Monday, August 3, 2015

What Does MTC Mean to You?

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Missionaries in Africa. Courtesy LDS Media Library.
Missionary Training Center. That's what MTC stands for, right? Well, it depends on you.

I remember in a previous ward where we lived, around the time a young man was about to leave on a mission, his younger sister was worried because she thought her brother was going to the Empty Sea. You know, that big, vast, scary waterless ocean? That's what she thought until her dad sat her down and gave her a little better explanation.

Then there's the teenager who thinks that MTC stands for My Trial's Coming. A mission is an ominous, mysterious obligation to outwardly anticipate but to inwardly dread. No fun.

And what about the moms? Some think it's short for Mother's Torture Chamber. It's where they separate from their babies. Which is really hard. (It's not so easy for the dads either.)


Finally, there's the dedicated missionary, the one who's there because she wouldn't rather be any other place in the world, the one who willingly forgets how to complain, the one who feels the Spirit so strong that she finally feels like she's found home. For such a missionary, MTC means My Time with Christ.

Your definition of MTC might be different than others', depending on where you are in your life. It's not so much a matter of age or station in life, but it has a lot to do with attitude and spirit, two things that determine what road you'll travel.

I prefer the high road. The view's a lot better. The road signs are much easier to read. And there's always 24-hour roadside service. And no matter what, you'll always arrive at your destination in one piece.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Second Coming: Whatsovever Nation Shall Possess This Land Shall Serve God or Be Swept Off

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Destruction of Jerusalem by Gary L. Kapp. Courtesy LDS Media Library
The Book of Mormon is a textbook for the latter days. Most everything that happened to the previous nations that possessed the lands that we now call North and South America will happen to us. One of the things that will happen is that the wicked will be swept from the land when the fulness of God's wrath will be visited upon them.

Near the end of the book, Moroni wrote these words as he related the history of the nation of the Jaredites from the Book of Ether:
And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them. And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity. For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off. (Ether 2:8–10; emphasis added.)
This seems to apply to any land of promise. For example, when Jerusalem fell into spiritual ruin, the Babylonians (pictured above; see 2 Kings 24, 25) and the Romans destroyed and flattened the city. In the Book of Mormon, insuperable destruction swept the land of wicked inhabitants at the time of the Jaredites, at the time of Christ's death, and when the Nephites were destroyed by the Lamanites in the early centuries after Christ appeared in America.

I wish to say that there is a difference between the wicked and the righteous. Given the political rhetoric of our day, sometimes we hear evil called good and good called evil (see Isaiah 5:20), but rest assured that there will be a day that will burn as an oven where all the proud and wicked will be as dry stubble in the field and the righteous "shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of [their] feet" (see Malachi 4:1, 3).

We seem to live in the midst of a cyclone of iniquity. The storm could quiet through repentance, through the acceptance of God's existence and laws, but such will not be the case. Not in this era.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Second Coming: The Same Day Lot Went Out of Sodom It Rained Fire and Brimstone

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"The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah" by John Martin, 1852
Sometime before His Olivet discourse, which He gave only days before His death, the Savior prophesied of His Second Coming in Luke chapter 17:
And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. (Luke 17:26–30; emphasis added.)
As it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Lot, so will it be when the Son of God returns again to earth. It seems that day will be a scene of sudden, mass destruction. Why? I'll explore what happened to Lot and his family. It'll give us an idea of what might happen on the "great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Malachi 4:5).

Lot Moves into a Bad Neighborhood

Before Sodom was destroyed, Abraham and Lot, Abraham's nephew, lived near Bethel and Ai, probably about 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 kilometers) north of Jerusalem. Between them they owned a lot of livestock and they couldn't live near each other without their herdsmen arguing, so Lot and his family departed to the east, to the fertile, alluvial plain near the city of Sodom. This area was likely just northeast of the Dead Sea (also called the Salt Sea). 

Lot was in for a little trouble though because "the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly" (Genesis 13:13).

In time, holy men came to Abraham and Sarah to tell them of the the birth of Isaac, and as the men departed, the Lord revealed his intentions for Sodom to Abraham:
And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. (Genesis 18:20–21; emphasis added.)
Abraham reasoned with the Lord, pleading that He spare the cities if only ten righteous people were there. The Lord promised that He would not destroy them for the sake of ten. Nevertheless, in the end, the cities were not spared.

Lot Warned by Angels

When two angels arrived in Sodom, they stayed in Lot's house. I'll rely on the New International Version to tell us clearly what happened next.
Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. . . . [can't bear to leave in the part about Lot's daughters] Don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”
“Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door. (NIV Genesis 19:4–11.)
Jude, who was likely Jesus's younger brother, wrote in his epistle that:
Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (NIV Jude 1:7.)
But immorality and perversion weren't Sodom's only sins. The Lord also condemned Jerusalem by the mouth of Ezekiel the prophet, comparing her to Sodom:
Thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters. Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways. As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread [overeating], and abundance of idleness [unconcerned, perhaps lazy or apathetic] was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. (Ezekiel 16:46–50; emphasis added.)
Lot Escapes, Barely

Lot tried to warn his sons in law, but they thought he was full of beans. When Lot lingered the next morning, the angels took Lot and his family by the hand and ("set") them outside the walls of the city. After they entered the nearby village of Zoar (Bela), "the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground" (Genesis 19:23–25).

Remember Lot's Wife

When Lot's wife looked back at the destruction, which she had been forbidden to do, she was reduced to a pillar of salt.

In his testimony to His disciples, Jesus warned: "Remember Lot's wife." What should we remember about her? Against the counsel of angels, she looked back. She chose her own way and suffered the fate of those who remained in the city.

I don't know precisely what happened to Lot's wife, but I have a suspicion that she not only looked back, she actually turned back and placed herself within the sulfuric strike zone. What was she after? I don't know. But this we do know: she brought her punishment upon herself. (Jeffrey R. Holland gave a wonderful devotional at BYU entitled "Remember Lot's Wife." Recommended reading.)

What Can We Learn from This Story?

Heed the warnings of the holy prophets, warn others to flee from sin, flee from sin ourselves, and don't look back.

One Last Word: Where Was Sodom? 

The archeologist Steven Collins believes that Tall el-Hammam, just northeast of the Dead Sea, is a geographical and archeological match for the site of ancient Sodom. He has been excavating the tell since 2005 and has discovered a thick layer of ash and other evidence that the city was exposed to a sudden, intense heat reaching 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. After the city was destroyed, the location was uninhabited for some 700 years. We can't be certain that Tall el-Hammam is the same place as Sodom as there are arguments against it, but I believe it might just be the place. 

Why do I write these posts? I know the Lord wants me to write them. I hope they help someone out there to feel better prepared for the Second Coming. Writing them has helped me feel better prepared, that's for sure.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Freedom Modesty Brings

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Courtesty LDS Media Library
That title? Not my words. They came from Kaylin Koslosky. This is a short post. I would only like to draw some attention to the Chastity Project and to a post on their site by Kaylin, "I Never Knew a Bikini Could Hide So Much." Among other things she says:
Modesty veils physical beauty in a world obsessed with it, in order to reveal the inner beauty that is often overlooked. It prevents lust, harmful comparisons, and insecurity and gives rise to confidence and a greater capacity to love yourself and others by recognizing your own worth without needing the affirmation of each person that sees you.
It is hard to turn back once you discover the freedom modesty brings.
Wherever you are at in this journey ask yourself this: What beauty am I revealing to the world, and is it leading me to the love my heart yearns for? But beware! You may be starting down a path of no return.
You do not veil yourself because you believe you are ugly, you veil yourself because you know that you are beautiful.
I was inspired by Kaylin's wise and courageous words. I hope you are too. 

Read More

Other posts from this blog on modesty:

When Clothes Really Do Make the Girl
A Few Thoughts on Modesty
Different Perspectives on Modesty
Quotes on Modesty
More Quotes on Modesty
Even More Quotes on Modesty

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Second Coming: The Constitution on the Brink of Ruin

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National Archives
The Prophet Joseph Smith prophesied that the day would come when the Constitution of the United States would be in great jeopardy. (I am not speaking of the White Horse Prophecy but of other, historically reliable statements made by the Prophet and others.) I see this event as one of the signs of the Second Coming.

I believe that the Constitution of our land is a living document and that it may be adapted and has been adapted according to the voice of the people. There are provisions in the Constitution itself for making such changes. Those kinds of changes—the kind that follow due process—don't trouble me.

How and in what way the Constitution of the United States will be pushed to the brink, I won't venture to guess; however, I have watched with interest the administrative and judicial challenges to the Constitution that have arisen in recent years. No doubt we will yet see many tests of the elasticity of this incredibly important document.

Who is the real source of the Constitution? The Lord states in the Doctrine and Covenants that the Constitution was established by Him and "by the hands of wise men whom [He] raised up [for] this very purpose":
The laws and constitution of the people . . . I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; that every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment. . . . And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. (D&C 101:77,78,80.)
I have no doubt that the Constitution made it possible for the gospel to be restored some 40 years after it was accepted by this nation as the supreme law of the land. 

But how or when will the Constitution falter? We have in the handwriting of Martha Jane Knowlton Coray and Larinda Pratt Weihe the following statement uttered by the Prophet Joseph on July 19, 1840, when he was just 34 years old (that's 175 years ago today):
Even this nation [the United States] will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the Constitution is upon the brink of ruin this people will be the Staff up[on] which the Nation shall lean and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction. . . . (See also "I Have a Question," Ensign, June 1976.)
Eliza R. Snow said of this statement or of a similar statement:
I heard the prophet say, 'The time will come when the government of these United States will be so nearly overthrown through its corruption, that the Constitution will hang as it were by a single hair, and the Latter-day Saints—the Elders of Israel—will step forward to its rescue and save it.' (From Journal History, MSF 143 #28, July 24, 1871; see also "I Have a Question," Ensign, June 1976.)
I was sitting in the Marriott Center on the BYU campus on September 16, 1986 and heard these words from the mouth of Ezra Taft Benson with my own ears:
I have faith that the Constitution will be saved as prophesied by Joseph Smith. But it will not be saved in Washington. It will be saved by the citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom. It will be saved by enlightened members of this Church—men and women who will subscribe to and abide by the principles of the Constitution.
It's not my purpose to speculate how this will or could happen. My only hope is that by sharing sturdy and verifiable quotes and facts regarding the last times, readers will feel forearmed and better prepared for the second appearing of Jesus Christ.

But let me say this much: I feel strongly that the Constitution will suffer when the majority of voices in this nation cry out for iniquity. Let me close with these words of Mosiah, warning his people of a day to come:
If the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land. (Mosiah 29:27.) 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Conversion and Connection

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Sister Rats. WikiCommons. Creative Commons License.
What holds couples and families together? What keeps people connected to each other and converted to their Father in heaven and to their Savior, Jesus Christ? I'd like to share a few thoughts that came to me yesterday morning as I discussed this with my wife.

The Rat Park

My wife told me she had watched a Ted Talk by Johann Hari about addiction, published a few days ago. Hari talked about the research of Bruce Alexander who observed that when a single, lone rat was placed in a cage with two water bottles, one filled with water and another laced with heroin, the rat would, almost without fail, become addicted to the drug water and kill itself in a matter of days.

Alexander also did research on a rat park—also called "rat heaven"—where a group of rats were placed in a pen together. They were given all kinds of cheeses, colored bowls, places to play and explore, and plenty of rat friends to connect with. They too were offered the drug water freely, but they almost universally ignored it. They were so happy and connected they had no use for drugs. Why would they need to run from reality when reality was so good to them?

Hari concludes that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety: the opposite of addiction is connection. Watch the video and judge for yourself.

Converts Are Connected

I've been thinking a lot about conversion lately—conversion to Jesus Christ and His gospel, that kind of conversion that sticks. I'd like to make a few observations about what I've seen and continue to see. These are not scientific observations, like Hari's; they're anecdotal.

When parents are loving and caring, teach faith through love, are involved in their children's lives, are supportive, nurturing, and set clear boundaries, their children tend to thrive. They remain connected to and continue to stay close to their parents. These families often stay connected and their offspring tend to be and stay connected, and stay converted to the faith they were brought up in.

When parents are strict, harsh, or forceful, duplicitous or judgmental, their children tend to scatter, from their family as well as their faith. When love, attention, and acceptance seem to be contingent on behavior alone, and when love is conditional, children or parents often feel isolated and withdrawn from each other—disconnected and prone to experiment and wander. They tend to lose faith and leave the fold.

Consistency and Connectedness

Have you heard stories about a home or visiting teacher who wouldn't quit, who in spite of rejection, kept coming back to the doorstep, year after year, sometimes decade after decade, always showing kindness, acceptance, and love, no matter how they were treated? Then, eventually, the door to that home miraculously opens, and then the door to a heart. Maybe that visiting teacher sits next to a beloved sister when she returns to a sacrament meeting for the first time since she was a teenager, or a home teacher is asked to ordain a father an elder after a long absence from the Church.

It's hard to resist genuine love and acceptance and it often leads to higher ground. Consistency in love, kindness, and acceptance tends to be a seedbed for conversion. Converts planted in this soil tend to get the nourishment they need to blossom and grow.

My Story, in Brief

My family was not well connected when I was a child. My mother had multiple sclerosis; she could not rise from her sickbed to care for her children as she would have liked. My father became an alcoholic, like his older brothers, and for many years, he seemed more attached to Scotch whiskey than to his wife or children. It was a cycle of unhappiness. We scattered.

When I was introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I found many families in the Church who were strongly connected. They spent lots of time together. They talked things through. They spoke kindly to each other. They said, "I love you," and meant it. They were supportive and patient with each other.

I wanted a family like that. To get that, I had to risk disconnection with my family of origin and the faith of my childhood. The more I sought that peace and connection, the more my parents raged against it. Forty years since my baptism into the Church, I am in a loving, close family. I have remained active in the Church, trials and afflictions notwithstanding, largely because of a close connection to my wife, our three darling children, devoted Church leaders, and many faithful friends.

Getting and Staying Connected

I know some of you who are reading this have strained relationships. You have loved ones who have slipped into inactivity, are deeply involved in sin or addiction, or who may have become offended and disaffected themselves from the Church and loved ones. You can't fully trust them and, honestly, you don't want to be around them. I understand. I have lived that nightmare myself. What do you do?

First, no matter what, my advice is to always stay connected to your Heavenly Father. Pray to Him daily, or better yet, many times every day. Believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in His Atonement. Read their words daily, faithfully. Study those words and make them part of how you live your life. Don't give up on God just because someone has given up on you or the Church. Trust God, even if you don't understand what's going on in your life. Hold onto Him and don't give up.

Secondly, keep on loving people, even if they hurt you. Be kind and patient. Forgive them and don't hold onto grudges and past hurts. Seek justice, but let go of malice and the desire for revenge. Accept others without accepting their sins. Hold onto your faith and don't give up.

Lastly, seek wholesome connection. If you can't find it in your nuclear family, look for it elsewhere. You need it. If you didn't need it, you wouldn't be a human being—a child of God. Seek partners and friends and leaders who uphold standards, who face toward the light, who are unselfish and kind.  Hold onto these friendships and don't give up on them.

Sometimes connection is hard to find, but I promise you, if you will seek it from the heart, hold onto your faith, patiently forgive, and free yourself of bitterness, you will find connection and love. It takes time and patience, but there are people in your circle who need your connection just as much as you need theirs.

Find your own heavenly "rat park" and you won't need the drug water. It will help you stay converted. It will help you endure to the end and be prepared for greater trials in the future. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

7 Particles of Faith

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Courtesy LDS Media Library
By my unaudited count, the word faith appears 648 times in the standards works. I'd like to share seven particles of faith I picked up from seven passages.

 

 What Is Faith?


The letter to the Hebrews answers this question:
Now faith is the substance [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1; cf. Alma 32:21.)
It's not something you see and hold—it's a divine assurance that something is right, true, and worth believing in. But much more than that.

 

How Does Faith Work?


As Paul wrote to the Galatians, "faith . . . worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6). Not by preachy preaching; not by fire and damnation; not by guilt trips, but by love. Think about that one.

 

How Can I Please God?


We must have faith to please God:
Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6.)
It is not possible to please God unless we approach Him in faith, believe that He is, and believe that He will reward each of us when we diligently seek him.

 

What Is the Reward of Faith?


The Holy Ghost is a gift from God to those who have faith in the Son of God and who likewise diligently seek Him.
[Lehi] spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—[and] I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him. . . . (1 Nephi 10:17.)

 

How Do Blessings Come?


Blessings come to us according to our faith—the degree of our faith governs our reward. Likewise, whatsoever is not born of faith is sin.
And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened. (Matthew 9:28–30; cf. Romans 14:22–23.)

 

How Enables Us to Receive All [Good] Things?


We receive all good things (good is my adjective) by faith: "And all things shall be done by . . . much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith." (D&C 26:2.)

 

What Is the Relationship of Faith and Works?


Faith is love in action. Abraham showed us how to perfect our faith through our works for faith without works is dead:
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? (James 2:21–22.)
To recap:

• Faith is a motivating, divine assurance of what is true.
• Faith works by love.
• Our faith pleases God and without it we can't please Him.
• The Holy Ghost is a reward for faith in the Son of God.
• Blessings come to us according to our faith.
• We receive all [good] things by faith.
• Faith is love in action and our good works are perfected—made complete—by faith.

Seven down, 641 to go. You can start your own study of faith here