The First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 9.6Today marks the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of expectation and preparation for the Christmas holiday. During the weeks of Advent many Christians participate in readings, songs, worship, devotionals, and traditions that prepare them for the arrival of the Christ Child on Christmas Eve. Advent is not something that is normally associated with LDS Christmas worship, but in many countries around the world, LDS families, along with members of other Christian faiths, celebrate the four weeks before Christmas in preparation for the holiday.

After many years, I have finally decided to start this tradition in our family as a way to turn us toward the Savior instead of the holiday rush and the more secular aspects of Christmas. Starting today and over the next weeks, I am going to share our Advent devotionals here, and hope that you will join us in preparing for Christmas.

Traditionally, on the first Sunday of Advent the readings and devotionals focus on the Old Testament prophesies of Christ. This video from the Church focuses on the prophesies of Isaiah. Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!

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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Debunking that Quote about Brigham Young’s Greatest Fear

Brigham_Young_by_Charles_William_Carter

The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.” – Brigham Young

This quote is probably familiar to many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have participated in online discussions about the church.

Faithful members have had it thrown in their faces by dissidents and detractors on numerous occasions. Dissenters see it as a powerful sound-bite in support of the notion that members of the church must be continually vigilant that the fallible leaders of the church do not lead the church astray.

And as a soundbite it is reasonably effective. But there is one problem: Brigham Young never said it. The quote is completely spurious.

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Beware the Leaven of the Dissidents

Disputation

In response to recent disciplinary actions by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supporters of those being disciplined have complained that the charge of apostasy is inaccurate because, they assert, the individuals and the organizations created by them have not taught any false doctrines or acted in opposition to the prophet or the Church.

They insist that all they are doing is asking questions. So, what false doctrine can they possibly be teaching?

This is my attempt to answer that important question.

At the outset, let’s immediately dispense with the notion that “asking questions” is always unambiguously innocent and unassuming.

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First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Releases Statement on Priesthood, Questioning, and Apostasy

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Today the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a joint statement concerning Priesthood, Questioning, and Apostasy.

https://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/june-first-presidency-statement?lang=eng

In God’s plan for the happiness and eternal progression of His children, the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the Church has equal merit in the eyes of God. We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and His children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the Church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.

We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.

Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.