Sunday, January 31, 2010

The First Principles and Ordinances - Why they are Essential

Continuing from last week, this week's post is on the 4th Article of Faith -

4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy said on the topic of faith, “This requires more than merely recognizing faith as a gospel principle. To have faith is to have confidence in something or someone. True faith must be centered in Jesus Christ. Faith is a principle of action and of power. It requires us to do, not merely to believe.”

Overcoming doubts, fears, and disbelief will help us strengthen our faith in the Savior. We can do this by “acting” on our beliefs. Live the commandments and teachings of the Savior in your daily life and you will feel his love for you. This love will build your faith in him. Remember, faith without works is dead.


The atonement is there for us so we can use it. If we are not partaking of the atonement often, then the Lord’s pain and suffering would have been in vain. Do not take that for granted. Taking the sacrament each Sabbath allows us to be forgiven of our small sins of the prior week. They are wiped clean and we can start new for the next week. While partaking in this sacred ordinance we must remember to have a deep humility and reverence for our Savior and what he has done for us. We must make a conscious effort to forsake our sins and become a better person.

For more serious sins, we must confess them to our bishop or steak president so that we can receive the counsel we need to truly repent of them. Repentance is a necessary part of the plan. It helps us recognize our wrongs and correct them. By doing so we become more like the Savior and closer to our Father in Heaven.

Baptism by Immersion

We believe that by the age of 8 a person has the knowledge of distinguishing right from wrong and can now be held accountable for their sins. The Savior was baptized by immersion, meaning he was completely immersed from head to toe in water, in the Jordan River.

President James E. Faust said, Baptism symbolizes death, burial, and resurrection, and can only be done by immersion. It also follows the pattern set by the Savior, who was baptized in the river Jordan, where there was much water. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The full benefit of forgiveness of sin through the Savior’s Atonement begins with repentance and baptism and then expands upon receiving the Holy Ghost.”

Gift of the Holy Ghost

In a recent General Conference an apostle had an addressed an issue in which some parents do not allow for their children to be baptized at the age of eight because they want them to make that decision when they are an adult. He made a very good point when he stated that by doing this your children are deprived of the precious gift of the Holy Ghost that will be a necessary companion to them in difficult times and trials in their youth. This companionship of the Spirit will build their testimony over time and help them have the strong testimony they will need to face adulthood. If a child does not have this, how can he/she be expected to have a testimony at all?

My cute young nephew who is eight years old has been able to use the gift of the Holy Ghost to not only bless himself but his family as well. Last week a situation arose in which a neighbor had lied to their family and was about to put them all in a jeopardizing situation. Kyler (my nephew) had the truth impressed on his mind by the power of the Holy Ghost and he warned his mom. Knowing he had no way of knowing this truth or verifying it, she recognized it as a prompting from the Spirit and she trusted it. The next day the truth was exposed and eight year old Kyler had been right. His worthiness of the companionship of the Holy Ghost saved his family from a spiritually dangerous situation.

Note in this article of faith it mentions “Laying on of hands”. By proper authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, hands must be laid upon the head of the receiver to obtain the gift of the Holy Ghost. We recognize this authority and these sacred priesthood keys in all ordnances in the church. The sacrament, baptism, and gift of the Holy Ghost all require the proper priesthood keys.

I know that through these ordinances we can become more than what we would ever be without them. They are for our benefit, growth, knowledge and allow of Father in Heaven to bless us, protect us and use as an instrument in His hands. I have felt the power of the Holy Ghost bless me many times in my life and know that I am where I am today because of this companionship. This I say in the name of Jesus Christ – amen.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

God's Plan for Us through Salvation

In continuation of our 13 week topic, this week’s topic is on the third article of faith.

3. We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.

This topic is what causes much friction among many religions. To think that there is more to the next life than just Heaven and Hell, boggles many people’s minds. As a Latter Day Saint I am blessed to know that all righteous people will be saved from Satan after this life. God loves us all equally no matter what religion we are. However those who accept the gospel of Jesus Christ have a certain obligation they are held to once they make those sacred covenants at baptism and in the temple. If they stay true to the covenants made their reward goes beyond heaven alone. This is what makes our religion so peculiar to the rest of the world.

Everything I wanted to say about this topic has been summed up perfectly in Elder Quentin L. Cook’s from the quorum of the twelve apostles, general conference talk from May 2009 – Our Father’s Plan – Big Enough for All His Children. I remember hearing this talk and beaming with joy at the television screen because I was thinking “Yes. This is what the world needs to hear! He has worded it so perfectly.” I am excited to quote my favorite parts of his talk on the topic of the plan of salvation which is what the third article of faith is all about. I hope you read it, feel the spirit testify truth to you, and ponder these words and topic deeply.

"For many of these people who are open to religious faith, one issue has been particularly troubling. They have had a difficult time reconciling the correct doctrine that we have a loving Father in Heaven and the incorrect doctrine that most of mankind would be doomed to eternal hell.

This was an issue with my great-great-grandfather Phineas Wolcott Cook. He was born in 1820 in Connecticut. In his diary he notes that he had made a covenant with the Lord to serve Him if he could find the right way. He attended many churches and at one was asked to “testify [and] join the church [and] be a Christian.” His response was he “could not tell which one to join, there were so many.” He continued to investigate several churches. One doctrine was of particular significance to him. He explained: “Sometimes they found fault with me because I wanted a more liberal salvation for the family of man. I could not believe the Lord had made a part to be saved and a great part to be damned to all eternity.”Because of this doctrine, he allowed his name to be taken off the records of one Protestant religion. When the LDS missionaries taught him the true doctrine of the plan of salvation in 1844, he was baptized.

Phineas’s faith in the loving mercy of the Lord and His plan of happiness has been shared by many honorable men and women, even when the teachings of their own churches were very bleak.

At the time Joseph Smith received revelations and organized the Church, the vast majority of churches taught that the Savior’s Atonement would not bring about the salvation of most of mankind. The common precept was that a few would be saved and the overwhelming majority would be doomed to endless tortures of the most awful and unspeakable intensity. The marvelous doctrine revealed to the Prophet Joseph unveiled to us a plan of salvation that is applicable to all mankind, including those who do not hear of Christ in this life, children who die before the age of accountability, and those who have no understanding.

At death, righteous spirits live in a temporary state called paradise. (This applies to people of all faiths who lived righteous lives) Alma the Younger teaches us “paradise [is] a state of rest, a state of peace, where [the righteous] shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.” The unrighteous spirits dwell in spirit prison, sometimes referred to as hell. It is described as an awful place, a dark place where those fearful of the “indignation of the wrath of God” shall remain until the resurrection. However, because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all spirits blessed by birth will ultimately be resurrected, spirit and body reunited, and inherit kingdoms of glory that are superior to our existence here on earth. The exceptions are confined to those who, like Satan and his angels, willfully rebel against God. At the resurrection, the spirit prison or hell will deliver up its captive spirits. Jesus came into the world “to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness.

The Savior said: “Let not your heart be troubled. … In my Father’s house are many mansions. … I go to prepare a place for you.” A succinct summary is provided in the book of Moses: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

After all the Savior has suffered for mankind, it is not surprising that in speaking of existing churches in the First Vision, He would instruct Joseph to “join none of them, for they were all wrong. The Savior subsequently ushered in the Restoration of His true doctrine with respect to the plan of salvation and other saving principles such as the doctrine of Christ.

But notwithstanding the significance of our doctrinal differences with other faiths, our attitude toward other churches has been to refrain from criticism. They do much good. They bless mankind. Many help their members learn of the Savior and His teachings.

A reporter for the Washington Post visited one of our Church meetings in Nigeria. The reporter interviewed one new member and told of his conversion. The reporter states:

“[He] said … he jumped off a city bus and walked into the [LDS Church building]. … He immediately liked what he heard inside [the chapel], especially that no one preached that people of other faiths were going to hell.”This echoes the feeling of numerous converts to the Church since its organization.

Our leaders have consistently counseled us “to live with respect and appreciation for those not of our faith. There is so great a need for civility and mutual respect among those of differing beliefs and philosophies.

Those early European converts that Dickens met on board the ship Amazon had overcome many stumbling blocks. They had a testimony that revelation comes from heaven and that prophets and apostles are again on the earth. They had faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

They had come to understand the sublime destination that was in store for them. They were not fearful of the arduous journey they were undertaking, and their ultimate destination was not really the Salt Lake Valley. Their true destination was paradise followed by exaltation in the celestial kingdom.

A loving Father has provided a comprehensive and compassionate plan for His children “that saves the living, redeems the dead, rescues the damned, and glorifies all who repent.”

Even though our journey may be fraught with tribulation, the destination is truly glorious.

I rejoice in the great plan of salvation that is big enough for all of our Father in Heaven’s children. I express gratitude beyond my ability to articulate for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I bear my witness of Him in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Works - It's Worth Considering

This week I will cover the second article of faith. (See last week’s post) It opens up a very important topic that others may view as opening a can of worms. Not me.

The second article of faith states, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgressions.”

This article is about accountability. When we are taught a truth or a commandment and we defile it, then the sin is upon our own head and we will have to answer for that unless we repent.

I know people of other faiths who believe that as long as a person believes in God or accepts Jesus as their savior then they are free of worry and sin. Thus meaning if they continue to sin it is okay because they have accepted Jesus and his atonement has taken care of their sins. The scripture below is the very scripture that these people quote to support this belief.

When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned at Philippi, he was asked by a distressed jailer, “What must I do to be saved?”

Without reference to obedience or repentance or good works that he himself so often spoke of, Paul simply answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Acts 16:30-31

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ we believe very differently. We know that believing is the first step but there is more to it than that. What good does believing do if our actions go against what the Savior taught? Our actions must support our thoughts and beliefs. James explains this very clearly in James 2:17-26

17 -Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

18 - Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy

works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

19 -Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

20 - But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

21 -Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon

the altar?

22 -Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

23 -And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed

unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

24 -Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

I jokingly tell those people that faith without works is the lazy man’s way. The lazy man’s way is Satan’s way. True followers of God are hard working people working hard to keep the commandments in their lives.

I have known many people in my life who believe that religion is evil and they seek after non-denominational churches or accept no churches period. Again I say, looking for the easy way in life is not God’s way. I know many people say that they “don’t believe” whether it be in God or religion because they don’t want to be held accountable for their sins. By “not believing” they feel they are off the hook. Believing means having to be accountable and take responsibility for our actions in this life.

It’s important that these people know that God is a God of order. There are laws that He is bound by. If there were no laws it would be chaos. The universe would be full of chaos and we would not have a perfectly functioning solar system or earth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is very much of order. Every Sunday all over the world in every Latter Day Saint church, members are being taught the exact same lessons in the exact same lesson books. A loving prophet guides us and we all follow the same instruction and rules. D&C 132:8 “Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.” In a house of order there are rules. Just like our parents told us, “If you live in my house, you live by my rules.” If we want to live with God we need to accept his rules which are known as commandments.

As parents we set rules for our kids because we love them. God has done the same for us. This is the very purpose of why we are here, to have free agency and show God our desire to believe and follow him.

The secret of being free with our free agency is to choose righteousness. Often people mistake choosing righteousness as not being free. I have heard many times, “You are not free to drink, be loose with your morals, or “experience life” when you are a Mormon.” I laugh at that because I am actually making the choice not to do those things, no one is forcing me. By avoiding those things I am very happy and I have never felt more free.

There are many consequences in this life that we will experience when we sin. Adultry can lead to divorce, sexual disease and broken families. This means bondage by loneliness, bitterness, disease and hurt finances. Where is freedom in that? Alcohol leads to health problems, altered rationalizing which leads to committing other sins such as adultery, crime, drunk driving which we know comes with a lifetime of misery, consequences and jail time. What freedom is in that? By following a set of commandments (rules) which were created by someone who loves us and wants what is best for us, now that is where freedom lies. Our parents rewarded us when we did what they asked us to or when we made them proud. Our Heavenly Father blesses us when we make Him proud and keep His commandments. I have never felt more free and happy in my life and I know it is because I have chosen a life of righteousness. This I say in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The articles of faith are located in the Pearl of Great Price and were written in 1842 by the prophet Joseph Smith to serve as a written statement of the theology o the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These are in a sense a summary of our basic beliefs.

The Articles of Faith provide an excellent summary of the basic doctrines of the Church however they are not meant to be comprehensive. Speaking on this Bruce R. McConkie stated:

These articles, of course, do not attempt to summarize all of the basic doctrines of the gospel. For example, the Articles of Faith are silent on such things as celestial marriage, salvation for the dead, temple work in all its phases, the resurrection, and degrees of glory in the eternal worlds.

So it’s important to remember that while the Articles of Faith scratch the surface on the general beliefs of the Church, there are so many deep doctrines that we know to be true that really set the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints apart from other churches. I believe that this is the very reason that the prophet selected the very basic beliefs to be published. It’s like the concept of teaching college algebra to a six year old – a six year old could never grasp the understanding to learn college algebra without first learning the principals of basic math and slowly working his way up to the college algebra level.

Our spirits are no different. They cannot understand the deeper teachings of the gospel without first learning and accepting the very basic beliefs of the core of the church. Once those basic teachings are learned and accepted, then the spirit hungers to learn more. Scripture reading becomes exciting and turns into “studying and searching” rather than “reading”. A person is better able to feel the spirit in their lives and find solutions to personal dilemmas more quickly, when these teachings are understood and practiced. And best of all, a person has a greater understanding of his purpose in this life and the next.

Our understanding of the life that awaits us after this one and all that God has to offer in the next life for those who are righteous is what truly sets our religion apart from all other Christian religions. While most Christian religions preach of just a Heaven and Hell, we know that there is much more to it than that. Our focus is the world to come, and we know what awaits us there. We have strong doctrines and revelations that teach us about our destined and divine purpose. It is this knowledge that gets us through our trials and challenges on Earth and motivates us to be better people.

To start out 2010, I thought it would be a great idea to cover one of the 13 Articles of Faith each week until I have covered all 13. I am very excited to talk about these. So here we go!

Article of Faith #1

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

As a child in primary we are encouraged to memorize all 13 articles of faith. This has always been the easiest one to memorize as it is the shortest. The first article of faith can be recited from memory by nearly all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
This is the most important belief of our church which is why it is listed as the first. We are proclaiming that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three separate beings. This is the divine Godhead working together in one purpose.

From latter-day revelation we learn that the Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bone, and that the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit without flesh and bone.
I turned to the Bible dictionary to get a better definition and understanding of who these individual beings truly are and what purposes they serve.


The supreme Governor of the universe and the Father of mankind. When one speaks of God, it is generally the Father who is referred to; that is, Elohim. All mankind are his children.

Latter-day revelation confirms the biblical account of God as the literal father of the human family; as a being who is concerned for the welfare of mankind, and a Personage who hears and answers prayers.
Although God created all things and is the ruler of the universe, being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (through his Spirit), mankind has a special relationship to him that differentiates man from all other created things: man is literally God’s offspring, made in his image, whereas all other things are but the work of his hands (cf. Acts 17: 28-29).

The God of the scriptures is a holy being. Man is commanded to be holy because God is holy (Lev. 11: 44-45; Lev. 19: 2). God can be known only by revelation. He must be revealed, or remain forever unknown. God first revealed himself to Adam and has repeatedly made himself known by revelation to chosen patriarchs and prophets since that time. The present translation of John 1: 18 and 1 Jn. 4: 12 is misleading, for these say that no man has ever seen God. However, the scriptures state that there have been many who have seen him. The JST corrects these items to show that no sinful man has ever seen God, and also that Jesus Christ is the only Way to God. God the Father and his Son have been manifested by voice, sight, or otherwise at various times, as at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3: 16-17); the Transfiguration (Matt. 17: 1-8); to Stephen (Acts 7: 55-56); and to the Nephites (3 Ne. 11: 7). The Father and the Son personally visited Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove, in the spring of 1820, near Manchester, New York, in the opening of the dispensation of the fulness of times (JS-H 1: 11-20).

Jesus Christ

The personage known as Jehovah in Old Testament times, and who is usually identified in the Old Testament as LORD (in capital letters), is the Son, known as Jesus Christ, and who is also a God. Jesus works under the direction of the Father and is in complete harmony with him. All mankind are his brethren and sisters, he being the eldest of the spirit children of Elohim. Many of the things that the scripture says were done "by God" were actually done by the LORD (Jesus). Thus the scripture says that “God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1: 1), but we know that it was actually the LORD (Jesus) who was the creator (John 1: 3, 10), or as Paul said, God created all things by Christ Jesus (Eph. 3: 9).

Jesus, who is called Christ, is the firstborn of the Father in the spirit and the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is Jehovah, and was foreordained to his great calling in the Grand Councils before the world was. He was born of Mary at Bethlehem, lived a sinless life, and wrought out a perfect atonement for all mankind by the shedding of his blood and his death on the cross. He rose from the grave and brought to pass the bodily resurrection of every living thing and the salvation and exaltation of the faithful.

He is the greatest Being to be born on this earth - the perfect example - and all religious things should be done in his name. He is Lord of lords, King of kings, the Creator, the Savior, the God of the whole earth, the Captain of our salvation, the Bright and Morning Star. He is in all things, above all things, through all things, and round about all things; he is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; his name is above every name, and is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved.

He will come again in power and glory to dwell on the earth, and will stand as Judge of all mankind at the last day.

The Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost is manifested in every dispensation of the gospel since the beginning, being first made known to Adam. The Holy Ghost is also a God and is variously called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit, the Spirit of God, etc.

The Holy Ghost is manifested to men on the earth both as the power of the Holy Ghost and as the gift of the Holy Ghost. The power can come upon one before baptism, and is the convincing witness that the gospel is true. It gives one a testimony of Jesus Christ and of his work and the work of his servants upon the earth. The gift can come only after proper and authorized baptism, and is conferred by the laying on of hands.

The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right to have, whenever one is worthy. The companionship of the Holy Ghost is more powerful than that which is available before baptism. It acts as a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin. Thus it is often spoken of as “fire” (Matt. 3: 11; 2 Ne. 31: 17; D&C 19: 31). The manifestation on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) was the gift of the Holy Ghost that came upon the Twelve, without which they were not ready for their ministries to the world.

The Holy Ghost was operative in earlier dispensations. Furthermore, it has reference only to the gift of the Holy Ghost not being present, since the power of the Holy Ghost was operative during the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus; otherwise no one would have received a testimony of the truths that these men taught (cf. Matt. 16: 16-17; 1 Cor. 12: 3). When a person speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost that same power carries a conviction of the truth into the heart of the hearer (2 Ne. 33: 1). The Holy Ghost knows all things and can lead one to know of future events (2 Pet. 1: 21).


I am grateful for this knowledge that I have had ever since I was a child. It is this knowledge that has built and strengthened my testimony of the gospel. Without my testimony of the Godhead and it’s purpose, I would not have been able to get through and triumph over many challenges in my childhood, teenage years and especially my early adulthood. I have personally felt God’s love in my life as well has His hand in all things. I have felt the warm light of the Savior and his love many times in my life and in his teachings in the scriptures. I have also felt the personal witness from the Holy Ghost many times in my life steering me in the right direction and helping me avoid sorrow, pain and danger. The Holy Spirit has spoken to me in dreams, come as a whispering voice and strong impressions on my mind.

I testify that the Godhead is real and if you pray for and truly try to feel its power in your life you will. In the name of Jesus Christ amen.