Monday, October 5, 2009

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's Testimony of the Book of Mormon

General Conference is always enjoyable and uplifting. With more than 30 speakers drawn from the leadership of the church, there are always many talks that touch our current individual needs and sensitivities. But every once in a while, there is a talk like Elder Holland's that can become a supporting pillar of our faith and testimony.

(I suppose it would be good for each of us to make a list of those talks that have been "monumental" for us. I think we could keep them in hard copy as personal scripture, much like patriarchal and priesthood blessings. We could return to them often to renew that special experience that we had with the Spirit when we heard them the first time.)

Elder Holland's testimony yesterday was monumental on several levels as he testified to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and provided as evidence Joseph and Hyrum's state of mind as they sealed their testimonies of this latter-day work with their blood. Rhetorically, he asked if it was possible for them to continue to to maintain something they knew to be a lie in the face of their own death and the consequences that would have on their families and friends.

In truth, there are many in this world who hold faithfully to things that are false, but which they believe to be true. Certainly, there are those who claim the church to be true and those that claim it to be false with equal conviction. (They cannot both be true.) We each have our reasons, our evidences, our experiences which we use to construct our convictions.

But Elder Holland separates all of us, and our detractors, from Joseph and Hyrum in that they were telling the story from personal experience.
• We may say that we believe the Book of Mormon is truly a translated record of ancient origin, but Joseph and Hyrum personally did the translating.
• We may say that we believe the record to have been written on 70 some pounds of gold plates, but Joseph and Hyrum said they had held the plates themselves and examined the artifacts.
• We may say that we believe Joseph received the plates from the angel Moroni, but Joseph and Hyrum testify that they saw the angel and that he himself declared the ancient and divine nature of the record and God’s intent that it should be translated as a testimony to latter-day inhabitants.
• We may say that we believe Joseph Smith was God’s Prophet of the Restoration, that he was visited by the Father and the Son, that he received revelation restoring the parts of the gospel that had been lost or defiled, that the Holy Priesthood was restored by the laying on of hands by angelic ministration, but Joseph testified that it had happened as a first-person participant.

If we are in error, either those of us who testify that it is true or those who swear that it is false, it is no greater error than that we have believed someone else’s false witness or that we have misinterpreted spiritual feelings . We are no worse than a jury that gets the testimony and evidence wrong. We may be willing to die or go through great hardship, so convicted are we in our “testimony,” but we are only relying on our judgment.

Not so with Joseph and Hyrum. In those days just prior to going to Carthage and through the time of their murder, they had every expectation, both temporal and spiritual, that they would be killed if they surrendered. By the same way that Joseph had come to know anything that came from God, he knew he would die in Carthage. He and Hyrum each bid one last tender, wrenching goodbye to their families. Was there any way that this cup might pass from them? Yes.

Joseph, and all the saints, believed that all of the hatred would evaporate if Joseph would deny the very things that distinguished the Latter-Day Saints. Re-couch the first vision as something metaphoric and mystical. Recast the Book of Mormon as an allegory of his own imagination. Re-assimilate with mainstream Protestantism, though with its own unique flavor. They would have been no more reviled than Shakers or Adventists, or even Catholics. The price of his life was simply to walk away from what he had claimed were the actual events and experiences of his life as he had explained them. In this, he was no further ahead than back in early Palmyra, when the local clergy pressed on him to deny what had “seen and heard.”

For a moment, imagine that Joseph Smith is everything his detractors say he is: a fake, a deceiver. If it is all just his own fabrication (the First Vision, Moroni, the plates, the Book of Mormon), why die for lies? Elder Holland is not asking why he might not die for a cause he believes in, for many die for someone else’s lies, but why would he die for lies of his own creation?

Elder Holland challenges every detractor of Joseph Smith’s calling and testimonies, in the church and out, to confront this question. He calls on them to explain how the man they paint as a deceiver is consistent with the one willing to knowingly go his death for his testimony. And he concludes with his own apostolic testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and of Joseph Smith.

I am grateful for this supernal moment shared with Elder Holland. It will be one of those “monumental” moments for me and a talk I print and keep close in order to remember many more times.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

This is truly a step "closer to home"

It was a blessing to have all of the family together today to celebrate William's baptism together. He did a great job as the bishop peppered him with questions. You could tell he was really well prepared to make the covenant of baptism with the Savior.

This is a great picture of their family after the baptism.

You should never waste an opportunity to get a picture when the whole family is together, dressed up, and happy. The kids did great. The girls all sat on the front row and watched quietly except for quiet whispering between them. I say the whole family, but we missed Marissa, even though we felt her there in spirit.

And after wards, we topped it off with ice cream (David and Kristen's treat) at Cold Stone Creamery. All in all, a wonderful day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

This is a cute new MormonAd. It looks like the kids in the BYU computer graphics program are having too much fun.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mother's day pictures

It was great to have everyone together and to see the kids all growing up. They had tons of fun playing on the equipment. Enjoy all of the smiles!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Celebrating an old traditional

Fathers and Sons outings are a great old tradition. As I was reminiscing with Kel over old times and trying to remember when the last time we went, we finally concluded that it might have been almost 20 years ago. Kelvin tried to make me feel bad and guilty till I reminded him that we probably missed all those outings because we played soccer 52 weekends a year for about 5 years.

Either way, this was our trip up to "the Rim." On the way back to the highway, we found this view point that helps put that whole rim thing in perspective, because we were standing on the very edge of the rim - even the rim of the rim. Enjoy the pictures and the great landscape. Kelvin and I are hoping to go up again next year and maybe add Payton and David and Will.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blessings And The Acountability of Greater Light and Knowledge

I truly loved Elder Christofferson's talk on Saturday morning of conference and I have been waiting all week for the transcripts to be posted so I could go back and ponder it. I could feel, even as he was speaking, that there was deep value for me personally in what he was saying.

In these trying times, his words of God's blessings to us through keeping our covenants are both timely and reassuring. We have the ability to call down the powers of heaven as we keep our covenants, and in the keeping of our covenants is the mystery of godliness manifest.

D&C 84
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.

I have a testimony that blessings are poured out upon us, both those we specifically seek, and even more that our Heavenly Father knows we stand in need of but are too young to know we need. Those blessings may only be recognized and appreciated in retrospect, in the time of long shadows.

In the final third of Elder Christofferson's talk, he said this about receiving blessings.

Strengthened through the "Power of Godliness"

"We have considered, first, the empowering blessings and, second, the endowment of faith that God grants to those who keep their covenants with Him. A final aspect of strength through covenants that I will mention is the bestowal of divine power. Our covenant commitment to Him permits our Heavenly Father to let His divine influence, "the power of godliness" (D&C 84:20), flow into our lives. He can do that because by our participation in priesthood ordinances we exercise our agency and elect to receive it. Our participation in those ordinances also demonstrates that we are prepared to accept the additional responsibility that comes with added light and spiritual power."

When God blesses us, He rewards our faith, strengthening it and increasing our knowledge, because in this thing our faith has become perfect. (Alma 32:34)

In keeping our covenants, the mysteries of godliness are manifest, in that we are confirmed that keeping covenants reveals God's character, His love and concern, His plan for us. The mystery of godliness is that man can find favor with God and know that the course he is pursuing is accepted and pleases God.

But it is the last sentence that caught my attention this morning. Each of us is accountable for the light and knowledge we have received. And God cannot bless us, in consequence of our faithfully keeping our covenants, without increasing the light and knowledge we possess. So, with the blessing come increased accountability. Additional blessings raise the bar of our accountability.

Blessings, no matter how desperately needed, must wait until we are also ready to take on, permanently, the additional accountability. Blessings come when need and capacity are in equal proportions.

The same loving God, who desires to bless us, could never do that if the corresponding accountability would condemn us. Our need to be delivered from this temporary dilemma cannot outweigh the eternal consequences of accountability to a higher degree of faith, testimony, and knowledge of God.

And so God waits. He delays. Not because He does not love us. Not because He is not intimately aware and pained by our need and distress. But because He must allow the trial to perfect us and to sanctify us to the point to which we can live up to the additional light and knowledge. He is waiting on us.

Think of Alma and the people of Limhi. How long did they have to wait for deliverance? In the mean time, God sent "tender mercies" as He told them He would make their burdens to feel light upon their backs. He confirmed to them that He was aware and concerned, but they were not ready yet for the blessing and accountability of deliverance.

How about Joseph Smith and Liberty Jail? D&C 121. Joseph wondered where God was hiding and how long He would delay coming to the rescue of the Saints. It was not until they had passed through 6 months of additional persecution, without the Prophet in their midst, that he was released and they were able to prepare for their move to Nauvoo. In Nauvoo, they were to build a temple and receive their endowments. In Nauvoo, they would also lose their beloved prophet. The blessing delayed at Liberty prepared the Saints for both conditions.

Whenever we see desired blessings delayed, we should look to find that part of our personal discipleship that is not yet ready for the accountabilities that are an inseparable consequence of God's blessings. He is waiting for us. He is waiting for the sanctifying effects of hardship and trial to prepare us for both the blessings and the accountability. This is His work. This is His Glory. To Bring to pass the immortality and Eternal Life of man.