26 October 2010

Rededicated

Going to the temple is a commandment from Christ, and has been for quite a long time. I would like to bring the prophecy of 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-4 to your attention:

Current map of temples for the announced temples
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
1  Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2  That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3  Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4  Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.  [emphasis added]

Those verses tell any Christian who will read the New Testament that in the last days, the Lord will reveal Himself as God in His temple. Temples are to be a signature of the Lord's hand in the latter days--a reflection of His authority--and are precursory to the return of Jesus Christ. For Christ's people to be without temples in the latter days is impossible if one believes the teachings of the Bible to be true.

Temples are, as we say in the Church, a sign of the times. They are a sign that the latter days are upon us, and that Christ's authority has returned to the earth. That authority exists still with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Christ Himself said no less to His people in 1832 when He commanded through the Prophet Joseph Smith:

"Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen." D&C 87: 8 [emphasis added]

How quickly is "quickly"? I wanted to know. And seeing as the rate at which our temples are being built is a reliable (and measurable) latter day indicator, I did what anyone would do to grasp a change over time.

I made a graph. You see here displayed the number of unique temples to date which have been dedicated in this dispensation. The data begins with the temple dedicated in Kirtland, Ohio on March 27, 1836. Also note, with the 5 temples which were just announced in General Conference, this graph is already 23 temples behind because those temples have not yet been dedicated. They have been announced, however, and the work on each of them commences according to the will and blessing of the Lord.


[Note:  The increase which happens after the Priesthood was extended to all worthy males in 1978. Also, the largest increase begins in 1999 and tapers off seven years later--a fact more evident in the data than on the graph. That 7 year burst reflects a prophecy of President Gordon B. Hinckley’s in “To The Boys and To the Men” from October 1998 General Conference in which he warned of 7 years of plenty, followed by... well, life as we now know it. (I hesitate to say 7 years of famine because President Hinckley himself hesitated to say seven years of famine.)]



Latter-day Saints have a long history of building temples. Early in our history, the command to build them divided many families and cost many lives. No impostor, no one who is unauthorized by Christ Himself, could triumph over the hell we face to build these temples all over the world. Every time we build another one, the way becomes more treacherous for Saints everywhere. The only protection against the hardship the temples bring are the temples themselves--to worship in them, to praise God for them, to perform the work that takes place within their sanctified walls, and to bring the spirit out through our personal righteousness, and share that goodness with the world.

When Saints fail in that work--when they reject the temple, or do not live up to their responsibilities and covenants related to the temple--they are not the only ones who suffer. The world and everyone in it suffers. We must remember that as we pray and strive to take the gospel into the furthest reaches of the globe. There is no turning back, and there is no calling it quits.

I know that the work of the temple unites families, because my family has been united and strengthened by the ordinances performed vicariously on their behalf in the temple. I love the temple because it blesses my life and unburdens my soul. I have come closer to Christ through the work of the temple, and I look forward to the day when all that I still long for--those choicest blessings that are inseparably tied to the temple--are finally bestowed in my own life. I endure in faith because I know they will be. I have trusted God with my happiness, and I know He will deliver me to the Promised Land. Truly that Promised Land has been restored to us once more. It exists inside every dedicated temple on the earth.

I love my Savior. I know that He lives, and that He loves us. I bear this witness in His name, even Jesus Christ. Amen.

12 October 2010

Sustaining President Packer

I heard President Boyd K. Packer's talk the day he gave it. I've also read it--which is more that many apostates, apostates-to-be, and angry protesters can say. But rest assured, I'm not going to talk about the protests.

Instead, I'm going to point out the instructions President Packer specifically gave to my generation in the Ensign two months ago, about how we are to deal with these angry people who want to take our faith from us.

In Finding Ourselves in Lehi's Dream, President Packer warned us what we can expect in our future:


"Atheists and agnostics make nonbelief their religion and today organize in unprecedented ways to attack faith and belief. They are now organized, and they pursue political power. You will be hearing much about them and from them. Much of their attack is indirect in mocking the faithful, in mocking religion...
You who are young will see many things that will try your courage and test your faith. All of the mocking does not come from outside of the Church. Let me say that again: all of the mocking does not come from outside of the Church. Be careful that you do not fall into the category of mocking." [emphasis added]


If my peers think our present concern is homosexuality, they need to wake up and pay closer attention to what is happening.

There are faithful members of this Church who deal with desires of homosexuality. They remain faithful and earn every blessing mortality has to offer. They make covenants in our temples. They hold callings in our congregations. They refuse to let this part of their lives rob them of their blessings, and they refuse to believe that their desires entitle them to break our Heavenly Father's commandments. I applaud them for their strength, courage, and faith. I am not ashamed to call them my brothers and sisters. There is nothing I wouldn't do to help them bear their cross of staying faithful to Jesus Christ. I love them, and I am honored to know the people I have known who deal with homosexuality and still glorify Christ in all that they do. They are no less Christian than any other member in good standing, and anyone who questions their faith offends Christ as they do so.

We could not be Christians if we hated homosexuality with the same disregard with which many gay rights activists have hated us. If any of the Brethren gave into such hatred, they would be removed from their place in the leadership of the Church. Having said that, I post President Packer's Conference talk below. The text is available here.



President Packer's warnings in his Ensign talk, together with the warnings in his Conference talk, are not solely about homosexuality. They are directed at anyone and everyone who would abandon their faith in Christ and His Church, feeling they are justified to do so for some unchangeable, "natural" part of their character. Some members will use homosexuality as an excuse to leave the Church, and therefore these warnings do apply to them. But the statement was worded exactly--to apply to anyone who will attempt to lay aside their covenants, pick up the titles of "atheist" and "agnostic," and attempt to leave this Church as if it had never happened to them. President Packer's statements aren't just obvious statements of something which is already happening. They are prophecies of things still to come.

Let me say it again, to be perfectly clear. If our concern in the Church was about homosexuality, we wouldn't have homosexuals in good standing in our church. But we do. So obviously there are people on the other side who need to get their facts straight.

Apostates come in every size and persuasion, and President Packer's talk in the Ensign has told my generation where we should look for our instructions on how to make sure we are not among them. And, surprise of all surprises, he didn't direct us to more statements from the General Authorities--which is what you would expect if this was about brainwashing us.

No, President Packer expects us to do our own study, get our own revelation from the Holy Ghost, and figure this out for ourselves. That's why he directed us to the scriptures:

"As we think of you young Latter-day Saints and think of the Book of Mormon and think of the dream or vision that Lehi had, we see that there are prophecies in there that can be specifically applied to your life. Read it again, beginning with 1 Nephi 8, and read on to the counsel that is given. The Book of Mormon talks about life after death: what happens to the spirit (see Alma 40:11–12) and what happens in the spirit world (see 2 Nephi 2:29; 9:10–13). All of the things that you need to know are there. Read it, and make it a part of your life. Then the criticism or mocking of the world, mocking those in the Church, will be of no concern to you as it is of no concern to us (see 1 Nephi 8:33). We just move forward doing the things that we are called to do and know that the Lord is guiding us." [emphasis added]

Upon inspection of that chapter, we see that verse 33 is the money maker:

"And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not." [emphasis added]

One of the things people in this Church need to figure out is that our covenants don't have a fine print, or terms of termination. Once you're baptized, it's forever; endowed and sealed, doubly so. When you make a covenant with God, He owns you--not the other way around. Our responsibility is then to give ourselves to Him completely. In thought, in word, in action. No more holding back. No more nooks for silent conspiracies. No more renegade philosophies of men, corrupt gender perception, cruel and selfish gay rights agendas, vengeful dwelling on personal offences, or any other refusal to repent and align ourselves with the mind and will of God. The two things all of those "issues" have in common is their total disregard for God's will, and their growing enmity against the leaders and members of His Church.

There is a growing divide between the people who are in this Church for keeps, and those who are not. I'm not surprised by this. It's a sign of the times. Wheat and tares, ladies and gentlemen. We play an active role in how we are being sorted by who we become each and every day. Those who choose to abandon faith once it's given to them by the Spirit offend God. That self-destructive action has a consequence of darkness--one so intense and miserable that any person subject to it is willing to engage in proselyting of their own. They rob the weak of faith simply so misery will have some company. It's an act of treachery, and most who engage in it are in total denial about it because the weight of what they do would literally crush them from the inside out.

That is what the truth does. It condemns us, or it sets us free. And if we stand condemned, we must admit we've been wrong before it can set us free. And if there's anything I've noticed about straying members of the Church, there are three things they could say to God that would lift them where they stand, which would end so much of what they face, and what they're in for. Three things they could say, but they either won't, can't, or are afraid to say:

"I'm wrong. I'm sorry. I love you."

When I came into the Church, I had to learn this lesson too. It's what Repentance is made of. There was hatred in my heart for many people, and much of what had happened to me in my past. I was hurt and angry, but my journey had to begin with learning how wrong I was about everything--about God, other people, and myself. I had to learn how to apologize, and mean it. I had to learn to love, and trust that love would heal my sorrow, and take away my grief.

That's where change begins. Only then did the love of God touch me, and heal every wound of my soul. One day at a time. First the broken heart. Then the wounded body. That's how I became a living soul all over again. Fertile ground for a testimony that saved my life, and has made my life so beautiful, so wonderful, I am glad to be alive. I cannot wait to see my Savior again. I rejoice at the thought of coming into His presence. I am not perfect, but I am happy. I may not be spotless yet, but He taught me how to change. To feast on joy, and to share that gladness with others.

It all began with "I'm wrong. I'm sorry. I love you."

Those words are beautiful to me still... Repentance is so beautiful, I couldn't have made it up to save my own life. It just wasn't in me. But it is now, and I know God is an awesome God of healing. I testify of my Savior Jesus Christ--that He atoned for our sins. He bears us up when no one else can. He loves us when no one else knows how to anymore. I love Him. I worship Him. I love His Church, and I love the leaders He has chosen for it. I love my brothers and sisters, and I look forward to serving all kinds of people when I finally leave for my mission. Even if they hate me. Even if they think I'm crazy. Even if most of them slam the door in our faces. Even if there are those who try to make my mission the worst experience of my life. I don't care. In time, they will know that I loved them.

And in time, those who hate President Packer right now will eventually realize that he loved them too.

That is my testimony, and I bear it gladly in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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