Sunday, April 19, 2020

Therefore What?

My wife and I are no longer full-time missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We arrived home from Indiana yesterday and were officially released today. We are excited to be home, but we are missing the members and the missionaries in the Indiana Indianapolis Mission.

The decision to serve a full-time mission as senior missionaries was the best decision we have made. There is no greater experience than to represent the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church and it was a great blessing. To serve it with my eternal companion made it even better.

President Page, President of the Indiana Indianapolis Mission, always asks at the end of each training session that he does “Therefore What?” He wants the missionaries to think about what they learned and how they are going to apply the principles they were taught. As I look back on our mission and asking, “therefore what?”, what have I learned and how has it changed my life?

Last Day as a Missionary
We learned firsthand that what King Benjamin said: "when you are in the service of your fellow beings you are only in the service of your God" (Mosiah 2:17) is true. We loved serving Heavenly Father's children in Indiana. We loved serving in the mission office with the other office couples. They were the greatest examples to us in how to love each other and go the extra mile in everything they did.

We learned to love the missionaries in our mission (young and old) as if they were family and we consider them part of our eternal family. We learned how much the Lord loves His missionaries and that he directs the mission through the mission president. The decision about what area the missionaries are to service in and who their companion should be is the Lord’s decision. He understands the trials and opportunities we each have as we serve are understood by the Lord and he knows where we are needed.

The most important lesson I have gained from this experience is that my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his participation in the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has increased. I am amazed that as a young boy, Joseph had a desire to know what his standing before God was and how his desire to know which of all the churches on the earth was God’s Church prompted to ask God. I know that when he went into the grove to pray 200 years ago, that he did indeed see God and Jesus Christ. I know the priesthood authority was given to him and that he established The Church of Jesus Christ under the direction of Jesus Christ himself. I know that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God and that it stands as a second witness, along with the Bible, that Jesus is The Christ and that he lives and guides His Church through living prophets today.

Therefore what? I am grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission where I grew up, in Indiana. I am grateful for all the high school friends that I have been able to become reacquainted with as well as the new friends I have made. I am grateful for the blessing to represent the Lord Jesus Christ. Although I am taking off the name tag that identifies me as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I will always represent him and his church.

Your questions and comments are welcome. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

From the Cross to an Empty Tomb

Today is Easter, a day when we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. From the words of the hymn “I Believe in Christ”, “I believe in Christ oh blessed name. I will worship him with all my might, and I shall live with joy and love in his eternal courts above”.

Often when I am running in the early morning hours I see this cross that stands as a witness of the sacrifice that our Savior Jesus Christ made for each of us. The cross is not in front of a church, but the local John Deer Dealership. It shines brightly as a witness of the owner’s faith in Christ. They are not afraid to testify to the world of their faith. Seeing it every morning warms my heart and reminds me that I too am one of His witnesses and that I am here as a missionary for His Church today.

Seeing this cross reminds me that Jesus Christ suffered and was crucified so we could have our sins forgiven and cleansed. In an interview with President Gordan B. Hinckley, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the interviewer asked why our church does not have the cross on our buildings. President Hinckley responded that we worship the living Jesus Christ. In January 1 2000, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published a document called “The Living Christ”. Part of that document says:

"He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind

He rose from the grave to “become the first fruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10).

Of Him the Prophet also declared: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).”

Sometimes when I am running the sun is beginning to rise and instead of seeing the cross shining in the dark, I see a fading cross as the skies brighten. Just as sure as the sun will rise each morning bringing an end to the darkness; Easter morning is a witness to the world that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The tomb was empty, and the risen Lord appeared unto his apostles and others that morning. He appeared to thousands of his people here in ancient America and they each had the opportunity to feel the wounds in his hands, just as the Apostle Thomas did.

I add my testimony that I know that Jesus Christ lives again. Just as the dark of night fads away as the sun rises, when we die, the darkness of the grave will give way on the morning of the resurrection. Because of the living Jesus Christ, the darkness of the cross will fad away and all who lived and died will live again and be brought before Christ where we shall all bow the knee and wash his feet with our tears. Happy Easter.

Your questions and comments are welcome.

Christ in America after His Resurrection

Sunday, April 5, 2020

To All My Christian Friends

My invitation is to all my friends, Christian and non-Christian, to read this message and pray to know if what I say is true. I know “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” (Moroni 10:4).
Have ever wondered if God is real, if He speaks today, if He is real then why is there so much suffering, or is there any hope for a better life today and after we die? If you feel that you understand these questions and your faith in God and Jesus Christ is strong, I invite you to read on and see if there is more.

Last month, I posted two messages that dealt with the apostasy of the Lord’s ancient church and the attempt of the reformers to correct the changes in the doctrine and ordinances that happened over the centuries (Apostasy and Restoration). I also wrote of the role that the founding fathers of the United States of America had in preparing for the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (By the Hands of Wise Men). If you have not read them, I encourage you to read them and then read today’s message.

Two hundred years ago a young 14-year-old boy, Joseph Smith, wondered about many of these questions and read a passage in the Bible that said: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5) Joseph and his family had attended different churches but did not find the answers to the questions they were seeking. After reading that verse in the scriptures, Joseph decided that the only way to find out the truth was to ask God. He said:

“At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.” (Joseph Smith-History 1:13)

Joseph Smith decided he would test God’s promise to answer his questions. It was in the spring of 1820. He said it was a beautiful clear day. He said it was his first attempt to pray vocally. As he knelt to pray, this is how he described what happened:

Joseph Smith's First Vision

“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith History 1:16-17)

The two personages that had appeared to him were God, The Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The first thing Joseph learned was that God does answer our prayers today. He also learned that God and Jesus Christ are two separate, physical beings and that we are created in their image. Jesus Christ called Joseph by name and told him that his sins were forgiven. Joseph learned that God knows his children and that Jesus Christ is our Savior and died for our sins. Joseph’s purpose in praying to God was to know which, if any, of all the churches were true. He asked his question and received and answer. Again, in his own words, he said:

“I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.” (Joseph Smith History 1:19-20)

He had his answer, the true Church of Jesus Christ was not on the earth. He was told that the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be revealed to him at a later time. Later when he was persecuted for saying that he had seen God The Father and Jesus Christ, he said:

“I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.

So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.” (Joseph Smith History 1:24-25)

Three years after the First Vision, Joseph Smith was given the gold plates that contained an account of the people that lived here in the Americas anciently. It also contains an account of the visit of Jesus Christ to his people here in America (3 Nephi 11). Joseph Smith translated the gold plates by the gift and power of God, and it is published as the Book of Mormon.

While Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon, he received the Aaronic Priesthood authority to baptize from John the Baptist, and the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James and John. With this priesthood authority he was commanded to restore the Church of Jesus Christ again on the earth. On April 6, 1830 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized.

Two hundred years later, the testimony of Joseph Smith still stands as a witness that God is real, that he speaks to prophets today. We have a living prophet today, Russell M. Nelson, and twelve apostles. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith the Lord Jesus Christ said:

“Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;

And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually.” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:17, 30)

It is my testimony to the world that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is The true church and contains the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God and is a second testament of Jesus Christ along with the Bible. Russell M. Nelson is the Lord’s prophet today. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ did appear to the boy Joseph Smith 200 years ago. I challenge all my Christian friends to come and see, come and hear, come and find out for yourself if the Kingdom of God has been resorted.

Your comments and questions are welcome.