Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

I just needed a cute picture of a family and found this one off the internet.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that families are a central part of God's plan.  Husbands and wives work together to raise their children.  While we believe the commandment that God gave Adam and Eve to "multiply and replenish the Earth" is still in affect, there is no "rule" about how many children a couple should have.  That is entirely between the husband, the wife, and the Lord.  Generally, we find joy in our families which may explain why our family size typically is larger than an average American family.  As an LDS woman, I've never felt pressure to have children (before we had our first) and I've never felt pressure to have a lot.  My mom comes from a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids) and my dad comes from a family of 8 (2 adults, 6 kids).  I come from a family of 5.  My husband comes from a family of 6.  I was asked if Mormons believe that the more kids they have, the more blessings they will receive in Heaven.  First of all, while there are some larger LDS families, I don't know of a modern LDS family that can compete with the Duggars' who are not LDS.  If the more children you have the more blessings you would receive is true, we'd have a lot more Duggar-sized families.  Children are blessings, so I guess the more you have, the more you're blessed if you look at it like that.  As far as the afterlife goes, I have never heard that the more kids you have, the more righteous you are, or the more entitled to blessings you are.  I think the important thing is that couples are prayerful in deciding when and how many children they should have.  
Click here to see what says about birth control.
Click here to see what says about abortion.
In 1995, the First Presidency (the prophet and his 2 counselors) announced The Family: A Proclamation to the World.  I have pasted it below.  I truly believe that it is divine counsel.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God's eternal plan.

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.

We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

This proclamation was read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting held September 23, 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

How the Founding of America paved the way for the Restoration

Our worship service is called Sacrament Meeting.  There we sing hymns, join in prayer, partake of the sacrament (bread and water), conduct church business, and listen to talks that members of the ward have been assigned.  I was assigned a talk that I presented this morning.  The assignment was to speak on "How the founding of America paved the way for the Restoration". 
As I was researching for this talk the last couple of weeks, I have come to realize how fascinating the topic really is.  I will share with you a few ideas and quotes that I shared in my talk and then give you a link for the talk in its entirety.  
The Lord was intimately involved in the establishment of America.
President Joseph F. Smith said, "This great American nation the Almighty raised up by the power of His omnipotent hand, that it might be possible in the latter days for the kingdom of God to be established in the earth." 
America was discovered, colonized, and established by individuals and groups prepared, raised up, and inspired by God.
Columbus, the Puritans, and later colonizers who came to the land of America were all brought here by the hand of the Lord.
"A contemplation of the complete attainment, at a period earlier than could be expected, of the objects for which we contended against so formidable a power, cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude.  The disadvantageous circumstances on our part under which the war was undertaken can never be forgotten.  The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving, while the unparalleled perseverance of the armies of the United States through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight years was little short of a standing miracle."
 -George Washington in his farewell orders to the colonial army in 1783.
Prayer at Valley Forge by Arnold Friberg

Doctrine and Covenants Section 101: verse 80 "And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood."
"I hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man.  I adhere to the principles of the first age; and consider all subsequent innovations as corruptions of this religion, having no foundation in what came from him...If the freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by law in theory, can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by his pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity.  This reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind, but too late for me to witness it."
-Thomas Jefferson, November 4, 1820
Click here for the complete talk.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Living Christ

The Good Shepherd by Simon Dewey

Yesterday I talked about the question are Mormons Christians?  It is my opinion that we are.  The definition of a Christian at says: One who professes a belief in Jesus as Christ or follows the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.  One who lives according to the teachings of Jesus.

Here is an official statement that the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declared on January 1, 2000.


Flourish image for decoration 
As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.
He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3). Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.
He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary's cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.
We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.
He rose from the grave to "become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His "other sheep" (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised "dispensation of the fulness of times" (Ephesians 1:10).
Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: "His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
"I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father" (D&C 110:3–4).
Of Him the Prophet also declared: "And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
"For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
"That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God" (D&C 76:22–24).
We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth—"built upon the foundation of . . . apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Ephesians 2:20).
We testify that He will someday return to earth. "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" (Isaiah 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.
We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.

Image of the signatures of the First PresidencyImage of the signatures of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

January 1, 2000

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Are Mormons Christian?

Perfect Love by Del Parson

There is a debate about whether Mormons are Christians.  I guess it depends on what your definition of a "Christian" is.  If you ask a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they will tell you that yes, they are indeed Christians.  Instead of arguing about it and trying to convince someone that I'm a Christian, I've decided to just live my life according to my beliefs and I feel that my actions will speak as to whether I'm a Christian.
Children of the World by Greg Olsen

My husband and I were chatting one evening and it dawned on us that religious labels was a very "worldly" concept.  On earth there are Baptists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc, etc, etc.  In Heaven, there will be none of these.  We will all be one.  I wonder how many Christians have thought that when they get to Heaven, they will be surrounded by Christians as well as people who were not Christian in their earthly life.  How can this be?  Only people who are saved can go to Heaven.  Actually, that's not what I believe.  I believe that God loves us all so much that He has given us a Savior that gave all of us eternal life.  I believe that Jesus set the example for how we should live and what we must to in order to return to God's presence.  One of those things is baptism.  So, what you're telling me is that only people that are baptized can go to Heaven?  Yes, but only those baptized by someone who has the authority.  OK, so now we have a few million people that would qualify?  Nope.  After Jesus was crucified and his apostles died, the authority to perform baptisms and other ordinances was gone.  It wasn't until Joseph Smith restored the church and was given those keys that the authority once again was on the earth.  So what about all the millions and millions of God's children that were on the earth when there was no authority?  What about all the millions and millions of God's children that never heard about Jesus.  God is just and merciful.  He would never send spirit children to earth knowing there was no way for them to return to His presence.  Enter the temple.  There are about 160 LDS temples that are in operation, under construction, or announced.  They are spread across the United States, as well as North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and even Africa.  As I mentioned earlier, one of the ordinances that everyone must do (except for those under 8 years of age) is be baptized by immersion by someone who has the authority.  They must also be confirmed and given the gift of the Holy Ghost.  There are also temple ordinances.  After an LDS member has completed all their ordinances, they can go to the temple and do the ordinances on behalf of people that didn't do theirs in their lifetime.  Now before people get upset thinking that we are forcing dead people to join our church, understand that this is completely done out of love.  Usually a person can only submit an ancestor's name, so we're not doing the work of your deceased grandma (unless you have a Mormon cousin).  Once the ordinances have been done by a living person on behalf of the deceased person, we believe that the deceased person has agency and chooses whether to accept those ordinances or not.  Since we believe that you must have these ordinances to live in God's presence, we want to do these ordinances for others so that they can have the joy of being with our Heavenly Father again.  For those under the age of 8, they have not reached the age of accountability, and will be in God's presence when they die no matter what.  Just because you've completed the ordinances doesn't mean that it is guaranteed that you will go to Heaven.  Jesus Christ atoned for us which made it possible for us to repent and through the Atonement we become clean and worthy to be in God's presence.  We also have to do our part to keep the commandments and live a good life.  So anyone from any religion, country, etc can return to live with God again.  That makes sense to me.  The God I believe in is one of justice and mercy.  He is perfect.  He has a very specific plan and He loves ALL of His children and wants ALL of them to return to live with Him again.  He has given us agency because His plan is not to force us back to Him, but I think He definitely gives us many opportunities to come back to Him.  I am so grateful for Jesus Christ who is the only way to return to live with God.  We would all be in a lost and fallen state forever if he had not come into the world to redeem us.
Los Angeles LDS Temple

Monday, July 18, 2011

National Post Article

I just read this article from the National Post titled "Finding what it means to be Mormon in America".  I thought it was a well-written and well-researched article.

One of the people that was interviewed, Kathleen Flake, was in our ward in Nashville, TN.  She is an amazing woman, incredibly brilliant.  She bore her testimony one Fast Sunday and it left a strong impression on me.

It surprises me that with as many good things that the LDS members represent, that we are still looked upon as unintelligent, brain-washed, zealots who "normal" people have a reason to fear.  Overall, I think Mormons are good people who have good hearts and strong convictions in what they believe.  Why should that ever be a negative thing?  It shouldn't be.  I know many people that are of different faiths and are for the most part good people who have good hearts and strong convictions in what they believe and I respect them.  I admire people who have integrity and aren't ashamed to hold firmly to what they believe.

I think the American public would actually be somewhat surprised at how "normal" Mormons really are.  With all the attention our religion has been getting, you would think a reality show on Mormons would be interesting and there would be all these "secrets" that are brought to light.  In truth, we are actually quite boring.  We wake up, get our families breakfast, work, drive our kids to activities, eat dinner, and go to bed.  Having grown up in places like Florida and Tennessee, I had the opportunity to spend the night at friends' houses that were not LDS.  There was never any obvious differences between their houses and mine, other than iced tea was served at their house and not at mine.

Now we live in Texas and I think that our home-life is quite similar to the other families that reside in my neighborhood.  I guess my point is, for how much people seem to think we are "different", we really are quite the same.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What would be so bad about a Mormon president?

With 2 LDS possible presidential candidates, I have seen quite a few media stories about having a person of the mormon faith as President of the United States.  I'm shocked at how many people say they would never vote for a Mormon solely based on their religion.  Seriously?  I have to wonder what on earth people think would happen?
LDS politicians have served in many offices including mayor, governor, house of representatives, and senate.  Currently, Harry Reid is the senate majority leader.
Have any of these LDS politicians done anything to justify such a fear of a Mormon president?  Do the American voters worry that a Mormon president will make everyone convert to our faith, even though we believe that men should "worship how, where, and what they may"?  (See post on Articles of Faith, Article of Faith #11).  Do the American voters worry that a Mormon president would be a puppet for the leaders of the Church, even though we believe in being subject to " obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law"? (Article of Faith #12).  Do they worry that a Mormon president will be corrupt even though we believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men"?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an official statement about political neutrality you can read here.
I guess I find this so shocking because in the 12 years that I've been able to vote, I never once have thought about a candidate's religion.  I look at their policies, their records, and I do take their character into my decision, but I couldn't tell you what religion any of the men I voted to be President of the United States are.
I'm not saying that either Mitt Romney or John Huntsman Jr is the best man to elect as president, that's for the American people to decide for themselves, but I think it's incredibly sad that a Mormon candidate could be the best person for the job and they won't even have the opportunity because people are afraid of a religion that they don't really even know about.
In 2011, every boy or girl in the United States (despite race or religion) should be allowed to dream about becoming the President of the United States and know that if they work hard, their dream can be a reality.  I don't feel it is right for me to have to tell my 7 year old daughter or 5 year old son that they have no chance of ever becoming President because of their beliefs.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The 13 Articles of Faith

So Joseph Smith (some call him the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but we believe he is a prophet and restored the church that Christ set up in the New Testament) was asked a lot about this new religion that he was spreading.  If I remember the story correctly there was a newspaper reporter that had asked him about some of the key beliefs.  His reply was the Articles of Faith.

1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.

3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

5. We believe that a man must be called of God by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

8.  We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and in doing good to all men; indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things.  If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report of praiseworthy, we seek after these things.