A witness from God can be relied upon. As you read our thoughts, beliefs, and experiences, we invite you to obtain a witness for yourself. If something we say or imply does not ring true, then you should feel no obligation to accept it. Life is an individual and unique journey with God. Although we can help and encourage each other, we need to be careful not to come between God and another person.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who Should I Follow?

Who Should I Follow? In a world where there are so many that set themselves up as a light and example, the answer to this question can appear quite complicated. I’ve given the question serious consideration. I’ve prayed to God asking for his help in solving this question in my heart. When I talk to friends, neighbors, and relatives, I get conflicting views on this issue.
In any organization or corporation, there is a need for order. Employees don’t take over the responsibilities of the president of the company. Members of the Catholic Church don’t take over the responsibilities of the Pope. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints don’t take over the responsibilities of the Prophet. No one has the right to preside or conduct church activities other than the regularly constituted church authorities. It is their right.
When Hiram Page professed to be receiving revelations for the church, Joseph Smith received the following revelation. “But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses . . . And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church” Doctrine and Covenants 28:2, 28:6
When a man has a right to preside and conduct church activities, are faithful members of that church obligated to follow the man? What if the man is a true messenger of God? Should he be followed?
I’ve grown up with a mantra that says, “Follow the Prophet”. I’ve searched the scriptures looking for this mantra, but I can’t find it. On the other hand, I have found scriptures that oppose this viewpoint.
“Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.” 2 Nephi 28:31, 2 Nephi 4:34
Is the Lord saying that we can’t put our trust in any man? What if the man is really good? What if the man is a true messenger of God? Are we going to be cursed for putting our trust in that kind of man?
What does the Lord mean when he says, “save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost”? Are we obligated to get a confirmation from the Holy Ghost before accepting any precept taught by humans? Can’t we just follow them? Are we required to get a witness from God before accepting anything as being true? That’s a lot of work.
President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel - - said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church - - that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls - - applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - - said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall - - that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pages 237-238
When a messenger sent from God visited John the Revelator, he tried to worship the messenger. The angel told John to worship God. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10
The Lord doesn’t make any distinction between those who choose to follow men and the liars, sorcerers, adulterers, and whoremongers. D&C 76:99-103 That sounds like a pretty serious sin.
The Lord's position is higher than any head of any organization. “He ruleth high in the heavens, for it is his throne, and this earth is his footstool.” 1 Nephi 17:39 When the Lord sends a messenger, it would be wise to listen, pray for a witness from God, and then obey. Let’s look at some of the messengers He has chosen to send:
Amos was among the herdmen of Tekoa. Amos 1:1 In other words, he was a nobody. Yet, he saw a vision concerning Israel. He was called by the Lord to prophesy unto the people. Amos was shown the judgments of the Lord before they happened. He then tells the people “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7
Abinadi was a nobody. We don’t even know where he came from. King Noah and his priests, the recognized religious authorities of the area, questioned Abinadi’s right to judge them. This prophet of God was perceived as a troublemaker. “Now when king Noah had heard of the words which Abinadi had spoken unto the people, he was also wroth; and he said: Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him, or who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction? I command you to bring Abinadi hither, that I may slay him, for he has said these things that he might stir up my people to anger one with another, and to raise contentions among my people; therefore I will slay him.” Mosiah 11:27-28
Even Jesus Christ was rejected. The leaders of His church “spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?” In their view, Jesus was not credible. He then used a parable to illustrate how his people would reject his prophets. They would even reject Him. See Luke 20:1-19
When the Lord sends prophets to deliver a message, there is no difference between their words and His words. The prophecies and promises given by the Lord’s servants will all be fulfilled. D&C 1:37-38
So, how will we know if a message comes from God?
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” Moroni 10:4-5
It’s vital to receive a witness from the Holy Ghost. He will manifest the truth of all things unto you.
Who should I follow? Over and over again I hear Jesus say, “Come follow me.”
And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Matthew 4:19 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. John 12:26 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23
No one can bring us back to the Father except for Jesus Christ. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: John 10:27
And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture. 1 Nephi 22:25
We can only follow one shepherd. Who will it be?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not all who wander are lost. J.R.R. Tolkien My daughter has this quote on her screen saver. It carries a powerful message that’s worth considering.

I think it’s healthy to have differences in opinions. No mortal is infallible, and we all have much to learn in our search for truth. When someone challenges our beliefs and traditions, it gives us an opportunity to take another look at those beliefs and traditions. Are they founded in truth or in superstition and the philosophies of men?

On the other hand, I do not think it is healthy when one person or group of people uses threats, intimidation, manipulation, bullying, duress, fear tactics, and force to coerce someone else into believing as they believe. We should take our example from God who really does know the truth of all things. He uses persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, and pure knowledge to help his children come to an understanding of the truth. D&C 121:41-42

When I share ideas and ask questions, I occasionally get comments like: you’re going off the deep end; you’re apostatizing; or if you don’t believe as we believe, you and your family are going to hell.

I loved swimming as a child. When I think about going into the deep end, I think about more freedom in the water. Of course it takes more skill, strength, and endurance to swim in the deep end, but there is so much more you can do there. Swimming in deep water also reminds me a statement by Joseph Smith.

“And as for the perils which I am called to pass through, they seem but a small thing to me, as the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; and for what cause it seems mysterious, unless I was ordained from before the foundation of the world for some good end, or bad, as you may choose to call it. Judge ye for yourselves. God knoweth all these things, whether it be good or bad. But nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me; and I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulation; for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth; for behold, and lo, I shall triumph over all my enemies, for the Lord God hath spoken it.” Doctrine and Covenants 127:2

It might not be a bad thing to swim in the deep end of the swimming pool.

I don’t think the cry of apostasy is a method that should be used to stifle sincere questions and suppress the sharing of ideas. When we ask God questions, he doesn’t call us an apostate. In fact, he commands us to ask him questions and assures us that we won’t be scolded if we do so. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5

As for going to hell, well that’s exactly what we all deserve. Christ is the only one who can lift us out of that awful pit. That being the case, I think I’ll let him be the judge of who’s going to heaven or hell.

I grew up in the Chicago area. There are so many things that I love about my childhood. There were many religions and cultures present in Chicago. I don’t know if I appreciated this diversity as a child, but I look back at it as a great blessing. Most of my friends had different religious backgrounds, and that’s just the way it was. I never felt forced to accept their beliefs. They came to church with me, and I went to church with them. We didn’t see it as a threat to either one of us. We were friends.

Everything wasn’t always good. There were some people who were intolerant of our family’s beliefs. I didn’t like that part. My younger brother seemed to get more flak than I did, but it was still hard on me. I saw people spit on him, scatter his things across the hall, and be just plain mean. I learned at an early age what it feels like to be an outcast. I started to learn how to find answers by going to God instead of looking at popular opinion.

Halfway through high school, our family moved to Utah. I thought it would be different. It was different in some ways, but very much the same in others. Although many more people in Utah share my religion, the friendships and intolerance were very similar. I have many dear friends that I treasure, and I like that part.

On the other hand, the religious intolerance is a challenge for me. There is a sameness that is expected in this culture. The freedom to be curious and ask questions is not valued. I wonder how we’re going to receive greater light and knowledge if we’re censored when we ask questions, oodles of questions, any questions, even forbidden questions.

It feels good to ask questions. It feels even better to learn that I’ve been wrong. Putting away false notions and ideas is liberating. Worshipping God according the dictates of our own conscience is a privilege to be claimed. It is highly unlikely that society is just going to offer it to us.

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. Articles of Faith 1:11

Keep Those Questions Coming

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Child’s Sincere Temple Question, Part 2

The saints were being offered a second chance to receive the fullness of the priesthood. Let’s look at the terms of the oath and promises. Here’s what God instructed and offered the saints as recorded in section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

25 And again, verily I say unto you, let all my saints come from afar.

26 And send ye swift messengers, yea, chosen messengers, and say unto them: Come ye, with all your gold, and your silver, and your precious stones, and with all your antiquities; and with all who have knowledge of antiquities, that will come, may come, and bring the box-tree, and the fir-tree, and the pine-tree, together with all the precious trees of the earth;

27 And with iron, with copper, and with brass, and with zinc, and with all your precious things of the earth; and build a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein.

Come everyone, bring all you have to offer, and build a house to my name so the Father has a place to dwell.

28 For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.

29 For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead—

30 For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me.

31 But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me.

32 But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God.

33 For verily I say unto you, that after you have had sufficient time to build a house to me, wherein the ordinance of baptizing for the dead belongeth, and for which the same was instituted from before the foundation of the world, your baptisms for your dead cannot be acceptable unto me;

34 For therein are the keys of the holy priesthood ordained, that you may receive honor and glory.

35 And after this time, your baptisms for the dead, by those who are scattered abroad, are not acceptable unto me, saith the Lord.

I command you all to build a house unto me so I can restore the fullness of the priesthood, which you have lost. I’m telling you that this is the way that I have ordained. You will have sufficient time, but focus and dedicate yourselves, and consecrate all that you possess to my purposes. Don’t get distracted or preoccupied with your own business. During this sufficient time period, your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me. But if you allow this opportunity to come and go without being diligent, your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me. You will be rejected as a church, with your dead.

36 For it is ordained that in Zion, and in her stakes, and in Jerusalem, those places which I have appointed for refuge, shall be the places for your baptisms for your dead.

37 And again, verily I say unto you, how shall your washings be acceptable unto me, except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name?

38 For, for this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was.

39 Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name.

40 And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people;

41 For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.

Washings, anointings, baptisms, solemn assemblies, memorials for sacrifices, and oracles are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house. My house that I have commanded you to build is a place to receive conversations from heaven, revelations, glory, honor, and endowments from Me. It is a place where I can come to you, talk to you, minister to you, and reveal mine ordinances unto you. I want to reveal to you things that have been hid from before the foundation of the world that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times. I‘ll reveal unto you how to establish Zion. Don’t let this opportunity to establish Zion pass you by!

42 And I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof, and the place whereon it shall be built.

43 And ye shall build it on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to build it.

44 If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy.

45 And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place.

46 But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them.

47 And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord.

48 For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practise before me, saith the Lord.

Through Joseph, I will show all things pertaining to this house. If you labor diligently, the spot will be made holy. If you hearken to my voice, you will not be moved out of your place. Does this mean that the Lord will protect the saints from their enemies, watch over them with his power, and make the temple a holy place? With the Lord in the midst of Zion, will the saints need to raise the arm of flesh in their defense against the powers that want to drive them out of Nauvoo?

The Lord also gives the penalty for failing to hearken to His voice. You will not be blessed. You will not have my protecting hand over you. Then a serious warning comes: But if you go ahead and build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath neither fulfill the promises which you expect at my hands. Instead of blessings, you will experience cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments.

We may find some valuable answers by accepting God’s words at face value. By simply reading church history and looking at the results, we may determine whether or not the saints exercised faith, built the temple within the allotted time, and fulfilled the requirements set out by the Lord. Did they have a temple ready to receive the fullness of the priesthood while Joseph was still alive? Was Zion established? Did they receive Christ’s presence and His protection? What does history reveal?

To be continued . . .

Child’s Sincere Temple Question, Part 1

Child’s Sincere Temple Question, Part 2

Child's Sincere Temple Question, Part 3

Child's Sincere Temple Question, Part 4

Child's Sincere Temple Question, Part 5

Child's Sincere Temple Question, Part 6

Child's Sincere Temple Question, Part 7 Conclusion

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Meals on Wheels, Feeding the Crew

Emma is one week old today, and I’m feeling much better than I did last week. Babies bring a piece of heaven with them. We all love having a new baby in the home. Emma thinks she needs to be held 24/7, and that’s OK with us. This newborn stage doesn’t last for long, so we’re going to enjoy it.

We’ve had friends and neighbors helping us with meals this last week. You’d have to be pretty brave to even offer to bring our family a meal. In our home, food evaporates. Most people probably think, “Now, how much food do they really eat? Will this be enough?” We really do appreciate the kindness shown to us.

Last Saturday, Lyle and Jenny Henriod brought our family a big pot of soup. The baby wasn’t even six hours old, and they were already at our door ready to feed the crew.

Sandra and Dave Sorensen brought in some yummy potato casserole earlier this week. I’ve gotten some our favorite recipes from Sandra. Recently, she taught me how to make homemade potato soup and chili. Whenever I ask her for a recipe, she tells me that she really doesn’t have a recipe. She then tells me how she makes it. I come home, try it, and the children love it. I’ll have to learn how she made that potato casserole.

Nancy Sjostrom just showed up one afternoon with her arms loaded with food. It was a welcomed surprise. She also made this teddy bear quilt for Emma (see picture). With her busy schedule, she didn’t have to make the extra effort, but we appreciate that she did.

Lisa Clawson asked the children what they wanted to eat. One said chicken alfredo, another said macaroni and cheese, another said brownies, and another said cookie dough. They were so surprised when they saw that she creatively met all of their requests. We had a tasty dish that was a combination of macaroni and cheese and chicken alfredo. For desert she made cookie dough brownies. The children kept talking about how everyone got what they wanted. Good job Lisa! Not many could have pulled that one off.

While Lisa was visiting, Charlene Heaton stopped by with a gift for the baby and an armload of pizza rolls. We saved the pizza rolls for the next day and enjoyed every last one of them.

I just got a call from my friend Kim Wengreen. She asked if she could bring us dinner tomorrow. John and the children will be excited. They’ve really pitched in and helped with the meals during this pregnancy. They are so appreciative when someone brings in good food. They love tasting something new and different. For some reason it tastes better when they don’t have cook it. Or maybe it just tastes better than daddy’s special:)

We’ve enjoyed all of the food and appreciate the kindness shown to us. Thanks again.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Child’s Sincere Temple Question, Part 1

I was restless early yesterday morning, and sleep seemed to escape me. I had been reading for some time and sat in my chair just thinking and pondering. At 5:40 a.m. my daughter surprised me with a knock and asked if she could come in and talk for a minute. Probably, by default, I replied something like, “I’m just finishing up. I’ll be with you in a while.”

Through the door, I could hear her slowly walking away, no verbal response. Immediately, I felt heaven speaking to me as God gave me a clear message. A very simple sensation went through my body, and a voice (not audible, but it just as well have been) basically said, “John, get yourself out of the chair, stop thinking about yourself, and pay attention to your daughter’s request. She needs to talk to you!”

I got up, opened the door, and saw her walking away down the dark hallway. I called to her, “Hey, actually, I have some time, and I’d really like to talk with you.” I invited her in, and she returned a big smile. We sat down, and she proceeded to explain what was on her mind. She wiped a tear from her eye, and I could tell that she had been thinking about something. She wanted to talk about some questions that had been on her mind for a while.

A question was recently asked in one of her youth classes, “How many of you are excited to prepare for and be married in the temple of God?” She said, “At first, I raised my hand, but then I put it back down because I don’t know for sure if I want to or not.”

She then asked a series of questions and in essence said, “Dad, I wonder if the temple ordinances are real and legitimate. Are they? What about baptisms for the dead? Are they valid? How about endowments? Marriages? Family sealings? I am told that if I am married in the temple, then I will be with my husband and family forever. Is that true? Am I guaranteed eternal life and happiness just by going to the temple, being married there, and remaining a faithful member of the church? Is that all I need to do or is there something more that comes from God?”

“What about others who are really good people? What about people who seem much more righteous than me but for one reason or another choose not to be sealed in the temple? Does that mean that I am saved and they are not? What does God really require of me to obtain salvation? How do I know if I have the promise of eternal life?”

As she put forth these sincere and very important questions, I realized she was searching for truth, and she wanted to know the answers. She wanted to know true doctrine, not just what others say and believe. She’s realizing that people, religious institutions, and organizations almost always hold opposing views and conflicting doctrines. Putting our salvation in the hands of men, or in the “arm of flesh” is unwise, unreliable, and out of order. When we trust in men instead of God, we bring a curse upon us 2 Nephi 4:34, 2 Nephi 28:31. My daughter, like many others in all walks of life, wants to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

With this on my mind, I had the impression to share the Lord’s words with our family during “family devotional”. I trusted that this would answer some of my daughter’s questions. This also provided the opportunity for the rest of the family to “tune in” and benefit from her questions. Here’s some of what we talked about.

In November 1831, the Lord revealed, “And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually— ” D&C 1:30

Within just a year, their status as a church had already changed. In September 1832, the Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith the following concerning the updated status of the church:

And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion. D&C 84:54-58

One hundred and fifty four years later during general conference, President Benson said, “We have felt that scourge and judgment . . . The Book of Mormon has not been, nor is it yet, the center of our personal study, family teaching, preaching, and missionary work. Of this we must repent.” President Ezra Taft Benson

The church is currently still under condemnation for failing to take the message of the Book of Mormon seriously. Most members of the church have not removed this condemnation. That scourge doesn’t have to be applied to us as individuals, if we will "repent and remember the new covenant" offered. To qualify, each person must bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom.

The Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel D&C 20:9. Anyone who repents and receives the covenants offered in the Book of Mormon will be numbered with the house of Israel and the remnant of Lehi’s seed, be part of Zion, and receive from heaven a promise of eternal life. 3 Nephi 16:13-15, Ether 13:1-12, Mosiah 26:20.

In January 1841, Section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants was revealed. The church had been under condemnation for about nine years and the fullness of the priesthood had also been taken away D&C 124:28. The saints had lost the opportunity, collectively, to possess the fullness of the priesthood. “For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” D&C 84:22 Joseph plainly taught truth to the saints and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God. Joseph was much like Moses in leading the people.

Moses also plainly taught truth to the children of Israel and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God. “And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.” Exodus 19:17

“And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18-21

Remember how the children of Israel hardened their hearts, rejected the fullness and were driven into the wilderness? The Lord took Moses out of their midst and the Holy Priesthood also. They were left with the lesser priesthood, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel. D&C 84:23-27

Joseph Smith, the chosen head of this dispensation, sought to open the heavens to the people and establish Zion. Joseph made an intercession for his people and made the necessary sacrifice and offering that was sufficient before the Lord. I believe Joseph’s very life was the offering made. He pled before the Lord in behalf of his people that they might have another chance to receive the fullness of the priesthood and thereby obtain the gifts from heaven that are required to make claim on eternal life. The Lord was well pleased with his offering and acknowledgements. D&C 124:1

The Lord then proceeded to make an oath and promise with Joseph in behalf of the group. The Lord laid out the requirements. God revealed what He promised to do if the people exercised faith, built a temple, and fulfilled the requirements He set forth. A new opportunity to claim the fulness of the priesthood was open and available for a period of time. What joy! What kindness! What mercy! What compassion! What love and charity demonstrated by Deity! It must also be remembered that with every blessing there is an associated curse or penalty for failure to abide the terms of the covenant. Here are the terms of this oath and promise D&C 124:25-48.

To be continued . . .

Child’s Sincere Temple Question, Part 1

Child’s Sincere Temple Question, Part 2

Child's Sincere Temple Question, Part 3

Child's Sincere Temple Question, Part 4

Child's Sincere Temple Question, Part 5

Child's Sincere Temple Question, Part 6

Child's Sincere Temple Question, Part 7 Conclusion

Monday, January 23, 2012

Emma Marie Willis is Here!

On January 21, 2012, 6:10 a.m., Emma Marie Willis was born and welcomed into the Willis family.

  • Weighed 8 lbs. 3 oz.
  • Measured 20” long
  • Lots of brown hair
  • Content, peaceful demeanor

Being the 12th child, she has many brothers and sisters who simply adore her. Everyone gets excited as they carefully hold their new baby sister. Nothing but smiles as they gaze into the eyes of this beautiful gift from heaven. Without a doubt, Emma will never lack attention and love. There is always enthusiasm, life, and love offered for her.

In Emma’s opinion, nobody’s like mom. She lets everyone clearly know when “holding time” is over and she is ready for her mom. Her mother is the best God-made source of food, warmth, comfort, and love that a little girl can get.

I feel humbled and very grateful for Jennifer. She is my wonderful wife, and the amazing mother of our children. For me, she is the perfect companion, wise counselor, and faithful friend. I respect, honor, and love her deeply.

She has sacrificed her personal time, desires, and dreams many times over and over again. She’s spent nearly half of our 20+ years of married life being pregnant, sick, tired, large, uncomfortable, and just plain miserable. She has sacrificed much, even placing her very life in jeopardy for the life of another and another and another and another…….…

The rest of her time is devoted to her family. Somehow she finds time to spend with each child and me, individually and collectively. She makes a happy and peaceful home, and it really does feel a bit like heaven. Her personal walks and intimate talks, mingled with bedtime stories, kisses, and fun make lasting impressions never to be forgotten. Her faith, vision, and love, coupled with mighty determination are felt by one and all. I believe the teachings, wisdom, and love she so willingly shares with each of us will ripple through all generations of time and beyond. Mom is home. I suppose that is one of the greatest gifts a mother can give.

Once again we were able to have the baby at home. It was especially calm and peaceful for me. I don’t know if Jennifer would say the same. After a long night of labor, she was tired and ready to lay down with our new little daughter.

Tonight Jennifer was holding Emma, and Joseph came over so excited just to look at his new little sister. Jennifer asked him, “Do you like the baby?” His eyes lit up and he replied, “Yes,” with a great big smile on his face. She asked, “What do you like about the baby?” He said, “the head.” :)

A New Pattern of Prayer

Recently, our family attended Sabbath worship with some friends. I had not previously attended that particular denomination. While there, I observed a new pattern of prayer that caught my attention and touched my heart. This manner of prayer may be somewhat common to many who are reading this blog, but it was new to me.

An individual started the prayer by addressing our Heavenly Father. He gave gratitude for the atonement of Jesus Christ. He expressed a sincere heart felt thank you to God for many specific things. He then petitioned God for help and pleaded for blessings upon others, locally, nationally, and worldwide. He verbally explained to God certain situations and how heavenly assistance, mercy, and grace were desperately needed.

After conversing with God a few minutes, he paused, and someone else in the congregation (about 30 in number) began praying. Their prayers were sincere and heart felt. They did not multiply words, 3 Nephi 19:24 but spoke by the spirit with real intent Moroni 7:6-9, Moroni 10:4-5. About five to seven people prayed following this pattern of expressing their desires and gratitude to God. They spent the majority of their time praying for others. The prayer was closed in the name of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps what I enjoyed the most was the feeling I had inside. I felt that the words spoken were real and had meaning. They came from the heart. It was a touching experience for me and left an impression on my mind and soul.

Having experienced this “new” pattern of prayer, we were prompted to implement it in family. A couple months ago, we began using this approach to pray together at mealtime and during morning devotional. At first it seemed very novel and out of the ordinary, but now it feels accepted, established, and inspiring.

At family prayer, dad assigns someone the responsibility to begin and close the family prayer. Each family member has the opportunity to freely speak to God as the spirit guides. Sometimes just three or four people pray verbally while the others are silent. Other times nearly everyone feels to participate and speak to God. Everyone has the opportunity to express his or her heart to God and commune with heaven.

Since we have implemented this practice, it has proved to be a very positive experience for our entire family. We tend to perceive and identify more circumstances and needs around us. We now pray a lot more for each other and our neighbors (friends and enemies alike). The words actually have more meaning and purpose. The children enjoy hearing their individual needs and desires expressed to God by their parents and siblings. Everyone seems to take great joy in hearing specific prayers in their behalf.

We, as parents, have been astounded by the power of a sincere and simple prayer coming from a child. Adults can pray like children too, but it takes humility, meekness, and faith, accompanied by sincere desire. We feel very blessed to have become aware of this way of praying. We are amazed at the improvement we have witnessed in our family life. Our connection with heaven is more solid and each member feels more empowered and happy.

As we petition God for specific help, sacrifice our own will to conform to the will of God, and reach out to others, then miracles happen, blessings appear, and help from heaven comes. We are all much more excited to communicate with God through prayer than ever before because He really does hear and answer prayers.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Caring for the Poor, Part 2

God has asked us to pay tithes and offerings, and most Christians give some kind of offering to the church they attend. So how does the Lord want us to spend the money?
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:8-10
I’ve read this scripture many times, and it’s helped me to believe in the importance of paying tithes and offerings, but I missed the message in verse 10. I didn’t see that the purpose of these tithes and offerings is to put meat in the Lord’s house.
Meat is flesh of animal consumed as food. Some other synonyms for meat are: food, nourishment, provision, and sustenance.
It looks like Lord is asking us to take care of and feed the poor with our tithes and offerings. Yet I see most of the tithing money in churches going toward: buildings, administrative costs, salaries, etc. I’m starting to give this matter serious thought. I think it is a pretty important one to think about.
I was talking to my daughter after she read the post on Mega Churches – Robbing the Poor . She asked, “What can we do to care for the poor?” That’s a really good question. I’ve paid tithes and offerings my whole life, but how do I know if my tithes and offerings are being used to help the poor? Not just that, but am I searching for ways to help the poor? I can do better.
“Yea, and will you persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them?” Alma 5:55
“And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple.” Doctrine and Covenants 52:40
Mormon rebukes those who profess to belong to the holy church of God. What is he saying?
“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing . . . your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? . . . Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?” Mormon 8:35-39
I wonder if someone should get paid for teaching the word of God? What if it’s their job? What if it’s their full-time responsibility? I don’t know all the answers, but as I think about it, the story of King Benjamin comes to mind. He was a great king and teacher who restored peace in the land and brought his people into the presence of the Lord.
“I say unto you that as I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you . . . and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you— And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne . . .“Mosiah 2: 12-14
Mosiah followed in the footsteps of his father. “And king Mosiah did cause his people that they should till the earth. And he also, himself, did till the earth, that thereby he might not become burdensome to his people, that he might do according to that which his father had done in all things. And there was no contention among all his people for the space of three years.” Mosiah 6:7
In Alma chapter 1 we see the contrast between the teachings of false priests and the people of God.
“And [Nehor} had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.” Alma 1:3
Contrast this to . . .
“And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength. And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.” Alma 1:26-27
Why would someone want to give to the poor? Is doing it for Christ’s sake a good reason?
. . . others were abasing themselves, succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake, who should come according to the spirit of prophecy; Alma 4:13
Is being redeemed from our lost and fallen state a good reason?
“Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now. But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;” Doctrine and Covenants 105:2-3 also see Mosiah 4:26
Is the promise of the Lord opening the windows of heaven to bless us a good reason?
“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.” Proverbs 19:17
“. . . and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:8-10
Is living in the presence of Christ and being happy a good reason?
“And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.” 4 Nephi 1:3
“. . . and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.” 4 Nephi 1:16
Whatever the reason, there are people who are suffering. I can do a better of job of helping others.

See also: Mega Churches – Robbing the Poor, Part 1

Photo Sources: Mother Teresa, Boy sitting on tracks , Children holding bowls, Three little boys, Mother with two children 

What is Love?

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, "What does love mean?" The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think:

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love." Rebecca - age 8

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth." Billy - age 4

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other." Karl - age 5

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs." Chrissy - age 6

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired." Terri - age 4

Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK." Danny - age 7

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss" Emily - age 8

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen," Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate," Nikka - age 6

"There are two kinds of love. Our love. God's love. But God makes both kinds of them." Jenny - age 8

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday." Noelle - age 7

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well." Tommy - age 6

"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore," Cindy - age 8

"My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night." Clare - age 6

"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken." Elaine -age 5

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford." Chris - age 7

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day." Mary Ann - age 4

"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones." Lauren - age 4

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you." Karen - age 7

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross." Mark - age 6

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget," Jessica - age 8

Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry." Roger Knapp

The disciples asked Jesus a searching and eternal question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:1-6 To deceive, offend, or betray a little child who believes in Christ is a cruel sin and carries serious consequences.

On multiple occasions, Jesus taught that one of the requirements of salvation is that the recipients become as a little child. Matthew 19:13-15 “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” Luke 18:15-17

Those who fail to become like little children forfeit the kingdom of heaven. It may be valuable and worthwhile for some of us “hardened older folk” to soften up a bit and be more like a child, believe like a child, and love like a child. What do you think?

Jesus shows his redeeming love for little children, invites them into his presence, and blesses them with gifts from above. An ideal example of this is recorded in the Book of Mormon when the people of Nephi on the American continent were gathered around the temple in the land of Bountiful. 3 Nephi 17:1-25 Jesus showed himself unto the people, ministered to them, and they received the fullness of his gospel. He loved; He healed; He blessed; His joy was full; and He wept.

“And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. And when he had done this he wept again; And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones. And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them. And the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they know that their record is true for they all of them did see and hear, every man for himself; and they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children.” 3 Nephi 17:21-25

After Jesus ministered to all present, Jesus further ministered to the children while the adults participated as observers. As angels descended out of heaven and encircled those little ones, the parents watched and eavesdropped on the Heavenly ministry to their children. Were the children participating in something that the others just overheard, viewed, and witnessed? What distinguished the children from the rest? I believe children and those who are like children have a connection with heaven that others may miss.

The greatest embodiment of love is Jesus Christ himself. He is the very definition of love and he lived the highest level of it. God is love. 1 John 4:8 His love cleanses and redeems those who love Him. Love renews and creates. It empowers and overcomes. Jesus Christ overcame all things. I believe His greatest victory was His infinite ability to love.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:34-35 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13