Friday, November 6, 2015

I Will Not Be Still

*Disclaimer- I am in no way giving reason on behalf of the church.  All statements are the opinions of the writer.
Many of us are aware of the recent "Policy changes" to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Many nonmembers AND members have had many things to say about this.  I have always worked to meet the middle ground with those who are not in alliance with my beliefs. This will be hard for me to write as I usually like to talk to someone face to face regarding my religious beliefs or political beliefs.  But for this moment, I must speak/write my mind.
I wish during this post to be sensitive to those who may be involved in a similar situation, or who may have concerns regarding this news.  But I also wish to be bold about my beliefs.
To start off, the Church is a large part of my life.  I sacrificed two years of my life teaching people about the Restoration and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I was affected by their love and devotion to the gospel.  Everything that I believe on this church and the restoration lies on 531 pages.  The Book of Mormon.  I believe the Book of Mormon to be translated by the power of God through the prophet Joseph Smith.  Because I believe this, I believe there are prophets on the earth again.  Because I believe this, I believe in modern day revelation.  Because I believe this, I believe God STILL speaks to prophets.  Because I believe this, I sustain and believe Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of the living God.
Now let me get to the meat of the discussion:
Matthew 19:14 "But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus cares so deeply about children.  I believe the Churches announcement does nothing but prove this to be right.  I can hear some peoples minds as I type this.  "How can you believe that? How can Jesus deny his covenants to his children? Is this love?"  Believe it or not, yes, it certainly is.
A covenant is a two way promise between two people.  In any religion when a converting ordinance is performed, it is taken seriously.  The breaking of such covenants is no small matter either, especially if Deity is involved.  I stress the absolute importance of this.  When someone is baptized, the leaders of the church do not high five each other with excitement over a growing church, but they are generally concerned for the new convert and their new spiritual journey.  They have processes put in place to ensure that the new convert will continue to develop their testimony of Jesus Christ.  To put the pressure on a child from age 8 to independence in a same sex marriage is incredibly complex and difficult.  To go to church and learn the gospel (And it is no secret that Christians believe Same Sex Marriage to be a sin in the eyes of God), and then to go home and wonder why your dads/moms aren't practicing the same teachings and causing that friction is going to complicate their home life and family life. 

Matthew 18:3 "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
If you are a practicing member of any Christian religion, it will be no secret that Homosexual marriages are not seen as valid.  Let me emphasize something as strongly as I can: We in no way hate/disown those practicing or struggling with such a thing in their life.  We are loving of these individuals and invite them to learn more and come closer to our Savior.  We cannot be accepting of their life style, but we can certainly be loving and accepting of the individual.  This "new" policy does not strictly point out children in same sex couples, but has for years stated children in Polygamous relationships and other various things.  This should not be new to members.  The church has never pivoted from their position on this issue.
D&C 18:10 "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;"
Again, I fully believe this is for the best interest in the child.   I believe this because a Prophet of God has said so.  I believe this because this is also how I feel.  I believe this because I have pondered, prayed, and thought long and hard about this.  Is it wrong to question this stance from the church? Absolutely not, questions are welcome as you should gain a testimony and witness of everything within the church.  But I bring a great word of caution:
"There is one kind of latter-day destruction that has always sounded to me more personal than public, more individual than collective—a warning, perhaps more applicable inside the Church than outside it. The Savior warned that in the last days even those of the covenant, the very elect, could be deceived by the enemy of truth.  If we think of this as a form of spiritual destruction, it may cast light on another latter-day prophecy. Think of the heart as the figurative center of our faith, the poetic location of our loyalties and our values; then consider Jesus’s declaration that in the last days “men’s hearts [shall fail] them.” - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, October 2009 General Conference

If you have concerns, bring them to the alter of God.  Pray sincerely, be humble, and listen for the Spirit.  Ask Him for a witness.  But also be willing to accept that you may not receive it or the reasons until you are before God accounting for your works.  I have prayed, I have pondered, and I have felt peace regarding this subject.  God's ways are NOT our ways.  They never will be mans ways.  God is bound by eternal law.  I can only imagine our Heavenly Father pained by the harsh responses received from those even within the church.  I can imagine how difficult it was for President Monson to announce these guidelines knowing it may turn away some members of the church.
But let me be absolutely clear.  The last days are upon us.  The enemy of truth will do everything in his power to convince you otherwise.  It is a dangerous path to walk down if you are thinking that the First Presidency is out of touch or "not with the times".  This is precisely what the adversary would have you believe.
Mosiah 8: 20-21 "O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer with his people; yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them! Yea, they are as a wild flock which fleeth from the shepherd, and scattereth, and are driven, and are devoured by the beasts of the forest"

On one last note: Social Media has been incredibly deceptive with this announcement.  The church has NOT stated that children are not eligible for membership, nor have they said that they cannot in any way be baptized.  THEY CAN STILL MAKE THE NECESSARY COVENANTS WITH HEAVENLY FATHER.  The process is outlined below:
"A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service only as follows:

A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met:
  1. The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
  2. The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage."
 I want to be absolutely clear that I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to be the restored gospel.  I believe that President Monson is the living prophet of God and I sustain him with the entirety of my soul.  I believe in a Savior who loves everyone regardless of what they have done in life.  I believe that you, and those you know, are known by Heavenly Father.  My intent with this is to not put anyone down, but rather my intent is to stand for my religion when so many will tear it apart.

"Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions. (See 1 Kgs. 18:21.) President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had ‘never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional or political life’ (in Conference Report, Apr. 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ! We are now entering a time of incredible ironies. Let us cite but one of these ironies which is yet in its subtle stages: We will see a maximum, if indirect, effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism which uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of western civilization to shrink freedom, even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage.”
“Your discipleship may see the time when such religious convictions are discounted. M. J. Sobran also said, ‘A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it’ (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, pp. 58–59). This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened.”
“Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel. There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds which was, till then, unconscious of itself. Jesus said that when the fig trees put forth their leaves, ‘summer is nigh’ (Matt. 24:32). Thus warned that summer is upon us, let us not then complain of the heat!”
Neal A. Maxwell Oct 10, 1978
Meeting the Challenges of Today - BYU Speeches

I would also advise watching this interview:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Effects of Service

As I was working on a project for a family foundations class I attend from Brigham Young University-Idaho, I began thinking the effects my mission will have on my future family.  As I thought about my mission, I thought of my blog which I haven't updated for a while.  I strolled down memory lane and realized I have over 25,000 views on my blog! (WOW!).  To anyone reading this, I hope I can make an impression on you to reach out to your fellow brethren.  Whether through religious activities or other activities you see fit.

Let me pour some of my thoughts on this page:
My Mission Set the Mark
Elder Holland gave a fantastic talk about serving missions in October of 2011.  It was the latter part of my mission and I thought my service would end in 2 months.  Elder Holland pursued the idea of serving missions at a senior age.  This was an idea that crossed my mind, but I never thought too hard about.  This past Sunday, a wonderful couple had just returned from their mission in Singapore and Malyasia.  They were preparing to go on a second mission.  As my wife sat at my side I couldn't help but think of what our future holds in the term of missionary service.  Senior missionaries make no small amount of sacrifice.  They must find a way to have their belongings taken care of, provide full support of their mission without receiving payment from the Church for their service.  An impression came upon my mind to begin preparing for this next stage in my life, even if it's 30-40 years down the road.  I do not know when that time will come, except that it is quite a few years down the road.  But I want my household to say "In this home, we serve missions" as Elder Holland proclaimed.  I want my mission to be the starting mark for my children to serve, for my wife and I to serve, and to put our hands in the service of the Lord.

Undying Influences
My mission brought opportunities to meet people that I would never forget.  I met people who have made impressions on my mind for the rest of eternity.  For example, a wonderful member in a military ward I served in, Brother Johnson(Name was changed for confidentiality).  Brother Johnson served in the high rankings of the army and had little to no time for himself.  He was called as an Elders Quorum president in the midst of a busy time in his military career.  This was no excuse for him.  He gave 100% of his heart to his calling and the church.  One bishop I served under was such a tremendous influence on the members of the ward that I believe he sets the bar for other bishops in the church.  All bishops I have met are inspired men, and this Bishop was a tremendous man.  He made a great effort to visit many members in the ward regardless of his busy schedule with work and family.  He truly cared about the well being of everyone he came in contact with.
Some converts I taught instantly gave up some lifestyles because of their belief in God.  Alcohol was thrown out, tea was dropped, cigarettes were smashed as they strove to live by Gospel ordinances.  I am so truly grateful for each individual I met on the islands of O'ahu and Kaua'i.  I will never, ever forget these great saints and those I taught.

The Most Important:  My Savior
Of all the sacred and important things I learned, the most important came over the course of my two years.  My Savior was real, and His atonement is eternal.  I had a testimony of Him before my mission, but as you spend time in His service (For two years or even a few hours) you truly begin to understand the love that He felt for those who didn't love him.  I consider this knowledge so fragile because if I do not exercise it often, I will lose it.  The influences of the world want to take this knowledge away from me no matter how much I want to hold on.  My Savior is real.  He lives.  All of us can come to know Him by seeking Him and living the life He wants us to.

I testify that no matter how hard times get, the Lord knows what you are going through.  Whether you are losing a family member to an illness, the pains of death, the pains of an emotional loss, physical suffering, or anything you may feel, Jesus Christ knows what you are going through.  Reach out to Him and get to know Him.  He is Jesus Christ, He is your Lord.  I am grateful for the love that He has for all of us.

To all those reading this, I strongly encourage you to look for opportunities to serve your fellow brethren.  In any way possible, reach out to them.  Simple acts of kindness make an everlasting impression.