Said Elder Maxwell, “Significantly, submissiveness, that reverent expression of enduring, is mentioned twice. Giving enduring extra emphasis is capped by directing that we ‘submit to’ and endure ‘all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father.’ Much of enduring well requires this reverent submissiveness. ” (If Thou Endure It Well, 1996, p. 33)
“Spiritual submissiveness is so much more than bended knee or bowed head. Submissiveness also checks our tendency to demand advance explanations of the Lord. The submissive soul will be led aright, enduring some things well while being anxiously engaged in setting other things right—all the time discerning the difference.” (Willing to Submit, Ensign May 1985)
“Personal righteousness, worship, prayer, and scripture study are so crucial in order to “[put] off the natural man” (Mosiah 3:19). ” (General Conference, Oct 2000) “One is not only to endure, but to endure well and gracefully those things which the Lord “seeth fit to inflict upon [us].” (BYU Speeches 27 Nov 1979) Almost everything I read from Elder Maxwell on this verse indicates that he equated putting off the natural man with submissiveness and patience.
“How can there be later magnification without some present deprivation? Except we are thus tutored, how else shall we grow spiritually to become the men and women of Christ? In this brief mortality, therefore, reveries are often rudely elbowed aside by tutoring adversities! Meanwhile, as faithful children, the challenge is: Will we prove ourselves, in King Benjamin’s phrase, “willing to submit?” (BYU Speeches 4 Feb 1990)
“In the journey of discipleship we lose our old selves. The natural man and the natural woman are “put off,” and then we find ourselves having become more saintly (see Mosiah 3:19). We see such saintliness all about us in the Church—quiet, good women and men, not particularly statusfull, who are becoming saintly. This is what should be happening in the lives of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ” (BYU Fireside, 27 March 1994)
“Brothers and sisters, no wonder the divine direction is for each of us to “becometh as a child” (Mosiah 3:19). Such saintliness will sustain us as we cross our Sinai, including in those moments when we must “be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). Such submissive stillness is necessary, because the process of consecration is not one of explanation. (General Conference May 1996)
You can read more about Elder Maxwell’s profound understanding, interpretation and instruction on this verse in his Conference talk of November 1990, “Put Off the Natural Man, and Come Off Conqueror.” This marvelous verse characterized the life of a great disciple. By following the advice of an angel as delivered to a Book of Mormon prophet, a man became an apostle. By doing the same, can we at least expect to be saved in the Kingdom of God?
One of the most popular stories on Yahoo News this morning was “Real Death Star Could Strike Earth.” Somehow, we remember in the back of our minds that something like this is prophesied to happen in the last days just before the Savior returns to the earth. I suppose that is why stories like these are so popular.
Space.com has been running these regular Monday morning reports that seem to play on the worries and fears of the Last Days. Aren’t there supposed to be signs in the heavens that we should be able to look for as a warning that time is almost up – something about stars falling from the sky? Ah yes, here it is:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. (Matt 24:29). There it is, just as clear as can be. The stars will fall from the sky.
Or, if you prefer a version from modern revelation: “But, behold, I say unto you that before this great day shall come the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall be turned into blood, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and there shall be greater signs in heaven above and in the earth beneath. (D&C 29:14)
Greater signs in heaven than stars falling? What could those possibly be? How about a huge meteorite hit? “And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth.” (Rev 9:1) John actually mentioned three stars in Revelation which cause three woes or three plagues. These “falling stars” appear to be the direct cause of three major catastrophes.
How about the approach of a large comet that gets just a little too close? Couldn’t that possibly cause a huge amount of destruction as the Earth passes through the tail or the gravitational pull causes global earthquakes the likes of which we have never seen in our lifetime? How about a bunch of little meteorites, each one causing terrible destruction? Could that be a sign in heaven?
“Earthquakes rent the earth in vast chasms, which engulfed multitudes; terrible groanings and wailings filled the air; the shrieks of the suffering were indescribably awful. Water wildly rushed in from the tumultuous ocean whose very roaring under the mad rage of the fierce cyclone was unendurable to the ear. Cities were swept away in an instant…”
NOTE: I’m looking for a better source for this quote. I have one in printed form in an old book and one online in this slide presentation. I looked in the BYU online digital library but could not find it. The source is The Contributor Magazine, Vol 15, No 20, pp 638-647. It is entitled, “A Dream”. The author is Charles D. Evans, a patriarch in Springville, UT and is dated August 1894. Junius Wells was the editor of The Contributor Magazine during those years.
How about fire from heaven – could that be a sign? I am not convinced that the Peshtigo fires of 8 October 1871 were caused by anything other than natural events. But many have read into the accounts the very description of earth passing through the tail of a comet: “It came in great sheeted flames from heaven. There was a pitiless rain of fire and sand. The atmosphere was all afire.”
I know, the idea of the fires of 1871, including the great Chicago fire being caused by an asteroid, comet or meteor have all been debunked over the years. Phil Plait, author of Bad Astronomy, whose upcoming book is entitled, “Death from the Skies,” is adamant that there is nothing to the idea. But still, from the descriptions I’ve read, one could make a case for meteorites mixed with burning petroleum. I don’t know – just wondering aloud.
I suspect we will be reading more and more stories about these kinds of catastrophic events. Some of the most ridiculed are the ideas of some sort of gamma ray burst or an ultramassive body passing through our solar system. Some theorize that a comet or meteor could affect the orbit of one of the outer planets, causing it to careen into the path of another planet and so on.
Who knows? Most scientists are not known for their ability or desire to correlate their understanding of the heavens with the prophecies found in the scriptures. We are told that there will be “new heavens and a new earth,” (D&C 29:23-34) but that it shall be like the old one. (Ether 13:9)
So the heavens will look different in the future – perhaps a change in the very stars that we see. Does anybody know when this will happen? I don’t, but the Lord has told us that he will “do nothing save he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets”. (Amos 3:7)
“Wherefore, be not deceived, but continue in steadfastness, looking forth for the heavens to be shaken, and the earth to tremble and to reel to and fro as a drunken man, and for the valleys to be exalted, and for the mountains to be made low, and for the rough places to become smooth–and all this when the angel shall sound his trumpet.” (D&C 49:23)
Larry Richman and I are good friends. We must be. He keeps sending me personal emails giving me clues into what the web team of the church is doing these days. I think he must have told Joel Dehlin, the CIO of the church about me because he also sends me his emails. They are most informative into understanding how the CIO of a large organization thinks. We go way back – to almost five months ago when I signed up to receive their emails. You can too. Anybody can.
I mean no disrespect. Larry and Joel take their work seriously. I think they have some of the hardest jobs in the church. I am convinced that the Internet outreach of the Church is only going to grow in the years to come. That means that the web team needs to grow. I’m sure you’ve seen their ads on the bulletin board at the church. Larry is so busy he is looking for another manager (posted 28 Feb 08). You can find lots of church tech jobs at tech.lds.org.
I wanted to work for the church once. A long time ago when I still made a living as a programmer, I applied for a programming job at Church headquarters. I was surprised when they called me up and said they would like to interview me. “But I live in California,” I said. I was even more surprised when they sent me a round trip ticket to come up for the interview. I think this was back when the church had some connection to the old Western Airlines.
The interview went well, I thought. We even discussed my first project – writing the interface for the point of sale system for the Mormon Handicraft store that stood across from the Church office building. So I moved my family up to Salt Lake and showed up in the personnel office on a Monday morning. “What are you doing here?” they asked. “I’m here to start work,” I said. “Oh, sorry. We just sent you a letter. We hired someone else who already lives here.”
My mistake. I was young and naive. There was no job offer. I only thought there was. No problem. I went to work for Management Systems Corporation down the street. I knew computers well and sold Apple Computers in their retail store. I was there during the big State street flood during the spring of 1983. Remember the floods? I had a blast in Utah for a year. My son was born there. But times were tough and we soon returned to sunny California.
Now I work for the Church again. No, I’m not an employee of the Corporation of the President. My sister is though. She works for an Apostle. I’m real proud of my big sister. She has done well. I’ve always heard that you can’t make much working for the church. The standard line is that it is a labor of love. I’m told that things have changed in the tech arena. So if you have tech skills, especially in web development, give them a call or send them an email. They’re hiring.
I work for the church in that I take Elder Ballard’s invitation to share the gospel via the Internet very seriously. I strive to write posts that shed a good light on the church. Sometimes I will take a current criticism of the church from the news and write my take of it in such a way that I hope is helpful to someone who is not a member of our church. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good dialog, but I prefer a discussion of doctrine over a haranguing from a Mormon basher.
Larry sent me an email today pointing out an article on BYU Newsnet, “Called to Blog: Fighting for the Church Online.” There is a great quote from Richard Holzapfel, a BYU professor of Church History. Holzapfel said that the way the gospel is being spread has changed. Missionaries used to go to islands by boat. Today, things are completely different. People search for information about the church online. “One of the ways they’re going to come to the gospel is through the Internet.”
The More Good Foundation was founded by Jim Engebretsen, assistant dean of Corporate Relations at the BYU Marriott School. Jim served as a mission president in Oklahoma from 1998 to 2001. Missionaries told him they were being turned down after investigators searched about Mormons on the Internet and found anti-Mormon websites. Engebretsen decided that something needed to be done and started the More Good Foundation in 2005.
If you would like an easy and friendly place to answer Elder Ballard’s invitation to start blogging. check out the More Good Foundation’s lds.net. It is kind of like MySpace for Mormons and already has nine thousand members. This online network combines blogs, chats, forums, photos, and videos. People don’t go to their neighbors like they used to. Instead, people Google things. The Internet is where many people will go to find answers to religious questions as well.
I have found that to be true. I get so many hits from Google. I can see that people are looking for information about the subjects I have previously written about. You can watch the hits come in on my little sidebar widget. I just wish more people would leave comments, especially honest seekers after the truth. So far, most of the comments are from good faithful members or, on occasion, from a professional Mormon basher. What kind of reader are you? Leave a comment.
I have been meaning to comment on the new church website on the Savior. In a word, I am impressed. No, that word seems too common and almost worldly. From a web design point of view, I am impressed by the style, the content, the layout, the colors and the functionality. They are first class. But for me, the right word to describe the overall web site, including it’s purpose, is powerful.
The website makes a bold statement to the world. The church and the web design team have not been hesitant over the years in proclaiming the message of the restoration. The church website on Joseph Smith has long been a great wealth of information about the prophet who ushered in this dispensation. Recently, the web team added great websites on President Hinckley and President Monson that are virtual testaments to these great men.
This website on the Savior stands out to me in a class by itself. It is obvious that the designers worked long and hard to make the site simple yet powerful. It is not overwhelming on the surface and yet it is deep. The doctrines taught and the testimonies shared all serve to emphasize one purpose to the world: Mormons are Christians in every sense of the word. We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ (2 Ne 25:26).
One of the greatest things about it is the accompanying tie-in to the special March 2008 issue of the Ensign, which is also all about the Savior. You will find some of the same articles both on the website and in the Ensign. I loved reading President Hinckley’s testimony of the Savior. I know I have heard and read it before, but in this format, it will always to be his last testimony to me. With the Ensign was delivered a special memorial supplement on President Hinckley.
Update: A video overview of this special issue of the Ensign has now been placed online.
President Eyring’s article is a wonderful invitation to come unto Christ. Elder Nelson’s article focuses on faith in the Savior while teaching of our divine natures. President Packer’s article is chalk full of doctrine and teaches clearly just who the Savior really is. Elder Holland’s article focuses on the atonement and includes one of my favorite stories – Elder Orson F. Whitney’s dream of the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane. Each article is a witness of Jesus Christ.
Taking advantage of multimedia and explaining why the church created this new website, you can even watch a video of Elder Nelson that proves that the church focus on using the Internet to share the gospel is intentional, determined, will continue and probably intensify. If you have not been to lds.org lately, I highly recommend you make a visit. There are links to other online videos with more apostolic testimonies, and the always great video, Finding Faith in Christ.
How can the world not get the message? Mormons are Christians! Make no mistake about it. Those who disagree have either not seriously investigated the claims for themselves or are intentionally denying facts just to argue against us. Well, we know that there must needs be opposition in all things. There are way too many anti-Mormon websites out there. I, for one, want my blog to clearly show that I am a Mormon who believes in and testifies of Jesus Christ.
What did you think of the new church website on Jesus Christ? Have you visited it?
Today’s gospel study is D&C 133:26-34 which has to do with the return of the lost Ten Tribes in the Last Days. I have always wondered from where they will return. Where exactly are the ‘North Countries’ on this earth? After much study I have come to the conclusion that the Ten Tribes are no longer on this planet and have not been for thousands of years. I don’t think I am the first to reach this conclusion. I have heard this many times over the years but never had a source until today. First the scripture:
“And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence. And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep. Their enemies shall become a prey unto them, And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land.
“And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants. And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence. And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim. And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy. Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows.”
In connection with these wonderful prophetic verses, I today came across the following quote which is attributed to Joseph Smith. In it he clearly states that a planet will come alongside the earth, overtake it and then position itself in a stationary location over the north pole of the earth. At that point, there will be some sort of joining mechanism between the two planets, causing a highway to be established between them. Over this highway will come the Ten Tribes.
Can you imagine what will happen to the waters of the earth with the attraction of another planet over the North pole? I would hate to live North of any large body of water at that point. Think about it. There will be a worldwide catastrophic inundation as the water from the equatorial regions suddenly rushes to the Northern polar region. Imagine the water in the Gulf of Mexico. Where will it go? How about the water in the Mediterranean? Think of the great devastation that will cause as it travels Northward at a frightening speed.
Here is the quote:
“Now let me ask you what would cause the Everlasting Hills to tremble with more violence than the coming together of two planets? Scientists will tell you that it is not scientific: that two planets coming together would be disastrous to both; but, when two planets or other objects are traveling in the same direction and one of them with a little greater velocity than the other, it would not be disastrous, because the one traveling faster would overtake the other.
“And relative to the Great Highway which should be cast up when the planet returns to its place in the great Northern Waters, it will form a highway and waters will recede and roll back. Now as to their coming back from the Northern Waters; they will return from the north because their planet will return to the place from whence it was taken. When this planet returns it will make the earth that much heavier, and it will then revolve slower.”
Source: The Last Days by Robert W. Smith, Pyramid Press, Salt Lake City Utah, 1947, p.130. The story took place at the home of Bishop Benjamin Brown in Nauvoo in 1843 or 1844. It was related to his son, Patriarch Homer M. Brown of the Granite Utah Stake. Although it is not a firsthand account, it is consistent with other statements like this recorded by Orson Pratt and Parley Pratt, quoted in a previous post. They all stated that this was taught by Joseph Smith.