Awake and Alive

Every Christian knows what the book of Revelation is. John the Beloved saw in vision the resurrected Christ, who showed him, essentially, the last days and the things that would go down. This book contains a lot of material that has become well known throughout the world: the mark of the beast, the mark in the forehead and hands, Babylon the mother of harlots covering the earth, the book of life, the seven seals, angels and trumpets, wars and catastrophe, etc.

When most people think of the book of Revelation, they think of bad things happening in the last days. The wars and catastrophes and the beast. These things don’t sound particularly fun. In fact, it sounds downright terrible, and somewhat hopeless. But many forget that all these things are not why John wrote Revelation. He did not want us to get caught up in all the calamities that would occur. The book of Revelation is not meant to be a warning of bad times approaching, but instead serves as a message of hope.

Yes, there will be wars. Yes, Babylon will cover the earth. Yes, people will worship the beast and the devil will mimic the miracles of God. Yes, there will be calamities. But the message John wants us to get from this is that it doesn’t matter, because Jesus is going to win in the end. Despite all of Satan’s efforts to destroy the work of God, he will not succeed. Revelation is a message of hope, not of warning.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

All the awful things of the world will pass away. Christ will conquer Satan and there will be no more sadness or pain. Eternal happiness will be what we will enjoy, so long as we are on the Lord’s side.

Gordon B. Hinckley, the last prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once said, “The time has now come to turn about and face the future. This is a season of a thousand opportunities. It is ours to grasp and move forward. What a wonderful time it is for each of us to do his or her small part in moving the work of the Lord on to its magnificent destiny.

Never be discouraged. This is an awesome time to be alive. Amidst the bad news that gets thrown at us, we so often forget how many good things are happening right under our noses. These are the last days. These are the days in which Jesus Christ has restored the fullness of His gospel to the earth. His church is here. We have living prophets on the earth again that communicate God’s will to us. Christ’s priesthood authority is in effect. There is revelation. There are miracles. It’s awesome! Be happy. Get excited. Jesus can bring us salvation and eternal life if we only repent and turn to Him. The hand of God is with mankind more than it has ever been. I’m grateful to have been born in this day and age when I can witness of all this firsthand. You should be too, ’cause it’s a great time to be alive.

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 VII: Gifts of the Spirit

Seven is the best number, right? This should be a super long one. Well, nope, it’s rather short and simple.

We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

These are all gifts of the Spirit, something that we, as a church, strongly believe in. The Holy Ghost can do amazing things, and when His influence abounds… miracles happen. These miracles are often in the form of these gifts. We can all have them, though we all don’t possess the same gifts. We each have our individual strengths and weaknesses in every aspect of our lives, especially the spiritual aspect.

Paul speaks of the gifts of the Spirit to the Corinthians,

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)

Let’s break up the seventh statement and go through it.

Gift of Tongues (and interpretation of tongues) – This one is simple: foreign languages. When LDS people speak of this gift, we aren’t referring to someone having a seizure in their pew and spouting off jibber jabber no one else can understand. When we speak of the gift of tongues, we are literally meaning the ability to communicate (and be understood) in a different language. Thousands of LDS missionaries are blessed with this gift when they travel to foreign lands and need to learn a new tongue fast. The Spirit of God is not a spirit of confusion. He is a spirit of understanding and comprehension.

The Gift of Prophecy and Revelation – These two gifts often go together. We can all receive personal revelation for ourselves and those we have stewardship over. This is prophecy… on an individualistic level. We can all be prophets in this sense. However, only the prophet can receive revelation for the entire Church and the world. Today, the prophet is Thomas S. Monson. As God’s prophet on the earth today, he can receive revelation for us all.

Visions and Dreams– This one is touchy, and should be handled delicately. Many of us have had interesting dreams in which we have had a special spiritual experience. Throughout the world’s history, prophets of God have had visions and dreams. In fact, we find in Numbers 12:6,

And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.

This is actually a rather common way for God to communicate to His prophets. Like I said though, it’s a delicate thing. Personally, I don’t know too much about this topic, and I honestly can’t say I’ve had any first hand experience with it.

Healing – Numerous times did Jesus Christ heal. His apostles also healed many times. This gift can be separated into two categories: faith to heal, and faith to be healed. It takes faith on both ends. Some are blessed with tremendous faith to heal, while others have tremendous faith that healing can take place.

To put it simply, we believe the Spirit of God is still very active in our day. Miracles have not ceased, and if they do, it will be because of our lack of faith.

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 Poetic Corner: Descend and Comprehend

I was searching through some of my old poems this morning and came across this one. I wrote it last March. It’s not terribly clever, but I like a couple of the rhymes. 🙂

Of My Own Design

tension strains, wings beat

but my feet won’t pull free

of the weeds.

 

when i break

You take me in

hold me tight, tell me it’s alright

despite my sin.

 

when i lose my way

You call my name

too many times i ignore Your voice

a selfish choice, pride i should swallow

but the echoes remain for me to follow.

 

i’ve tended only so much

and spent too much time at rest

does this labor speak

for the burning in my chest?

 

when I fall on my face

You hold out Your hand

bring me up to my knees

so i can prepare to stand again

 

The message I wanted to get across is obvious. Jesus Christ is and will always be there for us. In revelation given by the Lord through the prophet Joseph Smith, we read in Doctrine and Covenants Section 88 verse 6,

He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth

Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ descended below all things. He felt all pain, all sin, and all sorrow that accompanies them. He comprehends all things. For myself, this has made all the difference in my life, knowing my Savior has understood my heartaches every step of the way. He understands yours as well, and His hand is always outstretched to pull us back up when we fall.

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.

Build your foundation on Christ.

So… Elder Holbrook and I are attending this awesome institute class on Revelation every Friday with one of our equally awesome investigators, Russ. For the most part, we’ve just started, so we went over the first few chapters, which mostly cover John’s epistles to the seven churches. The Lord compliments each church on what they’re doing correctly, and then tells them what they’re doing wrong and how they will be blessed if they correct their erroneous ways.

The first little epistle is to the church in Ephesus. The Lord compliments them for their patience and diligence in their work, but also rebukes them.

Revelation 2:4-5

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

The Lord tells them that they left their “first love”. So who is their first love? Jesus Christ. Although their works were good, they were performing their good works for the wrong reasons. They forgot Christ and their faith in Him wasn’t present. Faith and works go together. You cannot have one without the other.

Our teacher, the stake president, also told us about a study that was done among seminary students. The students were basically asked to write down what they believed someone must do in order to fully repent. A commonality existed among many of the students’ answers. That is, they often did not mention the need of Christ, or the need to have faith in Jesus Christ.

Faith in Christ is the foundation of everything we do. It is through faith we repent. It is through faith we have hope. It is through works that we show our faith.

Recall Helaman’s words in Helaman 5:12.

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

Christ is our foundation. It is upon Him we build our faith and our testimonies. May we not forget this important fact.

I know Helaman’s words are true, that if we build our foundation upon Christ, we cannot fall.