Sunday, August 02, 2009

Limited Focus

We often find that lessons in Church only focus on some portions portions of the doctrines that are contained in the lesson manual. In turn it is often the case that the lives of many members also only focus on parts of the doctrine.

Here are a few examples:
  • Word of Wisdom - What seems to stand out to people is we don't drink and we don't smoke. We often leave out of our lives the other parts of the code of health like how to eat properly.
  • Sabbath - Generally we as members of the Church focus on Sunday being a day that we don't work. Some forget to not make others work and most forget that even though it is a day not to work, it is also not a day to play.
  • Earrings - Most everyone heard President Hinckley say that if women are going to wear earrings they should only wear one in each ear. Many missed that he said if you felt the need to wear earrings that they should be modest earrings.
Lessons are to contain the basics and have limited time constraints, so not every point of doctrine is covered. Our lives should not stop with simple parts of the gospel that are easy for us to live.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Is It a Prayer, a Testimony, or a Talk?


Elder Rasband spoke to us in stake conference in the Browning Center at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.  He mentioned that he was instructed as a youth that I talk should have three things: a scripture, a story or experience, and a testimony.  He showed us how to do this.  He gave a scripture and a story and a testimony and closed.

It made me consider my ongoing desire to differentiate between prayers, testimonies, and talks.  Since Elder Rasband listed story/experience and testimony as two different items, one can deduce that a testimony does not contain stories or life experiences.

Elder M. Russell Ballard - Pure Testimony
My experience throughout the Church leads me to worry that too many of our members' testimonies linger on "I am thankful" and "I love," and too few are able to say with humble but sincere clarity, "I know." As a result, our meetings sometimes lack the testimony-rich, spiritual underpinnings that stir the soul and have meaningful, positive impact on the lives of all those who hear them.
Our testimony meetings need to be more centered on the Savior, the doctrines of the gospel, the blessings of the Restoration, and the teachings of the scriptures. We need to replace stories, travelogues, and lectures with pure testimonies."
"Again, please keep in mind that we are talking about sharing real testimony, not just speaking generally about the things we are thankful for. While it is always good to express love and gratitude, such expressions do not constitute the kind of testimony that will ignite a fire of belief in the lives of others."
Elder Jay E. Jensen - Bearing Testimony
"Using the scriptures and the words of the prophets, let us examine what a testimony is and how we should bear it."
"A testimony is usually defined as knowledge or assurance of a truth that a person declares by the convincing power of the Holy Ghost."
"A testimony can be identified by the use of powerful verbs such as know, testify, believe, certify, declare, affirm, bear witness, bear record."
"Generally speaking, a testimony is short, precise, and concise."

President Boyd K. Packer - Teach Ye Diligently, rev. ed. (1991), 323–24.
“We held a series of zone conferences to improve the spirituality in the mission. Rather than schedule instruction on the mechanics of missionary work, we determined to have a testimony meeting. In the last conference, in the testimony of one of the humble elders, I found the answer to the problem. There was something different about the brief testimony of this frightened new elder. He stood for less than a minute, yet I learned from his expression what it was that was missing.

“The testimonies we’d heard from all the other missionaries went something like this: ‘I’m grateful to be in the mission field. I’ve learned a lot from it. I have a fine companion. I’ve learned a lot from him. I’m grateful for my parents. We had an interesting experience last week. We were out knocking on doors and …’ Then the missionary would relate an experience. His conclusion would be something like this: ‘I’m grateful to be in the mission field. I have a testimony of the gospel.’ And he would conclude ‘in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.’

“This young elder was different somehow. Anxious not to spend an extra second on his feet, he said simply, in hurried, frightened words, ‘I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that we have a prophet of God leading the Church. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.’

“This was a testimony. It was not just an experience nor an expression of gratitude. It was a declaration, a witness!

“Most of the elders had said ‘I have a testimony,’ but they had not declared it. This young elder had, in a very few words, delivered his testimony—direct, basic, and, as it turned out, powerful.
“I then knew what was wrong in the mission. We were telling stories, expressing gratitude, admitting that we had testimonies, but we were not bearing them.”

To illustrate what was talked about in these talks I have created a couple of bullet list inspired by the bullet list in Elder Jensen's talk, but with points gleaned from all of the talks.

What a testimony is not:
  • A list of things that we are thankful for.
  • A list of things that we love.
  • Story, travelogue, lecture, talk, or sermon.
  • A testimony can be identified by the use of powerful verbs such as know, testify, believe, certify, declare, affirm, bear witness, bear record.
  • An admission ("I have a testimony").
  • An exhortation.
  • A public confession.
  • Not a long explanation of how you know.
What a testimony is:
  • A testimony is a witness or confirmation of eternal truth impressed upon individual hearts and souls through the Holy Ghost.
  • Simply stated, testimony—real testimony, born of the Spirit and confirmed by the Holy Ghost—changes lives.
  • Anchored very early to the first principles of the gospel.
  • Centered on the Savior, the doctrines of the gospel, the blessings of the Restoration, and the teachings of the scriptures.
  • A declaration ("I know").
  • Brief and concise.
Elder Russel M. Nelson - Lessons from the Lord’s Prayers
"The concept of 'too much and unnecessary' could also apply to the length of our prayers. A closing prayer in a Church meeting need not include a summary of each message and should not become an unscheduled sermon. Private prayers can be as long as we want, but public prayers ought to be short supplications for the Spirit of the Lord to be with us or brief declarations of gratitude for what has transpired."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Covenant of the Founding Fathers

Does this covenant sound familiar?

"And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor." (Declaration of Independence)

This is the way that things get done. Through our voluntarily serving each other, supporting each other, and being honorable. A pledge is voluntary, not compulsory through being taxed. We pledge our support of each other and God will support us.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

No Man Hath Seen God at Any Time

John 1: 18 and 1 Jn. 4: 12 talk of no man ever seeing God. Some use this to dispute Joseph Smith's vision of God the Father and Jesus. They also dispute that in the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible the verse was changed to read:
19 And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved.

Exodus 24:9-11 states that at least 74 people saw Him with Moses.
9 ¶ Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and aseventy of the belders of Israel:
10 And they asaw the God of Israel: and there was under his bfeet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as cit were the body of heaven in his clearness.
11 And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they asaw God, and did eat and drink.

Exodus 33:11 - States that Moses spoke to God face to face.
11 And the Lord aspake unto Moses bface to face, as a man cspeaketh unto his dfriend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant eJoshua, the son of fNun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.

Gen 32:30 - states that Jacob saw God.
30 And Jacob called the name of the place aPeniel: for I have bseen God cface to face, and my life is preserved.

Deuteronomy 5:4 - States that Moses spoke to God face to face.
4 The Lord talked with you aface to face in the mount out of the midst of the bfire,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Modest Earrings

President Hinckley stated, "Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. If girls or women desire to have their ears pierced, they are encouraged to wear only one pair of modest earrings." (For the Strength of Youth, 16)

What is a modest pair of earrings? defines modesty as:
–noun, plural -ties.
1. the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc.
2. regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc.
3. simplicity; moderation.

Definition 3 may be instructive for what "modest earrings" means.

When women heard President Hinckley's statement did they think of the types of earrings they owned or just the number of earrings their wear at a time? Did they ask themselves if they had an immodest earrings?

Is a modest earring one that hangs from a hole one has punched in their body (ear) or that one has had someone else punch?

Friday, January 16, 2009

...As Far As It Is Translated Correctly

Part of the 8th Article of Faith states "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly;..."

Often the Church is criticized for thinking that the bible is flawed. I think sometimes we as members do sometimes take that point of view. As I have studied this out I find that the Bible is a miracle that we have what we have in the good condition that it is in. Here I will list some comments on this that I find relating to this part of the 8th Article of Faith.

This statement by Richard R. Hopkins gives us a point of view to ponder about the 8th Article of Faith. "This simple statement speaks worlds more about acceptance of the biblical texts than many realize. It acknowledges that the currently accepted texts, transmitted over the ages from the original autographa (the original pages written by the prophets and apostles, or their scribes), are sufficiently accurate that men need only be concerned about the accuracy of their translation." (Biblical Mormonism, p17)

In commenting on criticisms of the Church which state that we do not use the Bible Hopkins states, "Those who level such criticisms at the Mormon Church and its leaders have little or no practical experience with LDS teaching. For example, at the direction of the very apostles maligned in the forgoing quotations, two years out of every four are spent in the study of the Old and New Testaments at weekly Sunday School classes attended by all adult Mormons. LDS leaders constantly teach from the Bible, about the Bible, and that every Mormon should study the Bible." (Biblical Mormonism, p18)

I would add that our teenages spend two years taking a course on the Bible. Many take that course every school day before school starts, generally around 6 or 7 in the morning.

Another book by the same author is How Greek Philosophy Corrupted the Christian Concept of God, which I have not read yet.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Worth of Souls

President Monson related this story:
"Early in my service as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, I was attending a conference in the Monument Park West Stake in Salt Lake City. My companion for the conference was a member of the General Church Welfare Committee, Paul C. Child. President Child was a student of the scriptures. He had been my stake president when I was an Aaronic Priesthood youth. Now we were together as conference visitors.

When it was his opportunity to participate, President Child took the Doctrine and Covenants and left the pulpit to stand among the priesthood to whom he was directing his message. He turned to section 18 and began to read: 'Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. … And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!' 1

President Child then raised his eyes from the scriptures and asked the question of the priesthood brethren: 'What is the worth of a human soul?' He avoided calling on a bishop, stake president, or high councilor for a response. Instead, he selected the president of an elders quorum—a brother who had been a bit drowsy and had missed the significance of the question.

The startled man responded: 'Brother Child, could you please repeat the question?' The question was repeated: 'What is the worth of a human soul?' I knew President Child’s style. I prayed fervently for that quorum president. He remained silent for what seemed like an eternity and then declared, 'Brother Child, the worth of a human soul is its capacity to become as God.' (Ensign September 1997 p 2)