The Lord Prepares Groups of People


TheSaviorKirtlandTempleI was pleased to be asked to substitute teach Gospel Doctrine class this week. It is about the closing of the Kirtland period, the first missions of the early Saints to Canada and later to England, then the exodus from Kirtland. Of course that exodus was not as dramatic as leaving Nauvoo, but it was nevertheless undertaken under duress, especially by the prophet Joseph.

Preparing to Teach

I enjoy teaching the gospel whenever I’m asked, just as I enjoy speaking in church whenever I’m asked. I have found over the years that I tend to over-prepare. I probably spent twenty hours this week reading various sources of church history, but mainly in The Life of Heber C. Kimball by Orson F. Whitney. I was amazed to read again the way the Lord prepared groups of people for the missionaries.

Entire Congregations

Both Heber C. Kimball and later Wilford Woodruff, converted and baptized entire congregations of hundreds, including most of their ministers. At one point in time, it was estimated that a full 80% of the church membership had descended from one of these early English converts. I know that’s true in my wife’s family. I, on the other hand, still consider myself to be a first generation Mormon.

A True Believing Mormon

While my wife’s family is from Utah – and wow there are a lot of them – I’m a California boy. I only bring that up because I tend to think of myself as not your typical Mormon. Although I have described myself as orthodox and conservative everywhere I write, I like to think that I’m more open-minded about some things. Let’s take Denver Snuffer for an example. Uh-oh, I know what you’re thinking.

Books from Denver Snuffer

When I first encountered the writings of Denver Snuffer, I knew right away that the Lord had either asked him or inspired him to write his books, or both. There’s just something about his style, his tone, the authority with which he writes, the depth and the importance of his subjects that causes him to stand out in my mind as someone who has something special and something very different.

A Divisive Individual

So I began to mention him on my blog, write a few reviews of his books and generally bring him to the attention of my readers. I was amazed and shocked by the response of some who found that my suggestion of even considering his legitimacy could have any merit. “How could you be such a fool, Tim? How could you be duped by someone who is an obvious charlatan and one who will lead you astray?”

Read the Material First

They didn’t use those exact words, at least not in the public comments, but in essence, that is what they were saying. Invariably, when I asked if they had read his material, almost all those who were opposed to his ideas, had not gone directly to the source. They were only responding to what they had read from others. Occasionally I’d have an intelligent private dialog with a few who had taken the time to read.

Beware of False Prophets

I have found that when people comment on Denver Snuffer on my blog, they tend to fall into one of two groups. The first believe he is another Warren Jeffs, Jim Harmston (died June 2013) or some other recent wanna-be prophet claiming that the LDS Church is apostate so they start their own. Most have no idea what Denver Snuffer has written. The second group has taken the time to seriously read his writings, consider them, pray about them and attempt to improve their lives by following his suggestions.

Stay Active in LDS Church

I guess I tend more towards the second group. I have read most everything he has written, or at least enough to know that the man is not inspired from the wrong source. There is some real substance to what he has written. Some of it is above me – way above me – but most of what he writes makes sense, especially the part about staying active in the LDS Church. I like that because I have lots of friends at church that I love dearly.

Private Discussion Groups

There are a number of online groups that discuss Denver’s writings, some public, but most private. I confess I belong to a few of them. I don’t contribute much there. I prefer to write on my own blog. This has always been my own spiritual journal so to speak. I have a separate journal that I have kept all my life, but I use my blog to “push the envelope” on spiritual areas I’m pondering so I can get feedback.

A Year-Long Lecture Tour

If you know anything about Denver or follow his blog, you know he has announced a series of lectures beginning on September 10th in Boise, running in various Intermountain West cities and ending in Phoenix a year later on September 9th, 2014. I’m glad they are being recorded because I would very much like to attend one of them but it doesn’t look like he will be making a visit to California on this road trip.

More and More Missionaries

One of the things Denver has pointed out is that the gathering of the elect in the very last days is a two-fold project – one conducted by the institutional LDS church – and one conducted by the angels of God. I am convinced the missionary changes announced last year by President Monson and which are already bearing fruit, at least in the number of missionaries we send out, is not the final gathering prophesied in the scriptures.

Hastening the Work

I believe it is simply a hastening of the work. The Lord is using the LDS Church to gather the elect. There is no doubt about that. But the Lord is also causing something wonderful to happening to various members of the church that puts them in another group – a group that is being prepared to be taught by angels and to eventually receive an audience with the resurrected Lord in this mortal life.

A Movement in the Church

I am being contacted by more and more individuals who want to talk privately about Denver and what they sense is happening in the church today. Some dialogs are via email, some on the phone, but all focus on the fact that we each want to receive a personal visitation from the Lord. Do you remember the terrible controversy this created when George Pace was rebuked by Elder McConkie for even suggesting such a thing?

An Audience With Christ

Maybe you’re too young but I remember it well. It put a real chill and damper on the church for a long time of anybody bringing that subject up again in Gospel Doctrine or a priesthood quorum. It’s almost as if we now give lip service to the idea of knowing the Lord, but we dare not say that we can indeed “know” Him, as in, have an audience with Him while in mortality. Why is that idea so bothersome to some people in our church?

Teach by the Spirit

I’m rambling and I know it. It’s late and I’ve got to get to bed to be ready to teach the gospel tomorrow. Although our block meets at 1pm, I still want to review the material I have prepared and petition the Lord for strength to teach by the spirit. I never want to be so married to the order or the exact content of my prepared material that I miss when the Lord whispers that I teach something a little differently that I had planned.

To my Regular Readers

Let me end by throwing this out there for discussion. Now I know I don’t have as many readers as I used to since I was dropped by ldsblogs.org, but the numbers show a couple hundred visitors a day – most who get here through a Google search on Denver Snuffer – in addition to a couple hundred subscribers who get my posts in an email or on their reader. I would like to know what you think about this.

A Risk of Missing Out

Specifically, what if the Lord really did appear to Denver Snuffer as he claimed? What if the Lord really did ask him to write his books? What if he is now asking him to take the message more directly to the LDS people via this series of lectures he is conducting over the next year starting in September? What if the Lord really does intend to see how we will respond to the message of this man some call an apostate?

Gathering the Elect

Did Jesus come from within the established ranks of the Jewish hierarchy when he came in the Meridian of Time to teach His gospel and establish his church? What if, just what if, the Lord really is sending Denver Snuffer out on these lectures to seek out and find those from within the church that are ready to be taught by angels and to receive an audience with the Lord? What if the Lord wants you to know something more?

Sandinistas


“Everyone get down.”

A rock crashed through the front window of the bus. We didn’t have to be told twice. Some passengers ducked in their seats. We got on the floor. My heart raced.

The bus sped up. I looked at my companion. It was hard to see him in the dark. He seemed terrified. We held on to the seat legs for support.

“Dios mío,” said one of the women. Children cried. Rocks crashed through the side windows. Glass sprayed all around us. The bus driver laid on the horn.

A man shouted something in Spanish out the window. A rock hit him in the side of the face. Blood spattered the seat next to us. Several women screamed.

Chickens flew in the aisle. More rocks smashed windows in quick succession. The bus hopped over obstacles in the road. Men, women and children bounced up and down.

A shot rang out, then another. They came from behind us. One last rock hit the back window. The bus veered to the right in a sudden turn. The crashing rocks ceased.

“Are you alright?” I asked my companion.

Elder Morales didn’t reply. A woman next to him sobbed. He spoke to her in Spanish. He tried to comfort her. The bus slowed to a more reasonable speed.

After a moment I saw the lights of the main street ahead. The bus driver stopped at the corner. He got out and swore. “Damn those kids. Look what they did to my bus.”

We all piled out after him as fast as we could. Women gathered their children who still cried. Men stood around the bus driver. They asked him to keep going.

“They would have burned my bus if I stopped,” the driver said. “I’ve had enough of this. I’m going home.” He got back in his bus, closed the door and sped down the road.

I helped Elder Morales clean the glass out of his hair. His ear was bleeding. I gave him my handkerchief. We began the long walk back to our house outside the barrio.

We worked in Reparto Schick all day, every day. The dangers of that poor neighborhood just outside of Managua prevented us from staying there at night. We had come from a day full of meetings and visiting the people in their homes. It was Sunday, February 5, 1978.

We worked with a small church group called a branch. The leader of the branch got up in church that day and renounced his position. Then his assistant renounced. He said he didn’t want the job either. We spent the afternoon trying to convince them to stay.

“What are we going to do, Elder Morales?” We walked at a fast pace away from the shouting and fires that still burned in the barrio. “President Jimenez can’t quit like that.”

“Elder Malone, you’ve got to understand these people. There are so few that are willing to lead a church. This is the third time he’s been Branch President.”

“I know, but he can’t quit. He has to be released.” Elder Morales looked at me with a kind of sadness. He seemed so much older and wiser than his nineteen years. He was from San Jose. One eye was lop-sided. I could never tell exactly where he was looking.

“We’ll talk to President Garcia. Let him handle it.” I liked that. Give the problem to the District President where it belonged. I was going to miss Elder Morales.

This was our last full day together as companions. I was being transferred the next day to work in Bello Horizonte as a zone leader. All the missionaries in my incoming group of fourteen were about to become zone leaders. It happened with the passage of time.

The only cars on the road that night were taxis and a few busses. Very few people had cars. Sometimes a church member who drove a taxi would pick us up. Not that night.

The shouting in the distance grew louder. Army trucks rolled past us going toward the barrio. A helicopter flew in the distance. Its powerful light searched the ground below.

“Elder, I think we had better get off this road. Let’s cut through the field.” We were about five minutes from our house. The commotion was growing louder. Elder Morales agreed.

The stench of a dead dog filled our nostrils. The light from the helicopter revealed it was infested with maggots. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, Elder.”

Elder Morales began to cough, then sneeze and gag. He grabbed at his face. Tears flowed from his eyes. Surely the scent of a dead dog couldn’t do this. Then it hit me.

Tear gas has a powerful effect even after several minutes. The helicopter light shone fully in our faces. A voice in Spanish over a loudspeaker demanded to know why we were there.

Neither one of us could talk. The wind from their rotor blades whipped around us. Tears blinded my eyes. My tie whipped up in my face. I held my hands up high. So did Elder Morales.

“Don’t shoot,” Elder Morales managed to shout. “We’re missionaries.” It must have been the white shirts that saved our lives. And Sandinistas don’t wear ties.

“CIA go home.” I had to laugh. The voice over the loudspeaker spoke English. It was intended for me. I waved in reply. Both arms. I waved them off. Get out of here.

We arrived home a few moments later. The doña had the usual rice and beans waiting for us. That night she added a little chicken and some plátanos in my honor.

“You’re late. Did anything interesting happen today?”

I looked at my companion.

“We had a great church meeting,” he said. “Please pass the rice.”

My Interview with Mormon.org


On this Pioneer day, I decided to answer all the personal questions that you are asked when you fill out the profile on Mormon.org.  There are a whole lot more under the FAQ section (about 80) but that will have to wait for another day when I have more time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the process of answering these questions and felt like I was being interviewed, thus the title of this blog post.

01. Please explain the part prayer plays in your life?

Having grown up with daily prayer, I can’t imagine a day go by in which I don’t communicate with my Heavenly Father in prayer.  We start the day in prayer as a family asking for the Lord’s blessing upon us as we work.  We end the day in prayer the same way, usually kneeling by the bed, reporting our activities to God and thanking him for his help.  We give thanks for the food we eat at mealtimes and participate in public prayers in our weekly worship service.  It is through prayer and reading scriptures that I feel close to God and directed in my life.

02. Which of the Savior’s teachings have influenced you in your life?

The most powerful admonition of the Lord that has helped me find happiness in this life is his commandment that we love one another.  I remember this whenever I feel that I have been misunderstood or hurt by someone else, either intentionally or not.  It is so easy to take offense in this world but the end result is that we only hurt ourselves when we do that.  To love others is to trust in the Lord that he will help make everything all right, even if it doesn’t appear that way at first.  He also requires us to forgive others since we all make mistakes and errors in judgment. We show our love by forgiving.

03. Please share your feelings/testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel.

Even though I grew up hearing the Joseph Smith story I am still amazed as an adult to realize just how powerful his history really is.  Think about it!  Angels, gold plates, visits from God, Jesus Christ and ancient apostles and prophets – these are all miraculous events that we just don’t hear about everyday.  It is truly a marvelous thing to learn all that the Lord did through Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God.  I am especially grateful for revealed doctrines that clarified and corrected the errors of man in the many religions of the world.

04. Please share your feelings/testimony of Joseph Smith.

I have read at least a dozen biographies of the life of Joseph Smith, and continue to be amazed that the Lord was able to accomplish so much through this one man.  He was a prophet in every sense of the word in that the Lord revealed his will for us through him and continues to do so through the prophets that have followed.  But it was Joseph who paid so dearly with his life even though he did what the Lord told him to do in bringing forth the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I hold Joseph Smith in high regard and look forward to meeting him in the world to come.  I want to thank him for his faithfulness in translating the Book of Mormon.

05. Why do Mormons go on missions?

I went on a mission because I watched a video of the prophet asking all worthy young men to serve the Lord as missionaries.  As he shared his vision of how the gospel would go to all the world, I deeply felt a desire stirring within my soul to be a part of that great army of missionaries.  It was a major sacrifice for me to leave my studies and spend two years in Central America seeking out those who would respond to the Lord’s invitation to come unto him through baptism.  I loved my mission experience and found joy in testifying to the world that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  We go on missions because we are commanded to share the gospel and feel the desire to seek out and bring the message of the truth to all who will receive it.

06. Why do Mormons do family history or genealogy work?

Besides being a commandment to seek out our ancestors, we do family history research because we feel a desire to know and appreciate the story of those to whom we are indebted for our very lives.  I am a product of all those who came before me.  My parents were influenced by their parents and they were who they were because of their parents and so on back as far as we can discover.  Once we have the basic facts of their lives such as names and dates, we are privileged to go to the temple and perform proxy ordinances for them so that they too may meet the commandments of the Lord to be baptized and enter into covenants of exaltation.  We do family history work so we can be saviors on Mt Zion (Obadiah 1:21).

07. How has attending Church services helped you?

One of the highlights of my week is to attend church services each Sunday.  I serve in a leadership capacity in my church, and attend a few more meetings besides the regular three-hour block of Sacrament, Sunday school and Priesthood meetings.  I love the interaction with others who believe as I do and feel as I do about trying to follow the teachings of the Savior.  I say try because nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes each week.  That’s another reason why I love to go to church each Sunday – I get to renew my baptism covenants by taking the Sacrament each week.  I learn more of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these church services and feel a unity with God and with my fellow saints as we worship God and Jesus Christ together.

08. What has helped develop greater harmony in your home?

Like everyone else, I have experienced moments of argument and disharmony in my home which leave me feeling frustrated, resentful, hurt or angry.  I do not like such feelings, especially in my home where I want to relax and feel happy, safe and secure.  So over the years, I have made a greater effort each day to promote harmony and unity by not arguing and not finding fault with my family members.  I was not very good at this as a youth and so I appreciate the blessings that have come to me as an adult as I try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to love others, especially members of my own family, who need and deserve my love the most.  We can have a harmonious home by practicing kindness and forgiveness.

09. What have you done successfully to shield your family from unwanted influences?

Of all the teachings of the church about family, this idea of keeping out the world has been the most difficult but the most rewarding.  Television and the Internet are two of the most challenging types of media to monitor and control.  We believe in freedom so we encourage each other to seek after virtuous and uplifting material.  So the shield we put into place is not anything controlling such as “thou shalt not!”  It is more of making sure that we understand the differences that certain material, music or entertainment can produce, compared to the results of worthy content.  We seek out and support worthy entertainment and uplifting media content and pray constantly that we will each desire such material over the worldly offerings.

10. Could you talk about your baptism?

I was eight years old when I was baptized and for me, that is a long time ago.  My father, who was a recent convert, had to work the evening of my baptism, so he was unable to perform the ordinance.  I was baptized by a young man who was preparing to serve a mission.  My father was able to confirm me a member of the church the next day and I remember the special feelings that came to me as he conferred upon me the gift of the Holy Ghost.  I remember my primary teacher was there and gave me a picture of the Savior mounted on a small piece of wood.  I still treasure that memento and the words of encouragement that she penned on the back.  I’m sure I did not understand all the implications of the covenants I was making at eight years old, but I have come to appreciate the blessings of this ordinance more and more each Sunday as I take the Sacrament and remember what the Savior miraculously did for me in taking upon himself the effects of my sins upon conditions of repentance.  It is baptism that makes my repentance possible.

11. Why/How do you share the gospel with your friends?

I am not a very outgoing person so I believe that the best way I can share the gospel with others is through providing a good example of following the teachings of the Savior.  I have been amazed over the years as I see the influence that my behavior has on others.  I feel it brings respect and a kind of trust that can come in no other way.  I am sometimes surprised that people, including co-workers, will unsolicited confide in me details of problems they are working out and seek my advice and opinion.  I am then able to share my beliefs that following the teachings of Jesus Christ can and does help me deal with problems and that it can help them too.  Because I am shy, I find great comfort in sharing my feelings about the gospel online and am an active LDS blogger.  I also use modern technology like Facebook and Twitter to share my life.  The gospel comes up in the natural course of sharing things online and results in online dialogs in non-threatening and informative way.

12. How does making right choices help us make more right choices?

When we choose the right even when it is hard to do, we strengthen our character and develop integrity.  Deciding to do the right thing one time makes it easier to do the right thing the next time.  Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the added advantage of the gift of the Holy Ghost.  This gift helps us understand what the right thing to do is in difficult situations.  When we decide to follow the impressions of the Holy Ghost in making life’s choices, we show God that we value and appreciate this gift.  The impressions of the spirit will then become stronger or easier to recognize and we can grow in always making right choices.  Of course, being mortal, we will all make mistakes.  The Holy Ghost can also help us repent and make better choices in the future.

13. In what ways have your prayers been answered?

There are so many countless examples over the years that it is hard to share just one or two.  Perhaps the most dramatic for me was on the day that I proposed to my wife.  After I returned home from my mission, I had been praying for quite some time to find a woman who believed as I did and with whom I could be happy.  I was dating my wife’s best friend but the chemistry was just not there.  One day my wife invited me to a ball game and I told her about my troubles getting her friend to like me.  I could see that her feelings were hurt. The next day I visited her in her home and had a long conversation about life and marriage and family.  I had some very powerful spiritual feelings as I was talking to her that I knew were an answer to my prayers.  I proposed on the spot and we were married a few months later.  The Lord helped me with one of the most important decisions of my life.

14. What are you doing to help strengthen your family and make it successful?

My role in the family is to provide security and stability – both financial and spiritual.  I enjoy my responsibility to work and earn the money that we need to have a home, food, clothing and other necessities of life.  But more importantly, I enjoy my responsibility to provide spiritual direction for my family.  We are strengthened by attending church together, by praying and reading the scriptures together and by pursuing worthwhile family goals.  For example, my wife and I take classes at the local community college in the evenings in an effort to improve ourselves and keep our minds active.  We are strengthened as we work together as a family to accomplish good things with our lives and to provide service in our church and our community.  The gospel of Jesus Christ helps us in this endeavor.

15. How has your knowledge of the Plan of Happiness changed/benefited your life?

Sometimes this life can be a drag on the spirit because of all the disappointments and setbacks that come as a natural part of living in this world.  Understanding the Plan of Happiness helps me to realize that such setbacks are temporary.  I remain convinced that the Lord is very involved in my life and wants to help me through my journey until I am ready to return to his presence in the life to come.  Knowing that I lived before I came to this world to experience mortality helps me to have a bigger picture of things.  Knowing that I will live in the world to come and that I will someday be resurrected with a glorious and eternal body give me hope that goes beyond the drudgery and dullness that this life can sometimes be.  The Plan of Happiness is just that – a plan for me to find and achieve happiness through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance and enduring to the end of mortality true to what I know.

16. What is hope and what do you hope for?

Hope is the belief and conviction that there is purpose and meaning to this life.  Hope is the understanding that even though we pass through trials and troubles, we can have the assurance that our experiences are for our good and will cause us to grow.  I hope for a glorious resurrection.  I know that this is dependant upon my personal righteousness and my works of faith in this life.  Yes, the resurrection is a free gift to all men, but we believe that the quality of our lives in the hereafter is very much dependant on our actions here.  This life is a time of testing and proving and we can hope that our efforts in struggling against opposition in this world will be rewarded by a just and merciful God who wants to bless and help us through it.

17. How has the Book of Mormon helped you understand the purpose of life?

In the Book of Mormon we read that “men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).  I can’t think of any more concise and explicit scriptural reference that helps us understand the purpose of life.  Of course, the Book of Mormon provides a lot more insight into how we go about finding that joy and even helps us to understand what true joy is.  One of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon is the prophet Lehi’s dream about the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8).  In his dream he partakes of the fruit of the tree which is desirable to make one happy and is sweet above all that he had ever before tasted.  Eating of the fruit fills our soul with exceedingly great joy.  The fruit of course is the love of God and we obtain it by holding fast to the Word of God that is represented by the Rod of Iron in Lehi’s dream.  What a great story!

18. How has the Holy Ghost helped you?

I consider the Gift of the Holy Ghost one of the greatest blessings in my life.  There have been so many instances in which I have been helped by the Holy Ghost that it is hard to imagine getting through this life without this wonderful gift.  The Holy Ghost inspires me and encourages me to do things that are hard to do but that result in happiness for me and for others in my life.  The Holy Ghost has warned me of danger many times, prompting me to stay away from certain things and places.  The Holy Ghost has helped me by prompting me to a certain course of action that I otherwise might not have considered.  The Holy Ghost has been my constant companion in my work, helping me to remember things that, if forgotten, could have been the cause of much distress or pain.  The Holy Ghost has comforted me in times of sorrow and distress, helping me to feel the love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior even when I do not feel worthy of their love.

19. What blessings have come through your faith in Jesus Christ?

It is because of my faith in Jesus Christ that I am able to get through some of the more difficult aspects of my life.  For example, it is hard for me to do things in a public setting.  But I have been taught and believe that it will be for my good.  The Lord has promised me through the scriptures that he will help me through these difficult circumstances as I exercise faith in him.  And like everyone in this world, I am no stranger to making mistakes and poor choices, even when I know better.  It is through my faith in Jesus Christ that I put into practice one of my favorite little sayings that helps me keep going: “Success is not in never falling, but in getting up each and every time we fall.”  I know that I can be a better person than my fallen human nature would dictate, and it is through faith in Jesus Christ that I am willing to make greater effort each day to be the man that I know he would have me be.

20. How can we develop greater harmony in our homes?

One of the best ways I know of to live in harmony as a family is to do all within our power to avoid criticism, cutting remarks or any attempt to make another family member feel less than loved.  We do this by sharing the same ideals and goals – to seek happiness in living the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Where some family members may not have fully accepted the vision of the gospel, we can provide an example of tolerance and patience with them, just as our Heavenly Father and our Savior do with us.  Fighting, arguing, bickering and contemptuous behavior toward any family member is not the way to have peace and harmony in our homes.  Thus, we pray each day that such undesirable activities are mitigated by expressing love and kindness in all that we do.  We are each at differing levels of maturity in our understanding of this concept, so it is up to those who do, to live it better each day.

21. Can you think of a specific challenge in your family that Gospel Principles helped overcome?

Like most families, we have experienced our share of challenges that have tested our faith and caused us to lean deeply on our understanding of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to overcome.  For example, my wife and I have both lost parents to death, have had our share of serious health problems, including cancer, and have suffered through multiple seasons of financial stress due to unexpected unemployment.  In addition, we have been pained as not all family members have accepted our faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  But it is because of the teachings of Christ that we are encouraged to be patient, that we are comforted when discouraged, that we are inspired when distressed and that we are given strength when we feel weak.  We go on and we press forward, believing that it will all work out for our good, either in this life or in the life to come.  We meet those challenges with strength knowing that we are not alone and that God has promised to help us through them if we will but exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and remain true and faithful to him.

22. How can your talents and gifts bless others?

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that God gives gifts to each member for the purpose of blessing and supporting each other in this life.  Some of those gifts and talents are more obvious, such as singing, musical ability, acting, performing or even a talent to be able to speak with confidence in front of the congregation (trust me, not all members have this talent).  But the scriptures teach that God gives some gift or talent to every member.  Perhaps one is blessed with the ability to be a good listener, another to share heart-felt testimony of how they know the church to be true, others with the gift of teaching children or even just the talent of being able to live peacefully among their neighbors.  When we share our talents and gifts with others, God blesses us and we are “magnified” or made more effective so that others can receive the same benefits that we enjoy.

23. Think about your everyday activities. What are things you act upon each day where you cannot see the end results? How does faith move you to action?

A very simple everyday activity for me that is an act of faith is prayer.  I have never seen an angel or heard a voice in response to my prayers, but I continue to pray each day, believing that God does hear and answer my prayers.  And indeed he has – by sending the comforting feelings of the Holy Ghost to bless and confirm to me that he loves me and wants me to know the truth for myself.  My faith in God and my trust in the words of his prophets as found in the scriptures causes me to continue to pray both as an individual, with my family, in my congregation and in the homes of other members of the church that I visit.  The end results of my prayers are not always evident right way but are just as certain as if I had seen the effects at the time of the prayer.  I am confident; yes I can say that I know, that God hears and answers our prayers that are offered in faith and with real intent.

24. How has the Book of Mormon brought you closer to God?

I first read the Book of Mormon when I was very young – probably 5 or 6 years old.  I read it out loud with my mother, who was a schoolteacher.  Our family had recently joined the Mormon Church so this was also my mother’s first time reading the Book of Mormon.  I remember the special feelings I had as we read it together.  I felt a warm and comforting spirit as I read. I have read the Book of Mormon many times in the many years since I first read it.  In fact, there is not a year that goes by in which we do not read from it either individually or as a family.  No matter how many times we read the same passages, we always seem to learn something new or have our faith in the truthfulness of the book reaffirmed.  The same warm feelings always return. But it is by following the principles of the gospel that are written in the Book of Mormon that we draw closer to God.  It is in the pages of the Book of Mormon that we learn more about the purpose of life and God’s plan of happiness for us.  The Book of Mormon teaches us to study things out and to pray about them that we may know of their truthfulness for ourselves.

25. Can you talk about the missions of the Church and your participation in them?

Up until recently, we as members of church recited the mission of the church as follows: to preach the gospel, redeem the dead and to perfect the saints.  Within the past year, a fourth mission has been added: to care for the poor and the needy.  We now call these four areas of focus simply the purposes of the church.  In my life, I have participated in each of these areas by serving a mission and continuing to share the gospel, by doing family history or genealogy work and by magnifying my callings to serve in the church as a teacher, leader or whatever I’m asked to do.  I’m grateful to be able to assist in caring for the poor and the needy by contributing money to the fast offering funds of the church and by volunteering to serve food at the local homeless shelter on a regular basis.  These missions or purposes of the church help me as an individual member focus on what is really important to our Heavenly Father – to save his children, both temporally and spiritually.

Rachel Esplin video continues to be a hit


Last November, LDS Harvard undergrad Rachel Esplin made viral video news with her incredibly articulate and intelligent responses to some very difficult questions about the Mormon faith. She was asked whether she wears sacred undergarments, if Mormonism is a cult, how she views the role of women in her church, and what her relationship is with Jesus. For not having served a mission, this young 20-year old is an amazing missionary for the LDS faith.

The interview is twenty minutes long and something you may enjoy viewing as part of a Family Home Evening or perhaps even burning it to a DVD and sharing it in a Sunday School lesson about how to share the gospel in today’s media savvy world. Rachel was on the debate team in her high school and her mother teaches at BYU Idaho. But still, this young woman did a better job than I ever could at responding to difficult questions with poise and confidence.

You may also be interested in viewing some of the hundreds of comments that accompanied just one typical news piece covering the popularity of the video as it appeared in the Boston Globe.  I think the very first comment is excellent as it helps us to see how the world perceives us as being closed and secretive.  Especially note the tenor of the comments that focus on the claims of exclusivity.  This continues to be a difficult point for many to deal with both within and without the church.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=2120177&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Day of Faith: Personal Quests for a Purpose – 3. Rachel Esplin from Harvard Hillel on Vimeo.

Elder Packer was right about bearing testimony


I was first introduced to this scripture in seminary as we studied church history.  I was impressed with the basic promise of the Lord to Joseph and Sidney that he would inspire them and back up what they said when they spoke.  “That’s wonderful for them,” I thought at the time.  I’m glad the Lord gave them this promise because it must be hard to always know the right thing to say.

A powerful mission president

One of the joys of my mission was being taught by a man whom I already greatly admired for his devotion to religious education.  I had attended several Know Your Religion lectures presented by Joseph C. Muren in the year before I left for Central America.  Halfway through my mission I was delighted to learn that he had been called to preside over the mission in which I was serving.

Zone conferences with President Muren were simply amazing.  I don’t know how or why I was so blessed, but I will never forget the excitement I felt as President Muren taught us the principles of the lacing together effect.  He helped us to understand how natural it is for new converts to want to share their newfound faith with beloved family members and friends close to them.

A unique interpretation of scripture

During one particularly spiritual Zone Conference, President Muren taught us the importance of being teaching and testifying missionaries.  We weren’t having too much success getting the investigator to pray in the first discussion.  He powerfully demonstrated how he would like us to conclude the first discussion by kneeling in prayer and inviting the family to join us as we did so.

He then shared section 100:5-8 and testified that the Lord would put words into our mouths to know what to say that would bless the family the most with what they needed at that exact time we were there.  I remember thinking to myself at the time that this was going to be a leap of faith for me to go from something the Lord gave to Joseph to something I should use in my labors.

Applying the scripture in our work

So out we went to be a bit bolder in our teaching, testifying and challenging.  I vividly remember the first time we went to our knees at the end of a first discussion.  The family looked more than a little surprised but followed our lead.  After explaining what we were about to do, I opened my mouth to pray.  Something special and sacred happened at that moment that is hard to explain.

After thanking Heavenly Father for the blessing of being able to teach that particular family about Joseph Smith’s first vision, I began to bless the family.  I found that I was not asking Heavenly Father to bless them, but that I was pronouncing blessings upon them that I knew they needed.  I was astonished, as was my companion, but not nearly as much as that special family.

Powerful results of faith

At the conclusion of the prayer, I opened my eyes and witnessed a grown man sobbing as he was overcome with the spirit.  His wife and three children, who were teen-agers, still on their knees, moved closer to him and we quietly watched as they shared a sacred family hug.  Slowly, we stood and silently waited.  When the man stood, he extended his hand and thanked us profusely.

“How did you know?” he asked.  “What do you mean?” I replied.  “How did you know to say those things you did?  You blessed us that we would have family unity and good communication between us.  You blessed us that our love for one another would be strong and that we would be able to overcome any financial difficulties that we might be experiencing at this time.”

The Lord stands by his promises

“I didn’t know,” I responded, “but your Heavenly Father did and he inspired me with what to say that you needed to hear.”  We made an appointment to return in a few days and quietly excused ourselves as it was evident that the family had some things that they wanted to discuss among themselves at that time.  The spirit was strong with all of us and we fairly floated out of there.

As my companion and I talked about this sacred experience I found myself saying, “You know, President Muren was right.  The Lord sends His spirit to bear witness to whatever we feel inspired to say when we do it in the spirit of solemn meekness and love.”  Now, not all of our discussions went like that but we sure had a lot more of them after that with similar results.

Service over the years

Fast forward seventeen years.  By this time I had a family and had served in several teaching and priesthood leadership positions in the church.  Our little inner-city ward was dwindling and I was juggling multiple callings because of lack of people to share the load.  I was beginning to feel a little burned out when we were privileged to attend a multi-stake conference with Elder Holland.

This was 1994, just before the death of President Benson and before he was called as an apostle.  I greatly admired the man, having read many of his BYU talks over the years.  I was impressed that Elder Holland was concerned about the one, even though his assignments brought him into teaching environments where there were hundreds, if not thousands who gathered to hear him.

Taught by a General Authority

As we gathered in our conference priesthood leadership session, Elder Holland began to teach us the importance of speaking and teaching under the influence of the spirit when we are standing in front of a congregation or a class.  He then quoted D&C 100:5-8 and promised us that as we exercised faith in teaching the gospel, we would know what to say at the moment it was needed.

Even though I had witnessed this scripture fulfilled in my mission, I had not been as successful in my teaching assignments over the years since then.  I tended to over-prepare and always had more material than I could possibly present.  As a result, I found myself rushing through the lesson in an effort to fit as much in as possible.  I always felt exhausted after these experiences.

Pause while bearing testimony

Elder Holland then did something that I have rarely seen anyone do with such effect either before or since.  He told us that it is important that we pause after we teach a principle of the gospel so that the spirit can work on the people.  He then dramatically demonstrated this by slowly bearing his testimony and pausing to let the spirit sink it.  It was profound.  Silence can be so powerful!

This was an answer to prayer.  I was going so fast when I taught that the spirit didn’t have time to settle in people’s hearts when I bore my testimony.  I felt extremely grateful and wanted to get back to my ward to try this out.  I didn’t have to wait that long because Elder Holland asked for a volunteer to demonstrate this principle in action.  I soon found myself at the front of the chapel.

Practice is part of preparation

He asked my name and said, “Brother Malone, I want you to simply bear your testimony, but I want you to pause after each sentence as you look your brethren in the eye. Now, go ahead.”  I turned and faced hundreds of priesthood leaders including Bishops, Stake presidents, Elder’s Quorum Presidents and lowly ward executive secretaries and quorum instructors like me.

Maybe it was because I had a man who was about to be called as an apostle standing next to me but something sacred and special happened on that occasion that has rarely happened quite so powerfully since.  I did as Elder Holland taught and watched in amazement as men quietly began to wipe tears from their eyes as I bore witness to the truths of the restored gospel that I love.

Give the spirit a chance to work

When I was finished, Elder Holland invited me to sit down and then said very slowly and very quietly, “You see brethren, the Lord stands by his promises.  When we teach and bear testimony in solemnity of heart and in the spirit of meekness, the Holy Ghost is shed forth in bearing record to whatsoever we say because it is what the Lord inspired us to say at that moment.”

It was another one of those sacred moments for me.  I was immersed in the spirit while I was bearing testimony.  The Lord was strengthening me and bearing witness to me at the same time that I was bearing my witness to others.  I love that special and sacred experience and wish that it occurred more often in my life.  It took an apostle to teach me how to bear testimony with power.

Summary and conclusion

President Packer has said, “A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it.”  Because this is such a powerful principle, it has been attacked by the adversary through enemies of the church, many of them former members who never quite got it.  They like to call it lying for the Lord and claim that the bearing of testimonies to one another is simply a form of brainwashing in an evil cult.

President Packer is right.  There is nothing that can equal the experience of testifying of the truths of the gospel while under the influence of the spirit of the Holy GhostD&C 100:5-8 can be one of the most difficult scriptures to internalize.  It takes a great deal of faith to trust that the Lord will inspire us but I know from experience that he does send his spirit to bear record to our words.

The teaching and testifying missionary


Although I have previously shared a couple of stories from my mission, I have been wanting for a long time to express how much I enjoyed my mission and how it changed my life. There is no doubt that serving a mission was difficult but it was also a period of unequaled and appreciated spiritual and emotional growth.

I served in the Costa Rica San Jose mission from August of 1976 to August of 1978. The first two months were spent learning Spanish in the LTM in the old Knight-Magnum hall on the BYU campus. We were one of the last groups to be housed there. All the missionaries after us enjoyed the new facilities of the MTC.

The decision to go on a mission

Up until the day I turned 19 years old I wasn’t sure that I would be going on a mission. Although I grew up in the church, I went through a short period of rebelliousness in my late teens in which I did not attend church for about six to ten months. That all changed when I went to Rick’s College in the fall of 1974.

While there I experienced a mighty change of heart as I listened to prophets and apostles who came to teach us in the weekly devotionals. For those who remember LeGrand Richards, I attribute my desire to serve a mission directly to his amazing testimony of the joy that attends the missionary bearing witness of the restoration.

An idealistic missionary

I wrote a little about that experience in a previous essay. I made up my mind about a year later when I watched and listened to President Kimball teach us that every worthy young man should serve a mission. So I prepared and finally sent in my papers in June of 1976. Three weeks later I was thrilled to receive a mission call.

I wanted to be the kind of missionary that I heard about from LeGrand Richards. I wanted to be a teaching and testifying missionary and so I spent the last six to ten months before my mission studying the doctrines of the restoration so I could feel prepared. I studied, fasted, prayed and did everything to strengthen my testimony.

The shock of reality

I felt I was ready but still, I was in for a shock when I got to the LTM. Anybody who has served a foreign language mission knows what I am talking about. From day three in the LTM we were to only speak our mission language. That was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life so far but it was extremely effective.

By the time I got to Central America I thought I could communicate fairly well in Gringo Spanish. Shock! The native people do not speak slowly and they had very funny accents. Of course, they said my accent was funny and didn’t hesitate to laugh when I spoke. That was tough but they laughed at my companions as well.

Discipline of memorization

In those days we memorized the discussions word for word. Every morning for the first two months of my mission I memorized those discussions until I had passed them all off. From then on I felt like I could concentrate on conversational Spanish and began to feel that I could understand and be understood. Spanish became easy.

To me, learning Spanish in less than six months was a miracle and one of the gifts of the spirit. Once I had the language down, I then focused on being the kind of missionary that LeGrand Richards had caused me to see in my mind’s eye a few years earlier at Rick’s College. We had plenty of opportunities to teach each day.

Teaching and baptizing

Teaching forty discussions in a week was a normal goal for our mission. Some days we taught ten or twelve discussions. We had no problems being invited in as we were tracting so teaching and testifying were everyday activities. Amazingly, I began to recognize early in each discussion those who were sensitive to the spirit.

Without resorting to kiddie baptisms like John Dehlin talked about in his mission, the typical missionary baptized sixty to eighty converts during their two years in Central America. There were four countries in my mission and we could only stay in each county six months. So we changed companions about every six weeks.

First half of my mission

The first half of my mission as a junior companion in Honduras and Costa Rica was a preparatory time for me. I learned a lot from my senior companions. After that I was sent to Panama as a senior companion and then to Nicaragua as a zone leader. We had great success in every county but especially in the poor areas.

In Panama, we found and taught a family that to me, made my time in the mission worth the price. When I think of my mission, I think of the Delgado family. They responded to the spirit and worked hard to qualify for baptism. The way we found them was a miracle and their sweet influence on our whole district was profound.

A vision fulfilled

It was in Panama that I found myself literally fulfilling the vision I had seen of myself as a missionary while at Rick’s College. After teaching a first discussion, we invited a family we had just tracted to kneel with us in prayer. Something special happened during that prayer that brought tears to the eyes of the family.

While still on our knees I testified to them that what they had felt was the spirit of the Holy Ghost bearing witness to the truthfulness of the message that we taught. We asked for and obtained a return appointment and left feeling blessed, knowing that the Lord fulfills his many promises to back up our testimony with his spirit.

Conclusion of my mission

When I arrived in Managua, I was amazed to discover that 85% of the membership in our little branch did not attend church. This was by far the highest inactivity rate we had discovered and we worked hard to change it. By the time we left Reparto Schick, the attendance had increased to 35% and we had new baptisms.

It was just a few months later that civil war engulfed this nation that had already been devastated by an earthquake that had destroyed their capital city. The stories of the missionaries coming out of the area were both frightening and amazing as they bore testimony of the hand of the Lord in protecting them in getting out.

The Returned Missionary

I came home determined to keep my testimony strong. But the transition for a missionary can be difficult. I found myself accepting a job that required working on Sundays. Slowly that fire became dim until I was able to change jobs and get back to regular church attendance. How I missed and appreciated church again!

Soon I met Carol and embarked on a whole new journey of learning to love and serve my own family. Because of what I learned on my mission, I feel I became a better husband and hopefully a better father than I would have been otherwise. I love serving in this church and appreciate the foundation I received on my mission.

Conclusion and summary

It’s hard to summarize the two-year Mormon mission experience in just a few short paragraphs. But if there is one thing I learned and cherish to this day, it is the fact that the Lord really does fulfill his promise that “the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record” unto the things we say when speaking the thoughts he gives us.

The knowledge, gained by two years of testing and proving it as a missionary, has served me well in many callings since that day. I love to teach the gospel. What I love most about it is the feeling I get when I teach and bear testimony to the truth. The feeling is indescribable other than to say that it is delicious and most desirable.

Why LDS blogging just works


I don’t know this blogger and I normally don’t do this, but one of the joys of blogging is reading what others have felt important to share. I feel particularly impressed with this essay shared by Memoirs of a Married Mormon Man and felt it deserved additional readership. He writes that it will be his only blog post this month but it is worth it. Here is the heart of the essay:

A Missionary in Germany

“I recognized a smartly dressed elderly gentleman as he strode toward us. He looked as if he had somewhere to be. Someplace important. As he stopped in front of us, a wide smile on his face, he said hello to me. I smiled back, astonished at the happy coincidence, and introduced my companion to him as my father.

“He then turned to my father, and in fluent, though accented English, greeted him with, ‘I am so happy to meet you. I want you to know that your son stopped me on the street one day. Before we met, I had lost God. Because he talked to me, I have found God again. Thank you for sending him here. Thank you.’

“My father was speechless. I felt like I was in a dream. This man was obviously ecstatic to see us. At that moment, I don’t know who was happier: me, my father, or this newly converted gentleman. But I have a suspicion that our happiness pales in comparison to the joy the Savior must have felt knowing that a few more of his children had found their way to Him.”

LDS Bloggers have stories to tell

That’s why I love LDS blogging. You can find jewels like this all over the place with just a little patience and digging. By the way, I found MMM through a comment he left of one of the blogs I regularly read: Rough Stone Rolling. I wish there was some place where we could nominate great stories to the LDS bloggers hall of fame. Anybody? Now go read the rest of the story.

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