Tuesday, June 15, 2010

LDS Church shows inside view of Salt Lake Temple through new exhibit

For anyone who has ever wondered what the Salt Lake City temple looks like on the inside, the Church has made a model of the temple with a cutaway view of all the rooms. See LDS Church shows inside view of Salt Lake Temple through new exhibit.

The temple is a sacred place, not a secret one. The only reason the temples of the LDS Church are closed to everyone but members in good standing is that it is meant to be a place set apart to do God's holy work, such as joining families together forever in matrimony, vicarious baptisms on behalf of our ancestors who didn't receive the restored Gospel, and for learning, prayer, and reflection.

In fact, everyone in the world can experience the temple and have it be a part of their life. All that is necessary is to make the covenant of baptism and live God's laws of sacrifice, chastity, and consecration.

I can attest to the blessings of the temple in my own life. I would be lost without the ability to attend. It's the difference between trying to get through life blind vs. having full sight. Temple attendance gives me an eternal perspective on everything I do so that nothing seems without purpose in life. It's as if God lends me a portion of His sight so that I can see the road ahead...and when I cannot, that I can have faith that at some point, He will show it to me.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is the Book of Mormon really "chloroform in print"?

Grant Hardy at Slate.com explores the notion attributed to the Book of Mormon by Mark Twain that the Book of Mormon is boring and has no inherent redeeming value as literature or scripture.

I have to admit that, at one point in my teenage years, I agreed with Twain, even if it was mostly in jest, that the Book of Mormon was indeed "chloroform in print". There were many BoM reading challenges in Seminary classes which I found myself dozing off both in class and at home. It was only the gentle prodding and great teaching of my Seminary instructors that kept my interest buoyed.

It was when I became a missionary that I really got serious about digging into the book and its chronology as it related to its core message. I had a testimony of it because of genuinely applying its teachings in my life and praying to know of its truth, but I was missing that "page-by-page" understanding of its sequence. I couldn't quickly turn to a particular story or random page and tell anyone its context and significance as part of the whole book.

Having done that, I can tell you that the Book of Mormon is definitely NOT "chloroform in print". Mark Twain's statement transparently reveals the lack of seriousness and depth with which he explored its pages.

As a parent, I can tell you that I'm grateful to have made more effort than Twain or others who attack the book based only on a cursory or partial reading.

Daily I can turn to a story or example in teaching my kids how to get along with each other. First and Second Nephi are ALL about family ties and the behaviors and consequences of family living, especially within the context of God's will for families.

The Book of Jacob helps me shield myself from the soul-cankering influences of pornography and immorality that surrounds me. Jacob 5 teaches me the causes behind the wars and conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere and the interfaith bickering that happens in our world.

The Book of Enos teaches me how to pray.

The Book of Mosiah helps me understand how a country should be governed, how to treat my fellow men, why the Savior performed the Atonement, and the fact that no matter how small a concern even a portion of a nation is in the context of the world's way of seeing things, God will still send a prophet to warn it of danger and to organize His Church there.

The Book of Alma is rich in just about everything there is to experience in life:
  • distinguishing between truth and error
  • avoiding bringing negative consequences upon oneself through rebellion against God
  • how to share the Gospel with others in a way in which they will most likely respond positively
  • on which criteria mankind will be judged
  • why bad things happen to good people
  • why good things happen to good people
  • why good things happen to bad people
  • the beauty of suddenly having religious freedom when none existed prior
  • the horror of losing religious freedom when once enjoyed
  • why repentance is necessary, and how to do it
  • why the philosophies of the world are bankrupt and without foundation
  • what the purpose of the Law of Moses was (to point to Christ)
  • why bridling your passions is a Godly thing to do
  • who are we
  • why are we here
  • what happens after we die
  • how it's possible to fight a war in a way that God finds acceptable (not appealing, just acceptable in the event that no other option is available)
  • why kings are always problematic in the governance of a nation
  • why division and contention is always problematic in the preservation of freedom
The Book of Helaman teaches us why we must always be careful never to let "secret combinations" or conspiracies, mafias, gangs, government cabals, terrorist groups, etc. become the order of society.

Third Nephi teaches us that Jesus had love for other children not of Jerusalem's fold and that His Gospel doesn't change whether taught in Jerusalem, in Zarahemla of the Americas, or in any other nation. Most importantly, it provides the key second witness that Jesus is the Christ, the resurrected Savior of the world, in every literal sense and reality.

Fourth Nephi, even though only one chapter in length and spanning a period of over 200 years, is most instructive in its preservation of a record of what causes years of peace...and what ends that peace.

The Book of Mormon (meaning, the subsection of the whole book by that name) gives us a thorough rundown of everything we are about to experience as our own world crumbles and decays in a "horrible scene of the blood and carnage" like the sequences of events the prophet Mormon experienced. This is a book to pay attention to if you want to know what we're in for.

The Book of Ether is a microhistory that parallels the history of the Nephites and, again, emphasizes the irreversible nature of mutual genocide and fratricide that emerges from secret conspiracies to "get gain" and obtain the temporary kingdoms of the world.

Finally, the Book of Moroni, in all its brevity, gives us pearls of great price such as the proper manner of baptism, of the sacrament supper of the Lord, of the order and organization of the Lord's Church, and of the necessity of faith in a world of unbelief. Moroni teaches us that if we fail to see miracles in our day, it is through our own lack of faith and not because there are no such things as miracles. If we have gotten to that point, then we are ripe for destruction, just as his own people had become. Faith precedes the miracle.

So, if you had previously been in agreement with Mark Twain about the Book of Mormon being impossible to get anything out of...or if you believe that there is no literary redemption in the Book of Mormon...consider what I have outlined above and ask yourself if any of those items could be useful to you. There's bound to be at least one. Pick that out from the list and resolve to explore how the Book of Mormon expounds on it.

You'll be surprised at how truly interesting the Book of Mormon actually is.

Friday, May 7, 2010

What is the Book of Mormon?

Grandin Historic Printing ShopImage via Wikipedia

Newcomers to this site or the Book of Mormon can get a quick summary of the provenance and purpose of the Book of Mormon from a new page dedicated to its translation and teachings. The video on the page is especially good for getting a 30,000 foot view of the book.

But nothing...nothing equates to actually reading the Book of Mormon.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Finished reading the Book of Mormon

My family and I just completed our goal of reading the Book of Mormon. Our goal was to finish it by Stake Conference. And, I can happily report that we were, of course, very blessed by the effort.

Most of the project was completed over a 5 month time-span, listening to a chapter here or there either read aloud by a person or via CD. In the last month we began in more earnest to read enough to finish out in time.

Last night my daughter read Moroni 10:3-5 out loud. Here is the best part of that chapter.

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

I know to some reading this that those verses will seem a bit cliché, but they are indeed the most effective means of understanding anything, not just the Book of Mormon. Don't take any human being's word for it that anything is truth. Ask God for the confirmation of truth and, in His time, it will be given to you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Looking for a reason to believe? WhyWeBelieve.com

If you're new to the Book of Mormon, have questions, or simply need a reason to begin looking into it, have a look at WhyWeBelieve.com. There you will find the testimonies of various individuals in the Church who decided they would like to share with all the world how they came to know that the Book of Mormon is true, that the Church is the restored Gospel upon the earth, and, most importantly, their testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Colorado State University Archaeologist Discovers Ancient Lost City in Mexico

A new mesoamerican archaeological site is in the beginning stages of study and excavation. Christopher Fisher, associate professor in CSU’s Department of Anthropology, and his team used handheld GPS devices to map out the site in just one month, accelerating the development of the site as an archaeological find by orders of magnitude compared to using traditional methods of seasonal mapping.

ReadWriteWeb.com reports:
This thousand-year-old urban center stands, overgrown with scrub and soil, in the Lake Pátzcuaro Basin in the central Mexican state of Michoacán. Fisher's team used four Trimble Recon rugged handheld computers in conjunction with GeoXH and GeoXT GPS receivers, to do real-time, on-site mapping of over 1,300 architectural features, including hundreds of "house mounds," in just one square kilometer of the site. They took 25 to 30 data points on each feature but were still able to complete the initial full-coverage mapping in a month.
The use of GPS and handheld devices promises to discover and open more mesoamerican sites currently unsurveyed or yet undiscovered, but suspected to exist in great numbers.

The University's office of public relations says:
At the time of European contact, the Purépecha Empire - sometimes called the Tarascan Empire - controlled much of western Mexico with a mutually fortified frontier shared with their rivals, the Aztecs to the east.
The settlement may be as large as 5 square kilometers and dates to A.D. 1000-1520. Initial results suggest the peak occupation of the newly discovered urban center occurred just prior to the formation of the Purépecha Empire, further indicating that results from the study may yield new clues regarding the empire’s formation.

The settlement may be as large as 5 square kilometers and dates to A.D. 1000-1520. Initial results suggest the peak occupation of the newly discovered urban center occurred just prior to the formation of the Purépecha Empire, further indicating that results from the study may yield new clues regarding the empire’s formation.
“Much of this settlement is similar to a modern-day suburb with hundreds of small house mounds where ordinary families lived and carried out activities. By today’s standards this urban center seems small but by documenting these ruins, my team and I are helping anthropologists identify different aspects of ancient cities,” said Fisher. “The Lake Pátzcuaro Basin was the geopolitical core of the empire with a dense population, centralized settlement systems, engineered environment and a socially stratified society.”
More info:
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Monday, January 4, 2010

Testimony excerpts

Dr. Richard Lyman Bushman's Testimony
American History, Columbia University and Claremont Graduate University
Why then am I always interrogating my own faith? I am always asking why I believe. What do my beliefs mean? How can they be explained and justified? I have sympathy for questioners because I am a questioner too. Settled as faith is in my own life, I understand why people doubt. I see in questioning something deeply religious as well as deeply human. A Doctrine and Covenants scripture speaks of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” and then goes on to explain itself: “in the wilderness because you cannot see him.” That is the human plight. We live in a wilderness where we cannot see God. We must believe in him in his absence. The scripture goes on to further explicate itself by explaining “my voice, because my voice is Spirit” [88:66]. We live in a wilderness and listen for the voice of a person we cannot see, coming not by sound waves to our ears but as a spirit voice. If that is our situation, as it truly seems to be, how can we not sympathize with bewildered questioners? Under those circumstances, I too question God.
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Yediyd’s Testimony
I had my first visit in February 2004. God bless those missionaries! I sure gave them a run for their money! I knew we were in the “last days”, and the the Bible says,”Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). I did not trust them; I knew many false prophets would arise in the last days, but I gave them my word that I would not make any decisions until I had read the Book of Mormon.

A funny thing happened as I started reading the Book of Mormon-I recognized my beloved Bible on every page! It didn’t start in First Nephi,either…it started with the introduction to the Book of Mormon and then the testimonies of the witnesses. I recognized God’s numbers, His “set” way of organization; I started pulling out God’s numbers-3,8,12-from the very first pages and I knew that this book was lining up with my Bible. As I read on, I decided that the Book of Mormon was either written by God or by Satan, but it could not have been written by any man! The wisdom was too deep. It lined up too well with the Bible, on so many levels. I knew that it was just not possible for man to have written this book. As I realized this, at first, I feared in my heart that the Book of Mormon was a counterfeit. Was this the strong delusion sent by Satan in the last days that my Bible had warned me about? Were these missionaries the false prophets that I knew would arise in the last days? I was sure in my heart that the Book of Mormon was a supernatural book, but to which end? I also knew that “ol’ smutty face” was a master of imitation and forgery. If anybody could make a “copy” of the Bible, yet twist it, he could! But the missionaries kept telling me to pray about it, and ask God if it was the truth. Satan wouldn’t advise me to ask God about anything! The Bible says in Isaiah 55:11 that God’s word will not return void and it didn’t. I had not memorized all that scripture for naught.

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Dr. Lawrence L. Poulson
Biochemistry, University of Texas at Austin
As a youth I was always interested in chemistry and, after returning from my mission, I managed to get a position as a research assistant in a plant biochemistry laboratory at the Salinity Laboratory, a part of the United States Agricultural Research Service, where the third love of my life was born, the first being my wife, with Book of Mormon geography in second place. It was there that I began my career in biochemistry. Through the good help of the people at the Salinity Laboratory and the National Defense Education Act, I obtained a Ph.D. in plant biochemistry and went looking for a permanent position. Unfortunately, there were no jobs for plant biochemists, and I ended up at the University of Texas as a research scientist in drug metabolism and disposition. As I studied and did research in the biochemistry of living plants and animals, I became more and more convinced of the reality of God and Jesus Christ and the reality of a divine creation of this world and the creatures that abide here. Through the research in our laboratory we were able to establish and get acceptance for a theory that helps to explain how the delicate ecological balance between plants and animals is maintained. This theory, though based on evolutionary concepts, only strengthened my testimony of the hand of God in the creation process.
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Peter M. Johnson
At the start of the fall semester I was instructed by my academic advisor that I needed to take several religion courses to graduate from BYU–Hawaii. For my first semester I decided to take a New Testament course, and for the first time I began to understand in part the importance of a Savior. While living in New York I had been a converted Muslim. The Islamic faith regards Jesus Christ as a great man or prophet, similar to Moses or Abraham. I had not realized the importance of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice until I read about His life in the Gospel of Luke. I studied how the Savior healed the sick, raised the dead, and made the blind to see and the deaf to hear.

As the fall semester progressed, I was introduced to the missionaries. They visited my dorm room on a regular basis...The missionaries continued to teach me the remainder of the fall semester. It was fun and I learned a lot, but I had no desire to join the Church.

The next semester I again met with my college advisor and was again instructed to take a religion course. I decided to take the Book of Mormon course. I had no doubt about the possibility of additional scriptures because as a Muslim I had studied the Holy Koran.

It was near the end of winter semester. I completed my finals and was preparing to return home to the other side of the island. My scholarship did not cover the spring term, and I was prepared to work for the spring and summer to save some money for the fall semester. On the day I was prepared to leave campus, I received a note in my mailbox from Brother Gary Smith, my Book of Mormon teacher. He wanted to see me. I returned to my dorm room, where I received another note stating Brother Gary Smith wanted to see me. I thought to myself, “Why would he want to see me? Will Brother Smith give me an F grade for religion? No one ever fails religion.”

I dropped by his office, and the secretary mentioned that Brother Smith was at the Seasider, a mini-café on campus. I found him, and, as we talked, Brother Smith proceeded to tell me how I knew the Church was true and that it was time for me to join the Church. I looked at him amazed, and I wondered what he had been drinking.

He continued and said, “From what I’m about to tell you, either one of two things will happen. You will join the Church right away or it will take you awhile.” He quoted a scripture in Ether that states:

And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. [Ether 12:6]

I thought, “What does this scripture have to do with me?”

Brother Smith explained that he believed I was waiting for some type of miracle or vision to take place before I would join the Church. He said, “You need to act upon what you already know to be true before you will receive a greater witness. ‘Wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial [or exercise] of your faith.’”

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