Serving a mission in London
Serving a mission in London he last two years was an absolutely wonderful experience. I thought I would jot down some of the things we enjoyed the most, and some things learned whilst in England.
- First, I enjoyed the amazing diversity of London. The architecture continued to astound us as we visited various parts of the city and even the smaller villages outside London. There was diversity in the cultures, the food and even the language as so many were speaking English as a second language. But the best part was the diversity of the people; their backgrounds, their accents, their mannerisms and their beliefs. This made the whole experience very interesting and exciting. It was never dull. There was considerable diversity of religions as well. More about that later.
- I enjoyed focusing on missionary work every day, as our number 1 priority. We left the cares of home and family behind, for the most part, and directed our attention to the Lord’s work. It was fun to meet so many new and different people as they came in to visit us in our center. We would try and quickly understand them, where they were coming from, and how we could help them take some small, or large step towards becoming interested in and learning more about Jesus Christ. It was a challenge. Some were members, some were of different faiths, many not Christian, some not. Some even atheist or agnostic. Some came in to set us straight, to tell us our faith was all wrong…..but everyone we met, on the street, or in our center were God’s children, with a need, wither they realize it or not, to come closer to God and Jesus Christ, and fulfill the purpose for which they had been placed on the earth.
- I enjoyed being in a fulltime missionary environment, seeing, greeting and talking to fulltime missionaries every day. I enjoyed attending conferences from the mission president or visiting authorities on a regular basis. It was truly inspirational. We enjoyed our assignment in the visitor’s center because it gave us many opportunities, daily to talk about our church, explain doctrine and testify of Christ. We were able to teach with the missionaries and witness many who gained testimonies and joined the church. We were able to continue to see these newly baptized converts, encourage them and observe how the gospel affected their lives in many positive ways.
- I enjoyed the variety of questions people asked about our church. Some were normal and straight forward. Many were not normal and quite difficult. Some opposing views had rather convincing arguments. There’s nothing like a difficult question, or a rather convincing challenge to what you believe to cause you to really dig into your faith and understand why you believe what you do. As I pondered and analyzed, and prayed about all the opposing opinions that came our way, it did nothing but strengthen my faith and convince me even more that this work that we represent and are engaged in is true, that it is the most complete truth of any philosophy or doctrine or religious persuasion on the earth, and that it is clearly directed by the one source of all truth…..and, I am convinced that the truth, like charity never faileth.
- I enjoyed following up with people who left their information and expressed a desire to learn more about our church. Most of this follow-up was via email, some on facebook, some by phone. The response rate was quite low, but those who did respond gave us ample opportunity to continue to explain truth and invite and encourage them to take positive steps to strengthen their faith or belief in God. Some email conversations brought additional challenging questions or even further disparaging comments. But, many were very grateful for what they learned, continued to progress, began meeting with missionaries in their own areas, and some joined the church. This was all very rewarding.
- We enjoyed the spare time we had. We spent 6 hr/day in the visitor’s center. The rest of the time, including one P-day a week, we were free do as we wanted. We got involved some in the community, we served in our wards, we spent time following up with our contacts, we helped and served the missionaries and members in various ways, we took care of our flat, and we were able to do a lot of exploring. We explored London and several surrounding towns and villages. Our only rule really was to stay inside our mission. Many of these explorations are documented in pages within this blog. I always enjoyed taking photographs. Before my mission most of my pictures were outdoor/nature scenes or family. In London I really enjoyed photographing architecture, buildings, gardens and even people. We really had an enjoyable time in our spare time.
Why do we do what we do
A gentleman came in to the visitor’s center the other day of Israeli background. He said he had been commissioned by the church to study LDS missionaries. He was not a member, and was not here to interview us, rather on vacation, but we had an interesting conversation. At one point he said, I know a lot about your church, and its history. I’ve been to many of your meetings, even leadership meetings. And there is still one thing I can’t figure out. What is it about your church that keeps so many people committed and faithful? Your teachings are difficult and restrictive. Your meetings are rather boring by today’s standards. Your speakers, for the most part, are not entertaining or motivating, your music is not up-beat or popular but rather old fashion. A lot is required in terms of service and sacrifice, and yet you retain your members better than any other denomination in the world, and you are growing faster than other faiths.
So why do we Mormons do what we do? Here are some thoughts:
Because we understand God’s plan for us here on the earth and we understand our part in it. We remain faithful because we have been converted. We have an individual spiritual witness that what we believe is true and what we do is right. We truly believe, and have experienced, that if we learn and apply the teachings of God, our lives will be blessed, we will be happy, we will become more like our Savior and we will prepare to live with him and our Heavenly Father someday. We don’t go to church to be entertained, but to worship God and to renew our covenants with Him. We are not motivated or inspired as much by the speakers or teachers, as we are by the spirit of God. We don’t go just to be feed, but also to help feed and serve others. This all brings us satisfaction, purpose, confidence, peace and happiness.
Andre, a recent convert, sent an email expressing comments by non-members regarding our commandments such as: Your meetings on Sunday are too long, You have to abstain from coffee & tea, you are not allowed to shop on Sunday, you have a dress code at church etc. Put another way, Gentiles (non Jews) should only be subject to the Ten Commandments and no other additional rules.
Response: All of these observations by others are certainly fair and constitute real differences between our church and other Christian faiths. I’d be the first to agree that the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the path that leads to the kingdom of God is not an easy path to follow. It never has been.
I think we really have to step back and ask ourselves why we have religion or a church organization in the first place. If it’s just to give people a spiritual boast once in a while, and give them a sense that they are a religious person, then most religions do a pretty good job of that. But if we are actually God’s children and His purpose for us is to learn and grow and progress so that we can become like him, and if His mechanism for doing that here on this earth is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the facilitating organization is His church….If that is the priority of our lives and everything else is there to help facilitate that growth and development, then religion tends to become much more important, and certainly worth a little more of our time, focus, effort and sacrifice.
At the risk of stating the obvious, let me share my own experience with just one of these concerns, the length of our meetings. There was a time when I used to think 3 hours was a long time, that the meetings were boring and it was a bit of a waste of time….that is until it finally sunk in that I was going to church not because it was a commandment, but because it was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn, serve and grow spiritually… and in the process become more like the Savior. At church I was able to repent and renew my covenants with God, recommit myself to do better the next week, learn more about the gospel from the speakers and more importantly from the Holy Ghost, serve others by participating, making meaningful comments and teaching lessons, and attempt to encourage and uplift others. When I served as bishop I spent 9-10 hours at the church every Sunday, meeting with people, interviewing members, facilitating meetings, giving advice etc…. and this went on for 5 years….and I never felt my time was wasted, rather I felt the experience taught me more about who the Savior is and what He is like than anything I had ever done.
I really believe that once we gain a testimony of this work and realize it is all there not to make our lives more difficult, but to facilitate our growth and development, then the commandments become blessings to us, not burdens.
Finally, and interesting quote along these lines by Joseph Smith:
“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” ― Joseph Smith Jr.
How do I stack up?
Sometimes in a world filled with social media and on-line feedback we may start thinking that who we are and how well we are doing is determined by the number of facebook friends we have, or the number of likes we receive or by the comments others post. We have to be careful not to compare ourselves too much with others or rely too much on their approval or acceptance as an indication of our self-worth. Feedback from other people is good, but it is human and therefore imperfect and should not define us. Who we are and what we can become is not defined by others, it is defined by God, and it is our opportunity, through the decisions we make and the things we do to turn that definition into a reality. It’s nice to impress others, but the only one we really need to impress is God. It’s ok to compare ourselves with others, but the only one we really need to be as good as is our Savior, Jesus Christ. And, as we progress through life, the only one we really need to be better than is ourselves.
PEBBLES of Faith
“One night, in ancient times, three horsemen were riding across a desert. As they crossed a dry riverbed, out of the darkness a voice called, “Halt!” They obeyed. The voice then told them to dismount, pick up handfuls of pebbles, put the pebbles in their pockets, and remount.
“If you have done as I commanded,” the voice then said, “tomorrow at sunup you will be both glad and sorry.”
The horsemen rode on. When the sun rose, they reached into their pockets and found that the pebbles had been transformed into diamonds and other precious stones. Just as they had been warned, they were glad they had taken some pebbles but were sorry they had not taken more.” (Told by Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the Seventy, ensign 10/15)
Often the principles of the gospel that we are encouraged, or told, or commanded to pick up along the way may not see valuable at the time. They may even seem burdensome to carry, or restrict to keep. They may seem to slow us down. But as we continue in life’s path we begin to realize just how valuable these guidelines truly are. We realized that these principles of faith and obedience are pearls of great price; they are the source of our peace and happiness. They transform us into children of Christ, with purpose and direction. We may even wonder why we did not learn them sooner or even acquire more of them when we were young. The good news is that in the Lord’s time, we are never too old, and it is never too late. And there is not just one river bed of pebbles. We can continue to pick them up all along the way and the more true principles we learn and apply, the happier we are.
Why don’t the principles of the gospel look like diamonds in the beginning? It is because the Lord will try our faith, he will test our obedience….he will then pour out his blessings.
When our children were young, we tried to teach them to clean. We would have them sweep the floors, vacuum the carpet, and dust the ledges. They used to complain saying “Why do we have to sweep the floor? It doesn’t even look dirty.” Often times they were right, the floor really didn’t look dirty, but every time, after sweeping it they ended up with a little pile of dirt that needed to be thrown away. The lesson is that you don’t sweep the floor because it’s dirty; you sweep the floor to prevent it from becoming dirty. You sweep the floor to keep it clean. The same concept applies to our repentance. If we repent regularly, we maintain a frame of mind and a process that keeps us clean; a process that prevents our minds and our actions from becoming visibly dirty. If, on the other hand, we procrastinate our repentance until we look and feel dirty, repenting may seem too difficult. It may seem overwhelming. Or it may even be everlastingly too late (Heleman 13:38). Just as it is easier to take small forward steps in our progression, making minor corrections in our behavior is much easier than a major overhaul or a deep cleaning.
What are you willing to give?
King Laman, when faced with losing his life, told Ammon he would be willing to grant whatsoever he would ask, even to half of his kingdom to save himself. Of course Ammon was not interested in his kingdom and only requested that his brothers be freed from prison and that his son Lamoni be able to retain his kingdom. (Alma 20:23) This kind request must have really got King Laman thinking. Now, having been granted his life, the king began to take a closer look at his life. He was king of the Lamanites, but he began to realize that his life was actually quite miserable. Not because he was king, but because his life had something missing. Later, when Aaron explained to him the simple teachings of the gospel, about the spirit of Christ and of eternal life, he began to realize that his focus was on the wrong thing. Laman began to recognize that he needed to do something to get “this evil spirit rooted out of [his] body”, especially if we were talking not just about this life, but eternal life. King Laman was originally willing to give up 1/2 of his kingdom to save his life. Now, with the prospect of a more meaningful and happy life, to receive the Spirit of Christ, he was willing to give up all he possessed, even to forsake his entire kingdom, that he might receive this great joy. (Alma 22: 15)
Who is more important
Some people have an issue with the fact that God has not chosen women as apostles or as other priesthood leaders in our church. For them the implication is that the church discriminates against women or in some way considers them less important or less capable. I worked at Motorola for 30 years. When I first joined the company out of college my goal, like many other young and enthusiastic graduates was to work my way eventually into management. I even started a master’s degree in business administration at a local university. However, after a few years with the company and after becoming familiar with what managers do day to day, I decided I didn’t want to be a manager after all. What I really enjoyed was doing technical work and leading small problem-solving teams. I dropped my interest in management and spent my entire career contributing to the company in technical ways. I was deeply involved in many projects that made Motorola a lot of money. But my name was never on the upper management organization charts, my picture was never in the quarterly report magazines, and yet I felt like I contributed significantly to many important developments. In fact we often complained as engineers, that we did all the real work, and the managers got all the glory.
Every member of our church whether male or female, whether apostle or Sunday school teacher has a significant and essential role to play in our church and they are all equally important in God’s eyes to the success of his work here on the Earth. As the bible says, the head cannot say to the foot “I have no need of thee” (1 Cor 12:21). Somehow we need to get past the thinking, so prevalent in the world, that the more visible positions are somehow more important, at least in the religious sense. The work of God is not accomplished by his apostles and priesthood leaders only; any more than Motorola’s micro-chips are produced by its managers. You could almost argue that those who interact on an individual basis, teaching truth, strengthening faith and serving those in need, have a more real impact on the progress of God’s children. Such comparisons are not terribly important however, but they do help us to understands Christ’s statement: “And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour” (1 Cor 12:23).
Let us also remember that the qualifications to enter the kingdom of heaven have nothing to do with the positions we hold, but everything to do with our obedience, our faith, our diligence and who we are inside. Faithful members of Christ’s true church, men or women, do not aspire for positions, rather they accept them as an opportunity to serve. They aspire to be like their Savior. This is the true worth of a soul that is great in the sight of God (D&C 18:10) As Samuel pointed out, it’s only men, or the world, who looketh at the outward appearance, the Lord looketh on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Perhaps God made us all different to teach us tolerance. Can you imagine if all of us had the same skin color, if all of us were equally healthy, had the same social background, had the same ability and opportunities to learn, or liked to do the same things. If people were all the same, how would we ever learn important qualities like empathy, understanding, service, humility, patience, charity & love? Satan however, will try to utilize these differences to bring out more negative emotions in us, like hatred, jealousy, selfishness, vanity, pride etc. So when we see, meet or hear of someone God made quite different than us, may we see them as God sees them, learn from them what God would have us learn and treat them as God would.
God’s Prophets and apostles
General conference is always wonderful. There were many great messages. One item that seemed to surface quit often was a re-affirmation of the divine call of our prophets and apostles, both former and present. I have thought about this in conjunction with comments we often receive at the visitor’s center of why our church leaders are all white, are all men, and are all so old. I guess we might ask ourselves, what does a prophet or an apostle of God do? What is his job description? What has it been through the ages? The bible tells us: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7). Their primary responsibility is to receive the will of God and communicate it to the people. So what are the qualifications for this kind of work? Young, vivacious, dynamic, forward thinking, in touch with public wishes….or would it be, Humble, receptive, spiritual, experienced, faithful, stalwart, willing and able to listen to the Lord….etc.?
The next question we should ask is: how are prophets and apostles of God chosen? Who should make the choice?
If we were to believe that God’s prophets and apostles are called or chosen by God, then if we question why God chose who He chose, then we might well ask Him, as He is the only one with the answer. If we believe rather that they are not chosen by God, but are chosen by men and according to men’s democratic standards, then you can reasonably ask why their appearance or diversity is not more acceptable by men’s standards. But God does in fact choose the leaders of his church and God does not see as man seeth, for men looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
When Mike Wallace, in a 1996 interview with Gordon B. Hinckley, pointed out that our church is “a church run by old men”, president Hinckley immediately responded, “Isn’t it wonderful to have a man of maturity at the head, a man of judgment who isn’t blown about by every wind of doctrine?”
I am very grateful that our prophet and apostles are in fact chosen by God, that they have been qualified by God, through years of experience and faithful service, and that they, through their example and teachings do represent the will of God to us, God’s people on the earth.
The Lord loves us so much He gave us commandments. He knows what is best for us. He knows what will lead us to happiness. He knows He must let us be the one to choose however. We must assert our agency to follow His path and when we do He is ready to bless us.
… “We are surrounded by persuasive voices, beguiling voices, belittling voices, sophisticated voices, and confusing voices. I might add that these are loud voices. I admonish you to turn the volume down and to be influenced instead by that still, small voice which will guide you to safety.” Thomas S. Monson
Grace as many churches teach will allow you to comfortably qualify for the Telestial kingdom, and this without doing much more than accepting Christ as your Savior.
But God’s grace can do so much more for us. If we apply the rest of what the scriptures teach about faith and works, and obeying God’s commandments; if we use our repentance and God’s grace as a means to improve and progress in our obedience; if we become equally yoked with God in the process and work together, we can be saved, not just in the lowest rung of heaven, but be exalted in the Celestial kingdom and live where God and Christ dwell. This life is not about accepting Christ and doing what we want, it’s about accepting Christ and doing what he wants.
Faith & eternity
One gentleman came in to the visitor’s center to use the Luo. After, he started looking around at our displays, particularly the prophets and apostles. I struck up a conversation with him. He was curious about who these men were, how they were chosen, why they were all so old, why they were all white, why they were only men etc. Then we got into a discussion about God. He was interested in why I believe, and how I believed in God. It came out that he was an atheist, a scientist. He wondered about, if there was a God, where he was, why he doesn’t manifest himself, and what is the evidence that he actually exists. We talked about all his questions and concerns. We talked about the world, its creation, evolution etc. At one point I mentioned that God was a God of truth and always used natural laws to do his work, even the creation. Then he asked, “So did God make the natural laws? If God just follows them, then who made them, and wouldn’t that imply that there is someone greater than God.” It was good question! Of course at this point I had to say, there are many things our finite minds do not know or understand…yet. We then talked about faith, and the opportunity we have, and need to have to develop faith; about the opportunity to develop the spiritual side of our senses through faith. This spiritual sensitivity is just as important as sight, sound, or touch. Even when Christ was on the earth and did all kinds of miracles in front of the people, that they all would have perceived with their ‘normal’ senses, things that indicated he was the God of this world; still, only a few believed in him, only those who had faith, who had developed their spiritual sensitivity and were converted. And, only those who had faith and were converted spiritually, retained their belief and devotion and were able to receive the blessings of the believers. We should be thankful for the opportunity to walk by faith and acquire a spiritual conversion.
This man asked another interesting question, after a short discussion on the plan of salvation. He said, “Do you really want to live forever?” I guess, since I’ve always thought that I would, I had never really considered if I really wanted to or not. In response I said, “Absolutely, because I think it might take me that long to become like God and learn all that He knows.” Later I got thinking (a dangerous pass-time, I know). I guess to those who believe God is some mystical entity that has no form and is incomprehensible , or to those who believe that salvation amounts to singing praises in bliss the rest of our existence, or to those who believe it is very presumptuous and wrong of Mormons to believe they can become like God, or worse yet, to those who believe there is no God and no heaven at all; to those people, I guess the prospect of living forever may not be so enticing, and might encourage them to believe otherwise. How nice it is to have the fullness of the gospel, a gospel that makes full sense, and is encouraging and motivating to follow.
Plan of Salvation
What is the biggest difference between a flight simulator and a real plane? If you mess up on a flight simulator you’re not dead. A simulator is a learning experience where the consequences of our mistakes are sure, but not fatal, where we can learn from our mistakes to improve our ability and performance. The Plan of Salvation provides a similar learning experience. It is this earth life. It is a time of probation, a time to learn from our mistakes and improve our ability and performance. It is a time when mistakes, even serious ones are not fatal, if we will repent, and take advantage of the atonement of Christ. But this life is very real, in the sense that there is a flight plan and our experiences here are preparing us for and taking us to our ultimate destination.
Remodeling or Lives
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
I believe we all came to understand through our last zone conference that greater faith is needed in our Mission if we want to accomplish our goals. Let’s begin our quest for increased faith by demonstrating increased obedience. The wonderful thing about obedience is that it lies within our power. Faith is a gift from God, but obedience is an exercise of agency. As Alma put it, “And even all this can ye do if ye will.” (Alma 33:23). Look in the mirror and decide what needs to change and what you are willing to give away to be blessed with the gift of greater faith.
Pres David Jordan, England London Mission, 2015
Mission conference with Elder Holland
We had a wonderful missionary conference with Elder Holland in early June. He talked a lot about how important it was that each missionary have at least one convert on their mission…themselves; about how terrible it would be to go home and become less active and turn your back on what you know to be true. He said missionaries are apostolic. They do exactly what apostles do…they teach and testify of Jesus Christ. When we return home after our missions, we don’t return to our former lives. On our missions we have become transformed, converted, and have become new and better people. This ‘is’ our life. This is the real life. And this is the life we should live for the rest of our lives. We should live the missionary life, the rest of our lives. We are members of a church of progression. We expect our investigators to progress, we too should continue to grow and change and progress. This is a church with an uphill climb. As Keir put it once – the trajectory to the Celestial kingdom slopes up. If we stay the same, and don’t improve, and consider all is well in Zion, or all is well with ourselves, we are on a level trajectory and we are heading for the Terrestrial kingdom. If we slack, and coast, and falter, and become less active, we are on a negative trajectory and we are heading for the Telestial kingdom. It’s that simple. Elder Holland said: If we want to live with God and Christ, we have to improve and become a little better each day, a little more like God and Christ. We have to progress. Why is it hard? Because salvation is not an easy proposition, salvation is hard.
If we are going to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, then we have to pay a little of the price that he paid. We shouldn’t hope for an easy mission. This is not the church of an easy, blissful life. It’s the church of Jesus Christ. We have to experience a little of what he experienced.
Elder Holland asked: Would you be willing to give up your life for the gospel of Jesus Christ, like Joseph Smith did? He then said “I am giving my life for the gospel of Jesus Christ.” We should all be giving our lives for this gospel. Being killed for the gospel would be easy. It’s living for the gospel that’s hard. (Notes from England London Mission conference June 2015)
Catalina was baptized some time ago. Her story is: Elder Johnson & Elder Torgeson had just attended a zone meeting in which they had discussed various finding techniques. At the end they were challenged to go out on the street and find somebody using a technique they had learned from another missionary. Elder Torgeson and Johnson went out on the street in front of the Visitor’s Center and the first person they stopped was Catalina. “They said excuse me, can we sing you a song?” Even before she responded they started singing “Love at home” to her. She felt the spirit and accepted an invitation to come into the Visitor Center and learn more. 2 1/2 months later she was baptized. At her baptism several of the Elders and Sisters sang Love at Home, at her request.
Consider what you believe
I have often thought about individuals who are professed atheist, or who promote gay marriage or other odd beliefs. God has placed us all here on this earth and given us free agency. This is true, wither we believe there is a God or not. As individuals we are all able to choose what we will believe. But when we decide what to believe there are a couple things we should consider.
1) What will this belief do for me and where will it take me. When we choose a path to follow, we also choose the destination that path leads to. We should consider where our beliefs will take us or what those beliefs will do for us in 5 years, in 25 years. What will our belief make of us by the end of our lives, or beyond this life for that matter.
2) We should also consider: “What would the world be like if everyone believed the same as I do. Would I be happy and content living in that world? What if everyone on the earth believed there was no God. What if they all believed we should be able to do whatever we want, that it really doesn’t matter because we just live and die and that’s it (the words of my atheist friend).
What if everyone was an atheist? If no one believed in God, there would probably be no churches, and who would teach morals to the people? If everyone was gay, that would certainly be an odd world…a good method of population control I guess.
I am very grateful for the gospel and it’s simple, profound and true teachings. God’s true teachings will make a great deal of us over the years, and certainly the world would be a better place if everyone adhered to them. The only down side to a world full of people who believe and live the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we may have to redefine how we do missionary work. A good problem…
The Piano Guys visited London recently. They presented a devotional and a concert, both of which we were able to attend. We have a connection with them because Steven Sharp Nelson and his wife Julie are good friends with our son Devin and his wife Lisa. I would like to share my favorite message from their visit. Steven talked about their tour in South America. They performed next to the famous “Christ the Redeemer” statue which is situated high on a hill above Rio de Janeiro. In the same trip they also performed at the foot of Iguazu Falls, one of the most spectacular and scenic waterfalls in the world. Steven said “The statue of Christ above Rio is a beautiful monument, built by men to show their love for God. Iguazu falls is a beautiful natural wonder, created by God to show his love for man.
The general authorities of the church are old, in their 80’s & 90’s. They are not fit for careers anymore. Companies won’t hire them. They’re too old. Companies won’t hire our young Elders and Sisters either. They haven’t finished their education, they have no degrees, and they have no experience. They are too young. By the world’s standards these people are of no significant value, and yet the Lords uses these individuals, the weak things of the world, you could say, to accomplish and carry forward his work, all over the earth, with amazing efficiency and success. (Elder Nielsen, mission conference, London 2015).
You get what you focus on
This week a man came in, said he was a member of our church, a mechanical engineer who worked for Disney and was in London on business. He brought up several topics that I thought were quite odd and gave me the impression that he was probably not a member in good standing. He brought up conference and how during the sustaining of leaders there had been 5 dissenting votes. He said the dissenters had talked to leaders and their concerns were not taken seriously. He said the church doesn’t fully disclose their finances like they used to. He claimed the church had not been forthright in admitting many of the questionable historical events, like Joseph having many wives and being sealed to young girls. He was surprised that the church didn’t pay me for being on a mission. He said when he did work for someone they paid him a lot of money, and if he was going to do work for the church he would expect the same. I addressed his concerns as best I could. I then told him members must be very careful when they start focusing on things like this. When you choose a path, you also chose where that path will lead you, and focusing on negative things, wither about the church or in other areas of life, will certainly lead to a life of frustration and disbelief. I told him that all churches have negative things about their past. Compared to the Church of England and its past, our church looks pretty good. Even Christianity itself has a pretty bleak past. However, any issues, faults, or negative events in our past or present are because of the weaknesses and faults of humans, like you and I, not because God’s work is not true or because what he promotes is not the best for us. We can focus on the negatives and the imperfections and the weaknesses of men, or we can focus on what is true and good and how those truths can make us a better person, live a meaningful life and help us assist God in fulfilling His mission for His children. The former brings frustration, doubt and regression. The latter brings understanding, peace and progression. The choice is up to us. Questioning and criticizing is the easy way out. Anyone can do it really. Believing, exercising faith, proving things and following what is true is much more difficult. And as with anything in life the more difficult path always brings the greatest rewards.
Knowing & Doing
Testimony is all about knowing and doing. When it comes to testimony, the people of the world usually fall into one of 4 categories;
- Those who don’t know: those who have not heard the gospel.
- Those who know but don’t know: those who know ‘about’ the gospel but don’t know it’s true, have not sought and received a personal spiritual conviction. (Amulek; Alma 10: 5-6)
- Those who know but don’t do: those who have a testimony, who know that Christ lives and the church is true, but do not act on that testimony in their daily decisions and activities.
- Those who know and do: those who have a testimony and act on it, and are progressing daily towards perfection.
Back in August (2014) a young lady named Rachael came to the visitors enter. She was 17 years old, lives in Scotland and had learned about the church on the internet. She had been taking missionary lessons on-line via email, facebook and skype from Sister Van der Leek, and others. She loves reading the Book of Mormon. She read it the first time in 1.5 months, then she ordered her own copy from the LDS distribution center. She showed us how she had been marking it with different colors by subject. She was also working on her personal progress. At the time she had never attended church and we were the first missionaries she had ever met in person. She was so happy to be in a real Mormon church and talk to missionaries face-to-face. She was even able to meet her on-line teacher. At the time she wanted very badly to join the church but could not because her parents do not approve and she was underage. She had a strong testimony however, and was determined to continue progressing in the gospel until circumstances allowed her to join the church. She continued to work with different missionaries. Then in February this year, while attending college, after almost a year of investigating the church, she turned 18 and very soon after was baptized. She is a committed and faithful member and is even talking seriously about serving a mission.
Spiritual Medical services
The church of Jesus Christ is not a prestigious health club for the spiritually fit. It is a hospital for the spiritually weak and needy. Wither we have a spiritual wart that needs to be removed, or we are in need of a spiritual organ transplant, the church should stand ready to operate. Christ is the master physician and the purpose of this church is to bring us to him. The church should be a spiritual emergency room, from which no one is turned away. It should be a spiritual rehabilitation center where those who have share with those who need. It should be a long term care facility, where we persist with everyone and give up on no one.
How valuable are we
I have often wondered, if someone were to come into my house, and go through all my stuff, in detail, what would they find? What would they learn about me? What would they learn about how I spend my time, or about what is important to me? Would they find anything of real value? What if they went through my office at work, or my ipod, or my cell phone, or my computer? I began to realize that our homes, our friends, our toys and our gadgets are actually an extension of who we really are. And, if we are uncomfortable with or ashamed of any of these extensions, then surely the purging or the improving must begin with us individually.
As we do God’s will, He will bless us. He will make us rich, and valuable, but not necessarily in worldly things. God will make us rich the same way He is rich. After all, we do what we do to inherit what God has, not what the world has to offer.
Success in the work
3 weeks ago was a good Sunday. We witnessed the baptism of three individuals. The first was Jared, a Chinese convert in the Young Single Adult (YSA) ward. He was baptized by a young man from India, Sanjay, who joined the church just 1 month ago. The baptism and Holy Ghost talks were given by two Chinese gals, one a convert of 9 months, the other about 12 months. The second baptism was a young mother from the Philippines. The third was her 8 yr old son. She was introduced to the church by her friend, Malu, also from the Philippines, who joined the church just last month.
The next Sunday we talked to Chilli for a bit. She’s the Chinese convert I’ve mentioned before. She was so excited to see us as usual. She said “Yesterday I went to the temple for the first time. It was so beautiful.
It was so neat because when I went in there, everyone was dressed in white and looked so pure. I saw people siting, in white, reading the scriptures. I felt so happy. I thought this must be what heaven is like. Then I got to do baptisms for some of Bishop White’s family members. I felt so privileged!” It is so fun to hear the perspective of these new church members.
Last weekend on Saturday Lisa was baptized. She is the sister of one of the members of our ward. Then on Sunday the Britannia YSA Ward had 3 baptisms, Matt, Phillis & Annie. Matt is English, Phillis & Annie are both Chinese. We had several people who came off the street to learn more about the church. One couple came in while the YSA ward was still visiting after church. He was from Italy. She was from Romania. Holly and I gave them a tour and then introduced them to some YSA folks. The gal from Romania then recognized one of the YSA’s. She knew him from the university, where they are currently working together on a PHD project. This young man has his own story. He’s not a member, yet. His first introduction to the church was a year ago when he came off the street into the VC to learn about our church. He remembers well the tour that Sister Van Der Leek, from So. Africa gave him. He said he had not been able to forget about this experience and has been looking into the church for a year. Recently he decided to look up the missionaries again and is now taking the lessons and has a baptism date set.
One other quick story. Last Thur I got to help the Elders teach Daniel. He seemed to accept everything we taught him about the plan of salvation and the restoration of the church, but when we taught him that he should not drink coffee or alcohol, or smoke tobacco, he became very hesitant. He said he was not sure he really wanted to be a Mormon. He was curious about our church, happy to learn about it, but very content with his current, religion and didn’t want to continue the lessons any more. At length we were able to commit him to at least read and pray about the Book of Mormon for just one week. If after that he did not want to continue with the lessons, that would be fine, but he had to at least give it a try. He agreed. The next day the Elders said he had read the Book of Mormon and his attitude had changed considerably. We have seen him since at several activties and I believe he has plans to be baptized. The Book of Mormon is a powerful tool.
Saved by Grace
Saying we are saved by grace only and need no works and suggesting that the Bible teaches this, is like buying a packet of corn seeds and only reading the part of the instructions that says the seeds need sunlight to grow. Sunlight is free, right? Just set the seeds in the sun. But, if you don’t plant the seeds, water the seeds, fertilize the plants and pull the weeds, you’ll never get corn of any value. Clearly when you read all the instructions in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, you learn there is much more to salvation than just accepting Christ and his atonement.
Some ask: “How far can I go without breaking the law of Chastity?”
When I was young, we used to go to an amusement park called Lagoon, in Farmington Utah. One of my favorite places there was the fun house. The fun house had all kinds of interesting places to explore and obstacles to attempt to traverse. There were slides and tunnels and platforms with huge shaking barrels. In the middle of the fun house was a huge round platform. People would pile on to the platform and then it would begin to spin around and around, faster and faster. As it increased in speed the centrifugal force would cause people on the edge of the platform to be thrown off, into a padded area around the edge. As the platform increased in speed, more and more people would go flying off the platform until at last there would be only 1 or 2 individuals still remaining, in the very center of the circle, where the force was the smallest.
Clearly the closer you are to the edge; the more likely you are to fall off. It’s the same with the commandments. We should not ask ourselves how far can we go without breaking this commandment, but how far away from the breaking point can we stay.
Knots and the Commandments
When I was a boy scout they always taught us to tie knots. As a boy, I could care less about knots. Knots were difficult to learn and easy to forget. I couldn’t figure out why I had to learn them. I never used them. I figured it was just a way for the scout master to keep us scouts busy, to keep us from tearing the place apart. Later in life, I became a scout master and had to teach knots. That’s actually when I really learned to tie knots, and it’s also when I finally learned that they really are useful because I was able to apply them and use them in all kinds of ways around the house and when we went on trips with the family, especially camping trips. Sometime later I developed an interest in rappelling, canyoneering and rock climbing and learned that knots were essential and when tied correctly could save my life. This new found understanding of and appreciation for knots enabled me to explore caves and deep canyons; to see and experience things I had never done before and would not have been able to were it not for knots.
The commandments of God may seem restrictive. They may seem difficult to live and easy to forget. We may fail to see the value or the logic in obeying them. But, without exception, if God has asked us to obey them, then we can be confident they will be for our good, and though they may be difficult to obey at first, if we apply the effort to learn them and follow them, over time they will become easier to remember and live. We will begin to see their real value and benefit in our lives. The commandments will then become enabling to us, allowing us to feel, experience and understand things we would never have be able to, without them.
Any church will do
It doesn’t matter which church you belong to. It’s all one God, right?
Saying that any church will do may be another way of saying I’m too lazy to figure out which one is the best, or which one is actually true. It’s like saying all cars are the same. Sure, this new car cost $30k and this old one cost $1k, but they’re both cars, right? They both have tires and motors and take you places, right? It really depends on what you want out of your car. If your goal is to drive to the other side of London and then you’re done, then the $1k car will probably do. But, If you want to drive all around England and Scotland and see the sights for the next several weeks, the $1k car will probably not do. If our goal is to just get to the lowest rung of heaven, or just avoid going to hell, then yes, any church will do. But if our goal is to get to the highest rung of heaven, the Celestial kingdom, to live with God and become one with him as the scriptures say; and be completely happy throughout all eternity, then not just any church will do. You need one that has the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The only church on the earth that has enough truth to get you back to God’s Celestial kingdom is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Does it take more effort to come up with $30k than $1k? Absolutely; Likewise, the church with the complete truth will require more effort. But isn’t that what this life is all about? We are here to learn, grow and progress. A religion that encourages that can only be good for us, in every way. “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation…” (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, 6:7).
Men & Women Leaders
When we tell people, particularly some women about our living prophet and Apostles they will sometimes ask why there aren’t any women serving in these positions of leadership in our church.
Response: Throughout the history of the world, God has called men to be his prophets and apostles. He continues this pattern today.I believe it has to do with the different roles he has given to men and women as part of his plan for his children here on the earth. He is our God, and our father, and knows what’s best for his children. However, just because men are called as apostles and prophets does not mean that women do not also have significant and equally important responsibilities as leaders and teachers. Our church has the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world. It is led by a general presidency of 3 women, and lead locally by 10’s of thousands of women presidencies in various locations around the world. Women also lead our churches organization for young children and its organization for our young women members. They participate equally with men in all our local church counsels where they discuss how to best minister to local members. God looks at men and women are equals and the roles and responsibilities they each perform in his church are certainly of equal important to him and to his work here on the earth.
We are often asked if we believe and accept that gay people are just different, perhaps born with gay tendencies and that’s why they are as they are. I’m not sure I believe gay people were born with gay tendencies. I certainly believe some people have them, most likely because of their inherent personality, the environment they were raised in or other influences in their lives. But people have all kinds of different tendencies. Some have a tendency to lie, some to drink, some to view pornography, some just have a bad temper. The reason God has given us commandments is to give us guidelines and to help us control our bad tendencies and focus on doing things that will be best for us and best for all of God’s children; and by so doing bring us all happiness and peace. Having a tendency to lie is not in itself sinful, but lying all the time is bad, and against God’s commandments and if everyone lied, the world would be a worse place. The same applies to homosexuality.
People who live in a society where everyone obeys the commandments of God live in a society of service and of equals. No one is better than another, no one should have more privilege than the next and everyone should serve one another. Even the leaders who are appointed or chosen at a given time are no better than anyone else, but for a time they have the responsibility to lead and teach the people about God’s ways of service and equality. People descend from such a society when they become focused not on others, but on themselves; when they want or expect more privilege or notoriety or power than the next person; when they start to think because I’m smarter or better or have more, I am superior and should be treated above the rest. In other words they become proud and seek for power. “All” the wars in the BofM were caused and fought because of this. The Lamanites thought they should have the ruling power over the people. The Nephite decenters were desirous to have a king and set up a society of unequal’s, where they and their good friends had more privilege. The Gadianton robbers wanted to live off the labors of others instead of supporting themselves. The only “Kingdoms” in the BofM that worked or lasted were the ones where the kings considered themselves equals to the people (Kings Mosiah & Benjamin).
The gospel is not about people thinking they are better or smarter than another, it’s about people helping other people have or know or understand what they have…..helping everyone to progress and learn and be as equals. Even God, the greatest of all is not about putting himself above us, but rather helping us become as he is, to become equal or one with him.
The church and tacos
People often say to us: Your church sounds a lot like mine; I mean there’s only one God, right, and we all worship him and have faith, right……?
All Christian churches believe in God. They believe in Jesus Christ. They also believe that Jesus is our savior and suffered for our sins. For the most part they believe that we should be good people and obey God’s commandments.
Consider comparing the churches of the world to a taco. The church is the tortilla shell. The most important thing inside the shell is the meat. The belief in God & Jesus Christ, to have faith and be good people is the meat of a church, of any church. But what makes a taco really good and enjoyable to eat is the extras. When you add to the meat the lettuce, cheese, onions, salsa, spices etc., then the taco becomes most enjoyable to eat. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of coarse believes in the meat. But our church offers many extras, additional truths that are not found in other churches. For example a belief in continuing revelation, a prophet that lives on the earth today and receives revelation for Gods children relative to modern concerns and challenges. An organization of 12 apostles and other priesthood leaders, just like the organization that Christ set up when he was in Jerusalem; The benefit of additional scripture, like the Book of Mormon that provides another witness of Jesus Christ and a clearer understanding of his teachings. Temples, like the one Solomon built that allows ordinances such a baptism to be performed for our ancestors who have died and marriages that last not just for this life, but for all eternity. One of the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world that helps women succeed as leaders, teachers and mothers…..to name a few. Not all religions are created equal. We believe we have not just a portion of the truth, we believe we have ‘all’ truth necessary to allow us to return to and live happily with God. And if God feels there is additional truth or guidance necessary, it will be revealed to his living prophet. It’s the whole enchilada. It’s the best and most delicious taco you’ll ever taste.
(Based on a comment made by a member in priesthood meeting, Hyde Park 2nd ward).
Who’s in Charge?
I loved Elder Robbin’s talk from our last general conference about “which way do you face.” I love the concept that the authorities of the church represent the prophet to the people not the people to the prophet. I think the same could be said about the prophet. He represents the Savior to the people, not the people to the Savior. I was thinking afterwards about the plight of the ordain women’s movement. They petition and picket the prophet and the apostles to try to get an age old policy of Christ’s church modified. As if the prophet and the apostles had responsibility for this policy, or the ability to change it. It seems they are petitioning the wrong person or persons. This is the Lord’s church. He gives the directions. If they are to petition anyone, is seems it should be the Lord himself.
Lessons from war
The 2000 Stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon were young and inexperienced (see Alma 53; 56–58). They were going to fight an enemy that was blood thirsty, savage, and had an extreme hatred towards them and their families. They themselves had been very obedient, righteous, and real examples of faith and diligence. They had done nothing in their lives to justify them having to go to war and fight. I’m sure they prayed earnestly as they went to battle to be blessed to overcome their enemy. I’m sure they prayed with exceeding faith, as they were well known for their faith and obedience. The Lord could have sent legions to protect them, even to fight their battles for them, to protect them from harm and suffering, to turn their enemies away, but he didn’t. He spared their lives but he did not spare them from the terrible experience of war. All of them had to face first-hand the fear of battle and the challenges of defending one’s freedom. All of them received many wounds, some very severe. Had the Lord answered their prayer by sparing them from these trials they would have had a much different learning experience; perhaps gained the wrong impression about life and the consequences of evil and sin. They may have learned that if you pray, God just sends miracles to protect you from harm and danger, to illuminate hardship and suffering. Instead they learning that war is a terrible thing, that it is wrong to have such hatred for one other and that disobedience to Gods laws and commandments often results in tragedy, hatred, conflict and suffering, for many people, even good, righteous people.
God doesn’t answer our prayers to spare us from life’s learning experiences, but to immerse us in them….. because his main interest, as ours should be is for us to take full advantage of this life and it’s experiences, to learn all we can, so as to become more like him. His goal is to help us learn what he knows and understand what he understands, through experiencing life, as he did. (See also Elder Bednar’s talk in conference 10/13 “The Windows of Heaven”)
The Gospel finds Tram
Sister Lee is a missionary who was serving in the visitor’s center when we arrived. She was recently transferred to Northampton. After her first week there she related this story of how the Lord prepared the heart of Tram, a 27 year old young woman from Vietnam to receive the gospel.
Tram’s father and his two sisters heard about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a friend during the war in Vietnam when they were young. They all had the desire to learn more and follow the gospel; however, the communists soon took over the whole country, and they were not allowed to have religious freedom. Being under this situation, they had very limited information about the Church. The two sisters of Tram’s father eventually were able to move out of Vietnam. One of them found the Church in the States while the other one joined the Church in Australia. According to Tram, her aunts have been members of the Church for almost 30 years. Throughout these years, they have been trying to share the gospel with Tram’s family in Vietnam.
Fifteen years ago, Tram’s father passed away, and in his will to Tram, he expressed that his wish was for Tram to find the Mormon church and join them if she gets to leave the country one day. Tram continued to keep in contact with her aunt in the States and learned about the Church little by little via email. Her aunt’s testimony and her experience of how the gospel has helped her come closer to God and be happier really touched Tram’s heart and she really desired to follow the wish of her father. She had always been praying in her heart that she would find the Mormons in the future.
Recently she had the opportunity to come to England to study. It was the first time she had ever left Taiwan. She got the email of the mission president in the Birmingham mission somehow and wrote to him to find out more about the Mormon church in Northampton where her university would be. The mission president gave her the phone number of the sister missionaries in Northampton. Tram wrote to her aunt and asked her what she should do, and her aunt replied that she should contact the missionaries and they would tell her everything she needed to know to become a member. Therefore, she called the missionaries in Northampton with great excitement to inform them that she would be coming to England soon and she would like to come to Church on her first Sunday in England. She is now being taught by Sister Lee (who speaks Chinese) and Sister Stoja and accepted a baptismal date for 11th October 2014 right away in her first meeting. Even though she does not have a clear idea who God is, her desire of coming closer to her Heavenly Father and her faith are remarkable. She told the missionaries, “God has guided me here, and He has sent you to me.”
Prayer and a wedged key
Malcolm Metcalf, a member of our ward told us this story: He said once he was in a hurry to go somewhere but when he got in his car he accidentally put the wrong key into the ignition and got it wedged in there. He tried and tried and couldn’t get it out. Being a bit stressed about it he decided to pray for help. He then tried to free it again and the key broke off in the ignition. Now he was really in a fix. He wondered why after he had just prayed for help his key broke, making things even worse. He now had to call AAA and get them to come out and remove the broken key from his ignition. When AAA arrived they freed the key in a matter of seconds and showed him how to easily free such keys himself in the future. What seemed a negative answer to prayer was actually very positive, teaching him a skill he was happy to know for future use. A high councilor I once served with said he believed that God answers our prayers in one of three ways. 1)Yes, 2) Not now, or 3) I’ve got something better in mind.
Who Saves Us?
We had a man come into the visitors center named John who was very interested in our church, at least intellectually. We had a great conversation about many different Christian teachings. We had just talked about Jesus Christ and how important his atonement was to our salvation. He said he had been studying Buddhism and he liked the idea they promote that we as individuals are in charge of our own spiritual destiny; that we need to find for ourselves Nirvana through sacrifice, meditation and self-denial; that it should not be up to a God to decide if we are saved or not. We told him that his thinking was closer to the truth than some might think. God teaches his truths and his commandments through his prophets and the scriptures, but he cannot save us. We must save ourselves by conforming our lives to what he prescribes. God will not decide if we are saved or not, we will decide through our decisions and actions here on the earth. Of course we need God’s teachings and Christ’s atonement to enable salvation, but God wants all of his children to be saved, and all who follow him and take advantage of his atonement can be.
The atonement, repentance and piano
An excerpt from a talk given in Sacrament meeting on 8/10/14
Some time ago Elder Brad Wilcox gave a speech at BYU on the subject of grace. In his speech he compared Christ’s atonement to a child taking piano lessons. It went something like this. The parents pay for the child to take piano lessons. The child goes to the lessons and learns to play piano. The child receives the benefit of a new skill, but he doesn’t have to pay for the lessons, nor is he required to pay his parents back for the lessons. The only thing the parent asks for, as payment is…practice. The parent is happy to pay for the lessons as long as the child practices. Why? The practice doesn’t benefit the parent, it benefits the child. The reward of practice for the child is that he will become proficient at playing the piano, a skill that will benefit him the rest of his life. The reward of practice for the parent is seeing their child progress, learn discipline and become better at something. The whole process can bring significant joy to both the parent and the child.
Jesus Christ paid the price for or sins when he suffered for them in Gethsemane. He does not ask us for repayment. His joy and happiness come as we take advantage of his suffering and apply the atonement in our lives….as we practice repentance. Our joy can likewise be full as we practice repentance and cleanse our lives from sin.
My wife and I were blessed with 6 wonderful children. My wife was very good with our children. She also plays piano very well and she knew learning to play piano would be a great blessing to our children as well. She was able to get each of our six children to take piano lessons. It was not really an option in our family not to learn to play the piano, it was just something our family did. We paid for a lot of piano lessons and encouraged daily practice. The result is that we now have six children who can play piano. When we now see them playing in church or for their children to sing at home, you can imagine, it brings great joy to our hearts. We don’t even think about the cost of the lessons or the complaining we used to hear about practice, we are just filled with satisfaction to see how this skill is blessing the lives of our children.
Can you imagine how happy it makes our heavenly father and our Brother Jesus Christ feel to see us faithfully taking advantage of the atonement, on a regular, consistent basis….seeing the wonderful, practiced skill of repentance blessing our lives each day.
The process of learning piano was not always easy for our kids. Sometimes there was a lot of coaxing, encouraging, pleading, perhaps even threatening, to get them to practice. But for each one of them there came a time when they moved past all of that. There came a time when we would see them sit down, by themselves, at the piano and just work at it, without being asked or encouraged, because they wanted to get better. They had moved from “Mom” wants me to play to “I” want to play. They finally understood the connection between practice and the joy of playing a peace without a mistake. They had figured it out…. they got it. Now they were true piano players.
Certainly you can see the parallel here with the atonement. I’m sure Christ is very happy when we eventually ‘get it.’ When we repent and change and improve because we know it will make us better, that it will make us happy. We are then true Christians.
So, what If we are still at that stage where practicing repentance is difficult…. where we need to be persuaded or coaxed to take advantage of the atonement? Let us extend this piano example just a little further.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is our music. The commandments are the notes on the page. The music is always right. The notes are always perfect. All we have to do is conform our playing to the notes & the music. If we make a mistake, as we all will, we just try again. We shouldn’t get discouraged, because this is the learning process. In the gospel if we break a commandment, we just try again, until we get it right. At this point God is much more interested in our practice, than he is in our perfection. He wants us to learn to keep trying, keep progressing, getting a few more notes right each time. If we do he is happy and we can & should be happy as well.
In this process I think it is important to realize that Christ is our teacher and our example. But he is not someone that we just visit once a week at our music lesson, he is with us all the time, all the way. He is our private mentor, always there to support and strengthen us.
But with any mentor, if we don’t show effort and take personal imitative, He may decide to concentrated His efforts on those more ready to learn or more willing to change.
A few years ago Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge gave a talk in conference that I think is applicable here. He said:
“We might think we can’t really follow [Christ] because the standard of His life is so astonishingly high as to seem unreachable. We might think it is too hard, too high, too much, beyond our capacity, at least for now. Don’t ever believe that. While the standard of the Lord is the highest, don’t ever think it is only reachable by a select few who are most able. It’s not just for a select few.
Remember that unlike every other experience in this life, this is not a human endeavor. It is, rather, the work of God. It is God’s work and it is His “glory . ..” (Moses 1:39.) There is nothing else like it. Not anywhere. Not ever
……The Lord’s way is not hard. Life is hard. The gospel is not hard, life is. “There is an opposition in all things,” (2 Nephi 2:11.) everywhere, for everyone. Life is hard for all of us, but life is also simple.
We have only two choices.
- We can either follow the Lord and be endowed with His power [and his help,] and have peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love, and joy, or
- we can go some other way, any other way, whatever other way, and go it alone—without His support, without His power, without guidance, in darkness, turmoil, doubt, grief, and despair.
And I ask, which way is easier?
He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. End Quote
” (Matthew 11:28–30.) (Lawrence E. Corbridge conf 10/08 Sat afternoon)
I testify that though life is a challenge and is sometimes hard, that if we can break life down into small decisions; decisions to follow Christ, or choose the good over the evil, one note at a time…..and if we play the wrong note, or make a mistake, if we can just go back and do it again, right this time…..if we can avoid being discouraged, realizing this is the learning process, then we can progress and before long our challenges will become easier and we will be happier, having overcome.
Remember, God is more concerned with our practice and progression, than with our perfection. He knows if we continue to practice and progress in the right direction, perfection is sure to come.
2 Aug 2014: The elders asked if I would help them teach one of their investigators. Her name was Chu (name changed), originally from China. She liked the church, she liked the people she had met, she liked attending church and socializing with the members, especially the ones from China. She was even reading the BoM, but she did not want to pray and ask about its truth. Her life was good, she had a good job, good friends and didn’t see a reason to change or be baptized in a new church. The Elders taught her about fasting as the next day was fast Sunday. She liked the idea of fasting. They then taught her about the Word of Wisdom (no coffee, smoking, alcohol etc.). But when they invited her to live it she was not willing to. She said “drinking tea is a part of my Chinese culture. I don’t want to lose my culture. I smoke and drink occasionally. I’m not addicted. I do these things socially with my good friends, I don’t want to lose my friends. Besides, drinking and smoking help with my inspiration and creativity.” We said many things to try to help her understand the benefits of living this commandment. One thing seemed to really help. We asked her if she believed God loved her. She said she did. We asked her if she believed that God wanted what was best for her. She said she did. We then told her our understanding as humans is limited. God’s understanding is infinite. We testified that God knows what is best for his children, that the WofW was a commandment, from God, through a prophet of God. Because of that God wanted her to live this commandment, not to make her life worse, but to make it better. Also, since it was God’s commandment he would help her overcome any concerns she had with living it, that God would give her the strengths to change, and that her life would be even better once she started living it. We felt impressed to tell her she would not lose her Chinese culture, the friends she had now would still be her friends, even the inspiration that she feels she receives from these substances would still come to her, perhaps even to a greater degree. She was still not sure. We then challenged her to fast and pray about wither she should live the WofW. She was still hesitant. She said I’m afraid he will tell me I should do it. We promised her again that if it was Gods will, her life would surely be better after following this commandment than it was now. She agreed to fast and pray about it.
I couldn’t help but think how applicable this whole conversation is to all of us. Sometimes we are hesitant to obey a commandment or live one more fully because we are afraid we will have to give up something that we think we want or need to be happy. When, if we trusted God and let go of those supposed sources of happiness, our lives could be even happier. Perhaps we need to do the same thing, fast and pray for the strength and faith necessary to allow God and his perfect wisdom to make our lives better.
How is our Church Different
We are often asked how our church is different from other Christian religions. Here is a short list of differences:
– We believe there is a prophet and 12 apostles on the earth today, just as there were when Christ was on the earth. They provide continuing revelation, guidance and direction from God for his children on earth.
– We have the Book of Mormon, another testament of Christ, which has come to use because of modern prophets and revelation. We have other books of scripture as well.
– We believe Christ has restored his priesthood power to the earth, which allows ordinances such as baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost to be recognized and approved by God.
– We believe that through priesthood power marriage can be performed binding couples together for this life and for all eternity, and that families can also be sealed together for eternity.
– We believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are 3 separate and distinct individuals, not one entity.
– We believe baptism can be performed for those who have died without a chance to receive this ordinance. We build temples for this purpose. We do research to identify our ancestors so we can perform ordinances such as baptism and eternal marriage for them. See 1 Cor 15:29
– We believe in a pre-earth life, that there we chose to come to this earth to learn and grow, and prepare ourselves for eternity; that after we die we will live forever in a place of happiness or sorrow depending on the choices we made here on the earth.
– We believe we have the fullness of Christ’s gospel. While other churches teach many truths we believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the complete truth and the proper authority to perform all ordinances necessary to be saved and live with God for ever.
– Give them an article of faith card.
- Ours it the only church on the earth that has a Prophet and 12 Apostles living on the earth who receive continuing revelation from God to guide his children on the Earth.
- Ours is the only church with the Book of Mormon and other scriptures which contain the word of God, as the Bible.
- We are the only church that builds temples, as they did in bible times, to perform ordinances such as Marriage for time and all eternity, and to do baptisms for ancestors who have died, so if they accept the gospel in the next life they will have this required saving ordinance. (John 3:5)
Circle of love
Matt 22: 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
John 14: 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
We keep the greatest commandment by obeying the rest of them
D&C 14: 7 And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.
1 Nephi 11: 22 ….., it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.
Isn’t it interesting that the most important thing we can do is love God; and the ultimate reward is to receive his love in return.
(Thoughts from President Jordan at Zone Conference Jul 2014)
Repentance does not just mean to just stop doing something, it means a change of direction, it means replacing bad behavior with good behavior; continuous good behavior.
Don’t think just about what we’re going to teach our investigators, but how we’re going to help them change. What commitments will you invite them to keep? Don’t become disconnected with our purpose, which is to help them progress and bring them to Christ. We are not asking them to keep commandments to restrict them, but to free them from sin, from discouragement, and from the consequences of sin.
Watch the 3 min video: Christ heals the sick of the palsy
Who are they who carried the bed of the sick man and lowered it through the roof in front of Christ? They may have been friends, or family members; but they were individuals who believed that the best way they could help their lame brother was to bring him to Christ. They were also very bold and intent on getting him to Christ. They couldn’t get him through the door, so they took him to the roof, opened it up and lowered him. Who do these individuals represent? They represent you and I. We are the ones who must be bold and do all we can to bring others to Christ. Not to be healed physically necessarily, but to be healed spiritually, to be forgiven of their sins, to have their lives changed through repentance forever.
Focus on 1 Nephi 1
6/2014: BYU sponsored a “Mormon Theology Seminar” at the Visitors Center in London, entitled “A Dream, A Rock and a Pillar of fire.”. Nine religious scholars got together for and week and discussed 1 Nephi chapter 1; yes, just one chapter, for a week. Then the next week they spent 4 days writing up a thesis from the discussion and on Friday they presented their thesis to whoever wanted to come. Holly and I attended a couple of them. The first one put me to sleep (probably not a reflection at all on the thesis, but on the fact that Ashby’s can sleep anywhere). The second was very interesting and kept me very intrigued. The second was by Adam Miller. I’ll include some notes (paraphrased of course):
– To enter the presence of God we must first come to the end of ourselves.
– Why would Christ appear to Lehi in person and rather than tell him a message, just give him a book to read? (1Nephi 1: 9-11) Why force Lehi through hours of darkness and suffering before showing him the tree of life? Why lead Lehi and his family several days journey from Jerusalem, just to ask them to go back to get the plates? Why did Nephi speak of his “many sufferings” before stating he was highly favored of the Lord and had come to understand the mysteries of God? (1 Nephi 1: 1)
Are all these delays and sufferings and diversions and impracticalities a “bug” in the system; or are they a feature of it? What do you think?