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Have I done any good in the world today? If not, I have failed indeed! Then wake up and do something more than dream of your mansion above.
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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Prove All Things, Part 2

Heavenly Father expects you to do
your homework before He throws
you an answer to your prayer.
In my last blog post, I explained how we must ask God through prayer to know spiritual truths. In this post I will show what we must do on our part in order to be ready to receive the answer.

God always hears and answers our prayers. Sometimes the answer is no. For instance: "Dear God. I would really like to have a couple thousand dollars to go on a cruise with my buddies. I also want a new car. And a pay raise. I also would like to be able to fly or turn invisible. Besides that, thanks for everything you do. Amen!"

How willing is God going to be to answer that prayer and give you the things you wanted? The answer to that prayer would most likely be "no" if it didn't bounce off the ceiling on the way to Him.

If you said that prayer and didn't get the stuff you wanted, does that mean God doesn't exist? Does that mean He doesn't care about you? Of course not! God expects us to "do our homework" before He gives us answers.

Here's how I like to look at it: Imagine you are walking around in a toy store with two of your children. One of your children comes to you and demands you buy a certain toy for him. You tell him no or don't answer him at all and he never asks you again. How much did he really want that toy? Not very much, right? You remember how he never helps out around the house when you ask and never does any of the chores he is supposed to do. How willing would you be to buy this child a toy?

If you're expecting a beam of light and an angel appearing
to you and giving you your answer... Sorry, but you're
not very likely to receive your answer like that.
Another one of your children comes to you and humbly asks you for a toy. This child however, in addition to his other chores, says if you buy this toy for him, he promises to give up his allowance, wash the car, do the dishes, rake the leaves, do his homework, and feed the dog. You don't answer him right away, but he starts to do all the things he promised to do. After a week, he has faithfully done everything on the list, plus some, and has asked you for the toy numerous times. How much did this child want the toy? Probably a whole lot. How much more willing are you to buy this child the toy he asked for? Probably a lot more willing.

You see, God is the same way with us. If we ask Him to give us something just once, or if we are not willing to do the things He asks of us, or if we don't really want to know the answer in the first place, He won't be very likely to give us answers to our prayers. Why would He?

But if we ask God in prayer for answers repeatedly, show Him we are willing to obey his commandments, work for our answers, and sincerely desire to know the truth, He will be much more willing to give us the answers we seek.

Let's take one spiritual truth to focus on. One of the most important spiritual truths missionaries can ask people to find out for themselves is the truthfulness and divinity of the Book of Mormon. Of course, the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most important, but I have met plenty of people on my mission who claim to have read and prayed about the Book of Mormon but God did not tell them it was true.

Oh, you don't want to read the Book of
Mormon? It's OK. I only spent my entire life
putting them togeter for you.
Usually when they make that claim, I ask them how they went about getting their answer. Often times their reply runs along these lines: "Well, I opened it up and read for a little bit, then told God to let me know if it was true or not. And He didn't give me an answer, so the Book of Mormon must be false and Joseph Smith is a liar and the Mormon church is evil and crazy."

When I hear such an answer, I can't help but to try to visualize them saying their prayers. I like to imagine they go something like this: "Hey, God! It's me again! So, I just spent a few minutes reading this book those crazy dudes in white shirts with the black name tags gave me. They asked me to read the book and ask you if it was true. But I know the book probably isn't true and it was really boring and hard to understand. I was thinking of throwing it away, but I decided to use it as a doorstop instead. But you know what? Tell me the book isn't true so I can bash those Mission Mormonaries next time they come over. I'll call on you next time I need some help. Thanks-- Amen!"

Even if the Book of Mormon wasn't true, do you think God would answer such a prayer? God forbid, if you were in His place, what would you do if someone offered up such an insincere and blatantly insulting prayer? If it were me, I definitely wouldn't answer that prayer. In fact, I'd probably smite this person with leprosy or boils or some other crazy biblical disease for sending up such a disrespectful prayer to me.

Let me just offer a word of advice: If you aren't in the right mindset to receive the answer God is trying to give you, you won't get it. Period. If you only read the Book of Mormon to disprove what is written in it or any other purpose but to know if it's true, you won't get an answer. Even if you read the entire thing only trying to find fault in it, you still wouldn't get an answer.

The Book of Mormon testifies
of Jesus Christ.
"But doesn't the Book itself tell us if we read it and pray to know it is true, God will give us an answer?"

Yes, you are correct. But there is much more to it than that. The ancient Book of Mormon prophet Moroni describes what we must do to know if the book is true or not.

Moroni 10:3-5:

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

4 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.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

As it says in the Introduction of the Book of Mormon, we must "read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in [our] hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true." It goes on to say, "Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost."

To sum it all up, we must first be willing to receive an answer, our heart must be sincere, and we must be willing to act on the answer given. If it is the right moment for you to receive an answer according to God's timescale, you will receive the answer you seek. It's as simple as that.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Prove All Things, Part 1

Many people missionaries come in contact with want us to give them evidence and proof that we are right. They want us to show them the church is true in the scriptures rather than accepting the Holy Ghost into their lives. We can't prove that the scriptures or our beliefs are true. Only the Holy Ghost can do that.

"For flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee"
Even if we could prove everything, God still expects us to have faith. If we don't have faith, it
doesn't matter how much we can prove. Hebrews 11:1 says: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Christ set the example for us on how to know spiritual truths in Matthew 16:15-17.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Just as Peter knew Jesus Christ was the Son of God by the power of the Holy Ghost rather than seeing His flesh and blood, Christ expects us to receive spiritual knowledge by the power of the Holy Ghost rather than physical evidence that something is true.

Many cite the scripture found in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to make it seem like we need to prove our beliefs with evidence.

Christ set the example for us on how to pray.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

In context, this chapter is talking about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This verse is not telling us to prove the scriptures, doctrine, or beliefs. Another meaning of the word "prove" is to "test" something. See 1 Samuel 17:39 and Psalms 26:2.

Here is the scripture reread in context:
21 [Examine] all things; hold fast that which is good.

Or it could be read this way:
21 [Put] all things [to the test]; hold fast that which is good.

Or in other words, "Look at the signs of the Second Coming, examine the things happening around you, and only talk about or concern yourself with the good things you hear."

Another similar scripture is found in Romans 12:2.

2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Again, this scripture is not asking us to prove to someone that something is good. Compare John 7:17 to get a more full meaning of this scripture.

17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

What we learn from these scriptures is that if we do the will of the Father by keeping His commandments, we can know if the doctrine being taught is really of God or not. This is how we can "test" if something is of God, as the scripture says. For example: When missionaries teach the Word of Wisdom and someone says it is not inspired of God, we invite them to live it anyways so they can see the blessings of living it. Every time, if they really do their part, they will always see the promised blessings.

In the Book of Mormon, we read of the sons of Lehi, returning to Jerusalem to retrieve the plates of brass. After the second attempt to get the plates, Laman and Lemuel were furious at Nephi because Laban stole all of their riches. The scriptures say, "Wherefore Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a rod."

While Laman and Lemuel were beating Sam and Nephi to death, an angel appeared to stop them. However, immediately as the angel left, Laman and Lemuel began to doubt again the strength of the Lord.

31 And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?

These guys have got to be the most stubborn an heard hearted people ever to have lived on planet Earth. However, Nephi was faithful and trusted in the Lord that He would protect and provide a way for them. Nephi knew the Lord had commanded them to get the plates and he knew how important it was to have them as they were traveling in the wilderness.

In 1 Nephi 4:1, we read Nephi's response to his brothers: "And it came to pass that I spake unto my brethren, saying: Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?"

Curious how Laman and Lemuel could so quickly lose faith after seeing the angel. Surely, anyone would be converted and want to do the will of the Father after seeing an angel, right? Why didn't Laman and Lemuel have as much faith as Nephi, even after this experience? The difference between Nephi and his brothers was that Nephi prayed to know if the things his father told him were true.

In 1 Nephi 2:16, we read Nephi's account of praying to know spiritual truths: "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers."

Nephi prayed to know the truth and the Lord
visited him with the Holy Ghost.
"I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me." Or in other words, "I wanted to know if what my father, the prophet, was telling me was true so I asked the Lord and He visited me with the Holy Ghost and told me it was true."

How did I get out of this verse that Nephi was only visited by the Holy Ghost? If you follow the footnote under the word "visit" it points you to Doctrine and Covenants 5:16, which reads: "And behold, whosoever believeth on my words, them will I visit with the manifestation of my Spirit."

Seeing and believing is not enough to keep a lasting testimony though. Surely Laman and Lemuel believed in God. I mean, they had seen angels! How could they not believe? Their father Lehi was a prophet. They had probably seen him do many mighty miracles in his calling as a prophet. We, like Nephi, must act on our beliefs or they will do nothing for us.

Jesus Christ tells us in James 2:19, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." He also says in Matthew 7:21, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

It all comes down to our desire. If we desire to know spiritual truth, we must ask God, as James 1:5 tells us. If we do our part, God will give us the answers we seek. To know spiritual truths by the power of the Holy Ghost and not just cognitively we must ask God.

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.



Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Lifetime Commitment

Gospel related conversations are easy to start!
"So what is it that makes you stay in your religion?"

 "What do you mean?"

"Well, first you have to go to church for three whole hours on Sunday, then multiple hours a week for other jobs and responsibilities."

"Yeah, so?"

"And you also have to give up one tenth of your income to the church."

"Well, I've found the more you give the Lord, the more he gives back!"

"Not to mention all of the rules labeled as so called commandments that take all the fun out of life! You can't drink, smoke, or have sexual relations outside of marriage."

"Those things aren't really too appealing to me in the first place."

"You also have to read that book that Joe Smith supposedly translated from those golden tablets he found! Isn't the Bible enough?"

"The Bible is the word of God, yes, but the Book of Mormon does so much more than just tell stories and teachings of Jesus. And the church I belong to, the responsibilities I have, and the standards I hold myself to, it's more than just a Sunday thing; it's a lifetime commitment."

It's really that easy to set up an appointment
for the missionaries. Try it and see!

"Huh? What are you talking about?"

"I actually have to get running pretty soon, but I'd love to continue our conversation. I'll tell you what. I have two great friends I'd like you to meet. Do you mind if I bring them by to meet you, let's say... Tuesday at 7:00?"

"Sure, I guess. See you then!"

* * *

[Tuesday at 7:00]

*KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK*

"Hey there, how's it going?"

"Pretty well. I brought my friends along to meet you! Mind if we come in?"

"Sure... Wait. Hold the phone. Your friends are the Mission Mormonaries?"

"Yep, that's us. We prefer to be called Elders, or at least 'Mormon missionaries.' Hi, I'm Elder Hill. Glad to meet you, my friend! Boy, do we have an important message for you!"

"Ugh. Well come on in."

* * *

"So you guys can't watch TV right?"

"Right, but that's not even a fraction of what we can and can't do!"

"You're kidding me."

"Nope. We have a 68 page handbook stating what we are and aren't allowed to do. In addition to not watching TV, we also can't go swimming, read the paper, play video games, date girls, call home (other than Mothers Day or Christmas), surf the internet (except for Church approved websites), listen to music that isn't conducive to the Spirit, wear normal clothes, light fireworks or other explosives, go horseback riding, ride on private boats, leave the mission boundaries without permission, shoot or handle firearms, attend sporting events or keep score while playing sports, go horseback riding, ice skating, skiing, or snowboarding, or pretty much anything else you could think of that normal people do for fun. We're not even supposed to chew gum."

You can't even chew gum?
"So if you can't do any of that, what CAN you do?"

"We do lots of things! Our daily schedule is as follows: We wake up every morning at 6:30 AM and exercise for 30 minutes. After that, we shower and eat breakfast and prepare for the day. For two hours after that we have our study time, where we read the scriptures, listen to conference talks, talk about those we teach, roleplay lessons, and confirm our plans for the day. At 10 AM we go out proselyting, come back to take a lunch break for an hour, then go back out and start again. In our free time we visit leaders and members of the local ward, or congregation, try to find people to teach, teach lessons, and so on. We have dinner for an hour every day at 5PM, then for the rest of the night we go back out and teach whoever will let us in. At 9:00 PM we return home and plan for the next day for around 30 to 45 minutes. Then, we have to be in bed by 10:30. The next day we do it all over again.

Oh, and on Thursdays we have a three hour meeting to plan out our week, and on Friday we have another meeting in the morning where we are trained on stuff. We also have to attend all three hours of church for each ward we cover, which can sometimes last up to six hours straight.

"Wow, that's quite the full time job you've got there. They must pay you pretty well!"

"Oh, we don't get paid for any of this. In fact, we have to pay to be out here! Most missions cost about $400 a month or $10,000 total, not including any other personal expenses."

"What?! Why on Earth would anyone want to leave home for two years, having to do all of that, and not get payed for it?"

"Because I know what I teach is true. If I didn't, I would be back at home playing video games and hanging out with my friends and family. But because it is true, I decided that I had better do something about it."

"But how do you know it is true? You can't honestly believe everything the Church tells you to teach, can you?"
You can know through prayer if
what we taught you is truw.
"I do. And you can know it too."

"How?"

"How everyone can know it is true. Read the Book of Mormon, ponder the message it contains, then ask God in prayer if the book is true. If you do your part, God will tell you if it is true or not."

"You said you know it is true, but you can't really know know it's true. You just have to believe. You've never seen an angel have you?"

"When I say 'I know' what I teach is true, I mean it. I don't just have to believe. I might not know everything to know about Church history, or everything about the gospel, and I can't quote the Book word for word in its entirety, but what I do know is that the Book of Mormon is true.

If the Book of Mormon is true, that means Joseph Smith saw God and His Son Jesus Christ. If he saw Them, that means he was called as a prophet. If he was called as a prophet then this is God's true church upon the face of the earth today!

I know the Book of Mormon is true not because I have seen an angel or had a grand display of God's power. I haven't seen Christ or heard His voice tell me it is true. I haven't felt the nail prints in His hands with my own. But I know the Book of Mormon is true and I know Christ lives because of something even more powerful than seeing an angel or touching the gold plates. I know because I have felt the power of the Holy Ghost bear divine witness to me the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon on numerous occasions."

"What? You're crazy! You're saying a feeling you got inside your body is more powerful than seeing things? You could have just had some bad pizza!"

"Fair enough. Well, do you remember the stories in the Bible of when Christ did mighty miracles?"

"Yes, of course!"

Everything we teach is centered
on the life and teachings of
Jesus Christ.
"Do you also remember how the people hated Christ and killed him for doing the things He did?"

"Yes, I do remember that. What's your point?"

"Hundreds or even thousands of people saw Christ do miracles. He healed the sick, gave the blind their sight, raised the dead, turned water into wine, fed thousands with a few fish and loves of bread. If He did all of that, how could people still not believe? How could they still kill Him?

This is proof to me that seeing does not convert, only the Holy Ghost does.

"You've got a point. I guess I never looked at it like that."

"You see, the reason I do what I do is because I know what I teach is true. I know by the power of the Holy Ghost. Because I know, I act on the knowledge I have. Because I know, I am on my mission. Because I know, I read the Book of Mormon and go to church and pray. Because I know, I pay my tithing, live the Word of Wisdom, and obey the Law of Chastity. And because I know, I am sitting in your living room talking to you about it.

Now that I have explained how I know what I teach is true, would you like to learn more?"

"That's really powerful stuff. I guess why that's why my friend called your religion a 'lifetime commitment'. Once you know, you will want to live it for the rest of your life. Yes, I would like to learn more."
____________________________________________

The Invitation

Although this story and the exchange of dialogue never happened, it still illustrates a great point. Just as the person in the story wanted to know for himself the things I know to be true, you too can take my invitation and learn more about the gospel and Church of Jesus Christ.

If you are reading this and are not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or are a less active member of the church, please invite the missionaries into your home. Let them teach you. Their visits will change your life forever.

You don't know what to expect? Well let me take you through it...

For the first visit, the missionaries will try to get to know you a little bit. This is so they will better know how to teach according to your needs, and so you will be able to take full advantage of their visits. Please be open and honest with them. They are there to help you. They can't help you unless you are open with them.

During the first visit and other visits, the missionaries will share with you one of the five missionary lessons.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ blesses families.
The lessons are:
1) The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
2) God's Plan of Salvation
3) The Gospel of Jesus Christ
4) The Commandments

The fourth lesson is usually broken up into a couple of lessons for time and convenience. The commandments are: The Word of Wisdom, The Law of Chastity, the Law of Tithing, and the Ten Commandments.

There is a fifth lesson, which is usually taught after baptism. It simply teaches about church structure, callings and responsibility within the church, and family history and temple work, just to name a few examples.

These visits generally take about 30 to 45 minutes total, and the lessons only takes about 20 minutes to teach. Each lesson begins and ends with a prayer, and the missionaries will make invitations to you as directed by the Holy Ghost.

How can you know if it's true if
you aren't willing to listen?
Some things the missionaries may invite you to do during a lesson are: be baptized, read the Book of Mormon, pray to Heavenly Father, attend local church meetings, and keep the commandments.

If you have any questions or concerns, you may ask the missionaries. They will, to the best of their abilities, try to answer your questions. They are not perfect teachers by any means, but they are servants of the Lord. As they teach you, you will begin to recognize them as such.



If you are willing to learn for yourself the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please visit


and fill in this box to invite the Lord's servants into your home:



You don't have to accept our message. We can't force you to do anything. But if you do accept us into your home, even for one lesson, we promise you will want to learn more.