Why the church is involved in Prop 8

In the priesthood session of the October 1999 General Conference, President Hinckley answered the question, “Why does the Church become involved in issues that come before the legislature and the electorate?” I was amazed as I re-read his answer this morning how appropriately it fits again as we approach another vote on this same issue here in California in 2008.

“…we deal only with those legislative matters which are of a strictly moral nature or which directly affect the welfare of the Church. We have opposed gambling and liquor and will continue to do so. We regard it as not only our right but our duty to oppose those forces which we feel undermine the moral fiber of society.

We are not alone in this effort

“Much of our effort, a very great deal of it, is in association with others whose interests are similar. We have worked with Jewish groups, Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, and those of no particular religious affiliation, in coalitions formed to advocate positions on vital moral issues.

“Such is currently the case in California, where Latter-day Saints are working as part of a coalition to safeguard traditional marriage from forces in our society which are attempting to redefine that sacred institution.

Marriage is ordained of God

“God-sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman has been the basis of civilization for thousands of years. There is no justification to redefine what marriage is. Such is not our right, and those who try will find themselves answerable to God. Some portray legalization of so-called same-sex marriage as a civil right. This is not a matter of civil rights; it is a matter of morality.

“Others question our constitutional right as a church to raise our voice on an issue that is of critical importance to the future of the family. We believe that defending this sacred institution by working to preserve traditional marriage lies clearly within our religious and constitutional prerogatives. Indeed, we are compelled by our doctrine to speak out.

We do not hate gays

“Nevertheless, and I emphasize this, I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group.

“As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married.

Give of our time and means

“I commend those of our membership who have voluntarily joined with other like-minded people to defend the sanctity of traditional marriage. As part of a coalition that embraces those of other faiths, you are giving substantially of your means. The money being raised in California has been donated to the coalition by individual members of the Church.

“You are contributing your time and talents in a cause that in some quarters may not be politically correct but which nevertheless lies at the heart of the Lord’s eternal plan for His children, just as those of many other churches are doing. This is a united effort…I have tried to explain why we do some of the things that we do. I hope I have been helpful.”

Source: Why we do some of the things we do, Ensign Nov 1999

Additional Information:
LDS Newsroom: California and same-sex marriage
Volunteer or donate: ProtectMarriage.com
Defending and preserving traditional marriage

A testimony of living prophets

Where were you when the spirit first bore witness to you that God does call prophets in this day and that man can speak for God with authority and power from on high? Have you received that witness and testimony for yourself? I have. May I share it with you? It may sound simple in the telling, but I promise you that it was a powerful and personal answer to prayer when I was blessed to know for myself that authorized representatives of the Lord walk the earth today, speaking in his name and in his behalf.

A spiritual setting works best

It was during the October conference of 1974 – the first general conference I had ever attended in person. I was a student at Ricks College at the time and a group of us decided to drive to Salt Lake to hear the word of the Lord in person. I had watched conference on TV before, but had only once before been in the presence of a prophet. It was wonderful to sit in the tabernacle, or rather, to be squeezed in. For those who have gone and sat in the upper balcony, I’m sure you know how the ushers used to pack the people in to those 7,000 seats.

I remember so distinctly where I was sitting. Looking towards the pulpit, it would be on the left side balcony just above the clock. We sat for 30 or 40 minutes before the Brethren came in and took their seats. The organ was playing softly and the people were quiet and reverent. I just sat looking intently at the prophet, not moving, not talking, just staring. At that moment I felt inspired to offer a prayer in my heart, “Heavenly Father, is this man I’m looking at really a prophet? Is President Kimball truly thy spokesman here on the earth?”

The receipt of a spiritual witness

As I sat staring at him, he glanced up from his conducting book and began to look around the tabernacle. As he turned his face in my direction, he stopped and paused for a moment. Now I don’t know if he was really looking at me, but I was looking directly into his eyes, even if it was from a hundred feet away. It was at that moment that the Lord sent his spirit to this seventeen year old boy and whispered into my heart and mind that I was indeed looking at a prophet of the Lord. I knew it then and I still know that today.

And just to make it more sure, at least in my mind, President Kimball seemed to nod and smile before he returned to studying his conducting book in preparation for the meeting. Now, it may seem to be just a coincidence to you, but I submit that the Lord impressed President Kimball to look around the tabernacle and pause as he looked in my direction. Who knows, maybe he was just looking at the clock below me, but it served the purpose.

That testimony changed everything

Do you know what happened at that moment? What changed? Well, although you couldn’t tell immediately from my actions and behavior, I began to carry with me an understanding that I hadn’t felt up to that time in my life. Now I knew that there was a living prophet. Do you know what that means? I knew that when he spoke I needed to listen. I knew that if I wanted to be true to the testimony that I had received that I had to do whatever it might be that he would ask me to do when he was speaking as a prophet of the Lord.

That’s why, when at a stake priesthood meeting less than a year later, as I watched a film of President Kimball describing his vision of carrying the gospel into all the world, I knew that I would be going on a mission shortly. And, I did. I spent two years in Central America bearing my testimony of President Kimball in a language I never could figure out in high school. And you know what? Each time I bore my testimony, it grew. It grew stronger and stronger and surer and surer each time I shared it.

A foundation for our lives

That witness I felt while sitting in the tabernacle was one of several spiritual foundations I received in my youth and upon which I have built my life. I suppose you could say that I first really understood the reality and power of God when I learned from firsthand experience the reality and power of the adversary as a result of some incorrect choices I made when I was younger. How grateful I am for the recorded words of a Book of Mormon prophet, even father Lehi, as he taught that there must needs be opposition in all things. How I appreciate the knowledge that came to me in my youth that God lives and that he knows me and loves me.

If we will exercise faith and resolve to follow the words of the prophets with greater diligence, the Lord will help us to keep his commandments. I know this to be true. He loves to help us repent and change. He knows that we will fall. He is there to help us get up each and every time we fall. I testify that this is true. Even if you are struggling with an addiction in loneliness and sorrow, I promise you that the Lord is kind and forgiving. We can change. It’s not too late. Learning to control ourselves is central to the purpose of this life. Any effort in this area is not wasted.

The Last Days are upon us

In our Institute class this evening we are studying Joseph Smith – Matthew from the Pearl of Great Price. This is the chapter that foretells many of the events of the last days. Of course, this is Joseph Smith’s inspired version or re-translation of Matthew chapter 24. The prophet made more corrections to Matthew 24 than to any other chapter in the New Testament. I think that tells us something about the importance of the contents therein.

The last days are a topic of great interest to many people of many faiths. I know this because it is a common search term used by those who find and visit my blog. It is a topic about which I am extremely interested and always have been. As more and more signs of the times are fulfilled and some to a greater measure than ever before, we desire to know when the Lord will return. We wonder how long things can continue like this.

The end of the world

For this essay, I would like to focus on verses 22 to 37 of Joseph Smith – Matthew. These are the verses that deal with the prophecies about the end of the world. The earlier verses in the chapter are about the prophesied events of the destruction of Jerusalem in the days shortly after the death of the Savior. Note that verses 22 to 37 deal with the end of the world, not the end of the earth, which is not until after the millennium is over.

The end of the world is the end of wickedness. That is prophesied to come about with the return of the Savior which will usher in the millennium. Until the Savior returns the rule of wickedness in the world will only increase and get worse. Today, the persecution of those who believe in the Savior and follow his teachings is fairly mild. However, it will increase until the disciples of Christ cry unto the Lord for relief from the wickedness.

Wickedness abounds in the last days

There are many signs of the last days which I will not consider here. For example, the house of Israel must be gathered from the four corners of the earth. The gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world. There shall be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places. There shall be wars and rumors of wars among all nations. There shall be false Christs and false prophets that even the very elect shall be deceived.

I have written previously about the sun being darkened and the moon not giving her light. I have also written about the stars falling from heaven and the powers of heaven being shaken as well as the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. The verse I want to concentrate on is this: “And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold; but he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved.” Iniquity is wickedness or sin.

The saints must endure iniquity

“I saw men hunting the lives of their own sons, and brother murdering brother, women killing their own daughters, and daughters seeking the lives of their mothers. I saw armies arrayed against armies. I saw blood, desolation, fires. The Son of Man has said that the mother shall be against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother. These things are at our doors. They will follow the Saints of God from city to city. Satan will rage, and the spirit of the devil is now enraged” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:391).

“I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God of Israel, anguish and wrath and tribulation and the withdrawing of the Spirit of God from the earth await this generation, until they are visited with utter desolation. This generation is as corrupt as the generation of the Jews that crucified Christ; and if He were here to-day, and should preach the same doctrine He did then, they would put Him to death” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 328).

That day is at the doors

Although some might say that the Civil War fulfilled some of the words of these prophecies, I believe that we have not yet arrived at the day when the terrible scenes portrayed in these words of the Prophet Joseph Smith will be satisfied. He says the persecution will follow the Saints of God from city to city. Was that fulfilled as the early saints were driven from Missouri and Nauvoo? I suspect that it refers to a yet future day.

We know that the gospel must be preached in all the world. Obviously, it has not yet reached China and the Middle East counties to the extent that it has in the Americas, Europe and the “Islands of the sea.” The Lord will escalate the work of spreading the gospel to those nations in these last days through miraculous means. Part of that miracle is the Internet. I am convinced that many will be converted by what they find on the web.

Summary and conclusion

There are many who are filled with doom and gloom. They predict the end of civilization as we know it any day now. The headlines scream of the impending collapse of our economic infrastructure as well as the demise of our ecological environment. Could these be the false prophets that the Lord warned us against in Joseph Smith – Matthew? I am more concerned about the love of men waxing cold and iniquity abounding than I am with the economic ruin and environmental disaster that is the hue and cry of the day.

There is not much you and I can do about the events of the world around us. What we can do something about is our own preparation for the return of the Savior and the end of the world or the destruction of the wicked. Let us treasure up the word of the Lord in our hearts and seek to live in humility and obedience to the commandments given that we may live in peace and harmony in our homes and be prepared for events of the last days.

Yes, I am a Mormon activist

I’ve decided to come out and be up front about it. I am a Mormon activist. Yes, I confess, my desire is to change your way of thinking to be more in line with mine. Of course, I believe that what I espouse is truth and will be for your good. Therefore, I have no problem being very insistent that you take a minute and consider my point of view. In particular, I want you to think about the possibility that what I offer is better than what you have. Of more correctly stated, the truth I like to write about can augment the truth you already posses.

I can guess what you’re thinking. You’re probably saying to yourself, “How very offensive! Let’s be tolerant. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If I want to think differently than you, then that’s my prerogative.” It’s true enough that everyone is free to think and believe as they wish. But I want to be a clear voice in boldly stating my case. Let there be no misunderstanding. I will try to not be “in your face” and you can stop reading anytime you wish. But I make no bones about it. I want to state up front that I am trying to push my points of view forward. I share what I believe in the hope that it will answer some questions for you.

Basic points of my activism

To those who don’t believe in God, or in life after death, or that there is a purpose to life, I offer this: I believe in God. In fact, I know that he lives and is a loving Heavenly Father. In other words, we are his spiritual children. I know this through many years of prayer and faith. No, I can’t prove that He exists any more than you can prove that He doesn’t. All I can say is that my faith in God brings me happiness and hope. It fills me with a sense of purpose and meaning. I believe that when I die, I will see God and that He will be pleased with my faith in Him.

I am also a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ. I know that he lived and walked the earth thousands of years ago. He was more than just a good man or a teacher of good ideas. He was more than a prophet. He was and is the Son of God. He is my Savior and Redeemer. He redeems me from death. Because of Him, I know that I will live again. He is the resurrection and the life. He saves me from the effects of my sins. Yes, I believe in sin and I also believe in repentance. I desire to do all those things that Jesus taught. I am happy as I try to do so.

Advanced tenets of my activism

A lot of people believe in God and are Christians. Let’s narrow the focus of my activism a little bit. I am a Mormon. I believe in restored Christianity. I believe that Jesus Christ established a church is his day but that it was lost over time. Specifically, the authority to preach or to act in His name was lost. I believe that the priesthood was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith and has been on the earth from his day until today. I believe in living prophets and apostles. I listen closely to what they say and try to follow their teachings.

I believe that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. It is scripture just like the Bible. I have found much enlightenment in reading, studying and pondering the messages of the Book of Mormon. It has brought me closer to Christ. I have learned many truths that are not found in the Bible and have found greater understanding of the doctrines of salvation found in the Bible. I also believe in modern revelation that has been canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. I wish that everyone would accept and believe them.

Been there, done that

But what about all those who say they were once True Believing Mormons and then found reasons to no longer believe? Perhaps they don’t agree with the stand of the church on homosexuality. Maybe they are upset with the church being involved in promoting the definition of marriage in law as being between a man and a woman. How can I continue to assert that believing in and following the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will bring one happiness? It’s very simple. The more I try to be a True Believer, the happier I become.

But what about the hundreds, if not thousands of websites and blogs that claim to have proof that Mormonism is not true, or that it is a cult, or that we aren’t Christian, or that Joseph Smith was a great deceiver? Perhaps you are thinking, “As an activist, do you want me to discount what all these other voices are saying? Why should I listen to you? You’re just one voice out there – one blog among so many that are so much more enticing and convincing. Why should I believe you and consider what you have to say?” Trust me, I am not alone in this.

Summary and conclusion

There are many millions who believe as I do and wish there was some way to help you to come to the same understanding that what we posses is priceless and of eternal worth. There just aren’t very many Mormons that know how to blog, or even know how to use a computer very well. With time, you will see more and more of us clearly share that our beliefs are worth considering and result in happiness. It is unfortunate that so far, there are a disproportionate number of bloggers and websites that do not portray the LDS Church in a very positive light.

As a Mormon activist, I strive to write essays that will convince you that we’ve got something special. I hope I am respectful of your intelligence. You are probably well educated and know how to research your subject through the miracle of the Internet. I invite you to keep coming back to this blog and many others that proclaim the hope and joy of living the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? I hope it wasn’t too “in your face”. Try these other essays:

1. We know the purpose of life
2. The sacred power of marriage
3. My experiences with the temple
4. Burning of the bosom – feelings from God
5. The atonement of Jesus Christ
6. A mother who knew
7. Why can’t I attend a Mormon wedding?
8. Authority to act in the name of God
9. The Book of Mormon brings us closer to Christ
10. Are Mormons Christians?

Can we legislate morality?

In between family reunions last Saturday and this Saturday, Carol and I visited several of our favorite bookstores in Utah. I know. What a crazy thing to do on a vacation. We also go to the main Church Distribution Center since the California stores are small. In the past, I have liked to visit Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore. A new one for us this year is the Deseret Book Outlet store in South Jordan.

Although we already have a huge library and keep lamenting that it seems to grow larger by itself, Carol picked up a few bargains there. Most books are overstocks available at one third the price. I resisted everything I saw until this one caught my eye: The Sex Industrial Complex, America’s Secret Combination – Pornographic Culture, Addiction and the Human Brain. What a title!

As usual, I read the back cover of the dust jacket and saw an endorsement from Marie Osmond. That caused me to open it and read the inside front of the cover where I saw something else that caught my eye – the Lighted Candle Society. Where had I seen that before? Oh yes, it was one of those organizations I listed in the additional resources in my previous post on porn addiction.

The Survival of the Republic

A scan through the book looked like it would be interesting reading but what got me to buy it was the last chapter. I confess that I read it first. It is entitled, “The Survival of the Republic.” There are some amazing quotes there that resonated with me as I read them, especially in light of my recent post about the founding fathers and a long dialog with Crusty about freedom.

Benjamin Franklin said at the conclusion of the Constitutional convention in 1789, “This Republic, which we have given you with this constitution, will end in despotism, as other forms of government have done before it, when the people become so corrupt that they are incapable of any other form of government.” Was he speaking with a foreknowledge of coming events?

John Locke, the English philosopher said, “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom. For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others; which cannot be where there is no law.” We need laws to be governed and to live in peace.

Successful government and moral values

George Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these finest props of the duties of men and citizens.” Moral values are required for a Republic to endure.

Referring to the Constitution, James Madison said, “We base this whole experiment on man’s ability to be governed by law.” Our Republic can only continue as envisioned by the founding fathers as long as we as a people believe in the rule of law. It takes personal conviction in the value of law and willingness to submit to it that allows a people to be governed and yet free.

Can we legislate morality? Yes, we can and we have and it is a good thing. Morality is about right and wrong, and that’s what laws put into legal form. The only question is whose morality should be legislated? Thomas Jefferson answered that when he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.

Standards of morality come from God

Our Declaration of Independence gives us the direction we should look for defining standards of morality and conduct in our Republic in order for all citizens to be free. The source for morality and therefore the source for our laws is God. Our founding fathers understood this and gave us a platform for defining our laws – the word of God. Yes, we were founded as a Christian nation.

John L. Harmer, the author writes, “Today, our nation is under an attack by a combination of forces that if they prevail, will effectively destroy the basis upon which this nation’s freedom and liberty were conceived and founded. The entire fabric of our government is based upon the commitment of the American people to standards of dignity, integrity and virtue.”

“We believe very strongly that the greatest threat to our political freedom is the loss of moral values. To put it in a positive sense, the most vital factor in the preservation of our freedom and liberty is the individual citizen’s respect for moral values and their commitment to them.” As moral and ethical virtues erode in our people, hedonism will replace government and freedom.

Summary and conclusion

Although the book is about fighting against pornography, I found the insights into the connection between freedom, government and morality to be most enlightening. I have seen examples of this loss of freedom in many individuals. Because they do not adhere to moral standards that have been well established by God and his prophets, they find it very difficult to be governed.

As more and more members of our society refuse to accept and live by moral standards, the effect is a rejection of a government that is based on those standards. Not content to live above the law, they advocate changing the law or abolishing the law to suit their rejection of morality. The day will come when they will attempt to create laws proclaiming that morality is punishable.

There is a battle being fought in California today in the form of an amendment to the state constitution that demonstrates how this rejection of morality is a rejection of government. Our nation has a history of laws that are based on morality as defined by God and his prophets. A rejection of this amendment is a rejection of God and his right to set the standards of morality.

Additional Information

Four Simple Things to Help our Families and our Nations, Gordon B. Hinckley

Religious Values and Public Policy, Dallin H. Oaks

Personal Morality, David B. Haight

Let our Voices be Heard, M. Russell Ballard

Certain souls will not be saved

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The contention in heaven was-Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him” (TPJS, p. 357).

Source: Encyclopedia of Mormonism, War in Heaven

That phrase has always intrigued me. We believe that eventually all will be resurrected and will be assigned a kingdom of glory. Does that mean that most will be saved? We teach that there are very few who will become Sons of Perdition. A simplified definition of a Son of Perdition is one who has had open visions of God and Christ and then goes about fighting against their work.

The unembodied spirits who supported Lucifer in the war in heaven and were cast out (Moses 4:1-4) and mortals who commit the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost will inherit the same condition as Lucifer and Cain, and thus are called “sons of perdition.” Again, we believe that it is very difficult for most people to commit the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost.

The War in Heaven

We believe and teach that spiritual growth is dependent upon agency, or the capacity to act for ourselves, and to be accountable for those actions. In other words, we have the freedom to choose our actions. Most people I know feel very strongly about that freedom. There are some of course, who reject the idea of being held accountable to anyone else for their actions.

Satan proposed that all could be saved or redeemed and brought back into Heavenly Father‘s presence. He felt that he could ensure the obedience of everyone through force. In other words, he would remove choice from the plan. We would pass through mortality without opposition. Amazingly, he eventually became the one who provided the source for opposition in our lives.

My understanding of the War in Heaven is that we fought a war of words and opinions over elements of Lucifer’s plan and our Father’s plan. We debated over the details of obedience, submission, faith, repentance, the need for a Savior, opposition, choice, freedom, agency and a myriad of other basic doctrines of the gospel. It’s the same stuff we debate about today.

Opposition and temptation

We believe and teach that Lucifer and those who followed him were cast out of heaven and came to this earth as devils, never to have the opportunity to become mortal or have physical bodies of their own. We also believe that they can and do possess, even if just for a few moments, the physical bodies of mortals when we sin, or knowingly disobey God’s commandments for us.

Although it is true doctrine believed and taught today, I don’t think we should get hung up on this concept of evil spirits possessing the bodies of mortals. For most people, their influence is only momentary, such as when we lose our temper or when someone gets so drunk that they are no longer in control of themselves. Being under the influence of evil can be subtle or obvious.

I think most people, or at least Christian people, agree that the influence of the adversary can be seen in the world throughout history and especially in our day. We see his influence in the misuse of drugs, in pornography, in crude language and behavior, murder, rape, abortion, adultery, homosexual behavior, oppressive tyranny, war, divorce and in many other areas.

Some will not be saved

Now this is going to be pure conjecture, and I throw it out there as speculation. I wonder if maybe what the Prophet Joseph taught, that there are certain souls that will not be saved, applies to many who were born into mortality. In other words, I don’t think his explanation of the war in heaven was limited to the loss of just those who followed Lucifer and were cast out.

Of course, this really requires a clear definition of what it means to be saved. I define salvation as being placed beyond the power of one’s enemies. It means redemption from the bondage of the consequences of sin and the lasting power of death. Of course, to be saved from sin, one must accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and abide by the conditions of the atonement.

Therefore, when the prophet Joseph Smith taught that there are certain souls that will not be saved, I believe we can logically apply that to many mortals as well. They are not saved from sin because they will not believe in Jesus Christ, exercise faith in him, repent of their sins and obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel. They will not be saved from the consequences of sin.

The War in Heaven continues

Now this may seem very obvious and you may wonder what point I am trying to make in this essay. I’ll try to spell it out clearly. I know individuals, as you probably do too, who have been taught the gospel and at one time understood it well enough to know what the Lord requires of them, and yet decided to exercise their agency and not believe or act upon their knowledge.

In other words, they have been taught what it takes to be saved from the consequences of sin, and yet they refuse to take advantage of that free gift of salvation. They will not be saved. They must suffer the consequences of their sins and someday pay the price of suffering themselves. So Joseph taught and it is central to God’s plan, that some just will not believe and be saved.

The War in Heaven continues. We fought over the idea that some would not be saved. I see great evidence all around me that many believe in Lucifer’s plan – that there should be no consequences for sin, that we should not be held accountable for our actions or our beliefs. This is most evidenced by those who refuse to accept personal responsibility for their own lives.

Summary and conclusion

While we believe that all will eventually be resurrected and obtain a place in the Kingdom of God, we do not believe that all will be saved. To be saved means to not have to suffer the price that justice demands. To be saved means to have mercy extended to us upon conditions of faith, repentance and obedience to the commandments of God. It is obvious that not all will be saved.

Perhaps it is stubbornness or pride that prevents them from accepting the free gift of mercy. They are so invested in the idea that they should not be held accountable for their actions that they will not do something so simple as to believe and repent. That idea is a holdover from the War in Heaven. Lucifer said that there is no sin and that it isn’t fair to be accountable for sin.

Accepting responsibility and being accountable for one’s own life can be a tough decision to make. It precludes a belief in God and the idea that there are standards of behavior that He requires. In other words, we can’t live our lives with the idea that anything goes and that whatever we do is not sin. That just won’t cut it. Those who believe that will not be saved.

Note: Almost all the hyperlinked references in this essay are to the new HTML version of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, now available online at BYU. Thanks to those who provided it.

Risking life and limb to share the gospel

Blogging will be light for the next week or two while Carol and I enjoy not one, but two family reunions in Utah this Saturday and next. We went and saw Les Miserables last night at Tuacahn in St. George. What a treat. Outdoor theater with a great sound system where every seat has a wonderful view!

For some reason, I thought of another traveling experience from many years ago. I guess my mind was wandering during the long hours between Ventura county and Utah. We have made this trip at least twice a year for the last 26 years. I never tire of the scenery. Here’s the story from long ago:

The wild ride

We could tell there was going to be trouble when the bus driver sped up and told everyone to duck down. Rocks started crashing through windows. Women and children were screaming. Our hearts started to race but there was nothing we could do. We held on for dear life.

What were we doing down here in Central America in the middle of a revolution? We didn’t come here to fight. We came to tell people about a way of living together in peace as families. We loved these people and enjoyed visiting them in their homes and in their churches.

Is this any way to run a country?

Luckily nobody was hurt. The bus driver got us to our destination safely but he was not happy at all the broken windows. “Damned kids,” he shouted. Those weren’t kids. They were local college students unhappy with the way things were going in Nicaragua at that time.

They were trying to kill us or at least destroy property. They would have turned the bus over and burned it if it had stopped. That was their way of protesting the corruption in the Somoza government. We could have easily been seriously injured in this particular incident.

We make it home safely

We hurried the rest of the way to our home that night on foot. The whiff of a tear gas canister caused us to choke and cough while a helicopter overhead shone a searchlight on us. They were shooting at the groups of kids who were throwing the rocks and burning the busses.

Luckily they saw our white shirts and ties and saw that we were gringos. “CIA, go home,” they shouted in Spanish through the loudspeaker. But we weren’t with the CIA. Can you guess who we were? Extra credit if you can guess the year. I know, it wasn’t that hard, was it?

The dedication of young missionaries

I didn’t think much of this incident at the time it happened. I guess I just figured that it was normal for our mission, but it soon got out of hand. As the revolution took the country by storm, missionaries were trapped in their homes for days. Worried parents called the mission home.

President Muren left the comfort of Costa Rica, traveled to Managua and did all he could to help the members find some peace and to get the missionaries out. He was successful, but not before some very close calls. You can read a few of them on this page from out last mission reunion.

My mission prepared me for life

I loved my mission. I loved serving in Central America. I loved the people. I loved the culture. I loved being able to serve in four different countries. What an amazing thing for young people to spend two years of their lives to share the gospel, and pay for the privilege of doing it.

I learned to work hard. I learned how to get along with difficult companions. I learned to be responsible for an area, a district, a zone and a branch. I learned that success comes when you do things the Lord’s way, and especially when you follow the promptings of the spirit.

My favorite mission story

I had a companion in Panama (San Miguelito) who bought some firecrackers in the Canal Zone and lit them all up and down the street as we were tracting one morning. The neighborhood kids loved it. Believe it or not, it may have been because of his firecrackers that we found, taught and baptized a golden family.

For some reason, Elder Pierson wouldn’t come to the door with me that day. I think he was mad at me for something. So I was doing the door approaches by myself while he stayed out in the street. Just as I introduced us as representatives of Jesus Christ – Boom! – he blew one up in the mailbox. I didn’t know what to say.

After a moment of stunned silence, Sister Delgado just laughed and laughed and then invited us in. We had a wonderful discussion and came back that night and taught her whole family. We developed a close relationship and a bond of love that I still feel to this day. Teaching and baptizing this family helped me to find great joy in sharing the gospel.

Summary and Conclusion

I hope my wild bus ride and the missionary blowing up firecrackers does not cause you to think any less of the missionary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In some ways, missionaries are like Paul whose life was endangered while teaching of Jesus Christ.

Yes, some LDS missionaries have been killed over the years as they have gone about sharing the gospel. But the statistics are amazing when compared to ordinary death rates for 19-20 year old boys. What better way to spend these years then in serving a mission in the service of the Lord?