Wolves Don’t Make Good Fruit

The 182nd annual General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was held over this last weekend. It is composed of five sessions, each of which are two hours long. Two general sessions and a priesthood session on Saturday and two more general sessions on Sunday. General Conference is basically when the prophet of the Church, his two counselors, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other general authorities of the Church come together and offer talks of encouragement and counsel. This is done in the conference center, located by Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The conference center fills to capacity, and members of the Church around the world (over 14 million) watch or listen to the conference via radio, internet, cable, or satellite.

It’s a wonderful opportunity, and something that only recently I’ve come to truly appreciate. The speakers are inspired men (and sometimes women). They speak under the unfluence of the Holy Spirit. They are servants of the Lord, and the words they speak in General Conference are the Lord’s words. For this, I’m grateful. Every person, no matter who they are or what circumstances they may be in, can benefit from the counsel given during General Conference, especially from the prophet Thomas S. Monson.

Many times, when I tell someone there is a living prophet on the earth, a modern-day Moses, they like to quote the book of Matthew in the New Testament and say, “Jesus talked about false prophets. Ravening wolves He called them.”

Yes, indeed He did, and He also said that “by their fruits ye shall know them.” Those same people often seem to forget that very important verse. So what’s a simple way to find out if this Thomas Monson fellow is truly a prophet called of God. Hmm… maybe…. listen to him speak? That’s pretty easy. Heck, you could even read his biography if you wanted to really study it out. But you don’t have to.

If you listen to him speak, and he really is a prophet, you will know. The Spirit will witness to you of that fact, if you are in the right state of mind to receive it and your heart is open to the possibility. The same goes for the rest of the speakers. The Spirit can testify that the words they speak are true. The Spirit can also testify that the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles areactually apostles like Peter, James, and John of the New Testament.

This last General Conference was awesome. I actually took notes! I’m not usually one to do that. The “notes” typically end up becoming doodles of some kind, but not thistime! These were legit notes, and I most definitely got a lot more out of the messages than had I not taken notes. But the notes are not what’s important. What’s important is the Spirit that was felt. I encourage you to visit lds.org and watch or listen to some of the conference talks that were given. I can promise you strength, comfort, and insight for your life’s struggles if you do so.

Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. His counselors and the twelve apostles are also called of God to receive revelation for God’s children on the Earth. If Moses was back on the Earth today, would you not want to hear what he had to say? Well, he’s not, but there is someone on this planet that holds the same power and authority as Moses. Listen to his words and see for yourself if he speaks for the Lord.

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The Poetic Corner: The Valley and the Wind

The Valley and the Wind

upon the dry and dusty ground
our feet, they drag
our hands, they drop
as we walk through the valley
of the shadow of death
it’s not an uncommon place
as our poets have said

all creation has breathed this air
we’re no different as we sink into despair
here under the glare of the sun
we break into skeletons

then the wind carries the voice of a prophet
sent to wake us from our dreamless sleep
’cause a wake up call is what we need
to join together what is torn
and mend our heart strings thin and worn

so pick up your bones the wind restored
let the Lord build up your broken form
take your shield and take your sword
face the storm
let’s face the storm

take heart and see
the scattering come to an end
stand up and breathe
this life the wind has sent
we are an army for the Lord

so pick up your bones the wind restored
let the Lord build up your broken form
take your shield and take your sword
we are reformed
let’s face the storm

 

In the 35th chapter of the book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel sees a vision of a valley floor in which lies the remains of a great army. The Lord tells him to prophecy and tell the bones to live.

So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.

And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.

Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the fourwinds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.

So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. (Ezekiel 37: 7-10)

This vision was a prophetic statement of both the Resurrection of all mankind and the gathering of scattered Israel in the last days. But we can also apply it to our everyday lives. We are the army for the Lord. As believers in Christ, we are of the body of Christ. But often we are not the warriors we should be. Rather than a mighty army, we are a valley of broken bones.Are we all united under the banner of Christ? Think about it. Truly, we are not. Individually, we often go back and forth between a mighty warrior and a heap of bones. What makes the difference?

The Spirit of the Lord breathed life into the dead soldiers. If we do not have the Holy Spirit with us, we cannot be a mighty warrior. Now, although the Spirit is what quickened the dead bones and gave them life, who was it that was the bearer of the prophecy? Ezekiel, the prophet. The Lord could have simply let Ezekiel watch as He breathed life into the soldiers, but he commanded Ezekiel to prophecy instead. The army stood and was united under the voice of God’s prophet.

We have the words of the prophets with us, both ancient and modern. We have the visions and prophecies of Ezekiel in the Old Testament and we also can hear the voice of a living prophet. His name is Thomas S. Monson. Iknow that he is a prophet called of God. I know that God speaks to him as God spoke to Ezekiel. Under his voice we can be revived, and under his voice we must be united.

How can you know if this Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s prophet of the earth? Read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. You can receive an answer and discover for yourself that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom on the earth, and that there is a living prophet on the earth as well.

 

Articles of Faith IX: Revelation

Number nine is all about revelation.

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

God continues to speak to us and reveal His word. His words and works never cease. In regards to the scriptures, Latter-day Saints do not believe in a closed canon. God is not limited to one book or one period of time. But just as He has done since the beginning of time, God still speaks to prophets today, revealing His word through them.

I’m going to use some verses from the Book of Mormon to explain this, since they state it better than I ever will. It’s a bit to read, but it’s worth it.

Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?

Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?

Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.

Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. (2 Nephi 9:6-10)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a progressive church. By progressive I mean literally it is a church of progress. Living prophets and apostles do exist, and they are the Lord’s instruments in revealing His word to us. If God truly is the same yesterday, today, and forever, His works cannot and will not ever cease.

 

Articles of Faith VI: The Primitive Church

Number six! Ready?

 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

The Primitive Church is referring to the church Jesus Christ organized when He was on the earth. We differ than some other Christian denominations in that we do believe Christ actually had a church, and not just a bunch of great ideas to follow. And what church did Christ bring to the earth? Well, naturally if it’s His church it should be called The Church of Jesus Christ.

Hence the name of the “Mormon” church. The term Mormon is not an official term. In fact it began as a derogatory term, but was eventually used by church members themselves because… well… it’s really not offensive in any way, and it’s a convenient way to refer to Latter-day Saints. So going back to the original thought, the actual name of the “Mormon” church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Same church, same title. The “of Latter-day Saints” addition is simply to emphasize the fact that it is His restored church in the last days.

Ephesians 4:11 gives us some information on the organization of Christ’s church.

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

Christ ordained twelve apostles, giving unto them His priesthood authority. Today, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with three others acting as a First Presidency with the current prophet Thomas S. Monson at the head. These three men essentially act in the same manner as Peter, James, and John, who were the first “First Presidency”.

I know that Jesus Christ’s church is built upon the foundation of prophets and apostles. If they were no longer needed, Christ would’ve said so. But He didn’t. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As the Great Jehovah He called prophets since the beginning of time. When He came to the earth to perform His mortal ministry He called them as a group of twelve. Why would He suddenly stop and not say a word? He didn’t and He will never do so. He is the same forever, and so His church is the same forever.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Jesus Christ’s church restored in these last days.

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 II: Broken Pieces

The Apostles and the Seventy are out spreading the teachings of the Master, Jesus Christ. The glass table can still stand with its remaining three legs: apostles/prophets, priesthood authority, and revelation. Unfortunately, things do not go well for the Christians. Just like the prophets of old, the people reject Christ’s disciples. Through persecution and eventually murder, the Apostles and other disciples are eleminated. Jesus Christ knew this would happen, and He warned His disciples,

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations formy name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (Matthew 24:9-10)

With the disciples gone, however, the priesthood authority eventually diminished. No one was left to transfer the authority by the laying on of hands. The world fell into a Great Apostasy, a time of spiritual darkness. To use a more secular term, the world entered the Dark Ages.

The Apostle Paul could see this time clearly,

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

The shattering of the glass table left broken pieces. In their ignorance and wickedness, people took those pieces and began to put their own ideas around them, forming philosophies and theologies that were missing important parts of Christ’s doctrine. Without revelation from prophets and apostles, there was no one to guide them. The Church of Jesus Christ was no longer on the earth. Only fragments of truth existed among the man-made religions.

This time on the earth had actually been prophecied of long ago.

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the wordsof the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. (Amos 8:11-12)

The word of the Lord would not be found because His church and His doctrine in its fullness would not be on the earth. The glass table was broken. No man could hope to repair it. Even if one could somehow find all the pieces and bring them together, the glass would still be shattered. No power on earth could restore Jesus Christ’s church. It would take the Savior Himself to bring His gospel back in its fullness. Only He could restore the glass table to its original form.

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. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19)

By the power of the Holy Ghost, Peter knew Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, AKA Revelation. Hence, upon this rock, meaning revelation, would Christ build His church, giving Peter the keys of the kindgom, AKA priesthood authority. And the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it, for The Church of Jesus Christ has been restored in these latter days. This is where a young farmboy named Joseph Smith comes into play…

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.

Prophets and Apostles: Called of God

This upcoming weekend is a rather special event for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s what we call “General Conference”, a semi-annual event that takes place every year in April and October. I suppose you could say that it’s a gathering of sorts. Thousands of Latter-day Saints flock to the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, which can seat up to 21,000 people. All over the world, millions of members, and others, gather to church buildings to watch the broadcasts via satellite. Others listen on the radio or watch on their televisions or computers in their own homes. There are four main sessions. Two on Saturday and two on Sunday. Each one is two hours long.

So what exactly is all the excitement about? Why do so many people sacrifice eight or more hours out of a weekend to participate in this event?

The reason is profound. It is because we have a living prophet today, as well as apostles and others, called of God, to lead us in these last days, and General Conference is when we can hear and see them speak. It is a wonderful blessing that I am grateful for and am looking forward to.

Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)

Whether it is from God or the mouth of His servants, it is the same. Listening to a prophet’s words is having new scripture unfolded unto us. But many think that we don’t need prophets and apostles in our day. To them I must ask, isn’t it during times like these when we need them most?

Ephesians 4:11-14

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

There were prophets and apostles in Christ’s day, and even before then. So why not now, when Satan is working his hardest to lead us astray?

I testify that there is a living prophet on the earth today. His name is Thomas S. Monson. I know he has been called of God. We have twelve apostles living today as well, just like the twelve apostles of Christ’s day. They are also all inspired men, called of God to serve Him and guide His people. I invite you to hear them speak this weekend and see for yourself that they are truly prophets, seers, and revelators.

 

The Greatest Among Herbs

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in a small cabin, with about only six members. It was a humble beginning for a work that would soon progress into something great and marvelous.

In the book of Matthew, Christ compares the kingdom of heaven unto a mustard seed. Matthew 13:31-32 reads,

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

The prophet Joseph Smith once used this parable to teach about the Church, explaining that the mustard seed is like the Book of Mormon. It was buried in the ground, a small record containing the dealings of a once thriving civilization.

Though small, it grew into “the greatest among herbs”. Once the prophet Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, others could read it and know that he was a prophet, and that Jesus Christ had restored His church. The Church today is thriving as the gospel of Jesus Christ is taught all throughout the world. It is becoming a magnificent tree, and God is sending revelation and His holy angels to lodge in its branches.

I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s church restored to the earth. I know it contains the fullness of Christ’s gospel. Though it started small, and Satan fought hard to stop it through mobs and other persecution, it has grown into a great tree. Its branches are continuing to spread, and I know that God sends modern revelation to lodge in those branches. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God.

This Church is indeed the “greatest among herbs”.

 

 

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.