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Monday, October 22, 2012

Learning with Our Hearts

One way to come unto Christ is by seeking to learn essential truths with our hearts.
What does it mean to learn something by heart? We hear that phrase used when describing the experience of memorizing something. There is another meaning. In the context of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, learning something by heart means that you make an effort to connect your heart and your mind, and not rely on the mind alone for answers.

This is a strange concept to those who believe that knowledge is obtained by reason alone. It is often met with contempt and derision. Yet, I would argue that such persons rob themselves of the true process of gaining the kind of knowledge that turns into wisdom and which brings us closer to God. Faith, whether it be in the idea that an answer exists (scientific hypothesis) or in Christ, is an essential part of every learning endeavor.

Elder Walter F. González of the Presidency of the Seventy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke about what it means to learn with our hearts.




Whenever someone comes to me and says, "Yes, well I've read all your books and attended all your meetings and I still am skeptical about such and such," I feel very sad for them. They hold onto doubt as if it were a security blanket. In reality, doubt is like an anchor held fast to the bottom of the ocean while a storm threatens to capsize the ship. Cut that anchor free and allow God to teach you truth, rejecting doubts that the adversary would have you listen to. God is not an author of confusion and skepticism. He is the God of Knowledge. Whatever you ask of Him, having faith, it will be given to you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mormon Young Men "Sing" to Young Women

President Thomas S. Monson, in his talk entitled "See Others As They May Become", told the men in Priesthood session of LDS General Conference that every woman deserves to be told she's beautiful. The young men in the priesthood have taken his message to heart and created this video as a dedication to the girls and women in their lives.



Here is the entirety of President Monson's talk:

Monday, October 15, 2012

How to investigate the LDS Church

How do I find out more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)

If you're wondering what the LDS Church is and how its members worship and understand its teachings, here are the steps I recommend. In general form (ignoring the LDS specifics below), these are the steps I recommend for when anyone is interested in learning the spiritual aspects of any religious organization and/or the truth of anything at all.

1. Use the Meetinghouse Locator to find and attend several meetings of your local congregation (called a "ward"). I suggest going for more than a month straight, so you can see broader picture (for example, differences between Fast and Testimony meeting on the 1st Sunday of every month vs. the regular sacrament meeting programs). 

2. Attend all three hours of each week's meeting block to hear what is taught in Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School, and Priesthood (or Relief Society).

3. Attend at least one cultural event or activity outside of a Sunday meeting. There's usually at least one per month in every ward. Ask a member or look in the program flyer each Sunday for the latest announcements.

4. Read along with the classes that are being taught. Start with the essentials of the Gospel, through the Gospel Principals manual. Study the Our Heritage book for an overview of LDS Church history. Then, move on to the Sunday School manuals. This year's class has been the Book of Mormon. The classes rotate annually over a period of four years: Year 1: Old Testament, Year 2: New Testament, Year 3: Book of Mormon, Year 4: Doctrine & Covenants.

5. Ask the missionaries to teach you. Tell them you'd like a member of the Church who is not a full-time missionary to accompany them so you can get a second perspective from a "regular" member. Meet LDS Church members online and at church meetings and activities.

6. Visit LDS.org/conference and listen to the most recent words of apostles and the prophet.

7. Read a Church magazine, such as The Ensign (adults), The New Era (youth), or The Friend (children) and The Liahona (international).

8. For any questions you have about doctrine, the entire library of everything we teach in all of our weekly meetings is found online at LDS.org/manual

9. Visit a nearby visitor's center, historic site, pageant, or temple. Learn how the Church takes care of the poor and needy via its humanitarian programDeseret Industries and provident living (welfare) programs.


MOST IMPORTANTLY

As you study and attend and discuss:

A. Set aside doubts long enough to feel the Spirit. "The Savior said, 'Come unto me' (Matthew 11:28) and 'Knock, and it shall be [given] you' (Matthew 7:7). These are action verbs—come, knock. They are choices. So I say, choose faith. Choose faith over doubt, choose faith over fear, choose faith over the unknown and the unseen, and choose faith over pessimism." (Faith—the Choice is Yours, Richard C. Edgley, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric)

B. Live the teachings and doctrine (John 7:16-17) and pray to know whether what you've been taught is true. From Elder David A. Bednar's October 2012 conference talk on conversion:

"As Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He posed this penetrating question to His disciples: “Whom say ye that I am?”

"Peter responded forthrightly:

"'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.'

"'And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven' (Matthew 16:15–17).

"As is evidenced in Peter’s reply and the Savior’s instruction, a testimony is personal knowledge of spiritual truth obtained by revelation. A testimony is a gift from God and is available to all of His children. Any honest seeker of truth can obtain a testimony by exercising the necessary 'particle of faith' in Jesus Christ to 'experiment upon' (Alma 32:27) and 'try the virtue of the word' (Alma 31:5), to yield 'to the enticings of the Holy Spirit' (Mosiah 3:19), and to awaken unto God (see Alma 5:7). Testimony brings increased personal accountability and is a source of purpose, assurance, and joy.

"Seeking for and obtaining a testimony of spiritual truth requires asking, seeking, and knocking (see Matthew 7:7; 3 Nephi 14:7) with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in the Savior (see Moroni 10:4). Fundamental components of a testimony are knowing that Heavenly Father lives and loves us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that the fulness of the gospel has been restored to the earth in these latter days."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What is a Mormon General Conference?

Salt Lake City - LDS Conference Center
Salt Lake City - LDS Conference Center (Photo credit: Kwong Yee Cheng)

Why do members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have a General Conference?

Twice per year, for two days on a weekend, members of the Church gather in Salt Lake City, or in local LDS chapels and around radios, satellite TVs, and Internet media devices in other parts of the world. They get together to hear the words of a living prophet of God.

A living prophet of God?

English: The perform in the during General Con...
English: The perform in the during General Conference of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What if I told you that Moses or Elijah or Isaiah had come back from the dead and offered to speak at a special place and time? Would it be worth it to you to attend? Even just out of curiosity?

Mormons believe in the ancient prophets of the Bible. They believe God never changes, never forgets His promises to His children. They believe God always wants to speak to His children. They believe God continues calling prophets. He raises up worthy men whom He knows will faithfully follow Him and fulfill the calling to be His Voice on the earth just as He did anciently.

The first prophet of this dispensation (time of teaching the Gospel) was Joseph Smith. He was succeeded by Brigham Young, who was succeeded, in turn, by other men.

English: Thomas S. Monson. Photo by Brian Tibb...
English: Thomas S. Monson. Photo by Brian Tibbets (tibbets.org) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The present-day prophet (as of this writing) is Thomas S. Monson. We address him by the title "President". We believe that, just as Peter of the Old Testament was the prophet, seer, and revelator for his generation, President Monson is the prophet, seer, and revelator for our generation. He is the mouthpiece of the Lord on the earth and holds the same special authority as Peter had to administer the restored Church of Jesus Christ.

When people join the LDS faith, they are not converted to the prophet, but to Jesus Christ. The prophet is Christ's direct representative on the earth. When the prophet speaks, it is the same as if the Lord is speaking.

When is General Conference?

General Conference is scheduled regularly every six months, during the first weekends of April and October. It is structured into five separate sessions:  Saturday and Sunday mornings from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm MDT and 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm MDT with a Saturday evening session from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm MDT. The Saturday evening session is only attended by priesthood boys and men or broadcast via satellite to a local chapel.

During every General Conference, Mormons anticipate eagerly the opportunity to hear what the Lord has commanded the prophet to say to them.

For example, during the Saturday morning session of October General Conference in 2012, President Monson announced two new temples would be built.

President Monson also delivered the groundbreaking announcement that the starting age of missionary service would be changed from 19 to 18 years of age for men and from 21 to 19 years of age for women.

The decisions that lead to these types of announcements, whether the changes be administrative or doctrinal, are not made solely by the prophet. They are revealed to him by God and to his counselors during private moments of inspiration and then proposed and decided upon collectively and unanimously in council with the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

The Church is indeed a "living" church to which God continually reveals new knowledge, warns of impending adversity, and counsels us on how to live more virtuous lives in a world that is in constant moral decay.

If you would like to experience the counsels given to members of the LDS Church by caring and inspired leaders, you can do so in the same manner as the vast majority of members of the LDS faith. I invite you to watch the archived sessions found on the LDS.org website. Invite your family to join you, and then discuss what you have seen and heard. Post here in the comments if you have questions, or ask someone you know who is LDS. Missionaries can also answer your questions via the live chat feature of Mormon.org, or by talking on the phone at 888-537-6600 (U.S. and Canada only). You can locate a meetinghouse near you on Mormon.org.