Joseph Smith’s First Vision and President Eyring’s Challenge

Yesterday, the Church released for widespread distribution a beautiful video of the events of the First Vision. That video has been on display at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, but as far as I am aware it was not widely available before yesterday. It is a remarkable video that integrates the various accounts of the First Vision. I especially loved how the video emphasizes the personal aspects of Joseph Smith’s prayer more than any other telling of the First Vision that I have seen.  Here was a 14-year-old boy seeking personal revelation and a remission of sins. I think the added details make the vision even more relatable and personal.

Yesterday there was also a remarkable face-to-face event for youth with Elder Holland and President Eyring.  Reflecting their location in Palmyra, New York, the Apostles spent a lot of time talking about prayer, testimony, and gaining a personal witness.

In particular, I was struck by President Eyring’s final invitation and challenge to the youth and I wanted to share that portion of the event here:

““Our dear young friends, that is our desire for each of you. That you may know for yourself, independent of anyone else, that the God of Heaven is real and he knows you, and that his son has atoned for the sins of the world. Our hope is that you will gain for yourself an unshakable testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

 

 

 

Resisting Satan’s Deception: Finding a Balance Between Indifference and Over-zealousness

Two weeks ago Elder Quentin L. Cook delivered a devotional address at BYU entitled “A Banquet of Consequences—The Cumulative Result of All Choices.”The text is unfortunately not yet available, but Elder Cook posted a summary on his Facebook page. He looked at three examples of how Satan attempts to persuade us that good is evil and evil is good.  He spoke of the word of wisdom, the family and parenthood, and of financial matters. He recently shared on Facebook what is in my mind the most memorable portion of the talk. Elder Cook spoke of an experience he had at the Holocaust Museum (in Jerusalem) with Elder Holland:

“I had a sobering experience in Jerusalem last October. We visited the Children’s Memorial Museum, which is part of the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Elder Holland and I, together with two American Jewish leaders, laid a remembrance wreath. As you move through the Children’s Memorial, the first names of the children and their age at death are announced one after another with a background of music that portrays this terrible atrocity. It is believed that over one million Jewish children were killed during the Holocaust.

As I experienced the museum, I was overcome with emotion and completely devastated. Standing outside to regain my composure, I reflected on the horror of the experience and suddenly realized that in the United States alone there are as many abortions every two years as the number of Jewish children killed in the Holocaust during the Second World War.

Now, as a lawyer, I am cognizant that the motives and intent are entirely different. Further, this is a problem that will probably not be solved by personal condemnation or judgmental accusations. With respect to the number and spacing of children, the health of the mother must be considered, and the decision should be made prayerfully by husbands and wives. Such decisions should never be judged by outsiders. Some faithful individuals are not able to have children or have the opportunity to marry. They will receive every blessing in heaven.

Nevertheless, Lucifer has supported abortion and convinced many people in a horrific paradigm shift that children represent lost opportunity and misery, instead of joy and happiness. Bringing children into the world is a sacred part of our Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness.

We are so numbed and intimidated by the immensity of the practice of abortion that many of us have pushed it to the back of our minds and try to keep it out of our consciousness. Clearly the adversary is attacking the value of children on many levels. We must be at the forefront of changing hearts and minds on the importance of children.”

Elder Cook’s remarks on abortion are pointed and sobering. I am not going to add much to his remarks on the substance of the abortion debate. I want to take a step back and talk about what we can learn about Satan’s tactics from this example and I hope that this discussion will be thought provoking regardless of your feelings about Elder Cook’s particular example.

Satan triumphs when good is called evil and evil good. He loves to redefine eternal truth.  And he tricks many into believing that doing evil is justified in furtherance of some other social good. However, even those who are not persuaded to redefine morality may still fall under Satan’s sway in a more subtle and pernicious fashion.

When we see widespread acceptance of an immoral belief or practice, we can become “numbed and intimidated” so that we push[] it to the back of our minds and try to keep it out of our consciousness.” Satan wins when people who understand eternal moral truths are silent or become indifferent. When we begin to assume that evil is inevitable and not worth combating, Satan triumphs. Silence in the face of wickedness is not a virtue. Complacency in the face of vice is deeply tragic. We must valiantly fight against evil and never become complacent.

Yet I was also grateful that Elder Cook spent a considerable amount of time emphasizing that the solution to the problem of abortion is  NOT “personal condemnation or judgmental accusations” – a theme elaborated upon in the full talk. Such methods are deeply counter-productive.  I believe that Satan is as pleased with vitriolic overreaction as he is with indifference. It seems to me that people of deep faith and moral convictions are most susceptible to these overreactions because of how passionately we can feel about certain moral topics. We must never forget that our goal is “changing hearts and minds.” Anything that undercuts that purpose furthers Satan’s plan.

Another takeaway for me is that methods matter. Satan proposed a plan in the divine council to solve the problem of sin and human frailty. But because his plan was based on coercion and compulsion it was rightfully rejected. Method matters just as much as the substantive outcome.  Speaking with friends of my generation, I am deeply concerned that many do not stop to think about method before proposing solutions to problems. Often, but not always, this means support for the biggest and most coercive government solution. Our zeal for change must be tempered with a realistic assessment of human nature, divine law, and the consideration of other virtues such as liberty and freedom.

Satan is a master manipulator. He is behind the current state of affairs where vast numbers of people in the great and spacious building call evil good and good evil and mock those who seek the tree of life.  But he is also pleased with those who are indifferent towards the pursuit of the tree. And, although this is not depicted in Lehi’s dream, he would also be satisfied with someone who has reached the tree but spends all his time railing against the wickedness of the building rather than partaking of the fruit. We must seek the proper balance between being zealous for righteous causes and tempering our approach with charity, the divine love of Christ.

Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults – President Russell M. Nelson

Since I (just barely) fit into the demographics for the devotional (18-30), I thought it would be appropriate for me to blog about the devotional as I watched it.

I love President Nelson and his wife. I saw them speak when I was in the MTC, and was motivated and inspired by his remarks. His life and especially his pioneering work in heart surgery is an incredible tribute to the power of the Lord to inspire human beings and to improve lives through the impact of the spirit. I can see that the effects of age are really having an impact of President Nelson. Nevertheless, when he speaks I can hear the voice of divine inspiration.

Sister Nelson–

Was in marriage and family counseling and wants to share advice about love and marriage. She wants us to think of her as “aunt Wendy” and teach “four truths about love and marriage.” Continue reading

#LDSconf 186th Semiannual Conference, General Priesthood Session

October 2016 Priesthood Session

Choir from stakes in West Valley City and Magna Utah (including my former stake!)

President Eyring presiding

Hymn– Ye Elders of Israel (A really nice rendition!)

Prayer– Paul B. Piper of the 70

Hymn   Love at Home

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

A single sister (Molly) came home from work and found her basement covered in water.  She and a friend began moping. Then her home teachers showed up. But they said “we see that you are busy and we do not want to intrude…” and they left.

Home teaching is our first duty to watch over others. We are told about it and given guilt trips, but still can’t get our numbers to an acceptable level. Changing demographics make it difficult to successfully visit the homes of others. There are also limited numbers of priesthood holders, long distance, cost of transportation, long work weeks. And there are cultural taboos and safety issue. So this is a complex problem.

When possible, a month visit is still the ideal that the Church will strive for. But because it is not always possible, the First Presidency wrote in December 2001 and gave inspired counsel. In some locations home teaching every month may not be possible. Leaders should do their best to use the resources that they have available to watch over and strengthen each member.

Continue reading

The Founders, the Constitution, and the Plan of Salvation

This weekend, the nation celebrated Constitution Day in honor of the ratification of that divinely inspired charter of liberty. For members of the Church in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and parts of Maryland, this was a particularly auspicious weekend to celebrate. After a lengthy open house, the Philadelphia temple was dedicated today.

In light of the hallowed history of this great city, Elder Christofferson and President Eyring during the dedicatory sessions both reflected on the founding and its role in the restoration. Elder Christofferson in particular linked the events that took place in Philadelphia from 1776 to 1789 to the unfolding of the restoration in a profound fashion. He first mentioned that the truths contained in the declaration of independence were “central to the plan of salvation.” Then, he emphasized that had there been no constitution, there also would have been no restoration.

President Eyring then acknowledged the likely presence of many of those founders in the temple today. He reflected on their appearance in the St. George temple petitioning for their ordinances to be performed, and joked that they now likely “qualified for a temple recommend.”  As he said this, I felt a special spirit echoing the truth of his words. I knew that these men had fought for godly ideals and that they were now cheering the construction and dedication of this great temple.  President Eyring prayed that those ideals and liberties would be secured and that the United states could continue to be a bastion for freedom and a stronghold for the Church.

I loved these remarks. The ideals of the declaration truly are part of God’s plan of salvation as Elder Christofferson suggested: In particular, the equality of all men (and women) in the sight of God, the idea that we have unalienable and God given rights, and the ideal that government is based on the consent of the governed. These were radical truths when put to paper hundreds of years ago. They remain radical today. But they are also eternal truths that predate this Republic or even republican governance on the earth.

It is fitting that a portrait of the great men from the constitutional convention stands at the entrance to the temple. Though they were imperfect, these men designed a perfectible system which grabbed hold of eternal and perfect truths. I am grateful for them and for their efforts.