Friday, July 29, 2011

Life, Gaming, and the Gospel: Farkle

I looked up Farkle on Wikipedia to do some research, maybe score a picture.  I wasn't expecting so much text of variants.
I was first introduced to Farkle while I was in Philadelphia about eight months ago.  I borrowed it from another Elder, Elder Brower.  I and my companion, Elder Butler, were hooked.  We'd come in from a busy day of proselyting, ready to take our two hour break around 2'o-clock.  We'd cook up some ramen, eat it, and then bust out the dice cup.

So what is Farkle?  Simply put, it's one of the many dice games out there.  You have six dice, and you're trying to be the first one to reach 10,000 points.  You do this by attempting to make certain dice combinations.  For example, '1's are worth 100 points, '5's are worth 50,  three '6's is worth 600 points, six of a kind is worth 3000 points, and you're always trying to get the best score possible.

Once you score some points, you have an option: either you can stay with the score that you have, adding it onto a running total, or you can reroll some of the dice that didn't score in hopes of getting a greater score.  If all six dice produce a score, you can continue the cycle indefinitely.  However, if none of the dice in a throw produces a score, you Farkle.  That means, however many points you had for that turn are gone.  For example, let's say you roll three '5's and two '1's for a total of 700 points.  You could either stay with that seven-hundred points, adding it onto your running total, or you could roll the last dice and hope for a '1' or a '5', to score a lot more points.

The only problem, and one that makes me shy away from most dice games, is that it's entirely luck.  If you're lucky, you win.  If you don't, you don't.  It brought out someone that I didn't know existed, someone who said, 'You've got three thousand points on the line.  You're really lucky.  Go ahead, roll that die.  You'll win.'
And then, I'd lose.  I just am not meant to be a gambler.

Neither is anyone else.  That's actually why God, through his prophets, has told us to avoid gambling.  It makes us believe that we can get something for nothing, and it never works.  If you've ever gone to a casino, you'll see a whole lot of people getting cleaned out.  Nobody ever wins.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

That For Me, a Sinner...

I first came to know the true meaning of this song back when I was in the Missionary Training Center.  I was really having a hard time, trying to keep up.  (For those of you who don't know, the MTC is located in Provo, Utah, and is the missionary equivalent of Boot Camp.  Depending on where in the world you serve, it's three-to-twelve weeks of intense language and doctrinal training.)  I was able to keep up for the most part with learning Spanish, but my testimony was suffering.  It really all came to a head when we came back to our classroom that first Sunday in the MTC.  We had just come back from a Sunday-night devotional, and we got to hear from Claudio R. M. de Costa, one of the general authorities in the church, and everyone was just glowing from feeling the Spirit, and chattering about how good a fireside that had been.  Everyone but me, that is.  I was feeling kind of hollow, to tell the truth.  Something was wrong.

When I talked to my district president, he had some advice: take a look at this song, and count just how many times it says the word "me."
 I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died

Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me
Oh, it is wonderful
Wonderful to me

I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine
That he should extend his great love unto such as I
Sufficient to own, to redeem and to justify

(Repeat chorus)

I think of his hands, pierced and bleeding to pay my debt
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me
Secure in the promise of life in his victory
Thus ransomed from death I will live to my Savior's praise
And sing of his goodness and mercy through endless days.
All of a sudden, it really hit me, and still does.  Jesus suffered the worst torture that the devil could inflict.  Mental, physical, and spiritual anguish combined to form such a pain that it caused Him, the greatest of all, to bleed at every pore and shrink from the bitter cup.  He was beaten, scourged with a whip; people had been known to die from the beating alone. He was then lifted up on a cross, and cruel nails were driven through his wrists and hands.  He suffered thirst, was mocked, and then, after silently taking everything that the devil could throw at him, it was finished.  Jesus became the Christ, the anointed of the father, and the Savior of mankind.

All of this, for me.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, condescended to come to this earth and be spit upon for me.  Some of those drops of blood shed in the Garden of Gethsemane were because of--and for--me.  For me, he gave his life.  For me, he suffered all of this.

Because he loves me.

President Studdert also told me to go read 2 Nephi chapter 9.  While there, I found a series of verses that made me want to shout along with Nephi,
O, the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.
O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.
And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day. ~2 Nephi 9: 19-22
Jesus is my Savior.  I know that he lives, and because he does, so will I.  If I will do all that he asks, I will have eternal life.  I can come to know him, and in the words of Bruce R. McConkie, "I am one of His witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in His hands and in His feet and shall wet His feet with my tears."

I know this to be true, and I say it in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Do the Duty

This is a video that I first discovered in the MTC, and I think it speaks for itself.

I especially love the quote: "Duty then is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, you should never wish to do less."

Plus, this video has bagpipes.  And bagpipes are awesome.  If I didn't think that my neighbors would kill me, I'd totally want to learn to play.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Beware of Pride

Life in Wilmington has gotten a bit interesting of late.  Monday, as we were doing E-mails home to our family, two elders walked into the library and told us that they were going to be our roommates for three weeks.  Elder Lake and Elder Kerouac are both excellent missionaries, which was why it felt a bit like President Schaefermeyer was putting them in to fix the area.  Kind of like having the KGB live in your house.

As expected, it didn't take long for stuff to start happening.  Thursday, Elder Kerouac criticized Elder Bingham quite severely for having music he didn't approve of on his IPod.  I wound up playing counselor to both of them, trying to help each understand the other.  It was good practice, since I want to become a psychologist after my mission.  Elder Bingham only wanted to be left alone, but didn't really feel that he was able to do so while being under what he felt was the constant scrutiny of Elder Kerouac.  Elder Kerouac didn't want to leave him alone, since that would mean leaving a source of contention in the house.

As I saw it, it all stemmed from pride.  Really, there's one talk that I simply love.  It's one that Ezra Taft Benson gave a while ago, called Beware of Pride.  In it, he explains how pride is essentially a power struggle between ourselves and somebody else.  Pride says, "If you win, I am a failure."  In another way, pride refuses to change, because that would imply past failure.  Sin is essentially our pride against God's wisdom. 

I remember reading a story of a janitor in a Nuclear facility.  In this facility, scientists accelerated molecules almost to the speed of light and colided the molecules together to study the result.  A janitor walked in on an experiment and shouted, "I knew it!  Y'all are getting paid a lot of money to do NOTHING!"

A lot like that, we often shout at God that he doesn't know what he's doing.  Even if we do not express this thought as such, by our actions we show that we don't believe God.  We don't believe in his promises.  We don't believe that Christ can help us.

Let's change that, and next time somebody comes to you and offends you, forgive him.  Let go and let God.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Life, Movies, and the Gospel: The Lion King

Let's play Name That Movie!  A young prince is cast into exile when his uncle kills the king.  There, he makes friends with the local-yokels, and grows to adulthood.  Eventually, he realizes who he really is, and comes back to combat his evil uncle.  An epic battle ensues, wherein the evil uncle is killed, and the prince gets the girl of his dreams.

Nope, not Hamlet.  Hamlet dies, and Simba doesn't.

I think that the Lion King might have been one of the first Disney movies that I ever saw, and is still one of my favorite 2-D classics.  (Some of the others are Robin Hood and the Sword in the Stone.)  It came out in 1994, so that's only 4 years difference between this movie's birthday and mine. 

 A lot like other movies, I see myself in it.  We are all children of a Heavenly King, and have been sent to this world where we can't really see our father.  We have to make do with what we have, here in the jungle, and for the most part, we just go about our lives.  Eventually, we come in contact with God, whether that be through a ranting baboon or a personal experience.  Either way, we start realizing who we really are, and what we have the potential to become.  If we will follow the path that our Father has indicated, we have the potential to become kings. 

Let's go to it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Life, Movies, and the Gospel: Star Wars

A while back, I linked Indiana Jones to the Gospel.  Today, I'll touch on another movie.  Rather, I'll touch on a series of movies.

Star Wars, in my opinion, is one of the great movies of our times, along with The Princess Bride and Indiana Jones.  It's got that magic mixture of an unlikely hero, coming of age, and the triumph of good over overwhelming odds.  The original movie, "Star Wars," netted around $775 million dollars world wide when it was released.  It was so good (as in seven Acadamy Awards good) that it inspired two sequels, three prequels, and a host of books, TV shows, and comic books.

What was it that made this movie so excellent?  There was an excellent combination of humor, acting, and story.  Really, I believe that the story is what drew people in.  We take a backwoods man from a backwoods planet, and throw him into a galactic conflict between good and evil.  Fighting to find himself, he actually triumphs over incredible odds.  Never again can he be a normal, backwoods farmer.  Now, he is Luke Skywalker, the hero of the battle of Yavin, destroyer of the Death Star, a novice Jedi.  Things can never be the same.

In a way, we are all Luke Skywalkers in our personal Star Wars.  For the most part, we're unknown people in the universe, just minding our own business.  However,  as we go through life, we're thrust into an epic battle of Good and Evil.  What we choose to do determines where we go.  When we are presented with the choice, do we join the Empire or the Rebellion?

One of the good things about Star Wars, (Some would say this is a problem, but not me.) is that it is very black and white.  Either you are good, or you are bad.  Anakin is good.  Anakin flips out and kills Windu. Anakin immediately flips out and switches to bad.  Vader bad.  Luke is good.  Leia is good. 

A bit the same way, we humans only have two positions.  In any moment, either we are following God, or we are not.  Either we are striving to do our best to follow Jesus Christ, or we are not.  The choices that we make every second of our lives determine how we will live.

May we all choose to live like the Jedi: strong, patient, and wielding a power much greater than themselves.

And now, a music video.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Life, Gaming, and the Gospel: Here's a riddle for you...

Here's a riddle for you:
"A Man pushed his Car to a Hotel and lost all his Money.  A one word answer explains it all."

And here's the answer:
Just a little poll, by the raise of hands:  who here likes Monopoly?  It's a simple enough game, really, requiring almost no interaction between people apart from taking their money.  You start at Go, a brand new businessman with $1500 burning a hole in your pocket.  Now, all that separates you from fantastic wealth or crushing defeat are the odds of the dice, and who can buy and upgrade property the most quickly.  Every time you round 'Go' again, you get $200 salary.  Any other money you get comes from the other players, when they have the bad fortune to land on your property and have to pay you rent.

Now another poll:  Who actually likes Monopoly?  As in, if you had a choice of any board game in the world, who here would choose to play Monopoly?  It really isn't that interesting, and doesn't require all that much strategy:  You roll your dice, move your little figurine, and either buy a property, pay rent, or draw a card, and upgrade whatever you can afford to upgrade.  This is repeated for about three hours, depending on the game and any additional house rules.  Usually, by the end of hour two, I'm ready to blow my brains out from boredom and frustration.

Now, who here can see a relationship between Monopoly and the Gospel?  How about between Monopoly and life?  So often, we get caught up in the rat race of going around, getting money, screwing our neighbors, that we forget why we're really here.  It gets both boring and frustrating to play like this, and after a while you realize that you're back where you started.  Sure, you might win the game, and make everyone else go out of business, but by the end neither you nor anyone else playing is really happy.

So where does somebody find happiness?  It's not in the money.  It's not in knowledge, though knowledge is good.  Rather, happiness comes from living your life according to God's commandments.  It makes you feel happy, and it helps others. 

Let's take an example:  you see a friend who needs some help.  Let's say that they're moving and need your assistance.  After you've helped them, even if they don't pay, don't you feel good?

You're playing with your kids, and your kids break something.  Which makes you happier: to shout at and beat them? or to speak gently and help them to see that what they did was wrong?

God gives us commandments because he loves us.  They aren't a restrictive ruleset made up to make us miserable.  Rather, they are to help us live happily.  That's really all God wants us to do.  Live life.  Be nice to each other.  In the words of Bobby McFerrin,
(Just a postscript:  I wish I had that song on a CD.)

(Also, a postscript:  We played monopoly with one of our investigators a few days ago.  It was actually a lot of fun, though frustrating because people would skip past my almost two sides of property, and then land on my companions one block of hotels.  Oh well.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mormons: The Restoration

A few posts back, I wrote a post about authority, especially as it pertains to God's priesthood.  If you'll remember, I compared it to a flame from a lighter lighting a candle.  That represents the priesthood being given from God to Man.  Once the candle has the flame, it can be used to light other candles.  Just the same, once man has the priesthood, he can use it to give it to other men.  However, if all of the candles burn down or are blown out, there can be no more flame until the lighter is used again.  In exactly the same way, once the authority is lost it cannot be restored or found on the Earth until God acts to restore it.

The authority given to the Twelve apostles by Jesus Christ had been lost.  The Apostles were killed, many of them in ugly ways.  Nowhere on the entire earth was there a man who possessed the authority.

God had to restore the priesthood. 

Who alive currently had the priesthood?  Nobody.  So, he had to send somebody who had been alive, but was not on the earth.  Peter, James, and John, three of the apostles of Jesus Christ, came and bestowed the priesthood on Joseph Smith and one of his friends.

The priesthood was restored, and with it the church.  Later, Moses, Elijah, and other angels came and gave Joseph the keys to the priesthood, and all was complete.

In our times, the church of God has been re-established.  Now, as in days of old, we have twelve Apostles.  Now, we have a prophet who speaks with God and receives revelations from him.

The only way to find out for yourself is to pray and ask God.  He knows if it's true, doesn't he?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Life, Gaming, and the Gospel: D&D part 2

Really, the wonderful thing about Dungeons and Dragons is that you can be whoever you what, whereever you want.  Let's say you want to be a midget who wields a hammer bigger than he is.  With the right combination of feats and weapon, you could do that.  (Playing a gnome barbarian with the feat Monkey grip, and the Gloves of Powerful build ought to do it.  Match with a Minotaur greathammer for some real fun.)

Let's say you want to be a giant who throws his enemies around.  Play a Goliath barbarian with the Martial Throw feat, and you can pull it off.

How about a ninja?  You'll never be able to be Naruto, but for a regular ninja, a Human Swordsage comes pretty darn close.  Pair it with a pair of short swords and the Two-Weapon Fighting feat for the best results.

How about something difficult?  Let's say you want to be a master of two different types of magic, and be powerful in both.  Start as a human wizard, and take the Precocious Apprentice feat.  Next, take three levels of Druid.  At that point, you can join the prestige class Arcane Heirophant, which will allow you to progress in both classes at the same time.  Finish off with three levels of Mystic Theurge, and you have full spell-casting abilities in both classes.

Like I said in my previous post, you can be whatever you want, except possibly Naruto or Superman.  So long as you work within the rules, there's a way to achieve what you want. 

It's the same way with life.  God has given us the greatest gift possible:  life itself.  With that gift, he's also given us the ability to choose for ourselves what we want to be.  We choose that by what we desire.  If I want to be a good person, I will.  If I remember correctly, Andrew Carnegie said "It's no great trick to be rich, if what you want is to be rich."

So long as we want eternal life, we will eventually bend that way.  It requires much, but if we want it more than anything else, there is nothing that can stop us.

For a really good talk about choise, read The Three R's of Choice.  I love it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Life, Gaming, and the Gospel: D&D

In case any of you didn't know this, I am an avid gamer geek.  It says so right in my profile.  If you name a game, I've probably seen, heard about, or played it.  I've noticed, once in a while, that random stuff often has parts of the gospel in it.  Today, I'm going to talk about one of my favorite games, Dungeons and Dragons.

Now, don't run away.  Don't worry, I'm not a total geek.  Now, let's see what YouTube pulls up when we type in Dungeons and Dragons. 

No, that little clip to the right is not what Dungeons and Dragons is.  It's the results of people trying to cash in on what it really is.
Nor is the clip to the left a full representation of D&D, though it is somewhat more accurate.  (For one thing, I've never gamed with candles, dressed up, or spoken in funny voices.
Basically, Dungeons and Dragons is a fun game where you play as a character in a fantasy medieval world.  You create a character, and for the length of the game, that is you.  Put it this way; World of Warcraft is a downgraded, online game that was inspired by D&D.

D&D is all about choice.  Let's start with your character.  You have many options, but we're going to start with This will all sound a bit complicated, especially if you've never played the game, but it makes sense after a while.  First, you pick a race, something like Elf, Halfling, Human, Dwarf, or another.  In the basic set of rules, you have a choice of seven races, each with their advantages and disadvantages.

Then, you choose a class, which is something like a profession; you could be a wizard or a rogue, a barbarian or a ranger, a paladin or a sorcerer, and so on.  Depending on which class you choose, you'll be able to do different things.  (For example, rogues are able to deal extra damage when catching people unawares, clerics are able to heal people, and wizards are able to cast a great variety of magic spells.)  There are eleven of these, so you have 77 choices before we even go into other options.  (For example, you could be a dwarf sorcerer, an elf paladin, a half-orc rogue, or whatever combination strikes your fancy.)

Now, let's add in the diversity of feats.  Feats are not those things attached to your legs.  Instead, they are special abilities that you get every once in a while.  Usually, they provide either a new thing that you can do, or provide some numeric bonus.  For example, "Weapon Focus" would allow you to attack better with a certain weapon, and "Forge Ring" would allow you to make magic rings.  There are literally too many feats to count.  If you don't believe me, go to this page.  Those are the feats contained in the basic book.  There are millions of possible combinations.  If you still don't believe me, go here.  It's a consolidated list of all feats in all books.

You see, all of these are options found in three books of options: the Players Handbook, the Monster manual, and the Expanded Psionic handbook.  There are more options, more classes, more feats, and each one adds more options for people.

I googled to see if anyone had figured out the total number of possible combinations in D&D.  Nobody seems to have invested that much time.

Just think:  there are these many combinations in a game.  In life, we all have many more options available to us.  It's all about choice.  We can choose who we want to be, how to get there, and what we will do.  I know that as we go and follow Jesus Christ, we can all come to God again. 

What will you choose?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Testimony of the Book of Mormon

I just thought I'd put up some of my favorite YouTube videos about the Book of Mormon.

This is taken from one of my favorite talks, "Safety for the Soul."  It was given by an Apostle, Jeffrey R. Holland, a few years ago.
This is an audio recording of a talk given a long while back, called, "Profile of a Prophet."
This isn't actually from YouTube; it's taken from a talk given back in 1988 by Hyrum W. Smith. "The Restoration of the Church, or Why 1820?"  If you wish to read along as you listen, the text is right here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mormons: Priesthood and Apostasy

What does the word 'authority' mean to you?  I imagine that there are some who think of authority as power, whether that be for good or evil.  For the purposes of this blog, authority means power from God, given to man to help him do his work.  It is quite literally the power to work miracles: to help people come back to God:  to bless the sick:  and to baptize people.

Let's say for a moment that you're driving down the highway.  You're driving a little fast, over the speed limit, and I decide to do something about it.  Here I come in my little Japanese ricerocket, honking the horn and flashing my headlights.  I pull alongside and signal that you should pull over to the side.  When you do, I march out of my car and tell you that you have broken the law, and I intend to enforce it.  What do you do?

If you're anything like me, you say no.  I mean, where do I get off ordering you around?  I have no power, no right, in short, no authority.

(In no way, shape, or form, am I encouraging you to speed.  Don't do it, it's bad.)

In a way, people do this today.  They feel the Spirit of God, and assume that therefore they must have the authority.  Unfortunately, that's not the way it works.  Just reading the Bible and feeling the Spirit do not give you the authority, just the same way that reading all the laws and attending court does not give a person a policeman's authority.

In order for a person to have the authority, he must be ordained. 
"And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." ~Hebrews 5:4
 In laymans terms, this means that a man cannot have the priesthood unless he receives it from somebody else.  We cannot just "take the honor" unto ourselves.

Imagine, if you will, a candle.  Let's say one of those nice ones that are a foot tall, scented, and are used in candelabras but for some reason are never lit.
  Let's change that now, and light a candle.  The flame could be said to represent the authority of God, given to a man called a prophet.  While the candle is burning, it can be used to light other candles.  In the same way, a prophet can use his authority to ordain others, and give them this power, known as the Priesthood.

Imagine that the wind blows out all of the candles. 
All of a sudden, no new candles can be lit, because there's no more fire.  What would have to happen for the candles to be on fire again?
There would have to be a new fire, wouldn't there?  In the same way, when God's prophets are killed, or when the people refuse to follow God, the authority is lost, and nobody has it until God restores it.

The people of God have followed a cycle like this all through the Bible.  God calls a prophet and gives him the priesthood.  The prophet leads the people, and teaches them about God.  Eventually, people reject the prophet, and the priesthood is taken.  There is a time without a prophet while God prepares the people. When the people are ready, God calls another prophet and restores the priesthood.

Next post, we find out just what this has to do with Joseph Smith.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mormons: The Book of Mormon

If I seem like I talk about the Book of Mormon, it's probably because it plays a big role in my life.  It's helped me out more than any other book.  If it were not for this book, I would not be out here on the mission.  It's that simple. 

This book is a marvel of scripture.  It contains answers on questions as diverse as
  • Where did I come from?
  • Where am I going?
  • Why am I here?
  • How is the best way to be happy?
  • What happens after I die?
  • How can I be a better father?
  • Is Jesus really the Savior?
  • How can I know if something comes from God or from Satan?
  • What is the path that will lead me to Heaven?
It has wars and peace, intrigue and assassins, good people, bad people, everyday joes, prophets of God, and Jesus Christ.  Oh, there's a whole bunch of Him.

I once took a little green pencil, and went through the entire book of Mormon, highlighting all the references to Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Ghost.  As I recall, there are somewhere along the lines of 3500 in there, an average of one every 1.8 verses.  If you open the book at random, you'll probably have a while until you come to a set of pages that has no reference at all to him.

There is a lot of evidence for the book, but I think that the greatest evidence is the book itself.  Let us examine three hypotheses about where the book came from, three sources.

Theory one states that Joseph Smith did it himself, that he pulled a five-hundred and thirty-one page book out of his mind.  It is patently absurd to think that a farm boy with only a third-grade education could write five hundred pages of anything, let alone a book that has stood the test of time as far as accuracy, complexity, and completeness.  People scoffed at apparent anachronisms, only to be silenced when the "anachronisms" turned out to be historically accurate.  (For example, people said that there was no steel or horses in the americas, and later found out that there were.)  People have taken the Bible and they've tried to disprove the Book of Mormon with it, but they can't.  The Bible agrees with the Book of Mormon, and actually contains some prophecies about it.  The Book of Mormon contains parables, lyric, logic, epic, warfare, similies, prophecies, all historically accurate and agreeing with the Bible.  May I add that Joseph Smith had no sources to draw from that we do now; he was writing--dictating, actually--in a small town in the 1830s.

That's theory one:  Joseph Smith wrote the book himself.  He fooled himself and millions of others into following a false book, and then died for his testimony.  Theory one is nothing short of preposterous.  No man could write such a book without otherworldly help.

Therefore, we have theory two: Satan helped Joseph Smith to write a book that would help people come unto Christ.  This theory only makes sense if Christ is not the way to heaven.  Theory two is also absurd.

Theory three:  The Book of Mormon came about the way Joseph said it did.  He was given a record of ancient scripture by one of God's angels, and then translated it by the power of God.

Which of these theories seems the most likely?  Either an uneducated farmboy wrote a book that was obviously beyond his capacity, or Satan wrote a book designed to bring people to Christ, or God spoke to a prophet, just like he did in the Bible.

All of these things could be cited to give me what might be called an intellectual conviction, but the testimony of the Holy Ghost, underarching and overshadowing all the rest, has told me that the Book of Mormon is true.  I know this from the center of my being, and no man can take it away from me.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mormons: The Book of Mormon

This is part three.  To start from the beginning, click Part one and Part two

It was a manifestation of divine glory to rival anything since the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Like Paul in ancient times, Joseph Smith had seen the risen Lord and heard his voice.  In addition, he had seen God the Father, and heard His proclamation: "This is my Beloved Son.  Hear him."

Joseph's question had been answered:  Of all the Christian denominations existant, the true church of Christ was currently not found.  It had been lost when the Apostles died, and their authority was lost.  Accordingly, Jesus Christ called Joseph Smith to be his prophet.  Like Moses, Abraham, Noah, and on through the Bible, in modern times God called a prophet to cut through centuries of darkness and tradition.

God knew that it would be difficult for many to believe Joseph.  After all, if a fourteen year old boy came to you, and told you that he had just seen God, you probably wouldn't give him much credit.  I wouldn't either.  It's an incredible story, in the original sense of hard to believe.  That's why God prepared proof.

The Book of Mormon is another volume of scripture, comparable to the Bible.  The Bible was written by prophets in Jerusalem, Egypt, the area we know now as Palestine.  However, that's a very small area compared to the world.  Where are the records of everyone else?  Surely, God wants to talk to his children in other parts of the world just as much as he does to the people in Palestine.  Since back then, there was not a lot of communication available, God called prophets in other parts of the world.  The Book of Mormon is the records of the prophets in America.
 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. ~2 Nephi 25:26
The entire purpose of the Book of Mormon is to invite people to come unto Christ.  What's more, it's the only book that I know of where God promises to tell you if it's true.
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.
 5And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
I know that this is true, because I've done it.  Since I was eight years old, I've known that the Book of Mormon is true.  Every time I read it, I get a warm feeling that comes from God.  I know that if you'll read it and put it to the test, God will show you by your feelings that it's true.

To order a free Book of Mormon, click the link at the top of the page that says "Free Stuff!"  Please.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mormons: The Restoration

See the post Mormons: Who are these guys? for part one.

It was terribly sad.  The Church of Jesus Christ, established by him on Earth to lead his children, had been lost.  The apostles, the guardians of the church, had been killed and their authority lost to the world.  Nobody knew exactly how to guide the church, because nobody had the authority or revelation to say what the scriptures meant.  People hadn't heard from God for so much time that eventually they figured he had stopped talking;  that the Bible was the only word God had spoken, and the only word he ever would speak.  Eventually, even that medium of knowing God was taken, being thought too much for the common people to understand.

During the Renaissance, people realized that something was wrong.  The Catholic church, the only church at the time, wasn't the same as the church that the Bible described.  Reformers, called Protestants, tried to get back to the church as Christ had made it.  Martin Luther broke off of the Catholic church, eventually forming the Lutheran Church.  King Henry VIII decided to break off the Catholic church as well.  From there, churches seemed to sprout up all over Europe.  Do you know how many different churches there are?

These are the major divisions and timelines of the Protestant churches.  Imagine that; within one division of Christianity, there are eleven surviving religions.  If you go to the Wikipedia page List of Christian Denominations, I think you'll see my point after scrolling down a few seconds.  There are thousands of churches, and new ones are springing up every day.  People feel happy, and a church starts.  People feel sad, and a church starts.  People feel discontent with the church that they go to already, and so they start their own.  Where in this entire mess is the Church of God?  Which one has the authorization of God to do His will?  Can God really be the author of all this confusion?

That's really the question that came to the mind of a boy in 1820.  Joseph Smith saw all these churches and asked himself, "Which is right?"  In order to enter heaven, he needed to be baptized, but which of all these churches had the authority.  Each pastor had his list of reasons for why his church was right.  Which church was God's church, and how could he know it?

He decided to investigate the matter more fully by reading the Bible.  Towards the end, he found a scripture in James:
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, which giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. ~James 1:5"
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.  That means, if you don't know what to do, go and pray to God.  He'll tell you what to do.

That's exactly what Joseph did.

To be concluded...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mormons: Who are these guys?

If there's one thing that missionaries generally dislike, it's tracting.  You go out, often in bad weather, to go knock on doors.  Sometimes, people open the door, and they let you talk to them for about half an hour.  That's the hope, anyway.  Sometimes, people are home; you can tell that they're there, but they just don't bother with you.  I've been shouted at a couple times because they don't like how I knock their door.  During winter times, I've used golf balls to knock doors because you don't get a good knock with gloves on, and your hands hurt in the cold.  Rocks work too.
Anyway, I'm sure that if you've ever received this before, you've wondered:  Who are these guys, and what are they doing on my porch?  Why don't they go out and look for the unchurched, the people with no religion, the people who could really benefit from their visits?  I go to church, I've been baptized, what do these people have that I don't?

Really, it all comes because of something we believe in very much, called the Restoration.

Now, when you restore something, what are you doing?  Let's say you've just found an old, classic car on the side of the road, with a sign that says "Free to whoever can make it run."  If you were to restore that car, you'd have quite a job.  First off, you'd have to repair the engine, get it running smoothly enough to take it home.  Now that you have it in your garage, you begin work in earnest, taking off body panels, replacing them, making that nice old car just like it was new again.

That's just what God had to do with the church of Jesus Christ.

When Christ came, he established a church.  Of course, there wasn't a building or anything like that, but he had an organization led by twelve apostles.  In order to help these apostles guide us, He gave them his priesthood, the power to act in the name of God, to baptize, bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, to receive revelation for the church as a whole.

However, as we know, the people rejected Jesus.  Certainly, there were the few in the little flock, but most rejected Him.  They also rejected His apostles.  James was killed, beheaded by Herod.  Peter was crucified, according the legend.  One by one, the apostles were killed.  When that happened, the authority that they possessed was lost.  Any power to baptize people or guide the church was lost.

For the longest time, the church was gone.  Doctrines, without the apostles to lead and interpret, were changed.  The true nature of God was lost.  Prayer was distorted.  The scriptures were not allowed to be read by the common people.

Reformers like Martin Luther tried to get back to what Christ had preached.  However, without the divine gift of the priesthood, they could not have the true church of Christ.  That's why there are so many religions nowadays; good men, trying to follow Christ, lead their followers according to their own interpretations of the Gospel.

Which one is right?

To be continued...