Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Book of Mormon

I am grateful for The Book of Mormon. I know it to be the word of God. This book is an account of people who lived anciently in Mesoamerica. It was written by the prophets who lived among these people. These prophets taught and testified of Jesus Christ and His atonement. It also contains the account of Christ's visit to these people following his resurrection.

A belief in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon can be based upon many differing sources. For example, I am reading the book "Mormon's Codex: An Ancient American Book" by John L. Sorenson, an eminent scholar on Mesoamerica.  In this 800+ page book Sorenson discusses hundreds of correspondences between the Book of Mormon account and the history and culture of Mesoamerica. He believes that someone unfamiliar with the geography, history, social structure, and culture of the peoples of ancient Mesoamerica, such as Joseph Smith, could not have possibly written the Book of Mormon. It had to be written by someone familiar with life in ancient Mesoamerica.

While "Mormon's Codex" makes a compelling argument for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, my belief in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon isn't based upon the historical, geographical, archaeological, or anthropological evidence discussed in Mormon's Codex. My belief is based upon a witness by the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true.  Moroni, the final prophet who wrote in the book, promised this:

"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."  (Moroni 10:3-5)

I have read the Book of Mormon, and I have prayed to know whether it is the true record it claims to be. Each time I have read it and prayed the Spirit has witnessed that it is true.

Joseph Smith said, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon).  I have read the book many times, and I have tried to apply what I have learned each time I have read the book. As I have applied its truths, I have become a better person. The Book of Mormon has had a greater influenced on my life than any other book.
Nephi, the first writer of the record, stated near the end of his writings:

"And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye--for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness." (2 Nephi 33:10-11)

When the day comes that I stand before the judgment bar of God, I will not know any more then than I know now that the Book of Mormon is the word of Christ and that it is a true record.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Following the Prophet

Central to the tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the belief that "we believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (Articles of Faith:9). This revelation comes to His prophets for as Amos said, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). With all my soul I believe this to be true.

I have had the privilege of meeting each of those I sustain as prophets. They are all extraordinary men. They are highly educated and have had very distinguished careers as educators, doctors, lawyers, or in business. They are kind, compassionate, and Christ-like. They are devoted. Due to their unique calling, they see and know things that I don't see and know. They feel the weight of their calling. They may not be perfect but they are who God works with to lead His Church.

In the last General Conference of the Church, President Boyd K. Packer testified:
"After all the years that I have lived and taught and served, after the millions of miles I have traveled around the world, with all that I have experienced, there is one great truth that I would share. That is my witness of the Savior Jesus Christ.
"Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon recorded the following after a sacred experience:
'And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
'For we saw him' (D&C 76:22–23).
"Their words are my words.
"I believe and I am sure that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that He lives. He is the Only Begotten of the Father, and 'by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God' (D&C 76:24).
"I bear my witness that the Savior lives. I know the Lord. I am His witness. I know of His great sacrifice and eternal love for all of Heavenly Father’s children. I bear my special witness in all humility but with absolute certainty, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen." (Boyd K. Packer, "The Witness," Ensign, May 2014, emphasis added)
I choose to follow the prophets because of this unique relationship they have with the Savior. I believe that they personally know the Savior.

I believe that I can best serve and follow the Lord by following the counsel of His anointed servants the prophets. The Lord said,
"What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38)
The Lord speaks to His Church through His prophets. The Lord also warned:
"And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;
"For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;
"They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall." (Doctrine and Covenants 1:14-16)
There are many voices today are trying to persuade me to follow the philosophies of the world. While this may be appealing it is wrong if it is contrary to Lord's way as revealed to His prophets.

In the same General Conference the President Packer testified of the Savior, Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught about the importance of the priesthood and priesthood keys. In speaking of those who lead the Church, he said,
"But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood." (Dallin H. Oaks, "The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood," Ensign, May 2014)
Our leaders cannot change doctrine; only the Lord can change doctrine.The priesthood isn't theirs to give; it is God's priesthood and He will decide who receives it regardless of what the world believes.

In the same General Conference, Elder Neil L. Andersen declared,
"While many governments and well-meaning individuals have redefined marriage, the Lord has not. In the very beginning, God initiated marriage between a man and a woman--Adam and Eve. He designated the purposes of marriage to go far beyond the personal satisfaction and fulfillment of adults to, more importantly, advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared, and nurtured. Families are the treasure of heaven.
"Why do we continue to talk about this? As Paul said, "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen." As Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the responsibility to teach our Creator’s plan for His children and to warn of the consequences of disregarding His commandments." (Neil L. Andersen, "Spiritual Whirlwinds," Ensign, May 2014)
Again the leaders of the Church are not free to change doctrine. God declares the doctrine and it is my choice to follow or not.

I believe that one of the dangers of our era is that we can get caught up in the philosophies of the world and become distracted from what is truly important. For me what is truly important is increasing my faith in the Savior, becoming a better disciple and follower of Jesus Christ, and being more faithful in keeping sacred covenants. The devil doesn't want me to focus on these principles; he wants me to be distracted.

For me, I echo the declaration of Joshua:
"Choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)
My testimony is that they are the prophets and apostles of Jesus Christ on the earth today who receive revelation from God for the guidance of His Church. As I follow their counsel, I will be blessed. And I trust that "that the mouths of the prophets shall not fail" me (D&C 58:8).