Friday, June 27, 2014

I Believe

Today, 170 years ago, Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred.  A big day in LDS Church History.  In light of that and the huge publicity and current public discussion about LDS Church doctrine I want to declare what I believe.  To draw my line in the sand.

I believe that I have a Heavenly Father.  I believe His Son, Jesus Christ, is my personal Savior. I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and he restored the gospel of Jesus Christ along with the Priesthood of God as well as the Keys of the Priesthood of God.  I believe that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon and that the Book of Mormon is revelation straight from God.  I believe that Thomas S. Monson is the living prophet of God on the earth today.

I have been a member of the LDS Church since I was 8.  I always believed it was true but my conviction of it started when I was 15 on a vacation in Mexico City, Mexico at Teotihucan and "The Pyramid of the Sun."

My tour group ran into some missionaries there and they gave our tour guide a Book a Mormon and taught him right there at the base of "The Pyramid of the Sun." The Spirit testified to me that the Book of Mormon was true and that it was all true.  The End.  The experience was over powering.  Fast forward through out my life and I have continued to be taught by the Spirit as I've humbled myself and repented.  When I seek revelation and live worthily God speaks to me, like He does all of His children.  Sometime He doesn't answer my questions right away, but He still always speaks to me.  Three specific things I've learned are that:

  1. The Book of Mormon and Church History are filled with accounts of people that rejected their leaders and apostatized from God's Kingdom.  In these accounts I find patterns that teach me how to avoid personal apostasy in the latter-days.
  2. Satan is on the earth trying to destroy God's children any way he can.
  3. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ all my doubts, fears, concerns, etc. have been overcome and replaced with faith, courage and peace.
As I study and remember the stories from the scriptures and from church history of those that didn't repent, became offended and angry and kicked themselves out of the kingdom I see a recurring pattern.  I continue to see it today. (But this is a topic for another day).

When I pray, read my scriptures, attend church and attend the temple it "resets" my eternal perspective button.  I am reminded of why I'm here on earth and that there is a Plan.  I am reminded that as part of that Plan I face, "an opposition in all things." (2 Ne 2:11-read whole chapter). That I get to choose every single day to act for myself and choose who I will follow. I am reminded that there are two forces at work.  One choice I make would lead me back to my Heavenly Father.  Heavenly does that by inviting me and teaching me light and truth through the Spirit which is revealed to me in the scriptures, in my heart personally,  and latter-day prophets.  The second choice I have comes from Satan.  His method involves lies, tricks, deception, and darkness.  

The Book of Revelation teaches a lot about Satan.  It says, 
"And there was a war in heaven and Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.  And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.  And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb: and by the word of their testimony and they loved not their lives unto the death."" (Revelation 11: 7-11; emphasis added)
 Lehi teaches us in The Book of Mormon,
"And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.  And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil." (2 Nephi 2:17-18; emphasis added)
Abraham also taught about our pre-mortal experience saying,
"And there was stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will proven them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their god shall command them...And the Lord said: Who shall I send: and one answered like unto the Son of Man; Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me.  And the Lord said: I will send the first.  And the second was angry and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him." (Abraham 3:24-28; emphasis added)
 These scriptures teach me a number of things:

  1. There was a war in heaven before we came to earth, and Satan was cast out along with his followers because they sought that which was evil.
  2. Satan is described as a deceiver, an accuser of the brethren (all day and all night long), the father of all lies and someone who was angry.
  3. Christ was chosen to be our Redeemer.  And it is through Him and His blood that we overcame the Devil in our pre-earth life and it is how we will overcome him in our current earth life.
  4. One purpose of our mortal life is to see if we will obey and do what God asks us to do. To see if we will life by faith.
Satan is always in our ear whispering lies and deceptions.  "That's not fair." "Why don't you get to be in charge?" "They ask to much." "I can't believe that the Bishop just said that." "Do you see the hypocrisy in that church leader?  Why should I follow him?" "You could organize/lead this so much better." "You should read that story about Joseph Smith on the internet that your friend told you about." "Why do women seem to always get the short end of the stick?" "Don't worry about reading your scriptures today, you'll have more time tomorrow." It goes on and on and on. Always lying, always accusing someone in our ear and always tricking us.  He is always in our ear along with his huge congregation of followers.  Remember that his evil angels include men and women.  I imagine these evil female spirits screaming the loudest in my ear destructive messages about men, marriage, children, the role of women and the priesthood.  They can never have an eternal family so they will scream and rant all day long.

The glorious good news though is that through Jesus Christ and His atonement we can learn to reject these lies and quote the truth.  I can replace these messages in my head with, "I am a daughter of God." "My Father in Heaven loves me individually." "I will honor my spouse." "I forgive you." "I am sorry." "I don't understand everything right now, but I stand with Christ and His church." "I choose to let this go." "I recognize that I need to repent." "I will use my time to build the kingdom and not tear it down today." "I will reject the lies and quote the truth." Sometimes its hard, actually a lot of times it's hard.  I can choose to use my agency to pray, read my scriptures and stand in holy places.  As I do so Christ will strengthen me.  I've learned it's important to remember that while Satan screams and rants, God speaks in a quiet voice and invites me to follow Him.  

Another important principle I try to keep in mind is that I was sent down here to see if I would obey God at all times; and with that I am expected to obey God in faith because a lot of the time I will not understand or know why.  God said, 
"And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word that proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.  For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith." (D & C 98:11-12)
So God is going to ask me to live by faith.  If I do, cleaving to the good I have been taught, he will teach me little by little.  This pattern has been true in my life.  As I have asked questions and prayed and pondered God has, little by little, answered by questions.  As I have been patient and trusted Him He has opened up so much to me about the divine role of women, priesthood power on the earth, my divine nature, my potential, and the significance of my eternal family.  Yes, little by little, bit by bit, I have been taught.

I choose to use my agency to build the kingdom of God.  I choose happiness. I choose faith. I choose to read my scriptures. I choose to keep my temple covenants. I choose to follow Thomas S. Monson. I  choose Jesus Christ.  "I know it. I live it. I love it!"

Consider this article and pershaps ponder Elder Holland's counsel,
"In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy’s affliction or this parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. 

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