Friday, January 29, 2016

Mourn With Those that Mourn

We sometimes forget to read scriptures in absolutes. For example, take this one, where Alma explains the consequences of taking upon us the Name of Christ:
"And it came to pass that [Alma] said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
"Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—"
Note Alma did not say "mourn with those that mourn, so long as you agree with their worldview" or "mourn with those that mourn, so long as their mourning is based on confirmed information." The command here makes no such exceptions.
(To be sure, one will mourn different events to different degrees, but that is true of any commandment. See Mosiah 4:27)
I choose this morning to reaffirm the LDS Church statement from yesterday mourning reports of deaths in the LGBT Community.
Yes, reports conflict about the number of deaths; Indeed, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Utah Department of Health weighed in and said there was not a large spike in the suicide rate, and no suicide they investigated was related to the policy. (They did not release figures about the proportion of suicides that were in the LDS Community or the LGBT community.)
But the Church statement clearly says that they are "mourning" even these unconfirmed reports. And, given Alma's counsel, how could they do otherwise:
"Every soul is precious to God and to the church, and the loss of life to suicide is heartbreaking[.] Those who are attracted to others of the same sex face particular challenges and pressures in this regard, both inside and outside the church. We mourn with their families and friends when they feel life no longer offers hope."

This is not in any way a policy change by the LDS Church: it is simply a reflection of what Alma teaches. (Indeed, I stand by my previous statements defending the LDS Church Policy.)

There is hurt and there is mourning today. There may not be names of those who died and we may never know until heaven the true figure.
But today we can "mourn with those that mourn."

As always, these thoughts are my own, are intended to help, but do not reflect the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

He Lives, and there were gold plates!! (General Conference Odyssey: April 2015 Tuesday Afternoon)

One of my favorite classes at BYU law school was from an individual who was active in reaching out to those struggling with testimony concerns.  One of the things he would tell his class again and again was "there were gold plates."  In other words, he was acknowledging the genuine concerns that those who struggle have. However, he articulated that no problem with the Church could change what he considers facts: that Joseph Smith, Jr. translated gold plates that contained a record of the Nephite civilization.

Now, to be sure, this isn't the only aspect of a testimony that is important.  We learn both in the Bible and the Book of Mormon that the 'fruits' of the gospel are an additional source of verifying its validity.  The gospel is a gospel of peace and comfort, and produces many other positive outcomes during mortality that are too numerous to cite her.

But as these fruits surely do not prevent hart times, even 'trials of our faith.' As the hymn 'How Firm A Foundation' and the third verse of the hymn 'The Lord is my Shepherd' emphasize that the gospel's very design is for 'through the deep waters,' 'through fiery trials' and 'in the midst of affliction.'

These fights of affliction are surely one reason hearing testimonies of the restored gospel are so important.  Being reminded by the Holy Ghost and our peers of the truthfulness and value of the restored gospel encourages us amidst the trials that confront others.

In light of the importance of bearing testimony, for this weeks contribution to the "General Conference Odyssey," I want to share a testimony by President Joseph Fielding Smith from the Tuesday Afternoon Session of the April 1971 General Conference:

"To all that has been said, may I now add my personal testimony of the truth and divinity of this great work and leave with the faithful Saints in all the world my blessing.

I say to you, and to the whole Church, and, for that matter, to the whole world, that a gracious and loving Father has in these last days spoken again from heaven to his servants the prophets.

His voice has been one inviting all men to come to his Beloved Son, to learn of him, to partake of his goodness, to take his yoke upon them, and to work out their salvation by obedience to the laws of his gospel. His voice has been one of glory and honor, of peace in this life, and of eternal life in the world to come.

I know that God lives and that he sent his Only Begotten Son into the world to work out the infinite and eternal atonement.

I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that he received from his Father the power to ransom men from the spiritual and temporal death brought into the world by the fall of Adam.

I know that the Lord has set up his church and kingdom on earth for the last time; that in this latter-day kingdom are found the power and authority of the holy priesthood; and that this church administers the gospel and makes its blessings available to all who will believe and obey.

I am not unmindful that there are good and devout people among all sects, parties, and denominations, and they will be blessed and rewarded for all the good they do. But the fact remains that we alone have the fullness of those laws and ordinances which prepare men for the fullness of reward in the mansions above. And so we say to the good and noble, the upright and devout people everywhere: Keep all the good you have; cleave unto every true principle which is now yours; but come and partake of the further light and knowledge which that God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever is again pouring out upon his people."

I add my testimony to that of President Smith's.  Jesus Christ died for our sins, and lives today.  Joseph Smith was properly authorized to restore his church, and there were gold plates. We are led by living prophets today who communicate with God.  This church is true.

As always, these thoughts are my own, are intended to help, but do not reflect the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thanks for reading,

Other posts regarding this session of General Conference:

The Path Out of Shadows
A Pattern to Live
LDS Conference April 1971 – A Really Round and Hairy Look at Honesty
The Shaded Areas of Our Testimony
A People Blessed by Revelation
Eyes to see
You Have Entered the Twilight Zone
Liminality and Shaded Areas, Unborrowed Light

Eyes to See and Ears tol Hear

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Praying for the gospel to be preached to all nations: What has happened since 2008?

In October 2008, President Thomas S. Monson gave members of my faith a challenge with a promise:

"Brothers and sisters, our missionary force, serving throughout the world, continues to seek out those who are searching for the truths which are found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church is steadily growing; it has since its organization over 178 years ago.

It has been my privilege during the past six months to meet with leaders of countries and with representatives of governments. Those with whom I’ve met feel kindly toward the Church and our members, and they have been cooperative and accommodating. There remain, however, areas of the world where our influence is limited and where we are not allowed to share the gospel freely. As did President Spencer W. Kimball over 32 years ago, I urge you to pray for the opening of those areas, that we might share with them the joy of the gospel. As we prayed then in response to President Kimball’s pleadings, we saw miracles unfold as country after country, formerly closed to the Church, was opened. Such will transpire again as we pray with faith."

In October 2009, President Monson reiterated:

"I would ask that your faith and prayers continue to be offered in behalf of those areas where our influence is limited and where we are not allowed to share the gospel freely at this time. Miracles can occur as we do so."

I am unsure to what degree this counsel has been heeded by the members of the church. However, just as when missionary work began in Eastern Europe in the years following President Kimball's request, we are now seeing miracles occur as the gospel is being preached in nations such as Vietnam, Turkey, Pakistan and India.

Each of these countries have moderate to severe restrictions on religious freedom, as explained more fully in this report. Yet each of these countries have a growing LDS population.

I am not suggesting that these four countries are the only countries where the Lord has provided miracles to open doors to missionary work. Indeed, we should view every baptism and every mission call as a miracle. Rather, these four countries provide some of the examples that I am most familiar with of increased missionary activity in countries which have historically had limited LDS influence since the end of 2008.


Due to the sensitivity of relationships with government officials in Vietnam, little is known about the status of the church in Vietnam when President Monson gave his remarks in 2008.  We do know, however, that in 2010, a district was organized in Vietnam for the first time. We also know that in 2014, the government of Vietnam recognized the church as a religious institution.

Most miraculous of all, in 2016 the church began the process of organizing a mission in Vietnam. This mission is scheduled to open prior to the traditional opening of new missions this July.

The church in Vietnam is small, and may well remain small.  But to once again have a mission formed in a communist country is a miracle

Turkey and Neighboring countries

Missionary work in Turkey began in 2012, as missionaries in a mission in Bulgaria reportedly were called to begin preaching the gospel in Turkey, centering in the four branches that have been long-established in Turkey.

To the shock of church growth observers, the first mission was created in Turkey just three years later.  Covering Turkey and Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, this mission represents a bold attempt to share the gospel in not just Turkey, but in several other countries where the church has not had a large presence.

Early reports indicate that the five branches that were in place when the mission was formed have grown to seven, with additional organization in place to provide assistance to LDS Members not living close to these seven branches.


As Elder Ronald A. Rasband recently reported:

"Since I returned home from my recent trip to Pakistan, my thoughts have lingered on the fervor and dedication of the first-generation members in this country. The last Apostle to visit this country was Elder Dallin H Oaks in 2007. At that time, there were 2,000 members and seven branches. Today, only eight years later, there are 4,000 members, 13 branches, and three districts. The Church is truly growing across all the earth."

This growth-- a doubling of members due to missionary work by faithful Pakistani brothers and sisters, including at least 11 full-time missionaries, is remarkable in the country where Osama Bin Laden hid for years and that, as I noted above, struggles with religious freedom issues.  This is a miracle.

I mention the following with extreme caution: early, unverified reports indicate that Pakistan may receive a Stake in 2016.  Of course, church leaders will work with governmental officials as growth in Pakistan continues to ensure Pakistani laws and customs are respected as the church grows in Pakistan.


To be brief: the church in India in 2008 had no stakes.  Today it has two stakes, with progress being made to form a third in the coming years.


This set of miracles are only a few of the of many miracles that are prophesied to take place in order to take to gospel to every nation before the second coming.  We should continue periodically add to our prayers a desire to have both individual opportunities  for missionary opportunities and, as President Monson counseled us, to open the doors more fully to missionary work in all nations of the world.

Thanks for reading. As always, these thoughts are my own, are intended to help, but do not reflect the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thanks for reading,