Sunday, January 18, 2015

Second Coming: Food Storage

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A few years ago, I was with my family at an outdoor event in Salt Lake City. I think we had just passed some sort of preparedness booth when one of us overheard someone say, "I'm not worried about an earthquake. If anything happens, the Mormons will take care of us."

I'm sure Latter-day Saints will do their best to help their neighbors, but I also think it best to do all we can to prepare ourselves.

Latter-day Saints have been counseled for years to store food. I believe this prophetic counsel is inspired and we have, since we were first married, stored food for our proverbial rainy day.

I am not going to explore the how of food storage in this post, or even the why, but rather what are some possible reasons you might really be happy you had stored food for your family.

I am not trying to scare anyone. I am just offering a reality check. Here goes. I promise it's not uplifting.
  • Income disruption
  • Job loss
  • Disability
  • Death of breadwinner
  • Transportation and travel issues or restrictions
  • Food contamination 
  • Famine, drought, blight, or infestation
  • Economic panic, loss, or collapse 
  • Quarantine due to epidemic disease and pestilence
  • Political unrest
  • Religious persecution 
  • Rampant crime
  • Anarchy
  • Electromagnetic pulse attack
  • War
  • Martial law
  • Natural disaster—earthquakes, floods, storms, solar flares, and so forth
You could probably add an item or two to the list (please do, in the comments). We could see one or more of these events happen before our eyes, in rapid succession.

What would you do? What will you do to prepare today? The next thing we plan to do is to take an inventory of what food we have and make a list of things we want to add. Soon.

Bonus: Watch how Maureen stores food in her small home.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Second Coming: Men's Hearts Shall Fail Them

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We live in a violent world. I think it's always been a dangerous place, at least since Cain's rebellion. But it's getting worse. Much worse.

I don't read much news—it's sickening to me—but I am exposed to it nonetheless, usually through social media. I'm not burying my head in the sand. I'm hiding my heart from the iniquity that abounds in this fallen and falling world (see Matthew 24:12). I can hardly stand it.

Every day, I am crushed by news reports of shootings and other vulgar, senseless crimes. The most troubling are those committed against children. Then there are disasters, wars, and the endless human suffering that follows.

Who can take it all in? I wonder how much longer God can stand it, much less us.

It isn't like we haven't been warned. Jesus foretold of a perplexing time when men's hearts would fail them for fear:
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. (Luke 21:25–26; emphasis added.)
I don't think He was talking about a medical condition requiring bypass surgery. He's talking about an emotional or spiritual failure caused by sin, crime, and other frightful world events.
And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people. (D&C 88:91; see also D&C 45:26 and Moses 7:66; emphasis added.) 
Like a great monster, fear could consume us, swallow us whole. But there is a remedy, a way out. The admonition to "fear not" appears over and over in the scriptures. It's an admonition to have faith, trust God, and be patient, especially in times of trouble as in our day.
For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. (Isaiah 41:13.)
Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. (2 Kings 6:16.) 
Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks. (D&C 98:1.) 
Moroni warned us that "despair cometh because of iniquity" (see Moroni 10:22), but in the next breath he promised:
And Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me. (Moroni 10:23.)
A modern apostle, Howard W. Hunter, offered these comforting words:
If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teachings, no other success can ever be permanently right.
We live in a time of iniquity and despair, but it is also a time of great hope. It's possible to move forward every day with "a perfect brightness of hope" (see 2 Nephi 31:20) though it requires a firm mind and constant positive action. In other words, real faith. The real deal.

This chilling reminder from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve comes to mind: "We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

Our hope need not disintegrate though families and the world itself disintegrate around us. Yes, violence and persecution rage, but we can endure it.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 10:22.) 
 It won't be long. We know for certain that it won't be too long.
And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. (Matthew 24:22.)
Hang on. Hold on. Hope on. It will all work out. Embrace your faith as you would your child in a tornado. Above all else, keep looking up.
 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. (Psalms 121:1.) 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Enduring Faith

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Today, a counselor in our bishopric bore his testimony and shared a story about his favorite Christmas gift.

His daughter has been wheelchair bound for six years, but on Christmas she was able to walk from the car into their house with only the aid of a pair of crutches. Imagine that! What a great moment that must have been.

Then he went on to talk of what he called "enduring faith." He explained that our prayers are not always answered immediately, but if we endure in patient faith, we can expect answers, even miracles.

I was also touched today by an article written by Elder Koichi Aoyagi of the Seventy. It's another example of enduring faith.

He told of making a commitment to marry in the temple at age 19, even though there were no temples in Japan at that time (1964). He was prayerfully searching for a wife and found Shiroko Momose with the aid of the Spirit when he was 25 (six years later). He proposed to her shortly after they started dating. Her response?
I am very happy to know that your Lord is my Lord . . . . When they announced the trip to the Salt Lake Temple, I longed to go. I prayed many times that the Lord would help me find someone I could marry there. About a year ago I came to know through the Spirit while praying that I should wait for you [while you were on your mission] and that you would propose to me when you returned from your mission.
They married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1970.

The perseverance and endurance of faithful people amazes me. "Enduring faith" is now part of my spiritual vocabulary.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Second Coming: The Antichrist

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Shortly before His death, Jesus told His apostles that false Christs and false prophets would deceive even His chosen followers:
There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:24; see also Mark 13:22.)
The apostle John wrote in his first epistle about antichrists:
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. ... Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:18,22; compare 2 John 1:7.)
Here John tells us that an "antichrist shall come" but also that there are many antichrists. According to the Bible Dictionary, an antichrist is "one who would assume the guise of Christ but in reality would be opposed to Christ . . . [or] anyone or anything that counterfeits the true gospel or plan of salvation and that openly or secretly is set up in opposition to Christ."

It's hard to imagine a worse kind of dishonesty. I mean, what kind of people dream these kinds of schemes up? Maybe that's why there's an outer darkness. No one can deal with such folks so you have to send them off to deal with themselves. The ultimate time out.

Several notable antichrists are in the Book of Mormon such as SheremNehor, and Korihor.

John also wrote:
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:3.)
So, if someone won't confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is that the spirit of antichrist? Yes, I think it is.

While there may be many antichrists, it also appears that there will be one in particular who will get a lot of attention. Though Satan is the great antichrist, he will also promote a prominent mortal imposter.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians of a "man of sin" who will appear sometime before the Second Coming of the Son of Man. This character is considered by many as the Antichrist.
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4,8–10.)
In the Book of Revelation, John writes of a beast who:
Doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. (Revelation 13:11–15). 
I won't attempt here to untangle the details around this beast, or the "first beast" (v. 12), or the "false prophet" who is in partnership with the beast to deceive the world (see Revelation 16:13 and 20:10). But I will mention that the beast here spoken of is also the beast who will impose a mark of commerce ("the mark of the beast") that I have written about earlier.

Suffice it to say that in the last days:
  • There will be many who will deny Christ and the Father. 
  • There will also be those who pretend to be Christ or prophets. 
  • Among the imposters will be those who show great and deceptive signs.
  • One particular double-dealer, the man of sin or, popularly, the Antichrist, will be prominent and troublesome.
  • He will be in cahoots with others to deceive the world and bring them into subservience, even killing those who do not worship the image of the beast.
  • This antichrist, and those who support his craft, will be consumed at Christ's coming.
I am not asking you—not here or in any of my posts on the Second Coming—to take my word on the subject. I do encourage you, however, to be well-informed, to study the scriptures linked here, among others, and to draw your own conclusions. I don't ever try to overinterpret the events leading up to Christ's second advent, but I do want to know about them and understand them as best I can so that I will be ready to face them. That's my hope for you too.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

You Can Change

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Courtesy LDS Media Library
It's a new year, a perfect time to make some changes in my life. But change requires courage, effort, humility, and willingness, things that aren't always easy to come by. Maybe that's why change is hard for me and most other people.

I like my daily patterns, those little habits that are a cinch for me to do and remember, like taking a shower or brushing my teeth. They don't require much thought or imagination, and they don't present a challenge. They are mostly good things, but I've got some bad habits mixed in there too—mostly omissions.

When someone asks me to change my daily patterns, I sometimes balk. I'm not always big on change because change requires energy, something I'm a little short on these days. Am I "set in my ways"? Maybe. Probably.

From the beginning, angels and prophets have been asking the human family to shape up. It's not a fun job and prophets are often hated for it. Why are they hated? It's evident we don't like to be found out or to have our faults pointed out. We don't like to be "told." Changes don't come easy, especially for proud people who think they've already got everything figured out.
This is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits. (Isaiah 30:9–10.)
Remember Saul, who later became Paul the apostle, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," who on the road to Damascus saw a light and heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?"

"Who art thou, Lord?" he asked.

"I am Jesus whom thou persecutest . . . ."

Then Saul wisely replied, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (See Acts 9:1–19.)

That's a tougher thing to say than to do, but the apostle Paul spent the rest of his life doing his best to follow what the Lord would have him do. It took sacrifice and energy and deep humility, but he did it, and in doing so, he changed not only himself, but also the world.

I like the way Jesus explained the problem of repentance to Nicodemus one night:
Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (John 3:20.)
If you ever feel like hiding or fleeing from change, well, it's a pretty good indicator that you ought consider making that change, to turn around and face the light.

If you point out my "darkness" to me, I have several options: defend myself, hide, or change.

If I defend myself, my little dark deeds stay in the dark, or so I imagine. This kind of self-defense keeps me comfortably stagnant. No growth there.

If I hide, I'm just hiding from the truth, which is just putting off the inevitable.

If I change, I take a risk. I might embarrass myself by admitting I need to change. I might fail in my efforts. But what are the possibilities, the joys, the rewards of repentance?
He who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come. (D&C 59:23.)
The word repent comes from a Latin root that means "to feel regret." The word regret, perhaps of Germanic origin, means "to weep." Repentance is not only a path to change but also a motivation as well.

If I could say one thing about repentance, it would be this: it heals. It heals hearts, it heals minds, it heals relationships, it closes wounds, it opens possibilities. After faith in Christ, it's the best possible thing you can do.

When the light came to Saul, he didn't mess around. He decided to change, to repent, on the spot. His spirit was contrite, his heart, broken. He was willing to change without argument. Life was tough for him after that, but as he shaped his will to the Lord's will, he changed not only himself but also thousands of lives. He is still, through his letters in the New Testament, changing lives by the thousands.

We have an adversary. He is real. He and his mob of minions don't want you to repent, because if you change, you'll change others. He doesn't want that. It ruins his plan. There's a better plan than his. It's simple, and though difficult, nothing could be more rewarding.
Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me. For I, the Lord, will cause them to bring forth as a very fruitful tree which is planted in a goodly land, by a pure stream, that yieldeth much precious fruit. (D&C 97:8–9.)
When your heart is honest and broken, when your spirit is contrite and willing, the door of heaven is flung open. God cares about us more than He cares about our sins. He will suffer long with us as we try and try again. It will be worth it, more worthwhile than we can imagine.

We know why change is important, but what about the how? What can we do differently to create a different outcome? Many books have been written on the subject, and gurus have dedicated their lives to proffering numberless tricks and gimmicks on how to change (just think "weight loss"), but I have found three principles that don't ever fail: (1) accountability, (2) retrospection, and (3) grace.

First, including others in my goal making and keeping keeps me on my toes. It helps a lot to give account to another human being of what you are doing or not doing. Second, reminding, remembering, and reflecting on what went well, what didn't, and what's next—that's retrospection to me. A daily dose is best. Finally, and most importantly, the grace of a loving Father is what makes great things happen.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:10.)
Start your list today—I will too—of things you'd like to change in 2015. Then ask for God's help. As you do, you'll not only change your life, you'll also change the lives of others. Who knows. You might even change the world.
With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. (Mark 10:27.)
 Happy New Year! (P.S. This post is a bit of a milestone. It's my 500th post on this blog.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"High Flight" by John Gillespie MacGee, Jr.

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Pilot Officer John G. Magee Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo)
When I was boy growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s, I'd sometimes stay up too late watching television. I'd usually fall asleep during some movie classic, then wake up just as the station was about to sign off.

I remember the clip below, a devotional of sorts, being shown just before the test pattern would appear. The poem has stayed with me over the years. When I found myself quoting part of it to my family just before Christmas, I decided to do some research.

It turns out that John Gillespie Magee, Jr., a World War II Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, wrote the sonnet "High Flight" while training in England in 1941. He died tragicallyless than four months later after a mid-air plane crash. He was only 19.

Here is his sonnet:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Such sentiments are not commonly expressed these days. Please let me know if you remember the clip from your childhood. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Family Home Evening Habit

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Joseph F. Smith. Courtesy LDS Media Library.
Before we got married, my wife and I made a commitment to each other that we would hold family home evening regularly. We made a point to start holding it before we had children so we would be in the habit when they arrived. Our youngest left home to serve a mission almost two weeks ago. The nest is officially empty. Now what?

We have been married for 35 years, 4 months, and 14 days. But by some miracle, we've stayed in the FHE habit. We didn't hold it every Monday night, but we held it regularly and often. More often than not, we held it weekly.

We had family night tonight, just my wife and me. We sang, "Ring Out, Wild Bells." We talked about our goals for 2015 and discussed a pro/con list my wife complied about a potential purchase. We closed by reading a few verses from Matthew chapter 2.

Family night has helped us, all of us in our family, stay close to the Spirit of the Lord. When you get together as a family, talk openly about your testimony, study scripture, pray, share spiritual experiences, admit to your failings, offer up your hopes, dreams, aspirations, and disappointments, and allow yourself to be a little vulnerable, it helps form connections and glues your family together.

Joseph F. Smith, together with the First Presidency, issued this statement almost 100 years ago: 
We advise and urge the inauguration of a "Home Evening" throughout the Church, at which time fathers and mothers may gather their boys and girls about them in the home and teach them the word of the Lord. They may thus learn more fully the needs and requirements of their families; at the same time familiarizing themselves and their children more thoroughly with the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This "Home Evening" should be devoted to prayer, singing hymns, songs, instrumental music, scripture-reading, family topics and specific instruction on the principles of the Gospel, and on the ethical problems of life, as well as the duties and obligations of children to parents, the home, the Church, society and the Nation. For the smaller children appropriate recitations, songs, stories and games may be introduced. Light refreshments of such a nature as may be largely prepared in the home might be served.

Formality and stiffness should be studiously avoided, and all the family should participate in the exercises.

These gatherings will furnish opportunities for mutual confidence between parents and children, between brothers and sisters, as well as give opportunity for words of warning, counsel and advice by parents to their boys and girls. They will provide opportunity for the boys and girls to honor father and mother, and to show their appreciation of the blessings of home so that the promise of the Lord to them may be literally fulfilled and their lives be prolonged and made happy. …

If the Saints obey this counsel, we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influences and temptations which beset them” (“Home Evening,” Improvement Era, June 1915, 733–34, as quoted in Presidents of the Church Student Manual, (2012), 94–111).
Joseph F. Smith was a prophet. What he said was completely true. The promised blessings have been realized in our family. It was worth every drop of effort. I am deeply grateful. Finally, as the Savior said, there is an unimpeachable way to learn the truth—live it:
Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:16–17.)