Posts Tagged ‘Prophets’
We had a visit from Elder Perry to our ward in Camarillo today. He told us he was in town on one of the last days of a week-long series of meetings in California. He started in San Jose on Tuesday and had one more half day Monday in San Fernando. He has been meeting each day with the missionaries for a few hours and then with the Priesthood leadership of multiple stakes.
We were expecting a large crowd for the missionary farewell of the youngest sister of our bishop. I’ll bet she’ll always remember that she spoke on the same program as an apostle. When he walked in, nine year-old Whitney Peterson handed him a piece of paper with four questions. He delighted us by answering them candidly and directly. I paid close attention to what he said.
Four Questions for an Apostle
Her first question was “How many churches have you visited?” I think she meant different wards or stakes “You do the math,” he answered. “I’ve been doing this for forty years. We go out three weeks out of every month. We have five weeks off in the summer and two weekends off each year for General Conference.” I did the math. Without duplicates, that would be 1,320 churches.
Next, Whitney asked, “How many temples are there in the world?” He laughed as he replied, “I don’t know. I can’t keep track anymore.” Somebody apparently looked it up as he was talking and told him – 136. He told the story of president Hinckley going to Stake Centers while on visits to Mexico looking for properties large enough to accommodate temples to be built next door.
The next question was “Where do you live?” I expected him to simply say Salt Lake, but he told us he lived a half block north of the conference center and that he walks to work each day. He has a key to a side door so he walks the rest of the way through the tunnels to his office in the church administration building. Now I know how this almost 90 year-old apostle keeps in shape.
An Apostle’s Witness of the Savior
The last question was the best. “Have you ever seen an angel or the Savior?” I listened closely to hear how an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ would answer this question. He told a couple of stories. First, he described one of the weekly meetings with the twelve way back when Elder LeGrand Richards was still alive. The meeting had to do with changes being made in the temple.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Elder Richards said that President Woodruff had been there. When asked why, he said that Elder Richards was the only one of the twelve present who had attended the 1893 dedication of the Salt lake Temple (as a child). President Woodruff was vitally concerned with the temple that he had dedicated. To Elder Perry, this was a visit by an angel.
The 1978 Revelation on the Priesthood
He then told the story of the 1978 revelation that all worthy men could hold the priesthood. He said that there were only three of the twelve still alive who had been there. He described how President Kimball asked to be the voice in the weekly prayer circle and how he poured out his heart in petitioning the Lord for understanding of his will on what should be done on this issue.
He said that the outpouring of the spirit was so great that at the conclusion of the prayer they each went back to their offices without saying a word. They usually go have lunch together. Something sacred had happened. To Elder Perry, this was evidence the Lord had visited them in the temple. The next Thursday, President Kimball submitted the new revelation to the twelve.
The Savior Directs This Church
Elder Perry then answered Whitney’s question directly. He said that the heavens only open on rare occasions. He spoke for a moment about placing our tent door toward the temple. He then closed by bearing testimony. He said, “There is only one man who receives revelation for all. This is not a man-made church. The Savior directs this church from above.”
“This is how he continues to reach out to each of us. There is an order and a system in place. Twelve are given the keys but only one may use them at a time. In the church there is order and uniformity. This provides absolute certain direction that comes from the Lord. I know without any doubt God lives and that the Savior directs this church.”
About a thousand other people and I enjoyed an evening with Richard Bushman last night. He spoke about Joseph and Emma for about 40 minutes and then entertained questions from the audience for another 40 minutes. While his insights on Joseph and Emma were interesting, I found the questions more fascinating, because they reflected a lot of the issues I blog about.
For those who don’t know, Richard Bushman is the author of Rough Stone Rolling, the 2005 biography of Joseph Smith that has become the definitive account of the prophet’s life as told from the viewpoint of a faithful historian. I took advantage of the opportunity to have him autograph my copy and was not the only one in the audience who waited in line to do so.
Open and honest discussion
It was wonderful to see so many people interested in learning more about this great man and the beginnings of the Mormon Church. Every time he finished answering a question a dozen more hands shot up. We could have been there for several more hours. I think that goes to show you how much we as a people appreciate someone who has studied the prophet’s life in such detail.
There were many questions that focused on the process of translating, the Urim and Thummim, the seer stone in the hat, polygamy, the three witnesses and the eight witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, the martyrdom, succession, Book of Abraham translation, Mountain Meadows massacre and folk magic. He welcomed every question and encouraged us to ask even the most difficult ones.
A well-qualified historian
One of the most refreshing comments I heard was his expression of appreciation to the church, specifically to the church historian’s office, Marlin K. Jensen and Richard E. Turley for the recent publication of Massacre at Mountain Meadows. He then said that he hoped that the church would do the same with the issue of polygamy, treating it openly and with historical accuracy.
Burt what impressed me most about the evening was the obvious fact that Richard Bushman is a highly respected historian who probably understands the beginnings of Mormonism as well as or better than anyone else. Besides being the co-general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, he chairs the board of directors of the Mormon Scholars Foundation. He knows early church history.
Serving faithfully in the church
And yet, Richard Bushman has served as a bishop, a stake president, a patriarch and is currently a sealer in the Los Angeles temple. I would say that he is a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint, in spite of everything he knows about early church history. I bring this up specifically to make a point about a common response to my essays and how I can still believe when I know this stuff.
I recently had someone ask me how I was able to do what I do – serve faithfully in the church – in spite of all that I know about, as he called it, “the more disturbing facts of the origins of Mormonism.” I think maybe he might want to redirect that question to someone like Richard Bushman who knows so much more than I do and yet has been a faithful believer all his life.
Believing in spite of knowing
This individual asked, “How do you reconcile your belief and what the church teaches, with the history of things like the origins of the temple ceremony, polygamy, first vision contradictions, development of the story of the restoration of the priesthood, and other issues?” I answered him privately in an email but have been pondering this whole idea of believing in spite of knowing.
Frankly, it perplexes me. I think I have expressed this same sentiment several times in previous essays every time it comes up. What is so hard about studying and understanding our very early church history, warts and all, and then continuing to believe that Joseph Smith was an instrument in the hands of God to bring about the restoration of the gospel and his church in the latter days?
Shocked by our history
Are we supposed to be shocked, dismayed and overwhelmed with doubt every time we discover some new fact about the early days of the church? For example, last night we were reminded that beer and wine were used by the early saints, and sometimes even whiskey. Today, we would be shocked if we learned that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles drank a glass of wine.
Yet in volume IV, page 120 of the History of the Church on the date of April 17 1840 we read, “This day the Twelve blessed and drank a bottle of wine at Penworthan, made by Mother Moon forty years before.” Things were different back then, weren’t they? The Word of Wisdom had been received in 1833 but was not binding upon the saints as a commandment like it is today.
History not being hidden
When Fanny Alger was brought up by Brother Bushman last night as an example of an early failed attempt by Joseph to obey the law of plural marriage, I’ll bet there were a few people in the audience who did not know that Joseph had married this sixteen year old girl in 1833. The revelation on celestial marriage had been received in 1831 but Joseph was hesitant to obey.
For some reason, the idea that Joseph participated in plural marriage is supposed to be shocking to us. This continues to be one of the most common tactics of our critics – to try to shock us with facts that are supposedly being hidden from us by our modern church leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are always being encouraged to study our history and learn the facts.
Selling the Book of Mormon Copyright
Another example that our critics like to throw at us is the failed attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada. Until recently, the only source for this event was the memory of David Whitmer who was not present when Joseph sent the brethren on their mission. Joseph never said that it must have been a false revelation as Whitmer claimed he said upon their return.
We’re then supposed to conclude that if we can’t trust a revelation from Joseph then how are we supposed to know what is revelation from God. I’m not an apologist but I’m grateful that there are people who dig into these things to get the facts and present them for our review. Of course, the same facts can be presented in favorable or unfavorable light, depending on where you go.
Consider carefully the source
For example, you can read the story of the copyright mission to Canada on MormonThink as supposed evidence that even Joseph Smith didn’t know when revelations were from God and when they were from the devil. Yet you can read the same account in greater clarity and detail from a more trustworthy and reliable source like FAIR and come away strengthened in faith.
We could go on and on with hundreds of things that are supposed to be shocking to us modern believers of the faith because they seem so out of character with what we’ve been taught about Joseph or other leaders of the early LDS church. If we are bothered by something, then we need to do our homework and get all the facts as part of the process of confirming truth for ourselves.
Get the facts straight
If I were concerned upon reading that Joseph Smith was supposed to have said that even he didn’t know when a prophecy came from the Lord or that he is supposed to have said that a revelation he received must have come from the devil, as David Whitmer said he did, then I would want to read more about this and would be very careful about the source that I study.
Because if I believed that Joseph really said this, then that might lead me to conclude that if even prophets have a hard time understanding revelation, how can I really be expected to understand or know the truth of revelations that come to me, especially revelation that I think is telling me that the church itself is true? Do you see how important it is to get the facts of certain matters?
The Joseph Smith Papers
Of course Joseph never said that he must have received a false revelation. In fact, according to more recent information discovered, the brethren who went on the mission to Canada in an attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon felt that they were successful on their mission and that the Lord was pleased with their efforts. The promised sale was conditional.
I’m grateful for brethren like Richard Bushman, who are helping to bring us the Joseph Smith papers. In volume 1 of the Manuscript Revelation Books, we have the full copy of the mission to Canada revelation. It can be read there. The criticism that Joseph later claimed that the revelation had not come from God is in all likelihood the product of a false memory by David Whitmer.
We can believe the prophet
As I wrote in a previous essay, I believe it is our lifelong pursuit to understand revelation and to come to know how the Lord communicates with each of us. We can rely on the promises of the Lord to lead us, guide us and walk beside us because we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. I hope we cherish this gift and live worthy of the constant companionship of this promised revelator.
Joseph Smith knew when the Lord was inspiring him and so did most of the brethren who were with him at the time when he received revelation. We can trust that the Lord will help us to have the assurances we need to believe in the mission of the prophet Joseph Smith. Someday, we will meet Brother Joseph and if we still have questions about his life we can ask them to him directly.
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.
Another common objection I have encountered in my dialogs with some who visit my essays can be summed up in the phrase, “But that’s not Biblical!” Similar to those who don’t understand what Mormons mean when we refer to our testimony, this common complaint also never ceases to amaze me. They just don’t get it.
I wrote in a previous essay about why the LDS personal testimony means so much more than most Christian apologists admit. I got to thinking about it and decided that I was giving them too much credit. Maybe they really do understand what our testimonies represent and it worries them because they don’t have that certainty.
People mock what they don’t understand. Some of our Christian evangelist friends are apparently no different. They claim that we base our religious convictions on mere feelings to draw attention away from the fact that the testimony is not in the feelings but in the knowledge revealed directly to our spirits in answer to prayer.
The Bible as the last word
Likewise, I think I have been much too lenient in dialogs with my visitors when they respond that my point is invalid because it cannot be found in the Bible. I always have to stop and remind myself of how important this foundation is to them. It’s all they have and they are conditioned to discard anything not in there.
I shouldn’t be surprised when this point comes up again and again when discussing the doctrines of the LDS Church with those not of our faith. Just as we Latter-day Saints can always return to the safety of our personal testimonies, they fall back to the idea of the completeness and infallibility of the Bible as their last safety net.
But after a year or more of reading the same responses to some of my basic essays about our unique revealed doctrines, the claim that we don’t understand the truth on some doctrine because it’s not in the Bible is beginning to wear a little thin. This essay is intended to make it clear that yes, we have much more than the Bible.
We have new scriptures
If you want to discuss doctrines with members of the LDS faith, it would be very helpful to understand right away that we’re going to throw all kinds of things at you that you’ve never heard of. We’ve got new stuff and that’s a big part of our religion. We do not base our doctrines solely on what is found in the Bible.
I understand that this can be discomforting, especially when we tell you that some of the very basic doctrines of salvation are erroneously taught in most Christian churches today because they are based solely on the Bible. That can be difficult to accept if you’ve believed all your life that the Bible is the last word on the truth.
One of the primary messages that the LDS Church has been declaring to the world for the last 180 years is that God has revealed new scriptures that clarify and bring light to some of the obscure teachings of the Bible. Many of the doctrines found there have been misinterpreted because of books that have been lost or taken out.
A Bible, a Bible
So strongly do some feel threatened by the idea of additional scripture that they become extremely defensive. They adamantly announce that since they accept the Bible as the word of God that they cannot accept the Book of Mormon. The Lord saw these individuals who think the Bible contains all and pronounced them fools.
“And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible. But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people.” (2 Nephi 29:3-4)
“Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.” (2 Nephi 29:6, 10)
So much more to offer
Just as I concluded while on my mission, I’ve decided once again that there are just some individuals who will never accept the idea of modern revelation to prophets and apostles. I have met many thousands of good Christian people who have been conditioned to believe that religion can be found solely in the words in the Bible.
Why do they limit themselves when there is so much more available if they only would open their eyes, soften their hearts and entertain the possibility that God could reveal his will to man again in our day and age through men that he called as prophets and apostles to lead his church in these last days before he returns again?
On more than one occasion someone has taken offense at my assertion that we have so much more to offer the world than what can be found in Christianity as taught in the world today. It’s so true! That’s the heart of our message. We offer more revelation and direction from God than what you have received already.
Modern prophets and revelation
I guess it has been that way from the beginning of the restoration. This has been the primary objection to our message by those who are opposed to the work of the Lord in the last days. A living prophet who speaks for the Lord and brings forth modern scripture just really upsets so much of their tradition and their comfort.
It is a marvelous thing that God would call a prophet from among the uneducated as to the things of this world. Joseph Smith had not studied theology and did not know what the doctors of religion in his day were struggling with. All he knew is that they could not agree with each other about how to interpret the Bible.
That has not changed in our day. There are so many denominations that interpret the Bible differently. Even among the same churches there are disagreements on basic and fundamental concepts that every LDS primary child understands clearly. We have this unity in our church because God has revealed it to a living prophet.
Summary and conclusion
It saddens me to realize that there are many otherwise good followers of Christ who will not entertain the idea that God could call a prophet in our day and bring forth scripture through that prophet for our benefit. They will not accept the idea that God speaks to man again and that the Bible does not contain all of his words.
The idea that the Bible is complete and infallible is ludicrous to me. Anybody who has studied how we got our Bible knows that it is simply a collection of books and letters put together by man. God did not place the limiting constraints on his word that man did when he compiled the Bible. The Bible is simply not complete.
The Bible is also not the last authority of what God has to say about something. It is silly to think that everything that God wanted us to know is found in the Bible. I am so grateful to have the Book of Mormon and the canonized revelations to the prophet Joseph Smith that we have in the Doctrine and Covenants and elsewhere.
For more information, see these FAIR Wiki articles:
I am more impressed with prophets than I am with scholars. While I know some prophets who are also scholars, I know a whole lot of scholars who know nothing about prophets. Their world of research and peer-review publications is a far cry from the world of revelation and vision-inspired teaching in which prophets excel.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not criticizing or putting down scholars and their ways of getting their message out. Peer-review has its place in the sciences but it is not the way prophets share what they have learned. Just as in ancient times, except to mock and ridicule, the world pays little attention to what modern-day prophets say.
Prophets in Old Testament times were rarely popular, usually because they boldly spoke the word of the Lord in telling the people to repent. That’s not something that most people like to hear, especially if they are enjoying their life of sin. So they drove the prophets away, where they continued to write for our benefit today.
The prophets saw our day
Many prophets saw our day. The Lord revealed it to them. They saw things that would happen in the skies that we simply are not familiar with. They were very familiar with the catastrophes that are about to befall us because many of them also happened in their day – earthquakes, plagues, famines, pestilences and great hail.
Have you ever thought about why the falling of hailstones would be such a big deal? We see hailstones all the time. Sure, they may destroy a few crops and break a few things but why are they mentioned so prominently in prophecies from Old Testament times that foretold our day? I wonder if it was a different kind of hail.
What if the hailstones that the prophets described were not hailstones of ice but of stone? What if the correct interpretation of what fell from the sky was meteorite? Can you imagine meteorites falling like hail? What would cause such a thing? Well, it’s actually quite simple and has a very logical and natural explanation.
Frozen water or burning rock
Meteorites, or more correctly, meteoroids, are simply debris from comets that have passed by. When the Earth passes through the region of space where the comet has been, we have meteor showers. The Leonids are one such example of a meteor shower that arrives every year about November 17th. Another is the Perseids.
We sometimes call these fiery displays, falling stars or shooting stars. But they are not really stars at all, but may be leftover pieces of planets that have broken up. We watch in awe as they shoot across the night sky, sometimes as often as one or two a minute. People travel to desert places to view and photograph them clearly.
But falling rocks don’t burn, do they? Indeed they do. Most of what we see in a meteor shower comes from rocks the size of pebbles and even sand. The friction of the atmosphere causes them to burn up, usually long before they reach the earth. But interestingly, larger ones that do reach the ground are usually cold. Go figure.
Hailstones of fire
The hail that fell in Egypt at the time of the Exodus was described by the Lord as very grievous, such as had not been seen in the land from the foundation of Egypt. I’m sure there had been hail in Egypt, but this was a different kind. It was not hail of ice, but of stone, burning stone, for fire ran along the ground as it fell in torrents.
The Lord has said through his prophets that such an event will occur again as part of the last days, just before the coming of the Lord. Can you imagine the kind of damage that a meteor storm that causes fire to run along the ground can do? The size of these meteorites as they strike the ground is prophesied to be quite large.
Now that’s something that can do some damage, especially if these falling stones are accompanied by fire. We find another description of this phenomenon when the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. We call it fire and brimstone. Yes, that’s the sort of thing we have to look forward to before the Lord returns.
Fire and brimstone
What about this idea of fire and brimstone falling from the sky? Did such a thing really happen? Could it happen again? Brimstone is identified in modern times as sulfur, a product of volcanic activity, usually found around the brim or edge of a volcano in vents. Will there be increased volcanic activity before the Lord returns?
Yes, we will see huge amounts of volcanic activity in the last days but this essay is more about fire from the sky. In addition to swarms of meteors like we have never seen before, there is another kind of fire from the sky that has happened in our day, but which scholars have claimed could not have happened as they are the experts.
I’ve mentioned the Peshtigo fires in my essays before, but the subject deserves a second visit. If you are familiar with the fires, you have probably read about the comet theory. I agree with those who claim that fragments from a passing comet probably did not cause the fires. Any meteorites that fell did not cause the fires.
Falling burning petroleum
I’ll conclude this essay by bringing up one last thing to consider. Remember that in the Book of Exodus, the hail that fell was mingled with fire that ran along the ground. We know that the Lord uses natural events to bring about his purposes. Isn’t it possible that the comet could have some other debris besides meteorites?
You go read the description of the nucleus of a comet as found on Wikipedia. You’ll discover there that one of the components that is burned off a comet by solar heating is oil or tar. Hmmm….What if the earth were to pass through the same area in space where the tail of a comet left behind these organic compounds?
As one eyewitness to the Peshtigo fires reported, “It came in great sheeted flames from heaven. There was a pitiless rain of fire and sand. The atmosphere was all afire.” At apparently the same moment, in points hundreds of miles apart, the most devastating kind of fires broke out, so far as we know, by spontaneous combustion.
Summary and conclusion
Scholars over the years have debunked the idea that a passing comet somehow caused the Peshtigo fires. They must know, right? I mean, they are the scholars and they have the credentials to prove that they can speak with authority on this. As our tax-funded experts at NASA informed us, “Meteorites don’t pop corn.”
Forget about burning meteorites for a few minutes. Think about other possibilities of how the scripture in Exodus could be true – hail mingled with fire that ran along the ground. I propose that this is easily explainable by the earth passing through another kind of debris from a comet – not meteorites, but sticky, oily petroleum.
The falling meteorites themselves did a lot of damage, especially as they grew in size, but they did not necessarily cause the fire. The more I have studied it, the more I am convinced that the Egyptian hail and Peshtigo fires were caused by the earth passing through petroleum, heated to combustion by atmospheric friction.
Photo: Lithograph appeared in Harper’s Weekly 1871 and is entitled “At the River.” It depicts families fleeing from the Peshtigo fires.
When considering the signs of the last days, most people are aware that they are all around us. One of the most obvious today is the sign of wars and rumors of wars. I’m sure it comes up every time a lesson on the last days is taught in a Sunday school class. We will probably not be without wars in the world until the time of the Savior’s return.
So also are Paul’s warnings in chapter three of second Timothy about the general state of human behavior. Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good…the list goes on and on.
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences; and earthquakes in divers places. The Lord tells us to not be troubled as these things come to pass. He has told us in advance that these things must all happen. Can anyone doubt that so many prophesied signs of the last days are here?
Dramatic signs are yet to come
And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. All the inhabitants of the earth shall see this great sign. It will be talked about by everyone.
I have written previously about Joel 2:31 where the moon shall be turned to blood. Joel also mentions wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke. Earlier in the chapter he describes the coming of a great and strong people that come in the day of the Lord and bring with them destruction unlike any other army.
A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth. The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army. This is no mortal army. The Lord fights his battles with his own armies. What shall they be?
The armies of the Lord
Let’s look to the Book of Revelation for a great description of the armies of the Lord. John calls them locusts in chapter 9. These locusts will not hurt the green things of the earth so they are not insects. They swarmed like locusts, or appeared in droves, many hundreds or thousands at a time. When they arrived, the sound would be deafening.
If they are not actual locusts, what could John be describing? They had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. We know that prophets spoke in terms that are both symbolic and metaphoric. They had the appearance of horses prepared for battle and their faces are as the faces of men. And yet, they are not men. What are they?
When the Lord revealed the events of the last days to the ancient prophets, they described what they saw in terms of what they had experienced and seen in their own lifetimes. Perhaps what Joel and John were describing were swarms of meteorites flying in bands and taking various shapes, like horses racing in the sky or hosts of warriors leaping.
Catastrophic events of the last days
We who live in these last days have not yet seen what the prophets of old saw in vision so it seems unimaginable. But in a few short years we will be very familiar with what they were trying to describe. The Lord said that “immediately after those days,” meaning the days in which we now live, shall the prophesied signs of catastrophic proportion begin.
That is why the prophets of old warned us to look to the skies for these signs. We should not doubt or dismiss that the signs will appear. I am convinced that it will not be long before it becomes obvious to all the world that something unusual is about to happen. Then we will see the false prophets come out while the whole world pays attention.
However, the prophets of old and the Savior foretold all these things many, many years ago. The signs of the last days include more than the problems among the people of the earth. The heavens themselves will be in commotion. We will see amazing things that we have never seen before. They will be frightening and yes, some will be catastrophic.
Look to the past to understand the future
Some have interpreted locusts of Joel and John to be descriptions of modern warfare. Perhaps the hair of women they were seeing is really contrails of high altitude jets or ballistic missiles. The sound they described fits perfectly with modern jets and rockets. And yet the Lord says that the coming destructions will be sent by God and not by man.
The Lord said in D&C 29:9 that “the hour is nigh and the day soon at hand when the earth is ripe; and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that wickedness shall not be upon the earth.” It is clear that the coming burning of the world will not be caused by man but by God.
The Lord will use what appears to man to be natural events. Oh sure, “A few comets and a few meteorites,” they will say. “It’s no big deal. These things happen all the time.” They also explained away the great fires of Peshtigo in 1871 as being nothing other than just really hot and dry conditions. Falling, burning sand is common? I don’t think so.
Summary and conclusion
I just want to go on record in advance before the heavens start to heat up and then drop burning things on us that the Lord foretold all these catastrophic events in advance. Let’s not act surprised and wonder why the prophets didn’t warn us. They have warned us over and over. Most people are ignorant or have dismissed it as nonsense from fools.
When the Lord speaks of the burning of the earth he is not kidding. The kind of burning we’re talking about is not your Al Gore, politically correct, give me money so we can do something about this man-made global warming. This burning will not be man made and it will not be a slow or gradual thing. It will come upon us suddenly, as if in an instant.
Call me a crackpot but I’m convinced that we are going to see events on a cataclysmic scale in just a few short years. All the signs point to it. The Lord is patient and there is much work to do in taking the gospel to all the world. But the time is not far distant that we will see the hand of the Lord fulfilled as signs in the heavens become frequent again.
Image of ancient comet swarm by permission of Don Dixon
Some of my past essays on Signs of the Times in the Last Days:
1. The Last Days are upon us
2. Signs of the Times and the Second Coming
3. There shall be greater signs in heaven
4. Just where exactly are the lost ten tribes?
5. And the stars shall fall from heaven
6. Has the prophecy in Joel 2:31 been fulfilled?
7. What kind of warnings do we prefer?
8. Eschatology – The study of what?
9. Miracles and natural laws
10. The desolation of abomination
11. Mormon Doctrine – Prophecy and the Last Days
My sister works for an apostle. Obviously she sees and knows quite a lot about the men who lead this church. She has a lot of respect for their privacy and is a trusted employee. Because of that trust, she is very careful about what she shares with family members.
Oh sure, we’ll hear about family vacations and where an apostle is visiting, but really nothing other than that. I appreciate that. I don’t ask her to share more than she does. I know she appreciates that. The only thing I’ll occasionally ask for are conference tickets.
I’ve often thought about how hard it must be to serve as an apostle these days. They seem to be the lightning rod for a lot of criticism by disaffected church members. I’m not quite sure why that is. Perhaps they are looking for someone to blame for their unhappiness.
Apostles I have known
Think about the apostles you have known. Perhaps you have met one in a stake conference. Perhaps one visited your mission. Maybe one is your neighbor. Most members of the church will never meet an apostle. That’s sad in some ways. I know they wish it were otherwise.
I claim no special insights into the lives of our current apostles. I miss the old apostles from my youth and childhood. I enjoy the counsel and leadership of our current quorum of the twelve. They are mortal men and some are very old. We will probably lose one or two in the near future.
I’ve often wondered what kind of preparation these men received to serve in the callings they now enjoy. I am convinced that the majority of their preparation was in the pre-earth life. They just seem to have something about them that exudes authority and confidence in spiritual things.
The Lord’s anointed
You can read the biographies of most of the apostles of this dispensation somewhere online. If you dig enough you can find some interesting stories about them that you won’t hear in General Conference. Like you and me, these men are imperfect and pass through trials and tests of life.
These men did not place themselves in the positions they are in. They were also not voted in by a popularity contest. They served faithfully in every calling they were given and were noticed by other priesthood leaders for their faithfulness, diligence, love of the Lord and their fellow man.
If you have ever met an apostle, I’m sure you can appreciate that they have something special about them. They are the Lord’s anointed, meaning that they have been ordained and set apart in the priesthood to represent the Lord as special witnesses. That’s a very significant term.
Representing the Lord
I wonder how many people really understand what an awesome responsibility it is to represent the Lord. Priesthood holders have a taste for it every time they act in an official capacity to bless or to counsel, especially as a bishop. But to be a special witness – what does that mean?
I’ve read many things over the years about this phrase – special witness. Many have written that a requirement is to have received an open vision of the Savior. Oliver Cowdery taught that the ordination to the Apostleship is not complete until God has laid his hand upon them.
In other words, there are some things that can be and are received by revelation that are too sacred to reveal. They are too personal to share because they are between you and the Lord. I have written about this previously, but my witness is not that of an apostle or special witness.
Acting on behalf of the Lord
It hurts me when I read some of the things disaffected members of the church write about the current leadership of the church. I wonder how many of them really know what these men are like. I know that they have your best interests at heart. They want only what the Lord wants.
I think that’s a hard concept for some people to understand, especially disaffected members. They want only what the Lord wants. Think about that. I promise you there is no desire for personal gain or recognition in their hearts. All they do is motivated by a love of the Lord.
If they are physically able, I know they are happiest when they are out among the people in some capacity to carry on the Lord’s work – a large conference of some sort or a leadership meeting. Most of them are great orators but their words in private are filled with just as much love.
Sustained by the church
We raised our hands to sustain these Brethren as Prophets, Seers and Revelators. I know they appreciate that. I also know that they need and appreciate our prayers. It is impossible for us to write them individually or to meet with them regularly but we can do something for them.
These men need our prayers. Because they represent the Lord as the visible leadership of His church on the earth, they are often the target of mean and vicious written attacks. It is a sad and very unfortunate thing. It is not a small matter and it seems to be getting worse lately.
I hope that we pray regularly for our apostles and prophets. They have told us often that they feel our prayers on their behalf. When they stand up for things that are unpopular and hard to hear, they are blessed by the Lord because, like Lehi, they asked us to repent or do hard things.
Summary and conclusion
Like many of you have observed lately, we are seeing a distinct separation within the church over the First Presidency’s endorsement of the Marriage Protection amendment in California. The faithful, covenant members are striving to do as the First Presidency has asked.
The disaffected members are complaining, some bitterly, that this is wrong and they will not do it. Fine, just don’t fight against the Lord’s anointed. You don’t want to be on that side when the time comes to explain to the Lord how you stood when the Prophet asked you to do something.
I am confident that we can trust the leadership of our prophets and apostles. I am certain that they represent the Lord well in what they have asked us to do. I don’t believe this is a small matter – it has eternal consequences. It is a difficult matter and for some, it is a hard thing to do.