Sunday, December 20, 2015

Three Purposes of the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is a manifestation of God’s love and reality that He has given to His children in these, the latter days. This holy record was compiled for three main purposes as listed on its title page: “to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations” (iii).  This remnant of the house of Israel consists of the descendents of Lehi, a prophet brought to the Americas in the beginning of The Book of Mormon. Although the book is centered on this family, it serves as a testament to all mankind that there is a God in Heaven, that His son Jesus Christ lives and that they speak through prophets today.  By reading The Book of Mormon anyone can learn that God has worked mighty miracles for those who follow Him, that God has a covenant with each one of us, and that the Gospel of Christ is for all people.
            One of the great miracles that the Lord consistently performs throughout The Book of Mormon is deliverance.  He warns Lehi and brings him and his family safely out of the city of Jerusalem before it was destroyed.  Nephi and his brothers are saved from the servants of Laban, then Laban and the brass plates are delivered into the hands of Nephi.  The Lord guides Lehi and Ishmael’s families through the wilderness and across the ocean.  Nephi and his children are protected from his murderous brothers as they flee to the land of Nephi and then again under the reign of Mosiah.  The Nephites are repeatedly spared from destruction at the hands of their enemies according to their righteousness.
            The Father also continuously reaches out to His children in the New World through prophets.  This is another of the great things which He does for the people of this earth.  Jacob exemplified the love of God, professing that he and his comrades “did magnify [their] office unto the Lord, taking upon [themselves] the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon [their] own heads if [they] did not teach them the word of God with all diligence” (Jacob 1:19).  Descending from the prophet Lehi, a long line of prophets exhort the Nephites to repent and to come back to the fold of God.  These prophets include Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Mosiah, Benjamin, Abinadi, and Alma.  The Book of Mormon teaches readers that God blesses His children with prophets to restore the power and ordinances of the priesthood and to give relevant revelation to those over whom the prophet has stewardship.
            The third merciful act of God was the missionary work that He set forth.  As Enos relates, “I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God” even though their labors were vain,” (Enos 1:20).  King Noah’s former priest, Alma, was able to convert many whom had previously rejected the gospel through his missionary work in Mosiah 18.  By converting the sons of Mosiah and Alma the younger in Mosiah 27, the Lord provided an avenue through which the Lamanites could hear and accept the gospel.  Through the missionaries of the Lord, Lamoni and many of his subjects were brought back into the fold of God and became a vigilant branch of the Church in Alma 19.  Throughout The Book of Mormon, Heavenly Father reaches out through missionaries to those of His children who have strayed into darkness.  Such repeated acts are characteristic of God’s mercy unto the children of men.
            There are many instances within The Book of Mormon where its authors teach about God’s covenant with Israel.  Explaining the allegory that Lehi had shared with them, Nephi teaches his older brothers “that in the latter days…after the Messiah shall be manifested in body…the remnant of our seed [will] know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord…that they may know how to come unto him and be saved” (1 Nephi 15: 13-14).  At face value it may appear that Heavenly Father loves the Jews more than His other children because He makes such wonderful promises to them.  It is comforting to note that later in his ministry, Nephi teaches his children that the Lord “inviteth to them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white…male and female…and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33).  I love that the Lord promises to not deny anyone that comes to Him. This also builds my hope because even a sinner such as I has the potential to be delivered from transgressions through the atoning and enabling grace of Jesus Christ. I know from ancient and modern prophets that as a descendant of Abraham (both literally and through adoption) I am entitled to his blessings according to my personal righteousness.  To know that I can be saved brings me hope.
            This principle reiterates throughout The Book of Mormon in God’s promise that “inasmuch as [His children] shall keep [His] commandments, [they] shall prosper” (1 Nephi 2:20).  Developing a theme, God’s covenant that He will bless those who follow Him is mentioned in the books of first and second Nephi, Omni, Mosiah, and Alma.  This illustrates that the prophets of The Book of Mormon were familiar with the covenants of the Father with Israel.
            In The Book of Mormon, the most direct yet symbolic expression of God’s covenant with the children of Israel is manifest in Jacob 5.  Jacob recites the words of the ancient prophet, Zenos, in which Israel is compared to a tame olive tree.  The owner of this tree, the Lord, consistently nourishes it as it grows.  However, the tree begins to decay as it ages, alerting the master that action must be taken in order to preserve the life of the tree.  Similarly, Jehovah was aware of the spiritual stagnation of the growing civilization of Israel.  As a punishment, He soon decides to scatter the house of Israel throughout the world; the Lord of Zenos’ allegory plucks tender branches from the old olive tree to graft throughout the expanse of his vineyard.  These grafts are nurtured by the roots of the wild trees as the wild grafts (which replace the tender branches of the old tree) are strengthened by the roots of the original tree (these roots symbolize the covenants that God made with His children).  It is crucial to the purpose of the Book of Mormon to note that the children of Lehi are also represented by these tender branches as they are of the house of Israel. 
Mixing the children of Israel with the peoples of the Gentiles strengthens both parties, thereby allowing the covenant of the Lord to extend to all of the peoples of the earth.  The lineage of Israel carries the Gospel of Christ throughout the world, and those possessing the blood of this lineage are better able to recognize truth.  With this in mind, Jehovah pays close attention to the actions and works of His children, seeking to preserve those who choose to obey His commandments and bring to pass much righteousness.  Similarly, the allegory teaches that the Lord of the vineyard desires to nourish and keep the trees which produce good fruit as opposed to the undesirable wild fruit produced by the corrupted trees.  He exhibits patience and hope in the progress and potential of his trees by continuing to spare them a little longer while fertilizing, aerating, and pruning them. 
Relevant to the children of Lehi, the young branch mentioned in Jacob 5:24 represents the Nephites and Lamanites because it brings forth tame and wild fruit.  Eventually, the wild aspects of the tree dominate, overpower, and kill the tame part of the tree.  Nephi foretells of such conquest by the Lamanites in 1 Nephi 12.  Yet, the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel manifests itself in the following chapter, when the truths of Christ’s gospel will be brought forth “unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of [Nephi’s] brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered…that the records of the prophets…and apostles of the Lamb are true” (1 Nephi 13:39).
Giving hope to the children of Israel in ancient times as well as today, Zenos prophesies of the gathering of scattered Israel in the fullness of times.  In verse 52 of Jacob 5, the Lord of the vineyard begins the process of restoring the interspersed tame branches back to the original tree.  This symbolic rendezvous of the lost tribes of Israel is brought about by servants called through the prophet in verse 61; these servants represent the missionaries called to serve throughout the world.  The fact that this prophesy is currently being fulfilled brings me hope because this means that the time of Christ’s second coming is approaching.
Like the Bible, the overarching purpose of The Book of Mormon is to convince all mankind that Jesus is in fact the Christ.  Throughout its pages, the authors of The Book of Mormon testify of the divinity of Christ over and over again.  One of the greatest chapters in support of this purpose is 2 Nephi 2.  Lehi admonishes his children to stay true to the commandments of the Lord.  Through his words to his son Jacob we learn that Jacob has “beheld in [his] youth [Christ’s] glory,” by which Jacob learned “that in the fullness of time [Christ] cometh to bring salvation unto men” (2 Nephi 2: 3-4).  Lehi wants his children to remember that “redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth” (2 Nephi 2:6).  Continuing to teach of Christ’s essentiality in the plan of salvation, Lehi continues to preach that “no flesh can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise” (2 Nephi 2:8).  Through this verse the reader learns that it is only through Christ’s atoning sacrifice that anyone can live with God.  Additionally, the reader is taught that because Christ was resurrected by the Spirit that resurrection is possible for mankind as well.  Salvation is available to the sinner because “they that believe in him will be saved” (2 Nephi 2:9).
Testifying of Christ’s identity and role in the creation, Nephi teaches his children that “if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ” (2 Nephi 11:7).  The reader can know that The Book of Mormon is a testament of Christ when Nephi shares “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ…that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).  Because The Book of Mormon was organized and preserved to encourage all peoples to accept Christ as their savior, Nephi teaches those who follow the Law of Moses that this law was given to inspire the children of Israel to “look forward unto that life which is in Christ” (2 Nephi 25:27).  In addition to teaching the Jews, Nephi proclaims “it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God” (2 Nephi 26:12).
2 Nephi 31 constitutes the purest depiction of the Gospel of Christ as spoken through a prophet.  Nephi prophesies of John the Baptist baptizing the Son of God and explains why Christ was baptized.  Nephi continues to teach that if readers will “follow the Son…with real intent, repenting of [their] sins… [and] take upon [them] the name of Christ, by baptism…then shall [they] receive the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 31:13).  The prophet further stipulates “he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved” (2 Nephi 31:15).  By outlining the steps a journeyer must take in the path to Christ, The Book of Mormon simultaneously enables its readers to gain a testimony of the truthfulness of Christ’s word through the power of the Holy Ghost.  Heavenly Father also promises that if readers will “press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end” they will “have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20).
The reader learns to trust in the Savior, for “the words of Christ will tell [all mankind] what [they] should do” (2 Nephi 32:3).   Nephi counsels readers from “all the ends of the earth” that if they “believe in Christ [they] will believe” in the words of The Book of Mormon, “for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good” (2 Nephi 33:11).  Indeed, Jacob clarifies that “none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ” (Jacob 7:11); therefore, the reader can trust that the goal of each Book of Mormon prophet is to bring others closer to Christ.
Under King Benjamin, the Nephites proclaim their desire to “apply the atoning blood of Christ that [they] may receive forgiveness of [their] sins, and [their] hearts may be purified.”  They do so because they “believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men” (Mosiah 4:2).  Even from the common people of The Book of Mormon, the reader learns of Christ’s role in the creation as well as His condescension to mortality.  Benjamin exhorts all who will hear him to “believe in God; believe that he is,…that he created all things…that he has all wisdom, and all power…[and] that man doth not comprehend all things which the Lord can comprehend” (Mosiah 4:9).  He does so because “there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of” (Mosiah 4:8).
The prophet with whom I can most closely relate within The Book of Mormon is Alma the Younger.  His humble endurance through the repentance process enabled him to grasp the magnitude of Christ’s atonement.  After prophesying of the birth of the Savior, Alma teaches readers that Christ will “go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” as well as “the sicknesses of his people.”  The Book of Mormon elaborates that Christ endures this agony “that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” and that He will “take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance” (Alma 7:11-13).  Through these verses in particular, the Spirit has awakened a knowledge within my heart that Christ truly knows me and has born my burdens.  I know that Christ above all other beings knows the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pains of life.  There is no temptation with which He is unfamiliar which brings solace to my heart (He knows what its like to be attracted to someone to whom His society/religion forbid Him from loving in a romantic fashion).  No other book has the capability of manifesting such understanding to the hearts of man than The Book of Mormon.
Our Heavenly Father knew that His children would face confusion, temptation, afflictions, and isolation in this life.  To give them hope that He would honor His covenants with them, God orchestrated The Book of Mormon.  By revealing the wonderful miracles which He wrought among their ancestors, Heavenly Father connects with Lehi’s modern descendants, as well as with His other children.  Through this canon of holy writ, its authors effectively testify of Christ’s divinity while supporting the Bible.  This, above all, is the purpose of The Book of Mormon: to invite all men and women everywhere to come unto Christ and partake of His salvation.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Free Song from the BYU Men's Chorus!

Hey Folks!
All of us members of the BYU Men's Chorus have been asked to change lives through sharing recordings of our songs with the world. We just added our newest song, "Savior, Redeemer of My Soul," which is available to download for FREE! 

I sang this song as a solo in each of my areas, either at baptisms or in sacrament meeting.  It is the embodiment of my sentiment toward the Savior.  

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this song, the lyrics are as follows:

"Savior, Redeemer of my soul,
Whose mighty hand hath made me whole,
Whose wondrous pow'r hath raised me up
And filled with sweet my bitter cup!
What tongue my gratitude can tell,
O gracious God of Israel.
Never can I repay thee, Lord,

But I can love thee. Thy pure word,
Hath it not been my one delight,
My joy by day, my dream by night?
Then let my lips proclaim it still,
And all my life reflect thy will.

O'errule mine acts to serve thine ends.
Change frowning foes to smiling friends.
Chasten my soul till I shall be
In perfect harmony with thee.
Make me more worthy of thy love,
And fit me for the life above."

This is a great opportunity to share the gospel as well as to uplift the lives of those you love. It's our Christmas gift to the world, and we want everyone to have a chance to listen!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Another Perspective on Policy

I found the following post by a friend-of-a-friend on Facebook:

"Hey all you beautiful uninformed people who are making a big deal out of nothing but I love you anyway. READ THIS and then Shut up. 

There have been a lot of posts about the recent LDS news regarding children of same sex marriages and also same sex marriages being viewed as apostasy. I'm sorry to add to those posts filling up your newsfeed but as a gay man who does not feel victimized by this decision I feel the need to share my side. I'm confused by a few things. First off, why is everyone so surprised! The church has never pretended to be anything other than exactly what it is. Their stance on same sex marriages has never changed. I also don't understand how this affects about half of the people posting about it. Over half the people posting about it are not members of the church or don't believe in the LDS church to begin with. How does this decision in anyway affect you. If you are a gay couple, were you really going to send your child to an LDS church to begin with? If you are an active LDS member posting, again, why are you so surprised!!! If you truly believe in your church, then you believe that the prophet is a prophet of God who speaks directly to him. If this is you... then have some faith and then be quiet. If you disagree with this view on same sex marriage, then by all means just choose another church. No one is forcing you to stay. I guess being from South Carolina I get confused when people act like the Mormon church is the only religion that exists, or the only religion that does not believe in same sex marriage for that matter. In South Carolina it was just another church, there to seek shelter from the storm if need be. It wasn't a cultural thing. In the LDS church, whether your parents are gay or not, you still have to have permission to be baptized either way. I'm sorry, but I don't disagree with the church when they say that it might not be in the child's best interest to be baptized into a church that does not support their parents marriage, seeing as this could cause issues in the home and could even result in the child being kicked out of the home. This is something that often happens with gay children who come out to straight parents, which is not something the church supports doing by the way. In my opinion, the church is not shunning these children but rather asking them to wait till they are 18 and can move out in hopes to prevent them from having issues at home. I'd also like to pose the question: do these children of same sex marriages really want to join a church that doesn't support their parents marriage? If they do, well then the church is not asking the children wanting to join the church to disown their parents. They just want them to understand that the church does not support same sex marriages and wants to make sure this is something they support as well before being baptized into a church that believes this. AGAIN, not something you HAVE to do! You do not have to join a church you disagree with! I don't feel children of same sex marriages are being outcast. They are still welcome to attend. But it has always been the churches policy that whether your parents are gay or straight, if your parents disagree with the beliefs of the church, you need to wait until you are of legal age to be baptized in an effort to keep the peace at home. Let's all stop victimizing people who are not being victimized.

If you still disagree. That's ok. We will have to agree to disagree."


Just food for thought. 


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Policy Change

Life has been utterly crazy as always, and this week was no exception.  I wound up with a $475 car bill, lost my $100 sunglasses, bombed a test, and found out I'll probably need to choose between student debt or no life insurance (long, unrelated story).  I went to a much-needed session at the temple and exited to a beautiful fall sunset.



Then facebook exploded.

When I read the headlines, I'll admit, I was taken aback.  I decided to wait until I heard from the Church itself before posting my views on my wall.

There are essentially two policies that have been updated and which really shouldn't come as any surprise.  The first being that members who enter into same-sex marriages will be excommunicated. (well, duh!) The second is a little more complicated.  It stipulates that children of same-sex couples cannot be baptized as members of the Church until they are of legal age, and at that point they need to accept that their parents' marriage is against the commandments of God.  I found the following post more articulate than I could have presented, so I shared it on my wall:

"If your child wanted to join an organization that taught your lifestyle was immoral and wrong, and that organization wouldn't let your child join till they were 18, because they believe keeping harmony and avoiding conflict in your home is more important than another member on it's roster, would you hate that organization for trying to help your family be united despite different opinions of your lifestyle? Or would you say thank you for trying to protect my family from a source of complicated contention until my child is older and can make a more informed objective decision to join your group?"

Almost immediately, four of my friends (one of which is less-active, the other three have left the Church) started railing on me.  My lanta!  They scorned my post as "sugar-coating" "bull[$#!@]" and a host of other not-so-flattering adjectives.  I tried to explain that the same principle applies in policy to the children of polygamists, but that didn't satisfy them (of course).

If the Church were truly as cruel as they described it, would the missionaries target the children of gay couples and attempt to turn them against their parents?  Wouldn't the Church publicly condemn homosexuals to Hell?  But unfortunately, in today's victimization society, people will take things too personally and attempt to reap the benefits of being a victim or a sympathizer of such.

My friend posted the following as his status:

"It's one thing to say you disagree with your parents religion and to join another religion. It's another thing entirely to say you disagree that your parents should even be together. What the new policy says is that children have to be of legal age, and to disavow homosexuality. I was a missionary once, and I never had to deal with the situation, but can you imagine two missionaries asking a minor to disavow their parents marriage? That's a tough thing, unethical even, and I would agree that such situations require a little more than just bishop or mission president approval, and that kids are probably better holding off their baptism in that situation until they are old enough to fully understand the implications of disavowing all homosexuality.

The church is not salvation. No one is being damned here. No one is claiming these children are sinners. If you disagree with the church, this policy should be a comfort to you, the church will not allow minors to disavow their parents marriage. Instead, these children must wait till they understand the implications of their actions and be of legal age before they join the church.

I'm sorry that so many feel hurt by this policy change. I sympathize with your pain and anger even though I support this policy, and consider it a necessary step to prevent abuse from both inside and outside the church."

(Again, I found that this individual worded things much better than I could)


I just hope that everyone approaches this change with the Spirit.  I know that we are in fact led by a prophet of God.  Following the prophet without hesitation is not blind obedience.  When we know that the Prophet cannot lead us astray, that he is a mouthpiece of God, we need not doubt.  We should treat treat all of God's children with civility and respect, but we also need to defend the Gospel of Christ.  He loved all, but He was unafraid to call sin sin.  Standing for truth does not require hatred; it requires guts.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

But it's Natural!

On my mission I frequently encountered individuals with an affinity towards marijuana.  We were frequently asked what our views were on pot, and most of the time our responses were met with scorn.


“But it’s natural!” they would counter.  “Why would God create such a plant and let it grow on the earth but tell us not to use it?!”

Actually, that’s the first thing He did.

As you may recall, following the creation of Adam, he Lord God “commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it” (Moses 3:16-17, Genesis 2:17).

I’m not going to go into the potential medicinal properties of marijuana (certain chemicals within the plant can be isolated and used to treat ailments without causing a high); I simply use this as a reference to the Word of Wisdom and moreover to the commandments of God.

While marijuana is a natural life form that God Himself created and allowed to grow on the same planet that we inhabit, He was commanded us not to partake of it.  There is symbolism in this commandment.  As we are taught by King Benjamin, “the natural man in an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, ad will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticing of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).

There are many in this world today who argue that same-sex attraction is natural, even biological, and should therefore be embraced.  Whether or not there is a “gay-gene” (which I highly doubt), not every urge, appetite, and desire should be acted upon.  If we learn anything from King Benjamin’s admonition, it is that we must deny ourselves whenever our natural inclinations come into conflict with the commandments of God. 

It is extremely difficult to avoid temptation and acting thereon, but it must be done in order to secure salvation.  Same-sex attraction is one of the most heart-wrenching temptations, in my humble opinion, because it distorts the pursuit of love.  While we may not understand the purpose for which our Heavenly Father has bestowed this characteristic to some of His children, we must become as children, “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, [and] willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us].”

I know that as we deny the natural man in order to keep in good standing with Christ, we will be exalted to holy men (and women) fit to enter His presence.  Nothing is as sweet or fulfilling as His trust.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Mold

I'm sure most Mormons know what the Mormon "mold" is - the perfect family without quarrels, each member of which is a well-behaved temple recommend-holding smiling angel.  Mormons with SSA recognize what I refer to as "straight-privilege" that ripples throughout Mormon culture.



Here's a blog post that adequately conveys my feelings on the Mormon Mold

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Voting According to Conscience

This weekend I had the marvelous opportunity to visit the Gila Valley for one of my best friends' reception. I also visited the Gila Valley Temple for a session. 



Tears came to my eyes as I soaked in the celestial room. It seems like forever since I've been here in the Gila Valley. It is here that I gained my strongest testimony of the temple. 

After making mistakes that distanced myself from the Spirit, I made a goal of attending the temple every week for a year. That was in January of 2014. I have stuck to my goal ever since then.  When I go over a week without attending the temple (which is rare) I can clearly feel the darkness of the adversary seeping into  my soul.  I then compensate by going multiple times the next week (hopefully that still counts!). By renewing my covenants (including my obedience to the Law of Chastity) each week in sacrament meeting and at the temple, my Savior has enabled me with the strength to not "be tempted above that [I am] able; but [has] with the temptation also [made] a way to escape, that [I am] able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). 

This week has been very difficult for me as the Supreme Court has declared the Constitutionality of same-sex marriage, overriding the voice of the American people in most states. 

My Facebook feed is exploding in rainbows with the hashtag "lovewins." Not all of these posts are positive. I've seen some memes of "Mormon Hate Loses, Love Wins," as well as others involving snarky remarks to those who don't support same-sex relationships. 

Naturally, there are many posts decrying homosexuality. One of my friends had the status of "I'm deleting any of my friends that are supporting the queers. Because if you really are my friends you wouldn't be posting that crap anyway." 

These conflicting views tear my heart apart, because I know that the Gospel of Christ is true and that it is the only path to true happiness.  I also know that same-sex attraction is real (obviously) and that most if not all who experience it have not chosen such feelings. Romantic relationships with the opposite gender/sex don't come easily or naturally for many gay people, but they still need human connection. 

Today Elder D.Todd Christofferson announced that members who support same-sex marriage will not be in danger of losing their membership of temple recommends. 

With announcements like these, it amazes me that people still see us Mormons as brainwashed zombies. Even though the Church is clearly opposed to any lifestyle discordant with the Gospel of Christ, we are given explicit permission to vote according to our own conscience without fear of Church disciplinary action. 

However, some of L. Tom Perry's last words to the Church included the following:

“We want our voice to be heard against all of the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God Himself established. We also want our voice to be heard in sustaining the joy and fulfillment that traditional families bring. We must continue to project that voice throughout the world in declaring why marriage and family are so important, why marriage and family really do matter, and why they always will.”

I love that L. Tom Perry admonishes us to tell people why family is so important. I know that we must stand with Christ regardless of societal trends and modernly accepted lifestyles. Though it might not be popular, I know that the only path of peace and happiness is the one that leads to Christ. 



Monday, August 17, 2015

The Seer Stone

This week has been rippled by sadness as some of my friends have announced their departure from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  One of the reasons cited was the unveiling of the seer stone, a tool supposedly used by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to translate (Click here for the official Church announcement).

Superficially, the idea of a man using a stone to translate sounds peculiar.  Why wouldn't God just tell Joseph Smith what to write?  Why would he have to rely on a rock to bring to pass the great and marvelous purposes of the Supreme Creator?

The transparency of the Church's revealing of the seer stone has unsettled the testimonies of some of my friends and I imagine many others.  However, any Jew and Christian should be able to process and believe this with peace and acceptance.  Why?

Let's simplify the concepts.  God sets apart an inanimate object and asks His servant(s), the prophet(s), to use said object to work a miracle.

Of the multiple instances throughout the scriptures in which such a situation occurred, the prime example that comes to my mind is Moses.

Moses was called to be a prophet for a people who once hated and feared him.  In his encounter with the burning bush, Moses wrestled with the Lord, saying "Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto they servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue" (Exodus 4:10).  As evidence of this as well as a tool, the great Jehovah blessed Moses' staff and sent him into the heart of Egypt to liberate the captive children of Israel.

Through his witness, Aaron, Moses taught of the divine love of God for His chosen people.  The Egyptians scoffed and scorned the brothers.  To prove the reality of his heavenly appointed mission, the staff was transformed into a snake.  Yet the magicians of the pharaoh's court were able to mimic the miracle.  In their attempt to discredit and undermine the brothers' testimony, their snakes were consumed by the serpent of the Lord (Exodus 7:12).

This rod soon thereafter turned the Nile River to blood, decimating the fish population and contaminating water sources throughout Egypt.  It summoned frogs and lice, which the sorcerers and wise men attempted to debunk through their own imitations.  In desperation, they pleaded with the pharaoh to acknowledge that "this is the finger of God," (Exodus 8:19).

But the pharaoh would not listen.

Then the flies came.  The cattle were smitten with plague.  Due to one of the punishments of God (boils) "the magicians [literally] could stand before Moses" (Exodus 9:11).

Thunder, hail, and fire rained down from heaven.  The crops were choked by pestilence.  Locusts of the east wind swarmed and darkness blanketed the earth as the enemies of God and those who opposed Moses ate whatever food scraps remained.

Every now and again, pharaoh would recant and acknowledge that Moses represented divinity and would beg Moses to entreat his God to take away the fruit of His fury.  However, treachery and deceit would immediately return as the pharaoh would betray the children of Israel again and again.

Ultimately, Jehovah instituted the Passover.  Through a ordinance which may baffle modern observers, the children of Israel sacrificed their best lambs and witnessed their faith by marking their doorposts with the animal's blood.

After losing their eldest sons, the Egyptians allowed the followers of God to depart.  Yet just when the children of Israel thought they were safe, the hosts of the Egyptian armies converged upon them in a numerous swarm of chariots.

With nowhere to turn, the Israelites were backed against their wall of faith, the Red Sea.  In the potentially most widely-known miracle performed by an Old Testament prophet, Moses used the staff to part the huge expanse of water, delivering God's people and obliterating their enemies.

Back to oversimplification.  God gave Moses a stick that defeated the greatest empire of the age.

An inanimate object was used by a prophet of God to bring to pass His great and eternal purposes.

So if you are a Christian or a Jew, you believe in the Old Testament, and therefore that God can use small and simple things to confound Satan and those who uphold his work.  By that same token, it would not be impossible for a raccoon to have scurried up to Joseph and squeaked the transcript into his ear (can you imagine? "I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents" ...but I digress); God has already proven that He can open the mouths of animals in Numbers 22:28.

In reality, those who try to discredit the prophet Joseph Smith because he used a stone to translate the Book of Mormon are not simply trying to destroy faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

They are trying to harden hearts against Jehovah.

This anti-Christ propaganda will continue until the last days, when men's hearts will fail them.

However, as Elder Uchtdorf has admonished us, we must doubt our doubts before we doubt our faith.  As we are asked to trust in things we don't fully understand or that may go against our better judgement (from the staff of Moses to the stone of Joseph, from the sacrifice of favorite lambs during the Passover to the sacrifice of homosexual relationships), we will be delivered from the chains and afflictions of this world.

I have to believe that if to "whom much is given much is required," then to whom much is required much will be given.  God will test our faith by choosing imperfect, mortal men and other instruments to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of men.

Keep the faith.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Jenner

Not that I'm any authority on the subject, but I have to speak my mind on the Caitlyn Jenner matter. I see so many posts either decrying him as a hero or heralding him as one. Do I see him/her as a hero? No. Not really. I have deep beliefs that God gave us our bodies and that gender is an eternal identity. HOWEVER, I think that some good can come from Jenner's transition. Because Jenner is a public figure, the world has now been exposed to the reality of gender dysphoria. I personally have NO idea how that feels, but I can only imagine how painful and agonizingly confusing that path must be.  According to various studies, transgendered Americans have a suicide attempt rate of 41%.  A statistic like this needs to influence our reaction to Jenner and other individuals who open up about their battle with gender dysphoria. 

I don’t know if it’s helpful or Christlike to encourage transitioning (whether social or surgical) by calling transgender individuals by new names and pronouns which they wish to adopt.  I really don’t know.  However, I do know that sexual realignment surgery does not solve the issue.  At least, that’s my deduction from studies indicating a 51% suicide attempt rate among transsexuals. 

Ultimately, the only thing that can enable anyone to conquer any trial is the atonement of Christ.  As for this politicized issue, I simply hope that people learn empathy for Jenner's struggle and others who battle gender dysphoria rather than being tactless in their disagreements. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Zinnias

The Mesa temple has the prettiest flowers, like the zennia I shot here.  Zinnias always remind me of my grampa, who was an avid gardener. He was the most Christlike man I have ever known. He used to give me packets of zinnia seeds because I liked them so much (mine never grew, unfortunately).


His house is right down the street from the temple, so I've always associated this sacred place with that sacred man. I love and miss him dearly, but I honestly feel that he is a guardian angel over me. I know that there is life after death, and by living the Gospel of Christ I will see my beloved grandfather again.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Back on Track

The Following is an excerpt from the talk "Stay By the Tree" by Elder Kevin W. Pearson (Click here for the full talk):

"If you are struggling, confused, or spiritually lost, I urge you to do the one thing I know will get you back on track. Begin again to prayerfully study the Book of Mormon and live its teachings every day, every day, every day! I testify of the profound power in the Book of Mormon that will change your life and strengthen your resolve to follow Christ. The Holy Ghost will change your heart and help you see 'things as they really are.' He will show you what you need to do next. This is Nephi’s promise to you:

'And I said unto them … whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.'"

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Voices of Hope

For the past year and a half I've been praying for inspiration as to whether or not I should share my story through the "Voices of Hope" project. 

Many a time I have found myself in the celestial room pondering the ramifications of such a publication. I've agonized over the potential loss of friendships or the awkward conversations I'd have to have over and over. 

I wrote up my story, which was scary in and of itself, and submitted it. It's been sent between me and a few editors at least a dozen times. Most of these revisions addressed sentence fluency or idea development, as well as aspects of my journey that I had forgotten or overlooked. 

It's surprisingly difficult to articulate the immense complexities of your strongest emotions. At least, that's been my experience with this project. 

But I digress. 

After a very long process of self-reflection and late-night writing, my story was published. The reality of the situation continues to dawn on me. 

I have not allowed myself to be tagged in posts sharing the link of my story, mainly because I'm not quite ready for everyone to know yet (hence the alias). But the word is getting out. As the news spreads, I can only hope that I'm not the subject of juicy gossip. 

However, several people have reached out to me to express their gratitude for the fact that I would be so vulnerable as to share my deeply personal story. Their pledges of support and encouragement has helped me incredibly with the prospect of being "open."

However, I've continued to be anxious since my story was published. I guess my biggest fear is that my friends and family's view of me will change. I don't want to be seen as the "gay friend" or "the kid who was sexually abused." 

So today I was in the woods, clearing underbrush. My anxiety climaxed and my panic drove away my ability to concentrate on anything else. 

Terror that what I've done is somehow against God's will surged into me, and I dropped to my knees. I softly begged Heavenly Father to communicate His will to me, or simply an idea that He wanted me to knowingly receive from Him. 

I waited, feeling the tender touch of the breeze as it whistled through the pine needles and hearing the call of woodpeckers. I tried to clear my mind, providing God as blank of a canvas as I could muster for Him to paint on. 

I didn't hear anything, and I worried that this was going to be another prayer without an obvious yes or no answer. I considered standing back up and getting back to work. 

But then I realized that something had changed. My heart had stopped racing, and a state of clarity had settled over my mind. It was like the fear had been let out of me like the exhailation of a long-held breath. 

Then, the tide rolled in. 

"I have overcome the world. Fear not"

I was walking up a hill crested by an olive tree. Christ walked beside me with His arm around my shoulder. I heard my prayer as if it echoed from a few minutes before. 

I saw Lehi standing beside the Tree of Life overlooking a vast space of darkness as numberless concourses of people felt their way. So many were wandering away from the Iron Rod toward a massive golden building. Lehi and I cried out to them. Some turned to us again. 

"Through your trials, I have blessed your voice with power." 

"Thine affliction will be but for a small moment. And if thou wilt endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high." 

I'm a flash I saw all of the people who know about my ssa, particularly those who had reached out to me in response to my essay. 

"I came unto mine own, and they received me not. Thy friends do stand by thee, and do pray for thee."

The "Voices of Hope" project came to my mind and I continued to ponder as to whether it was of God. 

"All things that inviteth and enticeth to do good is of me"

My mind's eye flashed back to Lehi calling after the confused wanderers. Then I saw others struggling with their hidden attractions, their hearts breaking. 
  
"Do you think that by sharing so deeply intimate your testimony of the atonement will drive more of my children away from me than will come at thy word?"

I assuredly felt that of course my story would strengthen the faith of far more than it would discourage. 

"And if people turn away from me at thy word, is it really your fault?"

No. We all have our agency. My words cannot take that away. 

Other words were spoken, the Spirit is constraining me to end here. 

I opened my eyes, partially in shock. I had received a response from God, a confirmation that I'm on the right track, and a reaffirmation of His love for me. 

As I stood on wobbly legs, I felt so strong. So sure. 

As I proceed on my journey, I hope that I can do the will of my Father in heaven. 

Your prayers are greatly appreciated and do not go unfelt. 



 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Why We Stand. Why We Fight.

Well.  It happened.

I think we all knew that this day would come.  For a long time I thought that it would come about by the voice of the people, not through activist judiciaries.

As I was barraged by notifications and news clips regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, I thought back to all of the time, money, and effort that we put into protecting the sanctity of traditional marriage.  We made hundreds of phone calls, staked signs throughout our hometown, and donated financially.

I also remember being bullied on camera at school by the "Gay-Straight Alliance" club for supporting Prop. 102 (the concurrent Arizona equivalent of California's Prop. 8).  The amount of spite that was aimed at members of our church was unbelievable.  I remember being cornered in my German class because I didn't think that the LDS Adoption Agency should be forced by law to allow same-sex couples to adopt.

Before I continue, I want to clarify that I don't think that gay people or their "allies" are all immoral, mean, cruel, crass, etc.  Most aren't, frankly.  Obviously those who shout the loudest are those who are heard.  I find their mudslinging of their political opponents to be hypocritical.  (I recently discovered that I struggle with being judgmental towards people who are judgmental towards people who they perceive as being judgmental.  Does that mean I'm judgmental towards myself?)

I have often wondered why we care so much.  It seems that the 11th Article of Faith, which states that we as a church believe that all mankind should have the privilege to "worship how, where, or what they may."  Doesn't that belief extend to the moral decisions of others?  Isn't the United States' Constitution (a document inspired of God) built on the premise that individuals should be able to choose their beliefs and behavior as long as their actions do not infringe of others to do the same?

Although the morality of the world may be rotting around us, aren't we supposed to "turn the other cheek" (Matthew 5:29) and be "patient in all [our] sufferings" (Alma 20:29)?

It occurred to me that followers of the living God have run from persecution throughout recorded history.  From Egypt.  From Babylon.  From Athens, Rome, London, Amsterdam.  From the United States.  My ancestors escaped the hands of those who attempted to rule their conscience, settling in Mexico.  Yet, the world continued to expand its domain.  The Mormons joined the jurisdiction of the United States, the alternative potentially equivalent to suicide.  We had been backed into a corner.

From that point, the morality of the world has spiraled downward, further away from the standards of God (which it had so closely followed for so long).  Our Church, which was spat out of this nation only to be dragged back into it, is now infused with American society.  However, we are supposed to be "in the world, not of the world."

We have no where else to run.

In my personal scripture study, I have recently reread the story of Captain Moroni and his "Title of Liberty."  He campaigned throughout his people for the defense of "their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children, and their peace, and that they might live unto the Lord their God, and that they might maintain that which was called by their enemies the cause of Christians" (Alma 46:10).  A group of judges had gone against the voice of the people in pursuit of power, jeopardizing the foundation of their government and compromising the values of Christianity.  Later, the sons of Helamen explained that they would not fight their brethren if they would leave them alone (Alma 56:46).

I am in no means promoting violence against those who disagree with our beliefs.  We need to stand up against evil.  Satan and his corrupt substitutes for love and connection will continue to try to permeate our lives, but we don't have to let him in.  As Edmund Burke reportedly said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

That is why we stand.  That is why we fight.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

D&C 58:2-4

"For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments...and he that is faithful in tribulation...Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.  For after much tribulation come the blessings.  Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory: the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand."



With my mortal understanding, I can't quite comprehend the purpose(s) behind same-sex attraction.  However, I know that there is a reason that God has permitted these attractions to occur.  I also know that through tribulation comes growth and other blessings.  I believe the harder the trial, the more glorious the triumph.  I can only imagine the eternal rewards for obeying the sacred law of chastity!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Church's Position

This is a paper that my institute instructor passed out to my class when he taught Romans chapter 1.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson 

     Where the Church stands:

The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people.  The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is.  Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them.  With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God's children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

(Mormonsandgays.org)

     Is the Church softening its position regarding same sex attraction?

There shouldn't be a perception or an expectation that the Church's doctrines or position have changed or are changing.  It's simply not true, and we want youth and all people to understand that.  The doctrines that relate to human sexuality and gender are really central to our theology.  And marriage between a man and a woman, and the families that come from those marriages - that's all central to God's plan and to the opportunities that He offers to us, here and hereafter.  So homosexual behavior is contrary to those doctrines - has been, always will be - and can never be anything but transgression.  It's something that deprives people of those highest expectations and possibilities that God has for us...That being said, it's important to remember a few things that people don't always understand or remember.  And that is that homosexual behavior is not the unforgivable sin.  The atonement and repentance can bring full forgiveness there, and peace.  And secondly, I'd say that though we don't know everything we know enough to be able to say that same-sec attraction in and of itself is not a sin.  The feeling, the desire is not classified the same as homosexual behavior itself.  And the third point I would mention is that when people have those desires and same-sex attractions, our attitude is "stay with us."  I think that's what God is saying "Stay with me." And that's what we want to say in the Church: "Stay with us."  Let's work together on this and find friendship and commonality and brotherhood and sisterhood, here more than anywhere.  It's important that there be love, and that there be hope.  Love is not to say acceptance or endorsement, but it is to say inclusion and not ostracism.  We want to be with you and work together.

    Why doesn't the Church Just Let People Be?

This is a gospel of change.  Jesus Christ is asking every one of us to change, and to become better and to progress and to follow in His footsteps.  His ultimate commandment is that we become as He is and as His father.  And none of us are at that point.  None of us have things, are free of things that we don't need to change in our lives and to improve.  And the standard is always the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And every one of us has to measure up to that standard because that's where our ultimate happiness is going to be found.  That's where our ultimate freedom is going to come.  And God being just and loving all of His children is going to help everyone who wants to progress toward that ideal, whatever they may need to do in their lives to do that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Man in the Arena

So long I have meticulously attempted to throw people off the scent and cover my tracks; I didn't want anyone to know about my feelings.  The thought of others knowing me absolutely terrified me.  I cannot express the panic that filled my heart when people would ask me if I was gay, or even when the topic homosexuality came up for more than a few seconds.  Terror was interwoven with the fibers of my being (too cheesy?  whatever) as I painstakingly tip-toed through my adolescent years.  I just knew that I would be judged (and rightly so!  You can't be gay and Mormon, right?) by everyone if they knew who I really was.

While I still battle shame, timidity, and despair, things have changed dramatically.  This week I've told three people, and each experience has been wonderful and healing.  I'm desperately trying to live my life in the way that my Heavenly Father wants.  It's very difficult, because I don't know how open I should be or whom I should confide in or how people will react once they find out that I kinda like guys (a lot).

As a witness of Christ, I know that I should not be ashamed to testify of Him through word and deed.  From a broader perspective, we aren't truly competing against each other.  We're competing against ourselves.  I truly am my worst critic (although Satan gives me a run for my money on occasion), but I know that it is better for me to struggle and cry and brush the dirty blood from my knees than to not try at all.  As I keep up the fight, I give others courage to endure as well.  A perfect illustration of this principle is manifest in the following quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

We cannot give up.  As cliché as that sounds, we will be trampled under the stampede of the adversary if we yield to his lies.  So while it is excruciating to be transparent and vulnerable, we shouldn't fear the shame of the world.  We chose this life.  We chose to risk defeat in hopes of glory. 

As children of God, we must remember whom we are trying to satisfy. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Institute Teacher

For a long time I've like I needed to talk to my institute teacher about my feelings. It was difficult and I wasn't sure why I felt prompted to do so, but this week I asked my teacher if I could talk to him in his office. I didn't quite know what to say or ask but I went forward with faith.

I explained to him that first long as I could remember his experienced same-sex attraction. He listened patiently and did not show any signs of discussed or shock, which I appreciate. He was very honest with me and said that he was not very experienced as far as these attractions go, and that he didn't really have much advice for me. However, he and admired my courage and my dedication to the Gospel. 

I asked him if there were any questions that he had for me, and he said the only thing he could think of was if I could be a resource to him in the future if any of his children experienced these attractions. 

He told me that over the years his views on these this issue have changed. He used to think that people with these attractions were gross and they couldn't be normal people, but he and his wife and now have several friends who have been open with him about their feelings and his love and understanding for those facing this issue have grown. 

I'm grateful to know that while not everyone will understand these experiences, they can still be loving and supportive and be willing to listen. There are people in your life who you can trust. They will be grateful for your vulnerability with them, and your relationship will often grow deeper by confiding in them. 

An Important Correlation

Puberty sucks, big time, period.  That being established (sorry for the use of the word "sucks." I think it's distasteful, but it helps get the point across without cussing.), puberty combined with same-sex attraction is a nasty cocktail.  If you grew up with these feelings, you know exactly what I mean (I imagine the feelings, emotions, and urges are similar in heterosexual male adolescents).

Anyway, like most of the girls my age, I was utterly boy-crazy.  Not the ideal situation for a bishop's son!  When I allowed myself to dwell on these fantasies, I gave Satan power to arouse lust within my soul.  As a result, I would be left shattered, empty, alone, worthless, pathetic, weak, disappointing, and unfit to live in the presence of the Holy Ghost.

After years of this struggle, I decided to take a different coping approach.  I made two lists.  On the first, I noted the emotions I experienced after any form of "acting out"  (Some of the feelings on that list are mentioned above).  On the other, I listed how I felt after I had resisted the urges of Satan.  Such emotions included: worthy, whole, strong, reliable, loyal, clean, pure, loved, responsible, and free.   I kept these two lists in my scriptures at all times, so whenever I opened them (at least once a day) I would see the two lists and would instantly be reminded of the emotional consequences of my actions.  This paper became a symbol for the underlying truth of agency: there is a correlation between happiness and obedience to the Lord's commandments.

I am so grateful, eternally so, for parents who taught me this correlation.  Without them, I would probably living a rather riotous yet meaningless lifestyle.  Applicable to all sins, I know that as we remember how we feel after making a choice (whether right or wrong), we will be able to act more responsibly in the future. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Here is Hope

In case you haven't noticed, I love Rob Gardner's music.  In one song from The Lamb of God, "Here is Hope," is sung from the perspective of Mary, the mother of Christ, after the Crucifixion.  One of the reasons that this song causes such a stirring in my heart is that hope can always been a notion seemingly beyond my reach, with an occasional glimpse of light.  When I returned from my full-time mission, I found the hope I had been searching for for my entire life at ldsvoicesofhope.org.  Knowing that there were others out there who shared my struggles and my goals was life-changing.  This song reminds me of my struggle and the hope that Christ has granted me through His atoning sacrifice.  I hope it touches you similarly:

"He who healed our sorrows
here was bruised and broken.
He whose love no end knows
here was forsaken,
left all alone.


Here despair cries boldly,

claiming this its victory.
Sweeter peace enfolds me -
hope did not die here
but here was given!
Here is hope.


He who was rejected

he knows well my longing
He so long expected
carried our burdens
bore every sorrow
Here, here, here is hope!


Here is love unbounded

here is all compassion
Here is mercy founded!


Hope did not die here,

but here was given.
And ours is the victory.
Here is hope."



 The other people in Christ's life continue this theme in the finale:

"He who healed our sorrows

rose with greater healing.
He whose love no end knows
lifts up our burden,
carries our grief.
Here...


He who was rejected

rose with power and glory.
He so long expected
come to redeem us,
come to deliver!
Here is hope.

*NARRATION: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? Nay.  In all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us*

Here is love unbounded!
Here is all compassion!
Here is mercy founded!
Oh great redeemer!
Oh prince of glory!
Here, here, here is hope!
Here is hope.