Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Restoration - to be Cheered or Feared?

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in his April 2014 conference address, Are You Sleeping through the Restoration?

"Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.”2

We are living during this exciting period of restoration! Each day in my own personal life, I pray for restoration in many areas. I know that when we live righteously, we receive God's favor. If ever there was a period in the time of history on the earth to ask for the Lord's favor - this would be the time! Whether it be a restoration of health, prosperity, knowledge, wisdom, love, healing, etc., I believe the Lord is just standing by, waiting for us to ask, so He can bless us and bring us back into wholeness. Think of how powerful we become in His Kingdom when we are whole.

If you are close to the Lord right now, and living in accordance with His will, this is the time to be excited. Lost blessings can and will be yours. But what about those who are not aligned with God's will? Will the restoration have any affect on them? Yes, it will. However, it might not be something to cheer for. The prophet Alma taught this best:

The other day I was reading Alma Chapter 41. I love the broader perspective he shared with his son Corianton on this subject:

 1 And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the restoration of which has been spoken; for behold, some have wrested the scriptures, and have gone far astray because of this thing. And I perceive that thy mind has been worried also concerning this thing. But behold, I will explain it unto thee.

 2 I say unto thee, my son, that the plan of restoration is requisite with the justice of God; for it is requisite that all things should be restored to their proper order. Behold, it is requisite and just, according to the power and resurrection of Christ, that the soul of man should be restored to its body, and that every part of the body should be restored to itself.

 3 And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.

 4 And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption—raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—

 5 The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.

 6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.

 7 These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.

 8 Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.

 9 And now behold, my son, do not risk one more offense against your God upon those points of doctrine, which ye have hitherto risked to commit sin.

 10 Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.

 11 And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.

 12 And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?

 13 O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.

 14 Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.

 15 For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.

I remember as I read this chapter, verse 11 made me think of addictions. Those who are bound by addictions are unable to experience life in it's fullest. They are unhappy because they are without the presence of God. When we disconnect from God, we put ourselves in a "bad mood". That unhappiness and depression is our spirit mourning that loss. We cannot thrive without God's Light. It gives us our very life. So when we cut ourselves off from His presence, we begin to digress, go backwards, and die. Instead of feeling alive, happy, whole, and healthy, we feel exhausted, fatigued, drained, and often physically ill. We are no longer being replenished and energized by God's life giving Light. We feel a sense of loss and suffering. Truly, we are suffering for own sins. We carry that burden and punish ourselves. We are not whole and we are unable to help build the Kingdom.

During this period of restoration, if we are sending out sin, (negative thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors), we are going to get all of that in return, to the fullest. This is no way to live and not what your Heavenly Father wants for you. It is not His will to see you suffer in your own sins. The time is now, to awaken and arise. Shake off those chains that bind you! The marks of those chains on your wrists do not need to define you. The marks on the Lord's hands and feet have already defined you! Over 2,000 years ago He already broke your chains, so why do you feel the need to carry them around?

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's words are exactly what the Spirit shared with me on this topic. I hope that they inspire you to awaken, arise, and claim your birthright! Claim the blessings that can be yours. Let this period of restoration work for you and not against you. Be for the Kingdom and not against it.

"Another thing that may cause us to sleepwalk through this significant season of the world is addiction.

Addictions often begin subtly. Addictions are thin threads of repeated action that weave themselves into thick bonds of habit. Negative habits have the potential to become consuming addictions.

Always remember, with the Savior’s help, you can break free from addiction. It may be a long, difficult path, but the Lord will not give up on you. He loves you. Jesus Christ suffered the Atonement to help you change, to free you from the captivity of sin.

The most important thing is to keep trying—sometimes it takes several attempts before people find success. So don’t give up. Don’t lose faith. Keep your heart close to the Lord, and He will give you the power of deliverance. He will make you free.

Don’t allow selfishness! Don’t allow habits that could lead to addiction! Don’t allow competing priorities to lull you into indifference or detachment from blessed discipleship and ennobling priesthood service!

There is too much at stake for us as individuals, as families, and as Christ’s Church to give only a halfhearted effort to this sacred work.

Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not an effort of once a week or once a day. It is an effort of once and for all.

Those who are faithful unto the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods and magnify their callings “are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.” Therefore, all that our Father has will be given unto them.10

I testify that the cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the transformative power of the Holy Ghost can heal and rescue mankind. It is our privilege, our sacred duty, and our joy to heed the Savior’s call to follow Him with a willing mind and full purpose of heart. Let us “shake off the chains with which [we] are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.”11

Let us be awake and not be weary of well-doing, for we “are laying the foundation of a great work,”12 even preparing for the return of the Savior. Brethren, when we add the light of our example as a witness to the beauty and power of restored truth, we will not sleep through the Restoration. Of this I testify and leave you my blessing in the sacred name of our Master, even Jesus Christ, amen."

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sisters in Zion - Exploring New Frontiers in the Gospel

This blog post has been a prompting of the Spirit for quite sometime now, and I feel the time is now right to share. I'll begin by saying that I was one who never understood the movement for 'women and equality' in the church. It wasn't something that resonated with me, and I did not consider myself a supporter of that movement when it began to rise a few years ago. I have always been comfortable and satisfied with my roles in the church, my family, and the gospel. I will say that over the last couple years as new gifts have surfaced in my own life, I have experienced some gray areas as to how to define and understand these spiritual gifts and how they fit in line with the culture of our church and our doctrine. I have experienced such beautiful miracles, signs, and wonders, and have helped many come to their Savior through the gifts the Spirit has given me. These gifts are mentioned specifically in Moroni 10. And in verses 24-26 Moroni warns us;

24 ...that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief.

25 And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God.  

26 And wo unto them who shall do these things away and die, for they die in their sins, and they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God; and I speak it according to the words of Christ; and I lie not.

Over the past few years I learned to strengthen my own faith in such a way that the Lord used me many times to facilitate miracles in the lives of others, miracles of such magnitude that I myself would not have believed them if I hadn't witnessed them with my own eyes. I felt such a love for all of God's children and had the most powerful desire to serve them with these gifts, as prompted by the Spirit. 

As I became more comfortable with my gifts and strengthened them daily, I began to experience small setbacks from the adversary through people who didn't understand my gifts, their purpose, or nature. Though I kept everything on the down low, there were some who would learn of my gifts and send me anonymous messages of discord and criticism. Their words would create confusion and doubt as to why the Lord would bless me with such gifts when the culture of my church would not be receiving, understanding, or supportive of them. I remember wondering that if I were a man with these same gifts, if I would even be receiving the false judgement, accusations and criticism that I was experiencing. It saddened me, and I decided for a while to bury these gifts, to avoid further judgement and persecutions. 

During this time the Spirit began to teach me, and I was taught that I was not to be ashamed of my gifts nor my desire to serve others through them, and that the Lord was doing a marvelous work and a wonder in the hearts of the members of the church. That he was preparing them to receive greater revelation and to embrace correct doctrines that have been misunderstood, for the benefit of all to be edified. If I was patient, in due time He would show me how He was going to use my gifts to help build His kingdom. 

Over the last year, I have seen the Lord working in His mysterious and wonderful ways. Those who were my greatest critics have since asked for forgiveness and asked for my help. I have had the privilege of sharing my gifts with them as guided by the Spirit to bring about healing and miracles in their lives, while teaching them how to do the same through faith, prayer, and the power of Jesus Christ. It has been so rewarding and humbling. 

In His own due time, the Lord has been teaching me and helping me through the Holy Spirit on how to navigate these gifts to bless His children and build His Kingdom. Though we often don't think of the sisters in our church as a go-to for learning, healing and miracles...we do agree as a whole and often hear how receptive to the Spirit the sisters are, and how they are such s blessing to the church. 

While being taught by the Spirit and trying to understand my role as a sister in the church, a sister to Jesus Christ, and a daughter in God's Kingdom, and what that truly entails; I have been overwhelmed at the gems that the Spirit has been revealing to me. I feel so blessed to be a member of this church and to live in this day and age that I do. Though I feel that many of us (brothers and sisters) have been living far below our spiritual potential as heirs to the Kingdom, I believe that we are entering a time where that is changing. As we seek further light and knowledge through our personal relationship with our Savior, He will lead us to His water in which as we drink, we will thirst no more. 

One of those precious gems that the Spirit led me to a couple years ago was this article in Sunstone Magazine. This was something I had never heard of or known about before. Something that had been swept under the rug and not talked about in our lesson manuals or culture. After reading it, I was given a renewed hope, and reminded that God is the same today as He was in the early years of the church. When we are ready and the time is right, He will reveal to us those beautiful mysteries of the gospel and restore lost blessings. 

Last month while looking for some new podcasts to listen to, I came across some videos from a Fair Mormon conference. Fair Mormon is a wonderful non-profit organization that is staffed completely by volunteers who are students of the scriptures, ancient languages, early Christian history, early LDS history, and LDS doctrine and apologetics. They work to defend criticism of the church. 

Sharon Eubank works for the church as director of LDS Charities. She speaks frequently for Fair Mormon on the topic of understanding our LDS doctrine better about women and their roles in the priesthood. She has taught that sometimes culture doesn't always reflect correct doctrine, but it opens the door to start asking the Lord questions and to wait upon the Holy Ghost to reveal those answers in due time. Patience and much humility can help us on that road to seeking the answers we desire. 

In this first video, at 27:00, Sharon says,

 "We need new language...as I want to talk about these things, I find that there's no vocabulary for these terms that I want to talk about." 

Sharon speaks of a friend of hers who translated the Book of Mormon into the Estonian language. Her friend was struggling to find words to use in her language because there were no words that existed anymore as the communists had stripped them out. She said,

 "...if you don't have it in the language then you don't have an understanding of the roles. I think a really good example of this is, we don't know what to call a mission president's wife. And we don't know how to describe the role that she plays...a temple matron has a name for what it is she does and it has a role description, and it's different than what the temple presidency does...and everyone understands that...but so much of our language is missing because we don't know what to call things." 

At 30:35 in the video she shares something incredible about finding a language for what matriarchy contributes to patriarchy in the priesthood, but has asked that her words not to be transcribed on the Internet. So, I encourage you to listen and hear this precious pearl.

Sharon says that the apostles are currently working on creating a new language for matriarchal roles, and Elder M Russell Ballard had said, "When endowed, both men and women are given power in the priesthood."

Elder Oaks has said, "Women may possess priesthood authority." Sharon points out that we have never heard those words in a sentence together before, and generally never felt that it was right to say them in a sentence together. She mentions Elder Perry's frequent speaking of the 'co-presidency' of men and women. She then points out that it would be in our favor to be more imaginative about involving the young women in more opportunities and roles within our wards like the young men, such as setting up chairs, passing out programs and greeting people at the door. She says there is much more we can do to prepare the young women in the church to become more involved in serving and edifying as we do the young men. 

From personal experience I believe us sisters in the church have taken a passive and fearful approach to the gospel where our spiritual gifts are concerned, and over the past decades we have underestimated our ability and capacity to be all that we can truly be in God's Kingdom. 

At 30:20 in the video, Sharon also speaks of our Heavenly Mother endowing a certain power over her daughters in a similar way that Heavenly Father endows power on His sons known as the Priesthood Power. Though it is not official doctrine it warrants further exploration through the Spirit. She quotes fellow Fair Mormon contributor Valerie Hudson, 

"For example over the last several years, we have come to understand that priesthood is the eternal power and authority of our Heavenly Father, suggesting that there is another eternal power and authority on the earth, of our Heavenly Mother, that's wielded by Her daughters. We are a faith community of priests and priestesses and then when united in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, men and women together hold the fullness of the Priesthood." 


 In this second video at 24:00, Sharon quotes Elder Dallin H Oaks, "We are not accustomed to speaking of women in the church as having authority of the priesthood in their church callings, but what other authority can it be?" At 25:00, Sharon shares the words of Sister Holland in which she encourages the sisters of the church to seek out symbols, repeated patterns and greater meanings in the temple as to understanding the mysteries of our Divine roles. Sharon goes on to say that it is the privilege of women to find out about the matriarchal path. At 27:15 in the video she makes a very good point about improving our church government and councils by encouraging the sisters to be more vocal in what the Spirit is impressing upon them. We would find more balance in doing so. 

I believe that wonderful blessings are in store for the sisters of the church. Let us remember that the gifts of the Spirit can not be given to us or taken away from us by anyone on this Earth. They come from the Spirit and are dictated by the Spirit. As we search, ponder, and pray about the questions that are impressed upon our hearts, we will be guided by the Spirit as to where and how to find those answers. I testify of this in the name of Jesus Christ amen.