General Conference

Every April and October members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) gather in locations around the world to be instructed by living prophets and apostles of Jesus Christ. Over the next two days, March 31 and April 1 2012, these inspired men of God will teach the world about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They will likely teach us about the Atonement, the importance of the family, God’s plan for His children, the restoration of the gospel and priesthood authority in our day through Joseph Smith, and the role of the modern Church in the world today.

Come listen to living prophets

Throughout the history of the world, God has always called prophets to lead his children. Through prophets in the Old Testament times, God taught the commandments and led his people in their days of trial and their days of joy and rejoicing. He spoke with his prophets “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11). God gave his prophets power to speak in the name of God for the benefit of the children of the earth. Unfortunately, people often take the words of the prophets to be hard. The things they say sometimes may have seemed antiquated or even insane; however, every person that followed those ancient prophets was saved from danger and protected from evil.

In our day, God has continued the pattern established in the Old and New Testaments of calling prophets and apostles. I testify that if we follow their counsel and direction that we will be protected and guided. Our following need not be “blind obedience.” We can know through the spirit of God that the direction we will receive from the prophets is true. I know that we will be told things in these coming days that may seem hard to us or may seem unreasonable; however, I pray that I, and all of us, will have the strength and courage to say, like Joshua of old, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

You can watch the proceedings of the conference online here.

The Immediate Atonement

“Verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee.” How many of us have longed to hear those words? How many of us feel that we don’t deserve to have our sins forgiven? I know that I have felt this way in my life. It can often be difficult as a believer in Christ to understand the principle of forgiveness as it relates to the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Growing up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), I was taught that God loved me and that I could be forgiven of my sins if I repented. I was taught that repentance consists of recognizing sin, confessing our sins, making restitution for our sins to those harmed, and forsaking the sin.  Jesus has taught “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess and forsake them” (D&C 58:43).

I know that this doctrine of repentance is true. I also know that forgiveness comes to those that repent. However, for a long time I struggled to feel that forgiveness and the resulting closeness to the Savior because of my continuing imperfections. I was also taught that the Lord has said

“And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto the soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” (D&C 82:7)

I often used to feel that this scripture condemned us as imperfect humans to live in a perpetual state of lacking forgiveness because each time we made any mistake, all of the former mistakes we had made would return to us again. I imagined to myself a God who was anxious to pile the guilt and sin on me. Through personal experience and study I have gained a deeper, if not yet perfect, understanding of the doctrine of the Atonement and forgiveness.

I know that my Heavenly Father is a just God and “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (Alma 45:16); however, I also know that God is merciful, kind, loving, and most importantly forgiving.

I believe that God is anxious to forgive us. He wants us to live free from the burden of sin. He wants us to overcome our weaknesses and come closer to Him. He does not want us to suffer. He wants to forgive us and allow us to return to Him quickly. The atonement of Jesus Christ enables all of these things to happen.

When we have made a mistake, we need not feel that we must suffer for some arbitrary amount of time before we seek the forgiveness of God. When we have made a mistake, the best thing to do is to immediately go to Heavenly Father in prayer and begin the repentance process. God is ready and anxious to receive us back into His presence when we have wandered astray.

This principle is beautifully illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son. Recall that the prodigal was the son of a wealthy man who took his inheritance early and squandered it in evil, riotous living.  When his earthly pleasure was over, he realized that he had left the only source of goodness in his life–his father. He decided to return and become a servant in his father’s house. When we are as the prodigal son, desiring to return to God, it is important to remember the attitude and character of the father.

“But when [the prodigal] was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. . . . the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:11-32)

The prodigal’s father was waiting for him. He saw him and ran to him while he was “yet a long way off.” Our Heavenly Father always has this attitude towards us. God always wants us to return. When we turn around a “long way off” and start to return to His arms, He will run to us and embrace us.

I know that the Atonement has the power to begin to heal us immediately when we decide that we need its power. The return journey may still take time, but the process begins immediately when we start to return to God.

The following scriptures illustrate this point further:

Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.” (Alma 34:31)

“And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.” (3 Nephi 10:5)

I know that God loves us. We are His literal children and He is anxious to bless and forgive us. I know that the atonement is real and literally has the power to cleanse us. I know that this power is immediately accessible by us when we begin to repent and return to God.

Wait on the Lord

Patience is an interesting quality. It has been described as “the capacity to endure delay,trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious.” Most people know that they need to learn to be patient but when it comes down to learning to be patient it is often more difficult than it seems it should be. I’ve been blessed in my life to have many experiences that have helped me to develop patience.

While I was serving my LDS mission in the Philippines, I had to learn to deal with people that I didn’t get along with well. I also learned that people have their agency and that no matter what I did, sometimes they would choose to not follow the things that I was teaching them. More recently I was taught patience when a trip home to see my family for an important even didn’t go as planned.

Patience is an especially important virtue when we desire a blessing from the Lord. Sometimes it is difficult for people that believe in the promises of God to understand why He doesn’t bless them with the righteous desires of their hearts when they want Him to. Learning to have patience with the Lord can be particularly difficult and requires faith and diligence in following the commandments of God.

In Psalms 27: 14 David says that we are to “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” When we want any blessing from God, it is important that we realize that we need to wait for His timing in receiving that blessing.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks quoted Neil A. Maxwell saying,

“The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best? The same is true with the second coming and with all those matters wherein our faith needs to include faith in the Lord’s timing for us personally, not just His overall plans and purposes.”

So the key to learning to patiently wait on the Lord is to have faith in the Lord’s timing. I know that as we learn to have faith in the Lord’s timing in our lives that we can live richer, fuller, happier lives. If we are constantly questioning why we aren’t getting this or that blessing that we feel we deserve, then we will never learn to be happy. If we have this negative, scarcity-based mindset we will always live lives of scarcity.  If, however, we choose to rejoice in the blessings that are ours and focus on the abundance of blessings in our lives we will be better able to wait on the Lord for blessings that he has promised will be ours.

Aaronic Priesthood – Duty to God

New-Duty-to-God-coverThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently created a manual for Aaronic Priesthood holders to help them prepare themselves to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. This is called Fulfilling My Duty to God and was originally created for young men between the ages of 12-18. The principles that are taught through the activities in this manual, however, provide a great resource to help men of all ages to learn their Priesthood duties and to help them become worthy Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood holders. I’ve started to work through this manual. Part of the activities that are outlined is to share my experience while doing the assignments. I’m going to use the pages in this section to talk about my experiences. I hope that through this I can share my testimony and help to strengthen the testimony of others that may read this.

“In the Bleak Midwinter”

nativityThis year in the BYU Choirs’ Celebration of Christmas concert, the Concert Choir is singing a setting of the poem “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Christina Rossetti.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan.

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow.

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.

In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,

A breast full of milk, and a manger full of hay;

Enough for Him, whom angels fall down before,

The ox and ass and camel, which adore.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

I love this poem but especially the last stanza.  We give a lot of gifts at Christmas time but I think we often forget Christ in all of our gift giving.  We really have very little to give Christ that he doesn’t already have. We owe to him our lives, our agency, and our eternal salvation; however, as this poem teaches, we can give him the one thing that we have to give: our heart. May we all find a way to give Christ our hearts during this busy holiday season.

Becoming Men of God Through Faith

What does it really mean to be a man? The modern world expects a man who is focused on himself, on career, and on worldly success. The man of today is not expected by society to excel or to have ambition. The modern man must be in peak physical condition and it is acceptable that these “men” be immoral in their personal and intimate relationships. These worldly expectations are not, however, what the Lord expects of us, all of us on this planet, as His children. The following is meant to explore the traits needed by modern men to become modern men of God. Please feel free to express your thoughts and feelings in comments below.

In this video, Elder Christofferson, an apostle of Jesus Christ, shares a story about his father and mother.

  • “What characteristics of Elder Christofferson’s father exemplify manhood?”
  • “What does it mean to be a men in the eyes of our Father in Heaven?”



From The Family: A Proclamation to The World we learn the following.

Slide1

  • “What are the duties of a man?”

In the same talk as shown in the above video, Elder Christofferson said the following:

Slide2

  • “What does this quote tell us about the need to become such a man?”

Now that we’ve thought about what the traits of a God-like man are, how are we supposed to attain those traits? We can’t simply decide one morning that we’re going to be loving or patient or considerate of others. We need to know what the actual actions we should take are to help us access the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and make these traits a part of our character. We can learn a lot from the example of Nephi in the Book of Mormon. In 1 Nephi 2:16, Nephi describes himself as “exceedingly young” and “large in stature.” Compare this with the description he gives of himself in 1 Nephi 4:31 “I, Nephi, being a man large in stature, and also having received much strength of the Lord.” What happens in the two intervening chapters that allows Nephi to change from describing himself essentially as a boy to describing himself as having become a man? A careful examination of several of the verses in these chapters will help to illuminate the character and actions of Nephi that led to this change into a man of god.

Nephi begins his progression in 1 Nephi 2:16. Nephi says that he had “great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” The important things to take away from this verse are that Nephi had great desire and that he acted on that desire by not only praying but by crying unto the Lord. It is also important to note that he allowed his heart to be softened by the Lord. Having a soft heart is not what the world expects of its men, but it is absolutely what the Lord requires of men that can serve Him. Nephi also believes the words of his father who in addition to being his father is also his priesthood leader and prophetic leader. The result of this is that he is not rebellious. Not being rebellious doesn’t mean that he strictly or blindly conformed to a specific regimen of tasks but rather that he was willing to accept these tasks on faith and follow through to see the results. The overarching principle of the gospel that Nephi is demonstrating is faith, faith in Jesus Christ.

Nephi continues to demonstrate his faith in 1 Nephi 2:17-18. In these verses he shares his testimony of what he has experienced with his brothers. He first shares this with his brother Sam who believes what he says. He then shares it with Laman and Lemuel who characteristically reject the testimony of Nephi. Although they reject his teachings, Nephi is undeterred and continues to pray for his brothers because he is “grieved because of the hardness of their hearts.”

As Nephi continues to gain and exercise faith in Jesus Christ, he begins to have trials of his faith. The first trial comes in 1 Nephi 3:1-4 where he is commanded of the Lord, through his father and prophet Lehi, to return to Jerusalem to get the brass plates, their scriptures. At first brush this may seem like a very easy thing for Nephi because of where he already was in his spiritual progression. However, how often do we as children of God who are entitled to personal revelation decide not to follow the direction of our leaders thinking that we know better because of our own spirituality. It takes great courage on the part of Nephi to accept this commandment even when he was personally receiving great divine revelation at the same time.

Nephi does follow the direction given through his leaders. He travels to Jerusalem and asks Laban, the caretaker of the plates, if he will give the plates to himself, Nephi, and his brothers. Nephi and his brothers are thrown out of Laban’s house and accused of being thieves. Nephi, is still undeterred. He quickly decides to go to their fathers house and get the gold they left behind and attempt to buy the records from Laban. This attempt also fails and Laban steals their belongings and throws them out again. It would be easy at this point for Nephi to give up and decide that all that could be done had been done. His brothers do, in fact, give up and start to beat Nephi in a cave. An angel appears to them and tells them to stop but as soon as the angel leaves the brothers are back to their bickering and complaining. How difficult would this be do endure? Nephi had done his best and failed twice and even after an angel appears his brethren still do not support him. Even in this extreme trial of faith, Nephi comes through and decides to try again.

What gives Nephi the strength to go on at this point? What reasons does he give his brothers for having this type of faith? What does this have to do with scripture study? (1 Nephi 4:1-3)

After going back to Jerusalem, Nephi is told by the Lord to kill Laban who he finds drunk in the streets. Nephi reluctantly follows this command and obtains the record. The trial of faith is complete and Nephi has become a man. The pattern Nephi teaches us in these chapters is important to note. First he has desires, he is obedient, and he prays. After this he willingly accepts the trials of his faith not once, not twice, but as many times as it takes for the needed results to be obtained. Gordon B. Hinckley, a prophet of the Lord, describes again the traits that are obtained by following such a pattern.

Slide4

Slide5

The song “Rise Up, O Men of God” summarizes the message of this lesson

Slide3

I know that becoming men of God is possible through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This faith can be cultivated by diligent study of the Book of Mormon and other scriptures. I know that the Book of Mormon has a power in it that will come to us as soon as we begin a serious study of it. I also know that Christ lives and that he loves us. We are children of God and he will bless us as men as we strive to attain manhood as He expects us to.

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