Articles of Faith XI and XII: Freedom and the Law

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

The Church of Jesus Christ was restored in the United States for a reason. In no other country would such a seed have had opportunity to sprout, because no other country enjoyed or embraced the freedom as did the United States.

Latter-day Saints understand how important our freedom is. We embrace it ourselves and respect the freedom of others to do as they please, while expecting the same in return. Free agency is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. It’s so great that He allows terrible things to occur in the world, all for the sake of respecting the agency He has granted to His children.

Hence, we all have the agency to choose how we worship God, if we worship Him at all.

The twelfth statement is pretty short, so I’m going to include it in this post.

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Pretty simple. We believe in being patriotic. We support our country and obey its laws.

Advertisements

Articles of Faith VIII: Two Records

Number eight is where a major difference is shown between the LDS church and “mainstream” Christian denominations.

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

Once again we’ll break it down.

We believe the Bible to be the word of God.

This reaffirms our devotion to the Holy Bible. In the eyes of Latter-day Saints, it is God’s word. We love and cherish the Bible and the message it bears, that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In no way do we view the Holy Bible as anything less than that. When we list our standard works (the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price), the Bible is always first.

As far as it is translated correctly.

It is true that we do not believe the Bible to be infallible. Through centuries of translations, corruption has leaked in. However, it has, for the most part, remained intact. Some translations are more correct than others. The official version the LDS church uses is the King James Version. We believe it to be the most correct version, and also love it for its more… shall we say…. poetic… text.

We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

The Book of Mormon has only gone through one translation, by the prophet Joseph Smith. (Yes, changes have been made throughout the years.) The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. It does not add or remove from the Bible, but serves to reaffirm the Bible’s message.

Together these two records bear testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. Many believe that Mormons regard the Book of Mormon as superior than the Bible. I’m sure there are some that actually do, and such are individual opinions. The Book of Mormon does serve a unique purpose, however, apart from the Bible. It serves as a witness that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God, and that through him Jesus Christ restored His church.

The Book of Mormon, however, does not contain Christ’s mortal ministry or the acts and writings of the apostles. It does not contain the history of the children of Israel in the Old Testament. Therefore, both records are of equal value. They are two records, but they are one testimony of Jesus Christ.

Articles of Faith I: The Godhead

Many today still wonder whether or not Mormons are actually Christians. It’s a sad thing, because if any person actually took the time to learn about the LDS church, he or she would know, without a doubt, that we are indeed Christians.

John Wentworth, an editor for the Chicago Democrat, once asked Joseph Smith to write something for the paper describing what members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe. He (Joseph Smith) came up with thirteen statements of belief that later became known as the articles of faith. This is the first one:

We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

This statement emphasizes our belief that the three members of the Godhead are three, separate, distinct individuals. They are one in purpose, but not one in any physical way. Some people try to use this to say we are not Christians. The trinity, however, has no support from the Bible, and in no way does it ever suggest that they are all literally one person.

From this single statement, it’s obvious to see that we believe Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God. He is our Savior and Redeemer. The Bible and Book of Mormon both testify of this. We read in the Book of Mormon,

O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world. (Helaman 5:9)

To say that Mormons don’t believe in Christ as their Savior, or that we don’t think His Atonement is necessary, is simply ignorance. We firmly believe that salvation can only come through Jesus Christ. There is no other way. Jesus Christ and His Atonement is at the very center of our religion. If you don’t believe me, read the Book of Mormon.

Advantage in the World to Come

A good education is something that everyone should aspire to. It’s a wise piece of advice that we’re told over and over again, most often by our elders (the old kind, not the white shirts and name tags kind). But what kind of education is worth our time? What knowledge should we be most aspiring to gain? Modern revelation, from the prophet Joseph Smith, gives us an insight to the role knowledge plays in the life to come,

Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19)

We can’t take our possession with us to the grave. . . . Well, I suppose we could, but they would just disintegrate with our bodies. What we can take, however, is our knowledge, what’s in our hearts and minds. The wisdom we gain through our experiences and the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ will forever remain with us.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with attaining worldly knowledge. We learn in the Book of Mormon that “to be learned is good if [we] hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2 Nephi 9:29)

So long as we put God first and follow His commandments, our learning and education will be for our benefit, and it will rise with us when our spirits and our bodies are reunited in the resurrection. I know this is true. What we put into our hearts and minds is what will be worth the most to us, now and after we pass from this life.

Living Scripture

I gotta be honest here. Something that kind of annoys me is when people think Mormons don’t respect the Bible, or that we don’t hold it in any significant regard, or something along those lines. Let me put it simply. We love the Bible. Yes, we believe it is holy scripture. We read it and treasure its teachings, especially those that come from the Savior Himself. We do not think the Book of Mormon is better than the Bible.

But if someone truly wants to understand how we view scripture, they need to understand that we believe in living prophets and apostles.

And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:20)

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has called prophets since the beginning of the world, so why would He stop? If you want to understand us, understand this, that we believe in modern-day prophets and apostles.

So what is the Bible? Words of the prophets and apostles, right? Their word is scripture. Whether it is from the mouth of the Lord or the mouth of His prophet, it is the same. It is scripture. The prophet today is Thomas S. Monson. When he speaks to the Church twice a year in General Conference or at any other time, it is scripture. We believe in modern-day revelation from prophets and apostles. Therefore, scripture has not ceased. The words of the prophets are scripture. Each time they speak, it is scripture. Yes, the Bible is scripture, but there is more. The Book of Mormon is more scripture, but still there is more.

I testify to you that God’s words have not ceased. He still speaks to us through prophets and apostles, just like He did anciently. Their words are His words; they are living scripture.

The Glass Table Analogy III: Restored

Joseph Smith grew up in Palmyra, New York, during the early 19th century. During this time, there was an excitement about religion, at least in the town of Palmyra. Preachers stood outside their meetinghouses and called out to passersby. Joseph’s father was partial to the Methodist faith, while his mother aligned herself with the Presbyterians. They were both devoted followers of Jesus Christ, and raised their children as such, reading and learning from the Bible.

At a point in his childhood, Joseph became concerned for the welfare of his soul. He desired to join one of the churches in his town, but he didn’t know which one. They were all confusing to him, and they all seemed to contradict each other. Unfortunately, an argument on a particular doctrine couldn’t be settled by the Bible, because all the preachers interpreted it differently. The Bible seemed more like a battle ground than common ground.

Young Joseph was reading one night in the epistle of James, first chapter, fifth verse, which reads,

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

He pondered these words, and then he decided to take James up on his promise. You can read my post about Joseph Smith’s First Vision here.

Joseph saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. Together, They appeared to him. He asked them again which church to join, and Jesus Christ answered him and said that he should join none of the churches. For although there is truth in them all (pieces of the glass table), they don’t have the full doctrine of Christ (the original table).

Joseph Smith was later called as a prophet, and through him Jesus Christ would restore His church to the earth by restoring the keys of the kingdom, or the priesthood authority. By doing this, ordinances such as baptism could be done with the proper authority from God. It is the Church of Jesus Christ, and because we are in the latter days, or the last days, it is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him (Ephesians 1:10)

We are living in the fulness of times, and Jesus Christ has restored His church. Joseph Smith was and is a prophet called of God. And how can we know this? Matthew stated that by their fruits we may know if a prophet is truly called of God, or if he is fake. The Book of Mormon is the “fruit” of Joseph Smith. By reading it, pondering it, and praying about it, one can know of its divinity.

I know the Book of Mormon is true. If you have not read it, I challenge you to do so. It’s the only way you can know if Christ’s church has been restored. This is my testimony, and I give it in the name of Jesus Christ, that His church is restored.

 

Other Sheep

Jesus taught,

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:16)

Naturally, there were more people in the world than just those at Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. To these people, Christ’s gospel, and His doctrine, would need to be taught. And it would be taught, not just by the mouth of Christ’s servants, but by His own voice.

After His resurrection, Jesus Christ appeared to the ancient people of the Americas. He taught them,

And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (3 Nephi 15:21)

The people of the Book of Mormon saw Christ, and He ministered unto them. They heard His voice and learned His doctrine. God loves all His children, so why would He not send His Son to minister unto others? This is proof that He has done so. I know that Jesus Christ appeared in the Americas, as well as other places, to gather together His fold.

I know that God is a living God. His works and His love never cease, and He will always show this to us. The Book of Mormon is one major way in which He has done so. Of this I bear witness, in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Power and the Gift

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. You can read more about Him and His role here, in one of my previous posts. In the Church of Jesus Christ, when one is baptized, he or she receives the gift of the Holy Ghost. There is a difference, however, between the gift of the Holy Ghost and the power of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost can descend upon anyone, guiding him or her in whatever way God wants. There’s a simple anology that can be made. The power of the Holy Ghost is like a bolt of lightning. You can imagine life as a journey through a dark forest. Everything is black; nothing can be seen. Just as lightning may strike, illuminating the path for a second, the Holy Ghost may dwell for a moment and give needed guidance to continue onward.

Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is like receiving a flashlight. It’s constantly with us, lighting the trail every second of the way, so long as we are worthy of it.

We can see instances of this in the scriptures.

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

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

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

Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:14-17)

When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (Acts 19:5-6)

I know that only through the complete authority, found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, can one be endowed with the gift of the Holy Ghost, and that said gift is needed to enter into the kingdom of God.

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)

The Search for Happiness: The Iron Rod

When Lehi told his family of his vision, Nephi desired to see it for himself. Because of his great desire and unwavering faith, the Spirit visited him and showed him the dream. When Nephi is witnessing the vision, the thing that Lehi talked about are explained. The symbolism is made clear.

The iron rod is one of these symbols. In the vision, Nephi sees the iron rod along the straight and narrow path, extending to the tree of life. The multitudes of people in the dream are following the path to the tree by holding on to the rod of iron. Mists of darkness envelope the people. Many of them let go of the rod and become lost. But those who hold tight to the rod eventually make it to the tree of life and eat of its fruit.

Nephi understood this symbolism.

And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God. (1 Nephi 11:25)

So what is the word of God? The scriptures, naturally. But what exactly are the scriptures? The Bible, the Book of Mormon, and modern-day revelation. Essentially, the words of God and Jesus Christ and the prophets.

Nephi, the same that saw his father’s vision, said,

Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. (2 Nephi 32:3)

The words of Christ and the words of His prophets (which are the same) will tell us all things that we should do. And if we should heed the words of the prophets now passed, then surely all the more reason to heed the words of the living prophets.

I testify that holding strongly to the word of God in His holy scriptures will keep us on the straight and narrow path to eternal life. I know that we also have living prophets today, found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We must listen to their counsel just as thoughtfully as we study the words of their ancient predecessors. The iron rod leading to the tree of life is indeed the word of God. It will safely guide us through.

The Heavens are not sealed.

People may often ask their Mormon friends, “What’s the difference between your church and any other?” There are a fair amount of answers to that question. For this post, I’ll just focus on one.

Modern revelation.

Let’s take a moment to think about something. A lot of people are surprised to hear that Jesus Christ did indeed set up a church. Not just a physical building, but an organization built upon prophets, apostles, and revelation. In Ephesians 4:11-14 we read,

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive

So it says here that Christ had an organization with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. What is their purpose? To help us reach our goal of perfection, to carry on the ministry, to edify the body of Christ which is the Church, until we all come in the unity of the faith. Obviously, we’re not unified in the faith. And until we do become unified, we will need apostles and prophets and so on.

We read in Amos 3:7,

Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

We need prophets and apostles to guide us and reveal our Heavenly Father’s will to us. Of course, this does not mean that we cannot receive personal revelation for ourselves or our families. But the divine guidance of a prophet of God is necessary to direct us as a whole and give revelation to the body of Christ, His church.

Although Christ’s church and His doctrines eventually became corrupted by man throughout the centuries, I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ restored The Church of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith. I know that there is a living prophet of God today, and that his name is Thomas S. Monson. I am grateful for his loving guidance and for the inspiration and revelation he receives from God.

Who are we to say God cannot speak to us? I know God does speak to us through His prophets and apostles. I testify to you that the heavens are not sealed.

Lehi’s Vision

The account in the Book of Mormon known as Lehi’s Vision or Lehi’s Dream is well-known among Latter-day Saints. In it, the prophet Lehi sees the tree of life and, with the help of an iron rod (which symbolizes the word of God) leading to the tree, approaches and eats of the fruit of the tree. When he looks around, he sees his family and beckons them to come and eat the fruit as well. All of them do except for his two oldest sons Laman and Lemuel.

If you are unfamiliar with this story, I encourage you to read the full account. Here’s a link for your convenience.

I’ll take a small section of the vision, which Lehi is giving to his children:

And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.

And as I cast my eyes round about, that perhaps I might discover my family also, I beheld a river of water; and it ran along, and it was near the tree of which I was partaking the fruit.

And I looked to behold from whence it came; and I saw the head thereof a little way off; and at the head thereof I beheld your mother Sariah, and Sam, and Nephi; and they stood as if they knew not whither they should go.

And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit.

And it came to pass that they did come unto me and partake of the fruit also.

Lehi’s son, Nephi, was an exceptional young man that grew to become the second prophet in the Book of Mormon, after his father Lehi. He knew God, he knew Jesus Christ and the power of His atonement, and he knew and recognized the Holy Spirit. Something I’d like to note, however, is that in Lehi’s vision Nephi does not take the fruit himself. It was given to him by his father.

Just like our Heavenly Father is the source of all wisdom and truth, our earthly parents are a source of wisdom. We do not gain knowledge and experience in an instant. It must be taught to us. Parents have the sacred responsibility in raising their children in righteousness and truth, in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The very first verse in the Book of Mormon begins,

I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father;

Nephi was taught all he knew by his father and mother, and he makes sure the reader understands that fact right off the bat. I had, and still have, the great blessing of being raised by parents that taught me about Jesus Christ and His gospel. I know that the knowledge and understanding I have could not have come without their guidance, wisdom, and experience. I know that the role of a father and mother in a child’s life is a sacred commission from God.


The Book of Mormon

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. It holds the entire doctrine of the Church together. If the Book of Mormon is not true, then Joseph Smith was a fraud, our claim to priesthood authority is void, and the Church in its entirety is perhaps the greatest hoax ever conceived.

However, if the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God. If the Book of Mormon is true, then The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s true church restored to the Earth, containing the fullness of Jesus Christ’s gospel. If the Book of Mormon is true, then the message it contains is the single most important thing that anyone could read or know in his or her life.

So how does one come about knowing if it’s true or not? Certainly God does not expect us to believe something just because someone has told us to. The only way to know if the Book of Mormon is true is to read it, ponder about what it contains, and pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ and ask Him if the book is true

Moroni, the last prophet in the Book of Mormon and last person to write in the ancient record itself, gives us a promise. It’s found in the last book of the Book of Mormon: Moroni, chapter 10, verses 4 and 5,

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

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

The Spirit is the only way to know if the Book of Mormon is true. He testifies of truth and will lead us to it. We simply need to ask God with 1) a sincere heart, meaning that we truly want to know if the book is true, 2) real intent, meaning that we are willing to act upon our answer, that we will do something when the Holy Ghost testifies of the Book of Mormon’s divinity, and 3) having faith in Christ, meaning that we do this with the desire of coming closer to Jesus Christ and wanting to know if it is truly His gospel.

I have done this myself. I have read, pondered, and prayed about the Book of Mormon to know if it is true, and I testify to you that I have received my answer from my Heavenly Father, by the power of the Holy Ghost. I know the Book of Mormon is true, and that it is the word of God.

I challenge you, if you have not done so, to read the Book of Mormon and pray to your Heavenly Father to know if it is true. You need not read the entire book itself. How many people believe in the Bible and yet have not read it completely? The Spirit can manifest all truth, no matter how great or small. The truth can be made known to you if you are sincere in seeking in, with the intent of coming closer to Jesus Christ.

We are the children of God.

Romans 8:16

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

It is a blessing for me to know that I am a child of God. Understanding this divine relationship with our Creator is key to receiving His strength and being comforted by His love. God is indeed our literal Father. Just as we have parents on the Earth, He is the Father of our Spirits. He loves and cares for us just as a nurturing parent watches over a child.

When we pray, we are not sending out hopes and wishes to some indifferent being that may or may not talk back. When we pray, we are talking one on one with our Father. He listens and He cares, and I know that He answers our prayers and wants to bless us.

Matthew 7: 7-11

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

We are imperfect beings, often prone to selfishness and envy, yet we know how to give good gifts. Our Father in Heaven is perfect in every way. His love for us is perfect. If we can give good gifts, surely He will bless us in ways we can’t even imagine. I know this to be true. I know that our Heavenly Father loves each of us more than we can even think to comprehend. Having this understanding has been a great comfort and a great strength to me throughout my life. I know that when I kneel down to pray, my Father in Heaven is listening with the intentions and concerns of a loving parent.

If you are feeling distanced from God, remember that He is your Father and wants nothing more than to pour down blessings upon you. We simply need to show our faith and love for Him, submitting ourselves humbly to Him as a child. I can promise anyone who is reading this that they can know of God’s love for them through sincere, faithful prayer. He is our Father. Tell Him you love Him. You will be blessed with strength and peace.

Happiness

My mind feels a bit fuzzy at the moment. I must honestly admit that I cannot think of anything clever, or terribly thought-provoking. Perhaps this just means that something simple and plain is more in order. Thankfully, my thoughts were drawn to the words of a very well-spoken man known in the Book of Mormon as King Benjamin.

Mosiah chapter 2

41  And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

I have witnessed this truth countless times in my life. Those that keep the commandments of God are truly blessed. Oftentimes, however, this verse is misconstrued. Obeying the commandments does not result in a perfect, pain-free life. It does not mean that everything will work out just how we want. Life is full of sadness, pain, and trials. They are to be expected.

But obeying the commandments will always bring us happiness and true joy. When we are in line with God’s will, our souls can rest and know that He loves us and is watching over us. We will receive the strength we require for our obstacles. We will be granted comfort by the Spirit to deal with the problems that aren’t solved in the way we had hoped. In this way are we blessed both temporally and spiritually.

Doctrine and Covenants section 130

20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

21  And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

When we obey, God will bless us. I know that through obedience to God’s commandments we can experience true joy that cannot be trampled by the world. It is only when I know I am following God’s will that I receive a peace unlike any other, and it is when I am only thinking of myself and my own desires over God’s that I am buried with grief and remorse.

If you have taken of your time to read this, I testify to you that obedience to God’s commandments brings blessings. It brings strength. It brings peace and comfort. It brings happiness, happiness that can last for eternity.