Posted by: blackfootsmj1 | July 26, 2011

A day in the life of a Mormon missionary!


Imagine you found a cure for cancer. How urgently would you spread the news of your discovery? Who would you tell? The gospel of Jesus Christ is the cure for so many of life’s ills that LDS Missionaries want to share the good news of eternal life with the same urgency.

What Missionaries Do

You might wonder what, exactly, a Mormon missionary does, other than ride a bike and knock on doors, or how a young man or woman just out of high school might end up on a mission. Here are the basics.

Most of the Church’s missionaries are around twenty years old, though many members also volunteer to serve after they’ve retired. All prospective missionaries turn in applications to Church headquarters and they receive a call to a specific mission around the world. They spend a few weeks in a training center where some of them learn a new language and all of them rigorously study and practice teaching the gospel. Then they set off to their assigned locations and begin their service. Missionaries’ lives are completely dedicated to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. They pay their own way and put off school, dating and work for two years in order to focus entirely on doing the Lord’s work.

A common morning for a missionary might consist of waking up at 6:30 a.m., studying the scriptures, and meeting new people to share the gospel with. The afternoon might include discussing gospel lessons with people they meet and volunteering for service in the community. A good night has them teaching the gospel to interested individuals and helping them learn and keep God’s commandments or attending a baptismal service for someone who’s decided to join the Church. They return home around 9:30 p.m. and fall into bed, usually exhausted and happy.

Missionaries Teaching

I’ve never been so busy in my life as i’ve been as a missionary. The days just fly by. I’ve also never been so tired mentally, physically, or spiritually. But i can also testify that nothing has ever made me happier, helped me experience more joy, or that has been more rewarding than serving as a full-time missionary. There’s no greater witness for what the Gospel of Jesus Christ can do than what it does for the believer.

Recently, a tv news show did a segment on missionaries in Memphis. Check it out.

http://www.myfoxmemphis.com/video/videoplayer.swf?dppversion=10588

And the On Faith blog with the Washington Post posted a video about  set of missionaries in the DC are they followed around for day. It gives a great perspective!  See it here

Ever wondered what every missionaries dream is? I feel like this post describes it perfectly.

 

 

Posted by: blackfootsmj1 | July 8, 2011

Just how powerful is the Gift of the Holy Ghost?


Last week I had the opportunity to teach the Gospel Doctrine class in church. I’ll admit, as a 20 year old missionary, it was a little intimidating teaching the adult Sunday School class to people much older and wiser than I. However, the topic was on John 16 and 17. Since Sunday my mind has been stuck on a few things I shared during my lesson.

The first thing is this verse: John 16:7

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

Jesus Christ teaching His Apostles
Jesus Christ teaching His Apostles

This is Christ teaching the Apostles. And what is He teaching them? It helps if you know a little about the ancient texts. The Greek word for expedient can also be translated beneficial, profitable, advantageous. In that context, the Savior is really teaching the Apostles that it is BETTER for them that He leaves their presence rather than if he stays. Because after His resurrection He will give them the Gift of the Holy Ghost. With that in mind, i’m sure most of us long for the day when we can be taught at Christ’s feet. However, there are ways now, that we will benefit much more from the Holy Ghost’s instructions. Ponder this quote:

Elder Keith B. McMulling taught, The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead, sent forth by God toreveal all needful things. He teaches and testifies with divine power and clarity. His witness may go unheard or unheeded, forsaken or denied, but it is never misunderstood. “The Holy Ghost is a revelator” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 328).

That which is received of him has a more powerful effect upon the soul than anything else received in any other way. A millennium of experience through sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and all the powers of the universe combined cannot approach the sublime and complete experience of one brief moment under the influence of the Holy Ghost.  (“Ye May Know”, Ensign, May 1996, 8)

That is why the Savior left the Apostles. The Holy Ghost would accomplish what He couldn’t. The very nature of the Holy Ghost allows Him to be everywhere. To touch everyone and to direct us along true paths. He gives to us divine revelation. The Bible Dictionary shares a lot about just how important revelation really is.

The English word revelation is translated from a Greek word apocalypse, meaning to make known or uncover… Divine revelation is one of the grandest concepts and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for without it, man could not know of the things of God and could not be saved with any degree of salvation in the eternities. Continuous revelation from God to his saints, through the Holy Ghost or by other means, such as vision, dreams, or visitations, makes possible daily guidance along true paths and leads the faithful soul to complete and eternal salvation...The principle of gaining knowledge by revelation is the principle of salvation. It is the making known of divine truth by communication with the heavens, and consists not only of revelation of the plan of salvation to the Lord’s prophets, but also a confirmation in the hearts of the believers that the revelation to the prophets is true. It also consists of individual guidance for every person who seeks for it and follows the prescribed course of faith, repentance, and obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ.Without revelation, all would be guesswork, darkness, and confusion.

Often times, we forget just how powerful the gift of the Holy Ghost can be. President Wilford Woodruff said,

“Now, if you have the Holy Ghost with you – and everyone ought to have – I can say unto you that there is no greater gift, there is no greater blessing, there is no greater testimony given to any man on earth.  You may have the administration of angels, you may see many miracles; you may see many wonders in the earth; but I claim that the gift of the Holy Ghost is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon men”.

However, there is a distinct difference between a “manifestation” of the Holy Ghost and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:

“Manifestations of the Holy Ghost are given to lead sincere seekers to gospel truths that will persuade them to repentance and baptism. The gift of the Holy Ghost is more comprehensive. … [It] includes the right to constant companionship, that we may ‘always have his Spirit to be with [us]’ (D&C 20:77).

Ponder the conversion of Cornelius. The Prophet Joseph Smith said:

“There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him. [See Acts 10:1–48.]”

And Elder Dallin H. Oaks related the following story:

“A newly baptized member told me what she felt when she received that gift. This was a faithful Christian woman who had spent her life in service to others. She knew and loved the Lord, and she had felt the manifestations of His Spirit. When she received the added light of the restored gospel, she was baptized and the elders placed their hands upon her head and gave her the gift of the Holy Ghost. She recalled, ‘I felt the influence of the Holy Ghost settle upon me with greater intensity than I had ever felt before. He was like an old friend who had guided me in the past but now had come to stay’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 80; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 60).

This process of receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost is best illustrated in Acts Chapter 8.

12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

As we can plainly see here, the Gift of the Holy Ghost can only be given through the laying on of hands, by those in Authority.

I testify, that the Holy Ghost is real. It leads and guides us to truth. And we are entitled to that great gift as we follow the example of the Savior, Jesus Christ. It is the greatest gift given to men on Earth. I testify that it’s only in and through the Holy Ghost that we can truly come to “know God the Father, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent”…it is the only way to Eternal Life.

Posted by: blackfootsmj1 | June 30, 2011

Answering another tough question…Understanding Matthew 16:18


I’ve been asked questions about Matt:16:18 more times than I can probably count. The Catholics interpret it one way. And all the protestants interpret it a different. Each to satisfy their own doctrine. But what did the Savior really mean when made this statement to Peter? “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The Sermon on the Mount

Christ teaching the Sermon on the Mount

The Catholic church, interprets “this rock” to literally refer to Peter. And have actually based their claims to apostolic succession on the unbroken succession of bishops of Rome back to Peter.

Other Protestant churches have to hold on to a completely different meaning, because they have no right apostolic succession in this way. Churches who think that the Church of Rome is somehow flawed or in apostasy from the truth Christ taught must adopt an entirely different interpretation.Most people who ask this question, have generally interpreted “the rock” to refer to the original Christian Church. Under this reading, Jesus is promising that the church will never be entirely overcome by death and/or the forces of Satan. Therefor, they assume no need for a “Restoration” because there was never an apostasy.

With a deeper understanding of the context of  this verse we can understand the meaning behind what Jesus is referring to. The only true, unmovable rock that exists–revelation from God. It is upon the rock of Revelation  which any Church must be built, and it is evidenced by the verses just before this one.

In Matthew 16:13-17,

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

 14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

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

 16And 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.

The entire subject of these verses is revelation given to Peter about the divinity of Christ. This knowledge came by revelation from God (Matthew 16:17), and Christ taught Peter that this revelation is the rock upon which He would build His Church. Jesus Christ was clearly teaching that we are blessed by revelation from God, not from man. Also, consider, the words of Christ here:

We must also put into perspective other Biblical authors who taught an inevitable apostasy  (click for a list of verses about the Apostasy) would occur. It would seem strange for such Biblical authors, including Peter, to teach something which Jesus here denies.

Additionally, there is some sort of play on words here with the Greek Text. The word “Peter” (The Greek word Petros means small rock) and “rock” (The Greek word Petra means bedrock, ie. foundational rock). Consider the references to Christ as the Stone of Israel. (John 1:42; 1 Cor. 3:11 (9–11); 10:4) This is indicative that Peter would later be the “head of the Church” through which Christ would use guide the Church by revelation. See Acts 1:1-2, “…after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen…”

In conclusion, we can see that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church or the Apostles as long as they heeded the revelation given them through the gift of the Holy Ghost. But as the Apostles were all killed off, one by one, the revelation ceased. There were no more authorized servants of God through whom the revelation could come. Until…the Restoration of the Gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Then once again, the communication from Heaven to men to guide the Church was once again on the Earth.


Since the beginning of time man has pondered the meaning to his existence and the purpose in life. Man has forever wondered about the destiny of his soul and the final question: “Where will I go when I die?” Eschatology is the  study of the end of things, whether the end of an individual, end of a society, or the end of an age. Broadly speaking, it is the study of the destiny of man. This eschatology has been the endless pursuit of many philosophers and millions who currently walk the Earth. The final question for all of us is; How do we answer that great and terrible question? Is this all there is?

I’ve heard many agnostics and atheists say regardless of if the Bible is true or not, whether it is fact or fiction, it doesn’t matter. The Bible still has great lessons for each of us to learn. It’s a book about how to interact with others, live a good life, how to persevere through trials, it’s about family, love, and humanity. While the Bible and the Book of Mormon may have great stories about love and morality the main question has always been and will be “is it true?”

No anthropologist or archaeologist, nor really any human being will ever come to know truth through the evidence. God will never force anyone to believe the teaching of prophets or His word. Because, after all, angels are anything but scientific. Eschatology will not be proven by science. It can’t be. It won’t be. We aren’t going to get very far with evidence when it comes to answering the terrible question are we?

Unless the Bible and the Book of Mormon are true what is it doing? Entire libraries are devoted to philosophical studies. The studies include: Morals, ethics, aesthetics, principles for life, spiritual things, and great stories. Philosophy teaches all about how to interact with fellow man, families, love, and finding meaning in life. But we don’t need the Holy Writ to answer those questions. The only purpose for religion and the Book of Mormon is to answer one question: “What is the purpose for life?”

If being born and dying is all we have, if our existence is solely this short time, if this is the be all, end all then our whole way of life and thinking is going to be arranged differently. I love the story of Korihor in the Book of Mormon.  “Alma 30:18 And thus he did preach unto them, leading away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness, yea, leading away many women, and also men, to commit whoredoms–telling them that when a man was dead, that was the end thereof.” Why did the people suddenly become wicked? They could sin! There would be no day of accounting, no judgement, absolutely nothing! The Nephites loved that teaching because it meant there was no reason for them to be obedient. Understanding our purpose in life will determine our behavior. Consider Alma the Younger. Once he was rebuked by the Angel it changed everything. He went from destroying the church to building it up and becoming one of the greatest missionaries in the Book of Mormon. These answers change our destiny.

Alma the Younger Visited by an Angel

Alma the Younger--Rebuked by the Angel

The real question any of us needs to answer is this: “Is the Book of Mormon true?” It is my objective as a missionary to help others answer that question. Because with it comes the answers to the great and terrible question: “Is this life all we have to look forward to?” It makes all the difference in the world where Joseph Smith got the plates and if the  Book of Mormon is a true, historical record. Visits from angels make all the difference. It’s the answer! There is more! More than an of us have ever fathomed, more than we have imagined or dreamed! This is only a fraction of our existence. It’s barely the beginning. If we don’t have the answers to that one question: “What is the purpose to life” we’re going through life aimlessly. With no direction. No purpose. No meaning. Nothing! With the Book of Mormon comes angels, visions, and prophecy. With it comes all the answers.

One of my favorite verses in the scriptures is in Moses 7:62–in the Pearl of Great Price. It reads:

And arighteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear btestimony of mine Only Begotten; his cresurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to dgather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth…

The righteousness sent down from heaven is the Angel Moroni and the First Vision.

The first vision
The Sacred Grove and the First Vision
The Angel Moroni

Moroni's Visit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The truth out of the Earth is the Book of Mormon.

Moroni Burying the Plates
Moroni Burying the Gold Plates; On which the Book of Mormon was written.

The Lord says the Book of Mormon will be the way that truth will fill the Earth. It’s destiny is to convince all men of Jesus Christ and his divinity as Savior of the World. The purpose of the Book of Mormon is to answer the questions of the soul: What is the purpose for life? Why am I here? Where do I go when i die? How do I find meaning? All the questions of the soul can be answered with the Book of Mormon.

What does the Book of Mormon mean for an Athiest? The Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith make all the difference. The whole game is changed if Joseph saw an Angel and if the Book of Mormon is in fact a historical record. We’re all living life under completely difference circumstances if the Book of Mormon is true. And no one can escape it. Ever. The mere existence and purpose of the Book of Mormon puts our whole life in a different light. Men may accept it as “moral principles and doctrine” others may even say “well, it’s a good book.” Some may even say it’s crazy. But that isn’t it at all. Moral teachings are more prevalent and common than ever before. However, only one book can fully answer the questions of our existence: The Book of Mormon. Why? Because the Book of Mormon has divine origins and every person on Earth can gain an individual testimony of its truth and divinity. Its story and its purpose is to answer that great and terrible question. We are all entitled to the answers, and they can be easily attained and known. How? By reading its contents then praying and asking God if the Book is true. I testify that it is. And each of us can have the knowledge confirmed and reaffirmed as we continue to read, ponder, and pray.

Posted by: blackfootsmj1 | June 16, 2011

Man’s Search for Meaning–The Divine Power of Love


What do human’s desire? Really…What motivates a person to reach amazing heights, persevere through resistance, or to accomplish the seemingly impossible. Philosophers have searched for the answer for why people do what they do. Businessmen for decades have discussed motivation and possible means to increase productivity in the workplace. But what’s the most powerful motive known to mankind? It’s love.

One of the best books I have ever read is a book by Victor E. Frankl, entitled, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” The author makes his best attempt at discussing the purpose behind human existence and what our ultimate purpose is. All of these existential questions are contemplated while Frankl is suffering in a Nazi Concentration Camp. In the book, you get a first hand narrative account of Frankl’s experiences as a victim of the Holocaust. However, towards the end of the first part of the book he relates what it is that eventually saved his life and got him through the most tragic event known to us in modern times.

Man's search for Meaning

… We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way  – an honorable way  – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory….”

Man’s Search for Meaning, Part One, “Experiences in a Concentration Camp”, Viktor Frankl, Pocket Books, pp. 56-57

Little did Frankl know, his wife was lying dead in a ditch not far from where he was. But just the thought of her love is what got him (and many others) through a time when it seemed as if there was no meaning left to their lives. Love provides purpose to our existence and meaning to our lives. It motivates us to be better, to change, and to reach our potential. Love for others gives us the desire to sacrifice and endure all things. Consider the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Love is the most powerful motive known to man.  It provides the hope to do all things and the ability to endure anything.

In the April 2011 General Conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks related the following story as he shared how this love can shape our desires and propel us to another level.

How do we develop desires? Few will have the kind of crisis that motivated Aron Ralston, 3 but his experience provides a valuable lesson about developing desires. While Ralston was hiking in a remote canyon in southern Utah, an 800-pound (360 kg) rock shifted suddenly and trapped his right arm. For five lonely days he struggled to free himself. When he was about to give up and accept death, he had a vision of a three-year-old boy running toward him and being scooped up with his left arm. Understanding this as a vision of his future son and an assurance that he could still live, Ralston summoned the courage and took drastic action to save his life before his strength ran out. He broke the two bones in his trapped right arm and then used the knife in his multitool to cut off that arm. He then summoned the strength to hike five miles (8 km) for help. 4 What an example of the power of an overwhelming desire! When we have a vision of what we can become, our desire and our power to act increase enormously.

Aron Ralston

Aron Ralston broke both bones in his arm and cut through his flesh in order to survive. His motivation came from love for his son.

In the words of Elder Oaks, “Let us remember that desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. In addition, it is our actions and our desires that cause us to become something, whether a true friend, a gifted teacher, or one who has qualified for eternal life.”

The ultimate example of God’s love for His children is found in the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ. The suffering was Jesus Christ and his Atonement was only made possible through Christ’s love for each of us as individuals. Suffering so intense he bled from every pore.  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

No Greater Love...

I pray that all of us use this divine love for God and for others to motivate us to keep the commandments, follow God, and to become all that God created us to be. I testify that it is possible.

Posted by: blackfootsmj1 | June 14, 2011

What does the LDS Church say about the Book of Mormon Musical?


The Book of Mormon Musical

Everybody is talking about it. Members have already told me the Musical has won several Tony Awards. Even Newsweek got in on the action with a spoof magazine cover of the Musical Production with Mitt Romney‘s face on it.

Newsweek Cover

But what does the Mormon Church say about the Book of Mormon Musical?

In response to news media requests, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued the following statement regarding the Broadway musical entitled The Book of Mormon:

The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.

To better understand the context of how the Church responds to situations like this, journalists and others may also want to read a popular article on Newsroom posted in March 2009 called “The Publicity Dilemma.”

See also: On Faith Blog: “Why I Won’t Be Seeing the Book of Mormon Musical”

I don’t think this response could be any better myself. The Musical may popular, but as things are in “pop culture”, this too shall pass. But the Book of Mormon has stood for truth for almost 200 years. In the words of Elder Jeffery R. Holland, in his General Conference Address entitled “Safety for the Soul, he said;

“For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. In this I stand with my own great-grandfather, who said simply enough, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.”

I too know the Book of Mormon is true. It has changed my life and provided me with my “own safety for the soul.” The Book of Mormon is true. I obtained that knowby the power of the Holy Ghost. I have received that knowledge independent of any other person. Nothing means more to me than the foundation of my faith I have received that knowledge from God which man cannot give.

The Book of Mormon Musical may entertain its Broadway audience for a night, but the Book of Mormon can change a person for eternity.

Posted by: blackfootsmj1 | June 12, 2011

Are you living beneath your privileges?


“There once was a man whose lifelong dream was to board a cruise ship and sail the Mediterranean Sea. He dreamed of walking the streets of Rome, Athens, and Istanbul. He saved every penny until he had enough for his passage. Since money was tight, he brought an extra suitcase filled with cans of beans, boxes of crackers, and bags of powdered lemonade, and that is what he lived on every day.

He would have loved to take part in the many activities offered on the ship—working out in the gym, playing miniature golf, and swimming in the pool. He envied those who went to movies, shows, and cultural presentations. And, oh, how he yearned for only a taste of the amazing food he saw on the ship—every meal appeared to be a feast! But the man wanted to spend so very little money that he didn’t participate in any of these. He was able to see the cities he had longed to visit, but for the most part of the journey, he stayed in his cabin and ate only his humble food.

On the last day of the cruise, a crew member asked him which of the farewell parties he would be attending. It was then that the man learned that not only the farewell party but almost everything on board the cruise ship—the food, the entertainment, all the activities—had been included in the price of his ticket. Too late the man realized that he had been living far beneath his privileges.”

The question this parable raises is: Are you living beneath your privileges? Are your receiving all that could be yours or are you sitting on the sidelines waiting to find out what may be coming to you.

Today, I had to teach the Priesthood lesson during the third hour of church today.The lesson I taught was a General Conference Address from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf during the April 2011 General Priesthood Session of Conference. The talk was entitled “Your Potential, Your Privilege.”

Although the talk was addressed to Priesthood holders, I felt as if there were also some general principles that could apply to all of us.

As children of our Heavenly Father, we know that we have infinite capability and potential. A potential that allows all of us to become who He created us to be.

A great poet once said: (Adam Young–Owl City)

Tie my handle bars to the stars
So I stay on track (so I stay on track)
And if my intentions trail I'll wrench them away
Then I'll take my leave and I won't even look back

To me, I think we can commit ourselves to do better and take steps be the person we can become.  We all could “tie ourselves to the stars” and make our best attempt to “stay on track.” We can all take on adversity, and make it into an opportunity for growth. In my bedroom I had a quote from Wayne Gretzky which said “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

You'll always miss 100% of the Shots you Don't take

I saw that picture every night before I went to bed. I still think about that poster to this day. We all have to”Hope Big..and Dream Big.” If we do, eventually we will reach our potential and live up to our privilege. We can’t spend our lives staying in our “room on the cruise ship, eating beans, and lemonade.” Especially, when we have the buffet and fun waiting for us to participate in. It would be terrible to miss out on amazing experiences and a fulfilling life because we fail to take a risk, or to try something new. We all have infinite potential. Are you living beneath your privileges?

Posted by: blackfootsmj1 | June 9, 2011

A Mormon President? What does the Church say about Politics?


I’ve spent some time reading other blogs lately and there seem to be two very popular hot subjects people love to write about. The upcoming, 2012 Elections and The Book of Mormon Musical. Both of which I know virtually nothing about. However, politics and government are two things I know a lot about. All 4 years of High School I participated in Policy debate, and to be honest, it was something I was quite good at and loved. I, eventually, plan to continue in a career dealing with government and politics and hope to continue to serve others; but in a very different way than as a missionary.

As a missionary, however, politics is something that has virtually disappeared from my life. But, I like it that way. And as an official representative of the Church we’re counseled not get into any political discussions. Additionally, we don’t watch TV or read the newspaper.  As a result, I know nothing of current events, government, or politics.  But, I was intrigued by two articles today. The first was a statement by LDS Newsroom on Political Neutrality.
The second was an article by LDS Newsroom author and Church Public Affairs Director; Michael Otterson.

Here is the official stance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on its role in political affairs.

The Church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics. This applies in all of the many nations in which it is established.

The Church does not:

  • Endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms.
  • Allow its church buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes.
  • Attempt to direct its members as to which candidate or party they should give their votes to. This policy applies whether or not a candidate for office is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • Attempt to direct or dictate to a government leader.

The Church does:

  • Encourage its members to play a role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues and voting in elections.
  • Expect its members to engage in the political process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters.
  • Request candidates for office not to imply that their candidacy or platforms are endorsed by the Church.
  • Reserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church.

In the United States, where nearly half of the world’s Latter-day Saints live, it is customary for the Church at each national election to issue a letter to be read to all congregations encouraging its members to vote, but emphasizing the Church’s neutrality in partisan political matters.

Relationships With Government

Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.

Modern scriptural references to the role of government: Doctrine and Covenants, Section 134

Michael Otterson was writing to a man named Warren Cole Smith, who blatantly expressed that a “mormon” should have no part in politics. In the words of Michael Otterson

A week or so ago I read an essay by evangelical journalist and author Warren Cole Smith, suggesting that voting for a Mormon – any Mormon – was a less than responsible thing to do. I found its logic profoundly disturbing.

Some very good conversations between evangelicals and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been going on for years. I hope there will be more, and that they’ll be instructive and mutually respectful. Conversation is the beginning of understanding. But too often we see reactions to old stereotypes, like this one. So here is my open letter to Warren Cole Smith in response to his assertions.

Like Michael Otterson,  I find the statements by Mr. Smith profoundly ignorant and it highlights how severely misunderstood Mormons still are. However, I think the article written provided the best response.

“I believe a candidate who either by intent or effect promotes a false and dangerous religion is unfit to serve.”

Who decides, Warren, that one religion is acceptable and another “false and dangerous”? Do you? Does the church that you attend? Since you aren’t calling for Mormons to be legally barred from the highest office in the land, is your idea just to effectively marginalize Mormons and make it impossible for them to run for office? Do you feel the same way about other faiths that are different from yours? Catholics, perhaps? Isn’t there something called Article VI, a constitutional provision that forbids a religious test for political office? “…No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” What does that mean – what has it ever meant – if it doesn’t apply in a case like this?

What it seems you would like me and six million other Mormons in the U.S. to do is concede a fundamental right granted to all Americans because we don’t fit within your definition of what is theologically acceptable. Fortunately, that’s not what the Constitution says, and it’s not what America teaches. I should hope that I can sit one of my grandchildren on my knee and tell them that in our religiously diverse society they are as good as anyone else, and that they will be judged by the fruits of their lives and not by discriminatory interpretations of their faith.

With the greatest respect, Warren, your position is unreasonable, un-Christian and untrue to American ideals. Neither is it typical of the Christians I know, or of those writing at your venue. Mormons across the country live side by side with evangelicals as neighbors, work associates and friends. There is much that they share. And by the way, despite my clear disagreement with some of your theology, I would have absolutely no problem voting for an evangelical who was in every way qualified to be president of the United States.

It’s time to overcome unfounded fears, to stop propounding them, and to start trying to understand each other better. If you want to talk theology, then let’s get beyond the laundry list of trivia that typically crops up in the news media, and get to the substantial issues – interpretation of the Bible, additional scripture, the purpose of life. Hopefully our next interaction can be a personal one.

I honestly wish that those who have questions, problems, or concerns about the Church and who we are would talk to someone who knows the truth. You don’t go to a Ford dealer to find out about a Chevy. I’ve had very profound and powerful experiences as a missionary trying to resolve stereotypes one person at a time. The most common words said to me as we knock on doors is, “I’m not interested.” It’s a great opportunity to ask “Why?” and then to ask, “Well, what do you know about Mormons and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” 9 times out 10 very little is known and it gives me an opportunity to explain my beliefs.

Is this election season going to bring media attention to provide an opportunity for others to understand who Mormons are and what we truly believe? I don’t know, and to be honest I don’t think it really matters. The real opportunity comes for members of the church to step up and help clear these misconceptions and help others to come and see for themselves the blessings that come from the restored church of Jesus Christ. Regardless of the outcomes and misunderstandings, it will never change what I know is true. That God loves us, Joseph Smith was his Prophet, and the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I just pray all of us will come to, share what I share, feel what I have felt, and to know what I know.

Posted by: blackfootsmj1 | June 8, 2011

Why must we face adversity?


I was reading a post on another blog today about a lady who was dealing with opposition as she felt that it was time that she got baptized. This was her story:

I am so close, yet so far. I feel the Gospel in my heart. I am ready to convert, but my environment is most definitely not. Let me explain…

A few months ago, for my 20th Birthday, my mom said that I could have anything I wanted. Not really thinking about what I was saying, I said that I wanted Jesus the Christ by Talamage. What I was thinking, I have no idea. The book is three inches thick, and I still haven’t opened it. But that’s not the point of this particular story. When we were at my beloved Deseret bookstore, the employees were rude, bored, and completely uninterested in this new customer that had clearly never crossed the threshold. For somebody who had raved about their customer service for ten minutes on the way over there it was a real let down. Mom didn’t buy the book she wanted, but as I requested, she bought me Jesus the Christ. It was $15. I treasure it, even though I’ve never opened it.

On the way home from Deseret, we discussed the Mormon faith, and what I knew of it. I told her everything that I thought was “safe” but I didn’t do my duty as far as the “every member a missionary” is concerned. She said to me “I don’t like the way they treat their women. Promise me that you won’t become a Mormon. Please?” And while it’s only been 3 months and 20 days, I still regret the words that I said. “Yes Mom, I promise not to become Mormon.”

Now my question goes like this: When does following the words of God take precedence over following the Word of the Lord? (John 1:1) If I have it in my heart to convert, should I? Or should I honor the promises made to my mother, as commanded in Exodus 20:12? I am a Child Of God, Yes, but I am also a Child of the parents who bought me here. Yet, I am 20, so therefore of legal age to make my own religious decisions. There are so many questions. Those 8 words really put me in a bind both spiritually and morally (if they are not already on in the same).

So please, kind community. If you could offer help, advice, support, whatever…it would be greatly appreciated. I need to call the missionaries back soon. I don’t want to leave them hanging!

I left my own comment in response and challenged her to read Matt 19:29

“And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”

I used to never understand why it was so hard to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Why does there have to be so much opposition in life? Why can’t we just live in a perfect world? I’ve thought about this often, especially as a missionary.  Why must we give up so much to serve? I often questioned why, if this was God’s true Church,  people didn’t flock to the baptismal font? Why isn’t my only worry pneumonia, from all the time I spend in the water?  (It was once Elder Holland who posed the same questions.) But I’ve reached a conclusion.

Was it easy for the Savior? Was it easy for him to come as a meek and lowly lamb to those living in Jerusalem? Was it easy to be despised and rejected by men? Was it easy for him to be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief? Was it easy on the night he was in the Garden of Gethsemane and that long walk to Calvary?

NO! And it shouldn’t be for us. His disciples and his followers. I believe Jesus took it literally when he commanded us to “take up our cross and follow him” (Matt 16:24).It’s our test. Our own trial of Abraham to see if we will follow him above all else.

Of all the many elements of my testimony of this Church, one of the most astounding witnesses to me is the opposition people learning about and joining this Church face.You name it, I’ve seen it.

I once heard a wise convert say the following while he was in the midst of his own trials…

“Well…I’ve done made him mad. Satan is out to get me.”

He’s out to get all of us. And he tries even harder as we work to follow our Savior Jesus Christ. But that is why we have His Son. His atonement provides the peace and security to get through the opposition and fight through our trials. The Lord promises to “support us in our trials” (Alma 36:3)  and to “deliver us from our trials” (Alma 36:29) . It’s of that principle of I bear testimony.

The opposition we face in this life is necessary to help us to grow.  It’s all a part of the plan; and as we overcome the opposition and face the adversity with hope, and faith, and believe in good things to come our Heavenly Father will bless us and we will receive the help we need to get to our goal: The abundant life now, and eternal life in the world to come.

Posted by: blackfootsmj1 | June 7, 2011

My first “real” Miracle…and how God saved my life


I grew up a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day. I had always known it was good. But, to be honest, I didn’t understand much, nor did I have a personal testimony of the Church or its beliefs at the age of 14. Shortly after my 14th birthday I was sitting in Church and we heard the Joseph Smith story in class. This was a story I was familiar with. I knew when he was 14 years old Joseph had prayed to know which church he should join. In response to his prayer Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ. They appeared to him, and shortly after he was called to be a prophet. Later, through the power and gift of God he was able to translate The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. When I heard this lesson in class it hit me that I was 14 and if Joseph Smith had this experience why couldn’t I?

So I began to pray, and pray, and pray for a sign and that I could know that God existed and that this was his church. Time passed. Nothing happened. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I gave up hope. I didn’t expect anything to happen anymore.

Then…One, hot August morning, that all changed. I lived on a small farm, in the busy metropolis of Blackfoot, Idaho. Population, 10,000. I did everything I could to avoid helping my father load bales of straw, which were ready to load and stack for our cows.

Similar straw bale to the ones we had

I hated working on the farm. I hated being hot and itchy from all the straw in the  dry Idaho air. Frankly, I just wanted to be done. And, I think my dad did too. We could fit about 27 of these 900 lb straw bales on our trailer. We’d load them up with the tractor, then my dad and I would use big tie down straps to stabilize them. The bales were as wide as they are tall.  3 ft tall, 3 ft wide, and about 6 ft long. After we had tied it all down my dad and I would drive the truck the mile or so back to the farm where we would stack the bales again.

When we arrived back at the house I would usually go inside and my dad would stack the bales and we’d do another load and continue the process. But this time I knew we could be done quicker if I helped my dad take the tie down straps off the trailer. My dad went to get the tractor and I began to take off the straps. My dad told me, “Son, be careful, the bales aren’t very stable.”

I then went on my way. There were about 5 or so straps on the trailer to hold down the bales. I hated the straps. I could NEVER get them undone and all they did was frustrate me. As I started on the first strap I felt an uneasy feeling that I shouldn’t mess with the straps and to just wait. But I thought I was just being a chicken and chose to keep going. I got to the 3rd strap and felt the same feeling…that I shouldn’t continue. But, I did. I then got to the final strap. As I put my hand on the tie-down, I felt really uneasy about taking it off . But I told myself that I  had already finished with the first 4 and there was no reason to be afraid.

As I undid the strap I heard my father yell, “Michael, move!” I turned to run away from the truck just in time to see the bales shifting off of the truck towards me. I made it about 2 steps before I felt the force of a 900 pound straw bale hitting me in the back and knocking me to ground. I remember thinking to myself, “Man, what a terrible way to die.”

I woke up to my dad pushing the bale off of me and lifting me up to the trailer. I looked at my foot. It looked horrific. But then I realized I couldn’t really breathe. The air had been knocked out of me. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t breathe. Finally, I let out a breath and realized I would probably be ok. I looked down at my foot. To say it looked like the peel of a banana would be no understatement. My mom wanted to call an ambulance, but my dad wanted me to just go to the hospital and have them look at it. He carried me to the house, then to the car. We drove to the doctor and I waited for x-rays. By this time I was in a lot of pain.

The results did not sound good. I had functionally shattered my foot and and broke my ankle. But the worst part was many of the bones had been displaced. Doctors had no idea what to do and there was nothing to really plate the other bones to. They put me in a soft cast and told me to go to a specialist in the morning. Shortly after, I told them my back really hurt. They decided to take another x-ray, only to find out that I had a transverse process fracture of my lowest vertebrae in my back.

Unsure about what would happen in the morning, we drove home. My dad and grandfather then gave me a priesthood blessing. My mom called family and asked them to pray for me and to put my name on the rolls in the temple. The next morning I woke up to my mom telling me we needed to go to the other hospital. We waited for what felt like an eternity. Doctors did x-rays and ct-scans and I overheard the doctor pull out my mom and dad to tell them what they had found. I really did not know what to expect.

As the doctor put up the x-rays I couldn’t believe what I saw. Every bone in my foot had lined up perfectly. In the position they belonged. The breaks were still there, but they had already began to align themselves. I could see the x-rays from 12 hours previous and even I knew the bones were displaced and severely damaged. I didn’t see that in the new x-rays. To make things more miraculous, the break in my back was gone. The doctors and nurses we met the following day all commented on how lucky I had been.  But I knew what the real cause of the miracle had been.

I remember riding in the car with my parents on our way home. I then asked my dad how he knew to ask me to move out of the way. He said, “Son, I had no idea those bales were going to fall. I didn’t even know they had fallen until I heard the noise and felt the ground shake.” I told my parents about the voice I heard. I know, that I heard an audible voice tell me to move. I wouldn’t listen to the subtle prompting of the Holy Ghost and instead had to hear the voice of my father in order to know to move. I know God was looking out for my safety, and I know He loved me enough to tell me to move. I know the Priesthood blessing and having my name in the temple led to my miraculous healing.

Through the coming weeks every doctor I saw admitted that it was a miracle that I  wasn’t hurt worse than I was and that my recovery was so quick. 6 weeks later I was walking on my own and there were no real long term problems as a result of my accident.Ever since that experience I have worked to remember how I felt that day. I know that God loves us. His priesthood is back on the Earth for the blessing of His children.

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