The Family – The Fourth Pillar of Eternity

During Conference there were a lot of talks about marriage and family. While the talks briefly mentioned current events such as same-sex marriage, they mostly focused on something somewhat different. Elders Christofferson and Perry in particular had very similarly titled talks which focused on the doctrine or the why of family (“Why marriage, why family” and “Why Marriage and Family Matters” respectfully). President Packer likewise talked about “The Plan of Happiness” and in doing so focused heavily on the doctrine of the family.

Twenty years ago, the Family a Proclamation the World declared powerfully to the world our unique theology and doctrine of family. In the interceding years, that vision has only become more and more essential. Yet, we often focus on the details of the proclamation such as teachings about the roles of men and women and lose sight of what this inspired doctrine taught about the nature of significance of the Family in God’s plan.

What I believe we are witnessing today is a great clarification and sharpening of the doctrine of the family brought about by current events and the global effort to redefine marriage. These challenges have led our leaders to ponder and reflect on the true meaning of the family. These challenges have deeply enriched our understanding of the gospel as a familial matter. Much more so than twenty years ago, our leaders today teach not merely what families should be like, but why this is so essential.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie famously taught of the three pillars of eternity as being the creation, the fall, and the atonement. Today, instead of three pillars Elder Christofferson put forward four things essential for realizing God’s plan of happiness. The first three were the same as Elder McConkie’s pillars—creation, fall, and redemption, but the fourth of these pillars is the Family “the setting for physical birth and subsequent spiritual rebirth in God’s kingdom.” Elder Christofferson explained that this is essential, because in marriage we are able to create “in partnership with God, the physical bodies that are key to the test of mortality and essential to eternal glory with Him.” It is in marriage that we become co-creators with God and therefore enter the path towards exaltation.

President Packer also discussed this theme in his remarks. He emphasized that “The power of procreation is not an incidental part of the plan of happiness; it is the key to happiness.” It is through this power, that “we may come close to our Father in Heaven and experience a fullness of joy, even Godhood.” Being able to responsibly use our power of procreation responsible is the great test of mortality.
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Henry B. Eyring: Renaissance of Happy Marriage

EyringI’m sure you’ve seen by now that Tuesday, Pres. Henry B. Eyring spoke at the Vatican Summit on Marriage. This was a historic event, and one that I hope all members of the Church take note of. It was the first time a member of the First Presidency has met the Pope, and it was also historic in that people of many faiths have gathered to talk and teach about the importance of marriage and families to society.

The full transcript of Pres. Eyring’s remarks are (here) and the video of his remarks is (here).

I am a bit of a word-hound. I notice words in sentences and how they function to impart the meaning of the sentence. I am particularly keen on action verbs, as those usually invite us to do something or show how something was done. I’m going to share a few of these calls to action that popped out at me.

2 Nephi 2. 25Pres. Eyring began by stating he was there to, “give evidence that a man and a woman, united in marriage, have a transcendent power to create happiness for themselves, for their family, and for the people around them.” He was giving evidence that we are meant to be in families, and that families should create happiness. Next he stated, “I am an eyewitness of the power of the union of a man and a woman in marriage to produce happiness for each other and for their family.” Here several words are important. First, the “power of union” that is found in a marriage. The verb here is “to unite.” We are to be united to produce happiness. We are to be happy and have joy. I have noticed the theme of joy lately being taught by many of our Church leaders. And we all are very familiar with Nephi’s declaration in 2 Nephi 2:11 that “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” Even when things are not perfect, he encouraged us to strive for the ideal, despite slow outcomes and mocking from the world. Continue reading

My Personal Themes from General Conference

McConkie follow the prophetWe’re 10 days out from General Conference. I am still thinking about it and letting the lessons I learned from it percolate in my head. I hope you had your own personal theme develop for you as you listened to the speakers.

I was impressed by speaker after speaker with three themes.

First, FOLLOW THE PROPHET! Yes, I realize that’s in all caps, because yes, I am screaming that at the world. We just need to follow the prophet to find the answers to our questions, the solutions to our problems and for maximum happiness in this life. Sister McConkie taught in her talk “We heed prophetic word even when it may seem unreasonable, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. According to the world’s standards, following the prophet may be unpopular, politically incorrect, or socially unacceptable. But following the prophet is always right.” Did we get that? Following the prophet is always right, despite what is popular out there in the world.

Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the 70s also addressed following the prophet instead of following popular trends as well. He asked us, “Which way do you face?”, and challenged us to not invert the first and second great commandments. Again we were reminded, “The scornful often accuse prophets of not living in the 21st century or of being bigoted. They attempt to persuade or even pressure the Church into lowering God’s standards to the level of their own inappropriate behavior, which in the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell, will ‘develop self-contentment instead of seeking self-improvement’ and repentance. Lowering the Lord’s standards to the level of a society’s inappropriate behavior is—apostasy.” That was the money quote for me, lowering the Lord’s standards to the level of society is apostasy. Makes you think about the things we’re interested in and advocating for. I hope we all asked ourselves if “our issues” match up with what the prophets are teaching us, and if they don’t, instead of rationalizing them away, we’re willing to change our thoughts to match the council of the prophets and the standards and doctrines of the Church.

Eyring revelation from GodMy second theme of General Conference was the importance of receiving our own witness of the teachings of the prophets. Elder Eyring’s talk specifically addressed this and the principle of “confirming revelation.” He said, “Human judgment and logical thinking will not be enough to get answers to the questions that matter most in life. We need revelation from God.” Did we hear that? We cannot rely on our own judgments, the opinions of friends, junk we see on facebook, or the latest and greatest train of thought. We must receive our own “confirming revelation” like Nephi of old.

I am heart broken to see so many friends, who are also members of the Church, cherry picking the words of the prophets to fit their agendas, rejecting the doctrines of the church, specifically those regarding chastity, morality and marriage, for worldly standards and practices. The thing is, the world is always in a constant state of flux, and revels in emotionally charged rhetoric that will surely short change us on our salvation. I’ve also been told numerous times by these same friends that they had “personal revelation” and/or a “witness of the spirit” that things like The Family Proclamation and the Church’s stand and support of traditional marriage are not true. I’ll just be bold here and state that these witnesses cannot be true. It might have been a witness, but a witness that is not inline with the doctrines of the Church and the words of the modern, living prophets is not from the Lord. The Holy Spirit is not going to give any of us a confirmation or a witness of something that goes against what the Lord has taught. The Holy Ghost will always witness the truthfulness of the Gospel and the truthfulness of the words of the prophets.
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Toward A True International Church

It has been more than five years since the LDS Church counted more members outside of the United States than inside. For a Church that believes it will cover the whole earth, this is good news. That does not mean that it has reached “World Religion” status by a long shot. Although making the statement with a dismissive tone, Prof. Douglas J. Davis was right when he said calling Mormonism a World Religion at this point is dubious. Nor is it likely that it will be until the Millenium (but that is a topic for later). With 7 Billion people in the world and growing, 12 million doesn’t cut it as anything beyond a deeply humbling statistic. Missionary work has a long way to go.

Despite a long road ahead, the LDS Church is taking strides toward a true international church. Too many members are getting confused between the designation of “World Religion” with numbers, political power, and social influence and “International Church” where a sizeable membership lives in different countries. It is the latter designation that Mormonism has made progress with more promise.

A few have noted a diverse crop of international located leaders have been called in the lower ranks of general officers. It is a good sign that the future might be less U.S. centric. Leaders in lower positions can be called to the highest responsibility. South America is where the largest number of new leaders are emerging. Interesting enough, Cantonese turned out to be the first non-English language spoken in General Conference by Elder Chi Hong “Sam” Wong of Hong Kong. Hardly the most represented language of the LDS Church, although the Spanish spoken by Elder Eduardo Gavarret of Uruguay is for a large portion of members.

A few years ago former general authority Elder John K. Carmack predicted someday General Conference could be held outside Utah and even the United States:

“The international church may yet become stronger than in the United States,” said Elder John K. Carmack, an emeritus general authority of the LDS Church. “I’m not a prophet, seer or revelator, but I believe this will happen.

“I can envision general conference being held in Sao Paulo or Mexico City or Manila. . .”

Now, six years later, Carmack said, “We can see the dim outlines of the benefits that surely will come to the international church. Already, a not insignificant number of our leaders in areas with the program are coming from the ranks of PEF recipients.”

Carmack said the church’s area president for northern South America recently reported that more than 10 percent of the region’s stake presidents and bishops are PEF graduates.

Brazil is the clear hot spot for the fund, followed by Mexico, Chile and Peru.

The prediction General Conference will be held outside of Utah is not particularly feasible. Salt Lake City still remains where the central resources are situated. Technology has made logistical requirements for a traveling conference unnecessary. The LDS Church, however, will continue to have speakers give talks in their own languages. English and Spanish will be the two main languages over the pulpit, with others included as the leadership desires. Of course, that means that English speakers will have to get used to reading or listening to interpreters as a large portion of LDS membership outside the U.S. already does.

This is an exciting development. It is a tremendous opportunity. As Elder Carmack said, we are close to, “where it is time to trim the parts that are peculiar to the United States and not relevant to the international church.” That means asking what are the basics of the Church in a world of multicultural and political geography.

General Women’s Meeting: Covenants, Temples & Living the Gospel More Fully

Can you stand one more post about General Women’s Meeting? Ok, here we go. I promise I’m not going to re-summarize the meeting; Meg and Rameumptom have already done that. But I wanted to share some thoughts had about the talks and my over all impressions.

First, there was a nice and very welcome international element to the meeting. The opening prayer was given by Sister Dorah Mkhabela from South Africa. Her prayer was heartfelt, sincere and full of love for the women of the Church. The Young Women’s Board, the members of which come from all over the world, were on the stand as well. I cannot wait until the Relief Society and Primary Boards also have international members as well. I was reminded that the Church is worldwide and as such, is working to include and incorporate different people, cultures, and needs into the organization.

I know the inner and outer critics of the Church are quick to jump on the Church because it seemingly does not respond to needs of its members in a timely manner, or that is seen as a North American church, which only caters to the needs of Wasatch Front Utah. But a thought occurred to me, this Lord’s Church – and it is an international Church. We have to get it right. When policies and changes are being made, there is a very careful process that occurs, which checks and double checks that things turn out right, or as right as possible. It has to be this way, we’re God’s children and He does not want us to make mistakes with His children. Perhaps we need to be more patient with the people and the process.

Provo Temple night

The second thing which impressed me was the principle of covenants, which are made individually, point us to the temple, which, in turn, points us to Christ. That is where our power is. To endow means to freely give, and when we go to the temple and participate there, we are endowed with God’s power. The Lord, our Father in Heaven, FREELY gives us His power. Think about that for a minute. I hope we each take some time to reflect on our endowment a bit more, and what it really is. Continue reading