One LORD.

My companion and I had a confrontation not too long ago with a man on his doorstep. This gentleman, if I can even refer to him as such, basically told me and my companion that we are going to Hell unless we change our ways and come unto what he termed as the “real” Jesus Christ. I asked him if faith in the Savior constitutes salvation. He responded in the affirmative, to which I told him, “Then byyourstandards, I am saved.” He shook his head and told me that I believe in a “different” Jesus than him.

Last time I checked, there’s only one Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Latter-day Saints may believe in added detail about His life and who He is, but we certainly don’t believe in a different being. This is one of the many things that irks me: people telling me I’m not a Christian, or that I believe in some other kind of Jesus. Well, here’s what Latter-day Saints believe about Jesus Christ.

He is the Son of God. He was born in Bethlehem to the virgin Mary. He began his earthly ministry about the age of thirty. He was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. The Holy Spirit, in the sign of the dove, appeared during that amazing event, and the voice of the Father bore record of Christ’s divinity.

Does this sound Christian yet?

His first recorded miracle was changing water to wine at a wedding feast. He performed many miracles in fact. He gave sight to the blind. He made the lame walk and the dumb speak. He healed lepers. He multiplied fish and bread to feed thousands. He raised the dead. He walked on water.

Does this sound like a different Jesus?

He prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane to begin His atonement. In the Garden he took upon Himself our pains and afflictions. The suffering was so great that He bled from every pore, as Luke records. His atonement continued as he was falsely accused and was put through an illegal trial. He was scourged and crucified, allowing Himself to succomb to physical death. Three days later He was resurrected and appeared first to Mary Magdalene and then to his disciples. He ministered for forty days and then ascended to the Father.

Any of this sound Christian? All of these are beliefs of the Latter-day Saints. If you don’t think we’re Christian, just visit our websites: lds.org and mormon.org. Or, perhaps, read the Book of Mormon and see if it brings you closer to Christ.

 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. (Mosiah 3:17)

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Two Books, One Witness

I’m going to cover my accuser’s second argument mentioned in my previous blog post. In his mind, the doctrine of the Bible and the doctrine of the Book of Mormonobviously were not in accordance with one another, even to the point that he admitted he would never prayerfully consider the divinity of the Book of Mormon.

Those that claim the Book of Mormon teaches doctrine in direct contradiction to the Bible are simply choosing to interpret the Bible only one way. They are the ones that blind themselves from other possibilities. Think about this: how many lines can you draw through a single point? The answer would be… infinity. You can interpret the Bible an infinite amount of ways. One says this, another says that. But engender another point into this scenario, and now how many lines can be drawn through those points? Only one. Only one straight line may be drawn, therefore there can only be one interpretation. Any other line drawn will be curved and littered with logical fallacies.

Let’s look at one example: Romans 3, verses 27 and 28,

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

The born-again might say, “Aha! Faith alone is what saves us. Our deeds in this life mean nothing.”

The devout Catholic might respond, “Oh, but sir, Paul is speaking of the Mosaic law. Paul was speaking to those still practicing that law, explaining that the rituals have no effect, but faith in the Savior is the key element.”

They could turn to James and read how our faith must be shown by our works, or to the words of the Savior Himself saying, “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.

You could then go to Ephesians 2:8 and 9, which reads,

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

So what do we make of all this? It’s clear that these verses can create quite a difference in such a simplistic doctrine as faith and works. Let’s turn to the Book of Mormon. The prophet Nephi wrote,

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

Ah! So it is by grace that we are saved, but after we have put forth our honest effort. So we see that we cannot have one without the other. You can be the most righteous person in the world, yet still be damned without the grace of Christ. But the atoning power of the Savior will not be in effect unless we take the effort to apply it in our lives. We will inevitably fall short of what God expects of us, but we still have agency to make good choices out of our own power.

This is one simple analogy, but one to show that the Book of Mormon serves to supportthe Bible, not tear it down. I know for myself that, like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I have considered it, pondered it, and prayed to God about it. The Spirit has told me it’s true. I invite you to do the same.

The Spirit, the Witness

I was told recently that my faith is blind. My belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. My belief that the Book of Mormon, alongside the Bible, is scripture that testifies of Jesus Christ. My belief in the entire set of doctrines outlined in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, as found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All of this… all that I hold dear to me and believe with every fiber of my being… is blind following.

And why is it blind? According to my accuser, because…

1. There is an apparent lack of archeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon, and…

2. The teachings of the Book of Mormon are obviously, according to my accuser’s opinion, in contradiction to the Bible’s doctrine.

Both of these arguments are, in my opinion, weak excuses. I bore my testimony to this man, but his heart wasn’t sufficiently softened to receive it. Honestly, that’s fine. I told him straight up that I didn’t expect to convince him, and I wouldn’t want to anyway. But to accuse me of blind faith? No, I won’t have it. Heck, he even insinuated that what I believed to be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit confirming my beliefs was in reality a trick of Satan.

Last time I checked, Satan doesn’t have influence over my spirit. Yes, he can make evil appear good, and he is a grand master manipulator. He can deceive us by affecting our carnal senses. Our sight. Our hearing. Our physical sense of feeling. These are often what he attacks, but our spirits? No, that’s God’s territory. Satan can make sin seem appealing, but only God’s Spirit can touch my own spirit and manifest truth. If Satan could manipulate the very spirit within us, how awful our circumstances would be! You couldn’t trust anything! You wouldn’t be able to trust any thought or feeling you have, no matter how righteous and peaceful it feels.

But now I’m rambling, and perhaps that particular topic should be given its own blog post, just like how Venom should’ve been the spotlight of Spiderman 3.

I’m going to just focus on the first reason now. No archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon? Anyone that has ever honestly looked into this topic knows that such a claim is complete nonsense. However, evidence for the Book of Mormon is not what helps an individual gain a testimony and a spiritual witness of its divinity. It is through a witness of the Holy Spirit that that is accomplished. For the sake of those who might be curious though, here’s a great link to a website dedicated to phyiscal evidences of the Book of Mormon.

http://www.bookofmormonevidence.org/

Concerning the Spirit, the apostle Paul teaches us,

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath preparedfor them that love him.

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Cor. 2:9-10)

It is through the Holy Spirit that the things of God are revealed to man. Indeed, studious research is beneficial, but without a firm testimony from the Spirit, an unshakable conviction in any particular truth will never stand up to persecution and the storms of life. I marvelled somewhat that despite the fact that my accuser was a strong Christian man (and I had no reason to doubt this of him), he denied my testimony of the Spirit and claimed I was blindly following my beliefs because of an apparent lack of physical evidence. He should know very well that if something is of God, it cannot be understood or known except through His spirit.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)

The Poetic Corner: Forward Or Back

Forward or Back

another misadventure

another portion of your history gone wrong

you just wanna tear out the page

but the ink has stained too long

you think it’s sunk too deep

a second chance is long gone

so instead of forward

you turn back

no longer working on things you lack

your faith, your hope, your charity

you shun the things that set you free

and try to find the answers in

the lack of light and your favorite sins

the habits you have yet to break

the thoughts you hate and the words you say

they make a slave of you each day

but the key, you see, is not to look back

it’s to keep pressing on

finding faith in the Lord, not in the world

and before long you’ll find a change is in place

the things of your mind

and the pace of your heart

will begin to take part in the plan God has set

to make you like Him and erase your regrets

to put off the slave who causes you shame

to set yourself free

and take the name of Christ upon you

a new way to live

a beacon for truth

spreading the love of God to all

and it all begins on the point you now stand

move forward onto the rock of Christ

or back into the sand

Agency is something that we all possess. We are agents unto ourselves, meaning that we can choose how to set the course of our lives. God has given us this free will so we can be properly tested. He will not force us to choose good, but instead we must actively pursue Him and seek Him out.

We’re all guilty of the person described in the poem. At one point or another, or on multiple points, we have turned back to sin during hard times for a temporary “comfort.” Of course, there really is no comfort in sin. We convince ourselves that we need it and make exemptions through anger, sadness, loneliness, hunger, tiredness, etc. In consequence, we put a stop to our spiritual progression. We put spiritual chains upon ourselves and make ourselves into slaves. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this is often referred to as the “natural” or “carnal” man.

King Benjamin, in the Book of Mormon, talked about the natural man and the agency of man. He said,

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19)

The natural man, or the inclination within us to disobey God, is an enemy to God. To solve this, we must “put off” the natural man. Shun him. Shed him from us as a snake sheds its old skin.Howis this done? Number one, through the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ, and two, by “yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.” Instead of following the instinct to do evil, we must listen to our conscience, the secular world’s term for the Light of Christ within us.

It’s a small, subtle influence, but a very powerful influence as well. We can feel it when we go to church, when we open up and read the word of God, when we do service for others, etc.Thatfeeling is what we must seek for and, as King Benjamin reminds us, we must rely on Christ. Only through Him and His power can we change ourselves. Not just our behavior, but our hearts and our minds. We must become, as he says, like a child. He even lists some attributes for us to help us understand when we are beginning to change.

I know that through Christ and by submitting ourselves to the influence of the Holy Spirit, we can change. We can root out the natural man and become a saint, a true example of a disciple of Christ. When hard times come, don’t turn back to bad habits. Don’t look for comfort in sin, or comfort from the world. Seek the comfort that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. Only He can give you the strength to overcome all things and move forward, not back.

Moms: They’re Awesome

So naturally, with tomorrow being the awesome day when we have awesome celebrations celebrating the awesomeness of awesome mothers all over the awesome world… I need to give a shout out to my awesome mother.

However, I don’t want to just repeat what I posted last year… though I really don’t have any new ideas flowing through my mind.

So maybe I’ll just keep it simple this time. My mission is almost over, so I’ll see my mom soon anyway.

I love my mom. Like everyone else thinks, I believe I have the best mom ever. In reality though, she is the best mom ever, for me. No other woman would have been able to raise me in the right way, as she has raised me. My mom has always told me that I’m a special boy. Sometimes my brother and sister told me that too, but they didn’t mean it in the same way. 🙂

I’ve never really seen myself as anyone extraordinary, or special, but I still always believed my mother when she said it. I figured she probably knew better than I did, and probably possessed some sort of motherly instinct. Parents are, after all, entitled to receive revelation from God for their children. A mother isn’t necessarily more entitled to that revelation than the father, but I think a mother is more in tune to that revelation when it comes to certain things.

And so, I’m glad that my mom has been in tune to those revelations, whether it was to inspire me or perhaps call attention to some misbehavior. She always seems to know when I need one of those two things. No one is free of struggles, and my mother and father have had their fair share of trials and tribulation. But even when our family was struggling, in many different ways, my mom always kept moving forward. She always kept working and always told me to rely on the Lord.

So to make this full circle, I love my mom and she is the most awesome mom to ever exist. I’m glad that she and my father raised me up to follow Jesus Christ, and without them and Him I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thanks, Mom! You’re the best!

Yea or Nay: Choose Your Path

I can’t take credit for this insight, but I was made aware of it just yesterday by another missionary… who is very awesome. It’s another one of those ‘simple yet profound’ things. Let’s go to the Book of Mormon…

We find here a Nephite missionary named Ammon teaching a Lamanite king named Lamoni. Ammon had been defending Lamoni’s flocks against thieves, and in doing so cut off the arms of the thieves and saved the sheep from being stolen. Lamoni was amazed and desired to speak to Ammon. He thought that Ammon was the Great Spirit the Lamanites believed in, but Ammon taught him about the true God. He asks Lamoni if he believes in God. Lamoni doesn’t understand what Ammon means by that word, so Ammon says something he knows Lamoni will understand.

And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?

And he said, Yea. (Alma 18:26-27)

Lamoni eventually became converted, which resulted in the conversion of much of his kingdom. He went on to prosperity and happiness. His answer to Ammon’s question was short and simple. Ammon basically asked him, in his own terms, if he believed in God. Lamoni answered “yes.” That simple answer set the course for what would happen later.

Now we go to a different part in the Book of Mormon. Alma, the prophet and high priest of the Church, is ‘facing off’ with an anti-Christ named Korihor. Korihor not only denied the Christ, but denied the existence of God, claiming that there was no proof that a Messiah would come. Alma asked Korihor a very simple question, to which came a simple answer.

And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?

And he answered, Nay. (Alma 30:37-38)

Korihor claimed he did not believe in God, though in reality he did. He demanded a sign, and as a sign he was struck dumb and became a beggar. After this, he admitted that he was teaching false doctrines, and that Satan had tricked him. He was eventually trampled down and killed.

Lamoni’s answer and Korihor’s answer are the two shortest verses in the Book of Mormon. Each person gave a simple reply. Yes or no. One said yes and led a happy life. The other said no and led a life of misery until he was killed.

And so, with us, the simple decisions we make in life can be profound and make more of an impact in our lives than we think. There are critical times in our lives when a decision needs to be made. It can be a matter of “yes I will do this” or “no I won’t do this.” It’s important that we don’t overlook these moments, for they can dramatically affect the course of our lives.

This same Alma once counseled one of his sons, saying, “…behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass…” It’s so true, and it can go both ways. Great and wonderful things can be brought to pass by small things, and great and terrible things can result in the same manner. The little decisions we make do matter. So when we arrive at those decisions, will we be like Lamoni and choose God, or will we be like Korihor and reject Him? One ends in happiness, the other will get us trampled.

Faith in Christ: Through the Spirit. Not violence.

Most everyone can remember when the film The Passion of the Christ came out. It caused quite a bit of talk amongst Christians and even non-Christians. Some may or may not be aware of the fact that Mormons tend to stay away from R-rated films. Modern-day prophets and apostles have counseled Latter-day Saints against watching such movies. While not all Mormons adhere to this advise (I myself have not been 100% perfect), you may have noticed this trait of your Mormon acquaintances.

From what I’ve experienced and noted, it’s good counsel. You can argue about specific movies, but generally speaking, nothing good comes of R-rated films. They are littered with excessive violence, profanity, and sexual content that no one needs to subject themselves to. It doesn’t matter if you’re a “mature” adult or not. Being an adult is not an excuse to participate in these things.

So, getting back to the topic here, most Mormons did not go and watch The Passion in the theatres, as many of their other Christian peers did. Some commended Mormons for setting a standard, and not viewing a violent movie despite its apparently Christian nature. Others condemned Mormons, claiming that we cared more about our image than our Savior. Such a claim is foolish.

The fact is, the film is R-rated for a reason. It’s violent… ridiculously so. My companion and I  visited with someone not too long ago who had this film on in their living room. We were sitting in the kitchen area, but I could see the screen and hear what was going on. We dropped in just as Christ’s scourging was taking place. It took a good ten minutes for the gruesome scene to finally be over. It was difficult to watch, but I’m easily distracted, and so my eyes diverted to the screen every minute or so as we were talking to this person.

Whether or not Jesus’ actual flogging was that horrific is an invalid point. The point is that it was a horrific portrayal, and one that was devoid of any good spirit. I felt no love. I felt no growing faith, and I certainly did not feel the Spirit of God… watching that. Eventually her son turned the TV off. I can say for certain that I felt no closer to my Savior after witnessing that scene.

To those that were critical of Mormons straying away from this film, I would say that we don’t need violence to feel close to Jesus. I don’t need to watch Him getting ripped apart by whips for my faith in Him to grow.

Contrast The Passion to a film made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called Finding Faith in Christ. It’s short, only a half hour. It does indeed portray Christ’s scourging and crucifixion, but not in any excessive way. Instead, it focuses on the miracles Christ performed, drawing upon the Holy Spirit to testify to the viewer that Jesus is the Christ. I actually watched it yesterday, and like always, the Spirit was strong. I felt love. I felt faith. I felt close to my Savior.

When it comes to our standards, we don’t lower them to appease to the world, and when it comes to Jesus Christ, I don’t need violence to feel close to Him, I only need the Spirit.

The Sacrament. Not just a good idea, it’s a commandment!

If you are a Christian who actively attends Sunday services, you are most likely familiar with the sacrament, what it is, and what it represents. Bread and wine (or water in an LDS church) are blessed and given to the congregation. The bread and wine represent the body and blood of the Savior Jesus Christ. We take these emblems to remember His atonement.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the sacrament is taken every Sunday during the main service we creatively call sacrament meeting. There is a prayer upon the bread, which is passed, and then a prayer upon the water, which is then also passed. Aside from crying babies, there is a reverence among the congregation to respect and reflect upon Christ’s atoning sacrifice and our own devotion to Him as His disciples.

There are many reasons we take the sacrament. One: it’s a commandment. When Christ came to the Americas after His resurrection, he instituted the sacrament with the people, the Nephites and Lamanites. After blessing the bread and wine, and having everyone eat and drink it, Christ said,

And when the disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.

And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock. (3 Nephi 18:10, 12)

Why are we commanded to take the emblems of Jesus’ body and blood? Well, just think what would happen if all of God’s commandments were just suggestions. Would any of us do them? Doubt it. We already have enough trouble being obedient to them when they are commandments. Christ commands us to take the sacrament because He understands that we need it. It gives us a boost, and in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taking the sacrament is a renewal of our promise to God made at baptism. We promise to live a Christ-like life. We aren’t perfect at it, but taking the sacrament is helps by giving us that fresh start each Sabbath day.

The second time Jesus held a sacrament meeting with the Nephites and Lamanites, he explained to them…

He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled. (3 Nephi 20:8)

Christ is the bread of life and the living water. We may eat the literal bread and drink the literal water, but our bodies will thirst. But the bread and water taken during the sacrament has been blessed. They become emblems, symbols of Christ, and when we take them, our spiritual hunger and spiritual thirst are satisfied.

If you’re curious about the sacrament and want to understand it better, I invite you to attend an LDS church service. You’re bound to find one. We’re just about everywhere. I know the sacrament is a wonderful gift from our Savior Jesus Christ. Of all the things I do each Sunday, taking the sacrament is the most important. It’s been a blessing in my life and has given me greater spiritual strength as I take it and declare myself a disciple of Christ each week.