Monday, September 28, 2009

A House in Order

I would like to tell a story.

In this story, a man was very ill. On his death bed, he whispered for his family to draw near. Through barely-heard whispered words, they heard what he wanted most of all in this, his final hour.

They were surprised at the request. But, wishing to honor it, they made a phone call. A man in an expensive suit was summoned. He, too, put his ear to the old man's lips.

Upon hearing the old man's request, the well-dressed man straightened up and laughed out loud. "I know you're dying, but you must be crazy, too!" he said to the old man. "You think I'm going to issue you life insurance?" And he walked away, still laughing, and the old man died uninsured.

What a ridiculous story, you might be saying at this point. And you would be right. Yet, at the same time, how many of us approach our spiritual preparations in just this manner?

Doctrine & Covenants 93:43 says very clearly that we must set our houses in order if we wish to be delivered. This is a commandment that is both spiritual and physical. We see an example of physical deliverance - the blessing that comes with following this example - in the story of Lehi. In the case of his family, obedience wrought preparation (1 Nephi 2:1-4). And thus they were able to make their preparations and take flight from Jerusalem, evade those who would pursue them, and survive years in the desert before at last being brought to the promised land that would be their inheritance.

But how do we set our house in order spiritually? Joseph Smith had this to say:

"All men who become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ will have to receive the fullness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fullness of that glory, if they do not lose the whole."

- Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith

(Deseret Book Co. 1989) p. 309

And there you have it: the way to put our houses in order spiritually is to receive "the fullness of the ordinances of [God's] kingdom." And what are these ordinances? There are five which every man and woman must receive in order to enter into God's kingdom:

1. Baptism (John 3:5)

2. Gift of the Holy Ghost (John 3:5)

3. Priesthood Ordination (D&C 84:42; D&C 121:36; D&C 76:50, 57)

4. Temple Endowment (D&C 124:39, 46)

5. Eternal Marriage (D&C 131:1-4)

There are a few words that need to be said in particular about Nos. 3 and 5. First, No. 3:

Yes, this applies to everyone. One of the major guffs that I have encountered in my discussions and interactions with others not of our faith is that women have "lesser" roles in the Church. Of course, at this point in my life I can just laugh and point at my wife and say "You think I'm in charge?"

It's a pretty compelling argument.

But for those who are not convinced, they may then say, "But only men get to hold and exercise the Priesthood in your church," which I have found to mean that they erroneously equate Priesthood with "ruling." To this there are two responses:

1) The Priesthood cannot be used for one's own benefit. I am a Priesthood holder. I ordain people, I have the power to baptize and to bless. I am instructed - commanded - to use this power to benefit all humanity. But there is one person I cannot bless, one person I cannot ordain, one person I cannot give anything to through my Priesthood: myself. The Priesthood is designed to serve others, and has a built-in mechanism to both void and avoid any would-be acts of self-service.

2) Those who think that the Priesthood is a "men's only" affair (many of whom are, sadly, members of our own church) have not taken the time to study the doctrines we have received from our leaders. An example:

"Priesthood is not chauvinistic. The priesthood is 'without father, without mother,... having neither beginning of days, nor end of life' (Heb. 7:30), nor maleness nor femaleness. It is head to them both. Male and female alike come under it and must understand their true relationship to it, one to serve as priest within it, the other eventually as a priestess. Men here are given the priesthood power, but both man and woman must bring themselves into submission unto it, rather than she unto him [the man] as a person. The man must assume the same relationship of honor and obedience to priesthood truths and doctrines that the woman does. That is, it precedes them both."

Gib Kocherhans, "The Name 'Melchizedek': Some

Thoughts on Its Meaning and the Priesthood It

Represents," Ensign, Sept. 1980, p. 19

[italics in original; boldface added]

The other issue to be raised is, of course, that of No. 5: the necessity of entering into eternal marriage as a prerequisite to entering into the highest of glories and greatest of kingdoms. For it is true that there are those who, through no fault of their own, will not ever find someone who will take them to the Holy Temple and participate with them in this act. But, as with all things, God is just and merciful. And so it is not so much that He says we must achieve all five of these in our lifetimes, but only that we must receive them eventually. It is for that very reason that the work for the dead is performed in the temples that now cover the face of the world.

However, in our lifetimes it is true that we must be moving forward. These five saving ordinances are like rungs on a ladder to the top of a building. We must climb to the top to receive the prize. We may fall. We will fall. But we get up. We endure. It is not that we are required to reach the prize on our own - no one has the strength to do that - it is enough that we "endure to the end" (3 Nephi 15:9). It is enough that, when we fall or falter, we look up and reach to the next rung, whichever that rung may be.

And when the end finally comes, when our strength falters for the last time and we feel ourselves falling for that last time, this time never to have strength to climb again, we will find that a strong hand has grasped ours. We will find that someone who has been broken by our fall now has strength to lift us up.

We will have climbed as best we could.

And in so doing, we will have earned the prize.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On a Woman's Responsibility to Obey her Husband

22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

I can think of fewer scriptures that have caused more problems for Christianity than these. When I was dating in high school, I remember having a conversation with my girlfriend's mother. She was interested in what I believed as a Latter-day Saint (this being my first and only foray into the world of dating those not of my faith). We talked, and I was shocked to find out that the big hurdle to her believing what I believed was not Joseph Smith, it was not the Word of Wisdom, it was not believing that the Book of Mormon was the word of God.

It was believing that the Bible was.

More specifically, she had heard these verses when younger and could not believe in any group that would denigrate and subjugate women in such a fashion. Nor was she the only person I heard this from. Throughout my mission and thereafter it came up fairly regularly: how can the Bible be true if it says such a rotten, scurrilous thing about the roles of men and women?

I did my best to answer honestly and truthfully, but could tell that my answers never really satisfied the questioner. She (usually, for obvious reasons, the person bringing this up was a woman) would usually go away content that I didn't think she was anything but equal in the eyes of God... but still.

I was finally forced to face this issue not only head-on, but in depth when I became engaged to my wife: a self-labeled feminist.

Now, to be clear, I am not talking about someone who is out burning bras and screaming about everything. Just a person who had a deep conviction about the equality of man and woman, and a deep concern about both this scripture and (since we were soon to be married) about what her role would be in a marriage that was guided by such a scripture.

At first, I pulled out the easy answer: the one that I had been using (albeit unsuccessfully) throughout my life: Doctrine and Covenants 121:37-41. This is the section which says (in effect) that any person who seeks to rule over another on a "just because I say so" platform will automatically have his power revoked by God Himself.

This went over more or less as it always had: badly. And, talking to my smart, able, and passionate wife, I came to understand the root reason of why so many equally smart, able, and passionate women (and also some men) had such disdain for this scripture: they felt insulted by it. After all, the man is called out as "the head." And in our culture, being "the head" of something means "being in charge." This is rooted in the Old English term "heafod," which meant (among other things) the chief person, or ruler.

But Old English was not the original language that Paul was writing in when he wrote to the Ephesians. Further, the following verses point to a different meaning entirely than that which is commonly (mis)understood about these verses:

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

There was an obvious answer to the problem in the 25th verse: even if God hadslated man to be "in charge" over women, what righteous woman would mind being ruled over by someone who loved her as much as Christ loved the church? What woman would mind being lead by someone who had her best interests at heart?

But that still leaves open a problem: there is no such man: only Christ Himself possessed all the attributes necessary to properly, righteously, and rightfully rule over others. And so we seem back where we are started: with woman relegated to a submissive position in a relationship, subject to an imperfect man who will "rule" over her in a way that is necessarily flawed - for so all men are flawed, being not Christ.

But then verse 29 came to me again as we talked:

29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

And with that thought, another scripture came to mind, one written by the same author:

11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:11).

And another scripture, this time in Genesis 2:24:

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Looking at these scriptures in conjunction, it is easy to see that the Lord has returned to this theme over and over through the ages: man and woman, one flesh. And at that point it dawned on me. I turned to my fiancee and said (essentially) "So what if I'm the head? What does that leave you to be? Just the heart that shows the way when the reasoning is clouded, just the hands that are capable of doing the work, just the legs that can walk the path of the Lord for us."

I believe that when the Lord was speaking (through Paul) of man as "head," he did not mean it in a tribal, Old English way. He meant it in a way that recognizes two things:

1) Man and woman are different. They are equal in the eyes of God in the sense that they have equal value, but they are different. A twelve million dollar diamond and a twelve million dollar ruby are equal in value, but they have distinct characteristics that make them valuable in different ways. And years of social research have backed up this fact: men and women are different, each gender having (as a general rule) strong and weak points, as well as different facets of strength which the other may have in lesser measure.

2) They cannot exist well apart. I have yet to see a head that could get along without a body, or a body without a head. Thus, man and woman become "one flesh," with certain distinct characteristics they bring to each other, to a family, and to the Lord. They become interdependent, and cannot - should not - be apart. For, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6).

In the end, then, is man "the head" in the body that man and woman become when joined by the power and authority of God? Certainly. But I have never seen a head that could get very far without the permission and cooperation of the rest of the body, just as I have never seen a hand or foot do its job properly without the cooperation of the head. Man and woman, together, should function as one. This leaves no room for doubt that they are, once again, equal in value before the Lord. They each bring different attributes to a marriage or to a family unit, with those attributes complimenting each other in such a way as to bring to pass the best possible outcomes.

A humorous (though mostly true) example: in our home, if it were solely up to my wife, the kids would probably be either a) taken to the ER every time they said something hurt or they had a boo-boo, or b) covered head to toe in bubble wrap to make boo-boos impossible. On the other hand, if it were solely up to me, I would probably be telling my children to "shake it off" after being hit by a car, or tell them "it's probably nothing - just go to bed and it'll feel better in the morning" after they come out of their rooms with their eyes bleeding.

Neither of these is a good outcome. Too extreme, too impractical, but hard-wired into us. And so when a boo-boo comes, we compromise, and we generally end up somewhere in the middle: in a place we can both live with, and which generally results in a child who is both being taken care of and learning how to deal with boo-boos appropriately.

In this example, I am definitely "the head": cold and calculating, trying to show my child how to survive in a world that has far too much pain in it. And my wife is definitely the heart: trying to comfort with compassion, no matter the cost.

Neither works well without the other. Just as grace and works come together and intertwine to allow for salvation (see, e.g. James 2:17, Ephesians 2:5, 8 ), so the "head" of man and the "body" of woman come together and intertwine to create one complete person.

Ultimately, it matters not which part of the complete person each one is, because they are joined of God, and they will stand together before Him in the hereafter, for together they will lead and guide each other. Together, as man and wife, I and my sweetheart will go forward, she at times leading me, I at times leading her, but always linked, always holding hands, always striving to move forward with the other, to that ultimate goal: that of further Oneness with God, as we enter - together - into His rest.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

On Being "Mormon"

What it is to be a “Mormon.” I thought I would talk about that for a bit today. I'm at home, dealing with various sick people, and so wanted to take this time to write my feelings about the church and about what it means - for me - to be a member of the church. I also thought that I would write this so that anyone could understand it, not just members of my church.

First of all, I would like to say straight off the bat that I am not an official spokesman for my church. Nor am I perfect. So please bear that in mind as you read this. Anyone looking for the “official” stances of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints* is probably best-served by doing one of three things:

1) Go to on the web. This is a website run by the church that is designed primarily to answer basic questions about the church by those who are not already members.

2) Go to on the web. This is another website run by the church. It is geared toward the members of the church, but can be freely searched by anyone, and carries within it virtually all of the major writings of the church’s leaders and its theology.

3) Invite a pair of missionaries to talk to you. These are the young men you will occasionally see biking around town, dressed (always) in a white shirt, tie, slacks, and wearing a black name tag. Or perhaps you will have seen sister missionaries: young ladies with ankle-length skirts, nice blouses, and also wearing black name tags. This is perhaps the best way to find out the church’s official beliefs because a) they are the church’s designated spokespeople in charge of preaching to those not of our faith, and b) it’s a bit more “personal” than a webpage.

Having bored you to death, I’ll now talk about what it is to be LDS, and more specifically, what it is to me to be LDS.

First, a short history:

Like the majority of the world, we believe in a Supreme Being, whom we call God. We believe that God is our creator and our father. We believe that He loves us. Because of this love, He designed a plan that would allow us to return to Him when we die – to be reunited as an Eternal Family.

However, God knew that a) He was perfect and without sin, b) no being with sin could live with Him, and c) in our time here on earth, we as his Children would make choices contrary to His commandments.

And so He sent His son, Jesus Christ, whose mission was to bridge the gap between us and Heaven by making it possible for us to be cleansed from our sins and stand pure before God and thus return to His bosom.

After Christ’s mortal ministry, He continued to speak through prophets and those duly authorized by Him to preach His gospel. Many of the words of the prophets of Jerusalem are collected in the Bible, which we believe to be the word of God.

However, there were also others in the world, specifically those people who were living on the American continents, and we believe that just as He spoke to prophets in Jerusalem, so also God called prophets to preach His word among the American peoples. These words were collected by an historian prophet named Mormon and then entrusted to his son, Moroni, who finished the compilation. Unfortunately, the people at that time were so wicked that they were killing all those who would not deny belief in Christ. This, we believe, happened around 600 a.d.

At the command of God, Moroni hid the sacred record, and for many years it was lost to those who had turned their backs on God by refusing to live by His word.

As most people know, following the death of Christ’s apostles in Israel and its surrounding nations, the church that Christ had founded split into many different factions and sects. Luther, Calvin, and other reformers proposed changes to the established Bible-based churches of their times, as did others. As a result, many different churches were established, guided by the precepts of the Bible as best understood by the people at that time.

In the 19th century, a young man named Joseph Smith was concerned for his immortal well-being, and wished to unite with a church. His own family was a church-going one, but even within the immediate family there was disagreement as to which church best represented God’s will and Christ’s teachings.

Joseph – at this time only 14 years of age – was convinced that Christ had founded a church, and that he must unite himself with Christ’s church, whichever that church might be, in order to be able to secure salvation.

But the many different sects and religions offered such diverse points and teachings that he was hopelessly confused. They could not all be true, he reasoned, since each had points of practice and belief in which they disagreed.

About the only thing they all seemed to agree on was that the Bible was the word of God, and so it was to the Bible that Joseph turned for answers. One night, he read a passage in the book of James, which stated “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).

Young Joseph took these words to heart. He entered a grove of trees near his home, knelt down, and prayed to ask which of the churches was the true church of Christ. In response to this simple prayer of faith, he received the actual, physical visitation of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The Father spoke to Joseph, calling him by name, and then said, pointing to the other Heavenly Visitor, “This is my beloved son. Hear Him.”

The resurrected Christ then informed Joseph that he must join none of the churches, for none of them held the entirety of Christ’s gospel, which had been lost when the early apostles and most of the faithful disciples of Christ were killed for their beliefs. This mass murder deprived the early church of the leaders authorized to act in Christ’s name and left behind leaders of churches who, good-intentioned and righteous though they might be, did not have the required authority to act in Christ’s name and perform necessary ordinances required to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. This power was called the Priesthood, a necessary power to perform holy ordinances with validity and the power to seal both on earth and in Heaven.

Joseph was instructed further at a later time that there was a record of the peoples of the American continent and Christ’s dealings with them. Eventually Joseph was led to this record – the same record which Moroni had hidden up centuries before. Joseph translated the record through the power of God, and because of the great work the prophet Mormon did in compiling the records of the American prophets, the book was called The Book of Mormon, and like the Bible, it stands as a testament of Jesus Christ and His teachings.

Later, Joseph received further divine revelations and visitors. He was visited by the resurrected John the Baptist – the man who had baptized Christ himself – and was given the Priesthood authority to baptize. Thereafter, he was visited by Peter, James, and John, the three men who presided over the church after Christ’s crucifixion, and was given by them further Priesthood powers.

With the Priesthood restored to the earth, and with direct communications with God once again open, the Lord commanded Joseph Smith to organize and restore the Church of Christ. This occurred in April 1830.

The name of the church was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “The Church of Jesus Christ” because it was not the product of man-made thought or invention, but rather a restoration of the actual church Christ founded in His time on earth; and “of Latter-day Saints” to distinguish the two eras.

This new – or rather, old – church was well-received by some, and grew quickly. Unfortunately, this rapid growth was seen by many as a threat – either to their political or theological power – and so persecution of the church began early and grew in intensity, with the “Mormonites” or “Mormons” as they were called by their enemies being driven from place to place. Eventually they settled for a time in Missouri, their numbers now large enough to found one of the largest cities in the state. However, this political clout antagonized the people in the surrounding areas enough that they complained to both the state and federal leaders that the Mormons were killers, rapists, and insurrectionists.

Once again, the Mormons were driven out of the lands they themselves had purchased, developed, and built up. This time, the governor of Missouri even wrote an extermination order – a document which essentially called the Mormons enemies of the state and authorized any and all people to expel them from Missouri, even if it meant killing them.

Through the course of this persecution, Joseph Smith himself was murdered with his brother while under “protective custody” – something of a joke since the jail they were being held in was run by anti-Mormon sympathizers who allowed the murderers free access to the jail – and the church members themselves were driven completely out of the United States, settling in the area of the Great Salt Lake, which is now known as Utah.

However, the church continued and endured. Before he was martyred, Joseph Smith called and ordained twelve apostles, just as Christ had done in the ancient church. After Joseph was martyred, one of these apostles was called and succeeded Joseph as the prophet and president of the church.

And this has continued through today. Though the church continued to know privation, tribulation, and persecution, at this time there are approximately 13 million members worldwide. It is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world, and one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States.

Additionally, because of the many threats to their safekeeping in the early years of the church, it developed a sophisticated welfare program. This means that in the event of natural disasters almost anywhere in the world, LDS members are usually either first or among the first relief responders.

Now, all this is to give an introduction into the history of the LDS church, because in so doing one catches a glimpse of its culture. It is God-centered. It is durable. It is willing (as a whole) to sacrifice everything – home, well-being, life itself – to follow the commandments of God. It is family-centered, for God has revealed that families can be an eternal unit, and so we value family above all save God Himself.

And knowing this, is to know much of what it means to me to be “Mormon.” Among my ancestors was the prophet who succeeded Joseph Smith. Among my ancestors were numerous who had their homes burned down or were forced from them at gunpoint. One of my ancestors died because he carried several hundred women and children over a half-frozen river in the dead of winter (the Missourians agreed to give the Mormons until spring to get out, but in reality the mob-killings and forced expulsion began that winter).

And me?

Nothing so grand as that, perhaps. I served as an unpaid missionary in Paraguay for two years. I did nothing but proselytize, speaking to anyone and everyone who would listen to me about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I worked between 60 and 100 hours a week, every week, for two years on this endeavor. I was hospitalized several times, nearly dying more than once. I was threatened by brutal people who tried to hurt me physically. I was attacked and bitten by a dog that I later discovered had been specifically trained to attack LDS missionaries.

I also met more friendly people than I ever knew existed. I saw the depths of joy at marriages and births. One family named their first son after me. I saw sorrowing families draw together at the death of a loved one, mourning the loss but rejoicing in the knowledge that they would see their loved one again. I saw many people choose to join the LDS church, and saw their lives change forever in ways that I cannot even attempt to describe here.

After my mission, I continued to serve the church. This is not unusual. In the church, we have no paid clergy, so all worthy members (and by worthy I don’t mean that they have studied extensively, but rather that they can affirm that they are following the commandments) are expected to serve in whatever capacity they are called to.

As a result, I have been in charge of all of the men in a congregation (we call our congregations “wards”). I have taught 8-, 11-, and 12-year-old boys and girls in Sunday School. I have been in the bishopric of a ward, serving as one of the three men who preside over the entire ward and oversee the spiritual and physical well-being of its members. I have been called at two in the morning to minister to a person who is ill and has requested a Priesthood blessing. I have been called out of work to go see a person who is going to die and who has asked for someone to provide words of comfort and friendship.

I have been married to a beautiful woman whom I met in church, and who has given me three beautiful children. Two still live with us. One has gone ahead to prepare a home for us in Heaven. Losing her was terrible, but again, was wonderful because of the security both my wife and I held at knowing we would see our little Grace again. The two other children did not ever know her, but we take them to her gravesite from time to time, and teach them about Jesus, and about God, and about how they want families to be together forever, so if we are all good and do what Heavenly Father says, we will all get to see Grace again, and they will be able to play with their big sister.

I have been lead away from certain jobs, and lead to others, because of my religion. I am a lawyer by trade – a profession that many know is demanding in terms of time and emotional and mental strain – and have at every job interview I ever went to told the people that I would not work Sundays. This has lost me many high-paying jobs, and lead me to jobs that pay less but allow me to come home if my wife or child is sick. A better way of life, I think, than grinding away for 80 hours a week for a paycheck that will not cover the cost of things sacrificed for that job.

In every aspect of my life, my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has informed and enlightened my choices. It has given me opportunities to meet people I never would have chosen to interact with on my own – and my life has been brighter for it. It has given me a security in knowing that, no matter what happens or where life takes me, I have only to find an LDS church building on a Sunday to know that I am home and among friends.

Above all, it has given me hope to see through the darkness that can sometimes cloud our lives, a ray of light to pierce the darkness of everyday living, a road to walk which is difficult but which leads to a place well worth the work.

I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be the one true church of God on the earth. I say this not with pride, in an “I’m better because I’m right sense,” but rather with humility, because if I believe that, it means that I must act at all times in a way that will glorify God and give Him credit for teaching me well: the pupil’s actions will always cast a reflection – for good or ill – on the teacher. I also believe it is my duty to live in a way that will show people that the way I live can bring them, too, happiness and joy. In saying I believe I belong to “the true church,” I am saying that I believe it is my duty, my responsibility, and my privilege to help those around me, so that together we may all draw closer to God.

For if I believe the LDS church to be the true church, then I must believe its teachings. And it teaches, above all else, that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us, and that everything He does is with an eye single to seeing that as many of us return to His presence as possible. And so to follow Him I also must concern myself with my fellows – my brothers and sisters (all 6 billion-plus of them) – and see that I do all I can to help my Heavenly Father in His work to glorify and perfect His children.

I am a “Mormon.” I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Everything I have and everything I am flows from that.

And with this fact, I am well pleased.

*The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints is the official name of the “Mormon” church. Referring to someone as a “Mormon” was originally intended to be an insult, but in a good example of “rewriting your own script,” the church members adopted it as their unofficial name. Members of the church will also call themselves “Latter-day Saints” or LDS for short.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Testimony of Salvation

D&C 62:3:

"Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you." [emphasis added]

In this section, Joseph Smith was speaking to "a group of elders." These men were later identified by Reynolds Cahoon as being Hyrum Smith, John Murdock, Harvey Whitlock, and David Whitmer.

Not a bad group to meet up with. Men who left their mark on the early church, with Hyrum being a co-sealer of the truth of the Gospel when he was martyred on the same day as his brother. So is it any surprise, really, that the Prophet Joseph should inform them that God had forgiven their sins?

And yet, once more, I have to apply this to myself as well (after all, why bother giving us scripture if we were not to use them? God would be a bit of a ninny if that were the case). And in so doing, I have to think that this is probably one of the most joyous of all the scriptures we have in our possession today.

Think of it... to have the angels of heaven "rejoice over you." To have your words recorded there perhaps for all your progenitors to view throughout the eternities, a monument to your following of the Savior.

For, you see, this is contingent upon bearing testimony. And a testimony cannot be borne which is false. That is to say, these men to whom the Prophet was speaking, they had borne real testimonies.

And what is a testimony? Ask yourself that question...

Seriously, ask yourself. And put the answer in your mind.

Got it?






It is something that we know.

That's it. It is something that we have experienced for ourselves, and can then describe to others. No more, no less.

Thus, in a courtroom, it is not generally permitted to say what someone told you about someone else (though there are exceptions), but your testimony is generally confined to those things you saw, heard, tasted, touched... or felt.

And so these men were given this great blessing from the Lord through the Prophet: for the bearing of their testimonies - for telling others what they knew about the Gospel - the angels rejoiced and their sins were forgiven them.

This, then brings up an interesting question. To wit: what exactly did they know? By this I do not mean to inquire into the depth of these men's souls. But rather, I again apply this scripture to myself. Would I like the angels to rejoice over me? Most certainly. Would I like my words to be recorded in heaven? Of course.

Would I like my sins forgiven? Yes, yes, most indisbutably yes!

So what must I do? Bear testimony, it would seem. The Prophet did not confine these blessings to only these men, and I must therefore assume (reasonably, I think), that if I then bear testimony as they did, I too will reap the benefits they received. It is as easy (and as difficult) as that.

But we do not have to bear testimony that we have seen Christ or that we have witnessed a burning bush in order to receive these blessings - I find nowhere in scripture that confines the blessings of bearing testimony to those who bear it on that scale.

But we are asked to share what we know. What we know can be great as the First Vision - there are those in this dispensation who have seen the Father and the Son.

But it can also be something as simple and sincere as being able to say to someone, "I know the Gospel is true because when I read the Book of Mormon it makes me feel good." This is a true testimony: it is a factual declaration backed up by personal experience. It is the same with something like, "I know that tithing is a true principle because as long as I have paid tithing, I have never wanted for my daily bread." Ditto something like, "I know this is the true Church because, even though I argue with Brother So-and-so, and even though I find Sister Thus-and-such to be a tad on the irritating side, still I love them, and they are my family, and I would die for them if push came to shove."

All of these are testimonies.

How about this one: "I know the Church is true because when I do what the prophets say to do I am happier than when I do not follow them."

A testimony does not have to include an angel. It does not have to be a travelogue. It might not even be a story.

But it must be true. It must be something you know. It must be from your own experience. And then it must be shared.

For in the sharing, the angels rejoice.

In the sharing, our words are recorded for eternity, and will serve us well at the judgment bar of God.

In the sharing, we find salvation.

In the sharing, we are free.