Category Archives: Christianity

An Apostle’s Easter Message

Happy Easter everyone.

Easter is more than just bunnies, chocolate, and Easter dresses.  Like Christmas, Easter has been commercialized.  While I don’t have a huge problem with that, this commercialization has caused many to forget why we celebrate this holiday.  I hope this video will renew or strengthen in you the reason why we have Easter.

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By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

Since starting this blog, I have discussed with many people the various theological differences between the LDS Church and Christendom as a whole.  Certainly, the differences are significant and, as has been proven many times, there are many conflicts of belief that seem will never be resolved and we often have to agree to disagree.  For the most part, the comments and conversations I have been party to have been civil and respectful.  Both sides seem to be careful to only discuss doctrinal differences while avoiding criticism of the other person’s faith as a whole and for this I am grateful.  However, there have been many times, both here and on other websites (and, I might add, that I experience just living life in an area where Mormons are few) when people have called the LDS Church the “Church of the Devil” or denigrated our Prophet (more than just question such a reality or the need/doctrinal justification for a Prophet).  We are criticized by many as leading our people to hell and blinding folks from the truth. 

I thought about these views and comments as I watched the General Conference of the LDS Church this past weekend.  It was a weekend of wise and joyous instruction, where we were given the opportunity to hear from those we consider Prophets and other leaders of our faith.  It was the first Conference to which President and Prophet Thomas S. Monson was at the helm and leading up to the Conference I was praying for a confirming feeling or impression that he was indeed called and chosen by God himself, but I will get to that later. 

The one thing that struck me about all the messages delivered this weekend was the humility, wisdom, and optimism the leaders of the Church have.  This was most apparent to me as I attended Priesthood session on Saturday night.  The concluding three speakers, taking up all of the last hour, consisted of the First Presidency.  They all spoke about staying on course and repentence, yet they all took it from very different perspectives.  Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke about the need to stay on direct course and how even a one degree deviation off course can lead to us being extremely lost, President Henry B. Eyring spoke about the doctrine of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood and the need for we Priesthood members to be faithful in fulfilling that covenant, and President Monson spoke on obedience to duty and the need for more faithfulness.  In each of these talks we were essentially called to repentance.  But it was not a call in vanity or rebuke, but a call in love and encouragement.  It was readily apparent that one of the greatest concerns the First Presidency has is the increased prevalence of sexual sin (President Monson had an incredible quote about tolerance, but I don’t have it with me, I will do a post on a few of my favorite quotes later).   As I listened to these fine men speak, I realized that the image that critics of the Church try to paint about our Prophet is in no way accurate.  These men who lead the Church do not do so in a quest for power or to feed their vanity. One just needs to watch and listen to their speeches to understand this.  They lead because they were called by God and out of an unbending faith and dedication to him. 

The phrase “By their Fruits ye Shall Know Them” resounded regularly in my mind.  Indeed, people may criticize our faith and our leaders all they want, but they do so blindly and in vain.  I can understand one choosing not to believe our doctrines or that we are the true Church; I will not criticize one who came to such a conclusion after study and prayer.  However the childish and irrational name calling and denigration of the Church is inaccurate and contrary to all evidence readily available to one who takes the time to study and research.  Indeed, the fruits of our leaders are good and sweet.   I encourage all to take the time to read and consider the words of the Apostles and Prophets, especially if you are not of our faith.  Come and see what truths have been restored and know that Christ’s church with the same organization that existed in his time is again restored to the earth.

Now allow me to close with my testimony of President Monson.   As I said above, I came into Conference praying for a confirmation of his divine calling.  This was the first transfer of authority in the leadership of the Church that I can really remember.  President Hinckley was a giant among men and one whom I loved deeply.  I also had a great affinity for President Monson, but oddly I found it difficult to hold him up to the same pedastal that I put President Hinckley on.  Saturday night was the first talk he delivered in Conference as the head of the Church.  As soon as he stood and started speaking I felt that still small voice and confirming feeling that he was called of God and leads this Church through direct revelation. 

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D. Todd Christofferson Called as New Apostle in LDS Church; New First Presidency Sustained

Interesting, to start General Conference, following the hymn and prayer, President Uchtdorf explained how and why we sustain Church officers and the Church seems to have changed the way in which sustainings occur.   They had the First Presidency stand and sustain the President, First Presidency, and Quorum of the Twelve.  Once that was conculded they had the Twelve arise and sustain the same, then had the first and second quorum of the Seventy stand and sustain, then had the all area seventies, patriarchs, HP and Elders throughout the world stand and sustain the same, following that they had the Aaronic Priesthood arise and sustain, followed by the Relief Society, then Young Women and all other members of the Church stand and sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as previously consitituted.  It was very interesting and the first time they have done that as I recall.   Funny how things change with the changing of a President.

D. Todd Christofferson was called and sustained as the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve.  Elder Christofferson was born on January 24, 1945 in American Fork, Utah.  He was called as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy at the April General Conference, 1993 and in August 1998 he was called to the Presidency of the Seventy.  His latest assignment was presiding over the North America Northwest and North America West areas of the Church.  In his personal life he supported himself and his family as a lawyer.

Here is an interview Reuters did with Elder Christofersson in 2007.

The members of the Church sustained President Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring, and Dieter F. Uchtdorf as Prophets, Seers and Revelators for the first time

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Muslims Out Number Catholics Worldwide

The Vatican has just reported that Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the largest faith in the world.  Apparently Muslims make up 19.2% of World population, while Catholics make up 17.4%.    This really should not be much of a surprise, I would have been more surprised if Catholicism was still ahead. 

I think there are a couple of key aspects that have been left out of the analysis in this report.  Sure, Catholicism is now outnumbered by Islam, but Catholicism only counts their own members, not members of break off sects (aka Protestantism) or other independent Christian faiths (aka Mormonism, JW, etc).   While it is likely that the number of Muslims includes all Muslims regardless of Sunni, Shiite, or any other affiliation. 

A more accurate comparison would have been to compare Catholicism with Sunni Islam while comparing Christianity as a whole with Islam as a whole.  If done in this way, Christianity makes up 33% of world population while Islam (still) makes up 19.2%.   A significant lead for Christianity.  

However, all is not necessarily well in Christendom.  The Western world, which contains a majority of Christians, have some of the lowest population growth rates in the world.  In some countries, there are nearly as many deaths as there are births in a given year.  Additionally, more and more people from Christian backgrounds are leaving religion altogether as they become more wealthy and have less of a need for religion. 

The growth rates of major Christian religions, such as Catholicism, Lutheranism, etcetera has diminished to a crawl;  really the saving grace for Christianity are the newer religions and movements within the umbrella.  The evangelical movement has gone through a boom period and independent faiths such as Mormonism and the Jehovah’s witness continue to have significant growth rates and are establishing a greater footprint in the community. 

But even the growth of those faiths and movements can’t keep up with Islam.  Undoubtedly, this 14% gap in population between Christianity and Islam will continue to shrink.  At some point in the not to distant future Islam will pass Christianity.  Islam continues to spread, they are essentially experiencing their own modern-day crusade (a topic for another article) and taking over countries as they go along.   Christianity cannot keep up with this.  It is a harsh reality that needs to be recognized and if the Christian world is concerned about there ought to be serious discussion about how to deal with it (and I don’t mean deal with it in terms of War or violence) and adjust.  It is a unique time for the world.  We are indeed witnessing the rise of the East, both the Near East and the Far East.  Could this century be the century of the East? Time will tell.

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LDS Church Leader Urges Caution on Immigration

It appears that the LDS Church is slowly unveiling its position on Illegal Immigration and it appears to somewhat break from the common GOP consensus.  Which consensus, I should explain, is also firmer than mine.  It seems that most GOPers (especially the average voter) is pretty hardcore in their view of illegal immigration; generally they feel that ALL illegal immigrants should be deported, often without consideration of extenuating circumstances. 

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time now, may remember that I broke with this common view in a piece I wrote last year.   Basically, I think deporting 12 million people is utterly ridiculous, it is an economic and logistical nightmare.  Additionally, we need to consider the impact such a move (deportation) would have on families, especially children born in the U.S. who are now citizens.

Yesterday, LDS Church historian and seventy, Marlin K. Jensen, urged that Utah’s legislature (practically all Mormon) “slow down, step back and carefully study and assess the implications and human costs involved” when confronting the issue of illegal immigration.  He added that such decisions have “significant consequences, (and) I believe a more thoughtful . . . not to mention humane, approach is warranted.” 

I couldn’t agree more.  We need to consider the human implication. 

It is important to point out that Elder Jensen is not advocating one way or another any specific legislation or even point of view regarding illegal immigration.  He is simply urging reflection and serious, realistic contemplation on the impact of various possibilities.  This is a wise course of action. 

I fear that people are so embroiled with emotion regarding this issue, that is clouds sound judgement and realistic/pragmatic thought.   Many right wingers, especially, are verging on pure racism and starting to even allow their hatred for illegal immigration with criticism of all immigration.   This is a dangerous trend.

The best antidote for such irrational movement is simply to take a deep breath, pull back from the problem, and move cautiously; all the while utilizing deliberate and realistic thought and analysis.

For the Church it will be interesting to see what kind of response is received.  There are going to be huge swaths of LDS members, especially throughout AZ, CA, and the rest of the Southwest that are going to be annoyed at best by this, others will likely be outraged.   But I urge all of you who may be upset by this move to remember the role of religion.  Religions in general (should) focus on individuals, not governments.  Thus, the LDS Church is concerned about the impact such legislation will have on individuals, and this includes illegal immigrants, legal immigrants, even all U.S. citizens.   Rational and pragmatic thought, even stepping away from the issue to get an overall view, is nearly always the wisest course.  When we move to fast and are swayed by the emotional upswell of public opinion we more often than not make poor decisions that have more dire effects in the long run.

UPDATE: Further down in the SL Trib article I read the following bit and think it is essential to add to this piece.: “Jensen noted that immigration was not strictly a political issue but a moral and ethical one. And as such, he said, he was not simply speaking for himself or even for the Quorum, a group of Mormon leaders who act as church emissaries. ‘I was assigned to come here by the First Presidency of the Church.’

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Thomas S. Monson, New LDS Leader; Eyring, Uchtdorf Called as Counselor’s

 

 

             Dieter Uchtdorf

Henry B. Eyring, Thomas S. Monson, Dieter F. Uchtdorf 

 

President Thomas S. Monson was called and set apart today as the new President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  His calling as the new President is not surprising in the least.  He will be an incredible leader and ambassador for the Church.  He is a man known for his great speeches that include many stories of personal experience to illustrate his points.  He has one of the most remarkable memories of any man I have ever had the opportunity to listen to.  Many of us often joke that he only has four scriptures memorized, the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants. 

Even more of a blessing, is that he has been given the keys to act in authority over the Church and to serve as its and the world’s Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.   While we members of the Church sustain all of the Apostles of the Church as Prophet, Seers, and Revelators,  only the President of the Church is given the keys to operate its head. 

The biggest surprise was the calling of Elder Dieter Uchtdorf as the 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency.  Of the 14 current members of the Quorum of the 12, Elder Uchtdorf was 13th in seniority and was only called to the Quorum in the past 3 years.  He is also the only member of the quorum who was born and lived most of his life outside the United States (he is from Germany).  The calling of him was certainly one of wisdom and revelation, as it represents the increasingly globalizing nature of the Church and the hope is that it will help the Church continue to reach out to people across the world.

Undoubtedly the Church is in good hands and will continue to be led by the hand of God.  May God bless President Monson, President Eyring, and President Uchtdorf.

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My Thoughts on the Life & Death of Mormon Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley

President Gordon B. Hinckley 

Last night the world lost one of the greatest men ever to live on Earth.  LDS Church President and Prophet, Seer, and Revelator Gordon B. Hinckley passed away.  There is no man to have lived in my short lifetime that was a greater exemplar of faith, love, honesty, integrity, and Christ-like living. 

It is difficult to put into words how I feel personally about the man.  I never had the opportunity to meet him or shake his hand.  The closest I got to him was in 1998 when he spoke in Edmonton, Alberta.   I was serving as a missionary at the time in Calgary and our Mission President allowed us all to travel to Edmonton for the occassion.   I can vividly remember the spirit he carried and brought into the conference hall where the meeting occurred.  I cannot remember what specifically President Hinckley spoke about, nevertheless, I know that I was in the presence of a holy man, a man who literally spoke with our Savior, even Jesus Christ. 

President Hinckley was one of the longest serving President’s of the Church in Mormon’s short history.  He oversaw the largest expansion of Church membership and temple growth.  He made the Temple and provident, Christ-like living the cornerstone of his service.  It was during his tenure that the Lord revealed his plan to make Temple ordinances more readily available to members throughout the world with the plan of building smaller temples that could built in areas with smaller LDS population.   This program allowed more members to receive the saving ordinances and perform such work for their kindred dead.  

President Hinckley has been one of the anchors of the LDS faith over the last half-century.  Having been an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ since the 1960’s, he has had a major role in every major decision since then.  He also largely ran the Church in the late-70’s and through the 80’s when President’s Kimble and Benson had severe health problems that limited their activities.  What a great and wonderful man, he was a kind and loving person and touched millions upon millions of people’s lives for good.

Now, President Hinckley’s death is only sad for those of us whom will miss him dearly, but it is certainly not sad for him.  Pres. Hinckley has returned to that God whom gave us life and he returned in glory and honor.  I am reminded of the closing remarks of Book of Mormon Prophet Enos, in his final statement he said the following:

 27 And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father.

Indeed, President Hinckley is rejoicing and will continue to rejoice.  He will see the Savior’s face with pleasure and will obtain a place in the mansions of our Father.  He has been faithful and dedicated in the service of the Lord and will be saved in his courts on high.

Yet, the greatest reason to not mourn, but to rejoice in the passing of President Hickley is that he is reunited with his beloved wife Marjorie.  What a blessing it is to be sealed with our spouse for time and all eternity, not just “till death do us part.”  He has rejoined his wife in heaven, there to be by her side throughout all eternity; is there any greater blessing that one can imagine that being able to spend eternity with the one that you love. 

I have a great testimony that President Hinckley was indeed a Prophet of God, on the paralell of Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and Peter of old.  Can one think of a more important time than this in which we now live where the need for a Prophet of God was greater?  The world has changed immensly over the last 200 years, more so than any period in its previous history.  We face new challenges and evils everyday, how can it be that God has abandonded us to our own devices and own wisdom?  The reality is that he has not.  God loves us the same as he has people of old.   He continues to reveal his will, to teach us the way to follow, and how to traverse these perilous times.   What a great blessing it is to live on the earth in a time when the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth,  when the great gathering of Israel is commencing, and when we have Prophets to teach us the mind and will of God. 

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