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  1. Perhaps we might inquire of the word of the Lord on this subject, namely the scriptures. There are a couple of questions that this topic boils down to: 1. What does the Lord think about ordinances that are performed without proper authority (even though they may look similar to those done by the saints)? 2. What has the Lord said about other religious sects and denominations? 3. What is the duty of the saints in regard to other churches? The scriptures are very clear on these things and it is simple to apply the teachings. 1. See Numbers chapter 16. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram challenged Moses. They claimed that everyone of the congregation of Israel were holy, not just the priests who were given authority to serve the Lord in the tabernacle. Moses challenged them back, and dared them to bring an offering of incense before the Lord the next day. Moses warned them about the consequences of performing ordinances without the proper priesthood authority. When they made the offering, the earth opened up and swallowed them. In Acts 19, we read of some "vagabond Jews" who pretended to be exorcists and called out to a possessed person, "We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth." The evil spirit in their "patient" jumped upon them and thrashed them, sending them fleeing. As he did so, the evil spirit said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?" The evil spirit did not obey because these Jews had falsely assumed authority without proper ordination. Lesson: the Lord does not trifle when it comes to priesthood and ordinances. 2. In the First Vision, the Lord commanded Joseph to "go not after them," meaning the other churches. We do not practice tolerance by participating in the false ordinances of other religions. The Lord told Joseph in no uncertain terms that their creeds were abominations, their professors corrupt, and 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" (JS-History 1:19). Other churches are not simply mistaken or almost true. They are the instruments that blind the eyes and harden the hearts of men. 3. Our responsibility is to invite all to come unto Christ. That means they come to his kingdom by baptism. The Book of Mormon points the way to his kingdom. Baptism is the gateway to the kingdom. We are to invite them to repent of their errors and abandon them, not to partake of the errors in a spirit of goodwill. Some will say this is not a humble approach and that it will offend people. We do not have to be disagreeable to cry repentance. The Lord said, "...Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit" (D&C 43:15). We have the word of the Lord. Why is it nobody looks in for answers?
  2. Thanks. I've been super busy and I'm about to get busier. (Starting graduate school in May!)
  3. For several years, I operated a web site called "The Society for the Prevention of Anti-Mormonism" (hence the name SPAMLDS). It was not so much as a "defend the faith" apologetics site as it was an information portal through which to study the phenomenon of anti-Mormonism. It became fairly well known and was hated by anti-Mormons and ex-Mormons. One of the things I came to understand was that there is a distinct line between someone who thinks Mormons are cultists because their preacher told them or someone who has a grudge against the Church because they couldn't go to their daughter's wedding because they hadn't paid tithing for years. Anti-Mormonism is an industry. They actually refer to themselves as the "counter-cult industry." This industry consists of about 800 "ministries" and "parachurches" that work with a number of publishers and content producers. Many of these are for-profit enterprises. They are not "ministries" in the traditional sense. These groups sell their services to your average neighborhood evangelical church. Those services range from holding seminars to selling them packets of brochures and booklets to give their members. We found and exposed some of these for-profit ministries who posed as non-profits and solicited donations. These companies (that's what they really are) can have an international reach, thanks to the Internet. We outed one "ministry" in Arizona that had set up a web site with a Canadian Internet service provider and posted a web site called "African Ex-Mormons for Jesus." They were somewhat angry and threatened to sue us when we showed that this African ministry was run by a couple of white guys in Arizona. Over the time we ran the web site, we identified and categorized the various attacks they use into six categories. Just being able to identify the type of attack goes a long way to disarming their arguments. You see it's part of a scheme they've worked out. They don't have to prove anything to be true. Their mission is to instill doubt. Arguing with them is pretty pointless. As soon as you have proven your point to someone, the accuser will pivot to a new topic. There will always be a new challenger who joined the effort who will send you the "Jesus and Satan are brothers" attack, even though you may have answered it a hundred times before. There is no end to them. I think that's why there are few Mormon apologetics sites. The opposition will just wear you out. It's the same old thing over and over. They aren't sincere. They don't research. They will not "ask of God" at all. Their hearts and minds are closed. Ultimately, the organized anti-Mormon effort is part of a hate movement, as the FBI describes them. I wrote an article about it that I posted on this forum a couple of years ago. Here's the link: When you realize that true anti-Mormons (whether they be apostates, dissenters, or critics outside the Church) are engaged in hate, you can use the methods the FBI suggests in this article. It works for neo-Nazis and it works for anti-Mormons. Hate is hate, after all. The way to deal with it is basically the same.
  4. Don't invest your children with your fears. Build their confidence and teach them how to protect themselves. One of the best things you can do for your children is get them martial arts training, especially your daughters. It's more than just the ability to fight back. It instills confidence, common sense, and teaches them to be calm when danger appears. Don't let them become victims. They will be a strength for others.
  5. Looking ahead, what is going to happen eventually is that the Church will grow and the two wards will split into three or more wards. That happens all the time. The boundaries will be redrawn once again and the whole problem starts over. You get to pick where you live. You don't get to pick your bishop, the ward leaders, or the saints who attend with you.
  6. A couple of remarks to some of the points made so far: In the Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 28 and 54, the Lord himself spoke to Joseph by revelation and referred to Native Americans as Lamanites. Some of the first missionaries sent out were to the Lamanites, and they were sent to the West, to Missouri. I don't know if all Native Americans are Lamanites, but I'm assuming that the Lord knew who he was sending the missionaries to when he directed them to Missouri, unto the "borders of the Lamanites" (D&C 54:8). People can argue over DNA science all day and never arrive at the truth. The Lord's word is truth. It's enough for me. One last point--we presume wrongly that the Lamanites at the Book of Mormon's finish are the same "race" that was called Lamanites at the beginning of the book. The narrative tells us that, after the Savior's appearance among them, they became one single people. Ethnic and racial differences were blended (See 4 Nephi 1:17). Intermarriage would have occurred. When the wicked began to rebel some 200 years after the Lord's appearance, they split away and became a society defined by ethnicity and social classes once again. The differences were more political than racial at that point, due to the mixing of the various groups. To say a Native American today is a pure "Lamanite" is probably inaccurate. It's likely that Lehi's DNA is in many of them, but it would be impossible to say now who was purely Lamanite, Nephite, Jacobite, Lemuelite, etc.
  7. Traveler, the logic I mentioned was simply a return to the OP's question. That was, did Jesus address homosexuality? The logic used was to connect the statements of the premortal, mortal, and resurrected Christ. If you're reading anything more to it than that, you're looking for something that isn't there. The answer to the question asked is affirmative. Jesus did address homosexuality, before he was born in the flesh, through his servant Moses. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
  8. Here's the logical way to approach this. 1. Jesus Christ was Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. 2. Jehovah gave Moses a law that Israel was supposed to obey. Jesus is Jehovah, he is the giver of the Law. In the Book of Mormon, Jesus said to the Nephites, "I am he who gave the law" (See 3 Nephi 15:5). 3. The penalties for various sexual sins, including incest, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality are listed in Leviticus, Chapter 20. Verse 13 specifically addresses male homosexual acts and lists the penalty as death. Again, Jesus is Jehovah. It is he who gave the law. 4. Jesus fulfilled the law of Moses by the shedding of his own blood (3 Nephi 15:8). Instead of giving specific commands and penalties, he upped the standard and stated that individuals were now accountable to God directly, not only for their acts, but also their thoughts. Earthly religious leaders no longer enforced capital punishment for those sins. All they can do is withdraw fellowship, as in excommunication or disfellowshipment. 5. In modern revelation, D&C 59:6, the Lord stated: Thus sexual sins like adultery, fornication, and homosexual acts are still forbidden. D&C 42:22 says, The current leaders of the Church have urged latter-day saints to be tolerant and kind toward those who struggle with sin, including those who struggle with attraction toward the same sex. They have not lowered the bar on the expectations of obedience. The consequence of disobedience is eternal punishment. Repentance is the remedy we all need to use, regardless of our various individual transgressions.
  9. Perhaps another reason we have an angel with a trumpet on the temples is that the plates which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon came forth on the very date of the Hebrew Feast of Trumpets in 1823. See the January 2000 Ensign article "The Golden Plates and the Feast of Trumpets." That is the date that Moroni gave Joseph the plates. (He had seen them previously, but was not permitted to take them.) The trumpet symbolizes the call for Israel to gather. It's the call to repent and prepare for the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the Feast of Tabernacles (God's return to his covenant people) in preparation for the coming New Year (Rosh Hashannah). Another significant date from the Hebrew calendar that coincides with Church history is that Moses, Elijah, and Jesus appeared in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836. That was the Passover in that year. The Passover seder sets a place at the table reserved for Elijah's return. There seems to be a synchronicity that we don't altogether understand with events of the Restoration and the Jewish calendar.
  10. As I mentioned in my conversion story in an earlier thread below, at age 11 I found one of those Chick Publications tracts on the school bus. It was the one about the Apocalypse, with all the dragons and stuff from Revelation, Daniel, and Ezekiel. I took it home and looked up some of the references in the Bible. It was scary for a kid because I didn't understand any of the symbolism. Nevertheless, it sparked an interest in Bible prophecy and revelation that persists to this day. I'm sure he'd be upset that his pamphlet was one of the things that prepared me for conversion to Mormonism! )
  11. Realize that belief is a choice. Without knowing, we choose to believe and act. There is tremendous power in that. How many times did Jesus simply ask people to believe? All the temple recommend questions ask if you believe. Nothing wrong with believing.
  12. My two youngest kids loved Halloween and they always wanted me to try to scare them somehow on Halloween night. Several years ago, when they were still pretty young, we lived in a really rural area, about two hours from any sizable city. The October nights were always dark, creepy, with foggy fields, full moons, bats, and cobwebs. There was a small town a few miles away where my wife and I would take them Trick-or-Treating. On the way home, we used to head to one house out on a remote country road that was always decorated to the hilt, to finish off the night. As we left the last house, we pulled back into our street, which was a rutted dirt road surrounded by fields and woods. There were no street lights and I had intentionally left the porch light off. As we approached the house, I started telling my son, age 6 and his sister, age 12, that there had been reports of a strange creature that had been spotted in the area. My daughter, suspecting that this was my attempt to scare them, just said, "Da-ad!" in that dismissive tone that only Jimmy Fallon can imitate. As we pulled into the driveway, I was describing the mysterious creature and it's claws. My daughter was rolling her eyes and the little brother was joking about it, too. I turned the car's lights off and it was almost pitch black around the car as I stopped in the driveway. As they got ready to open the door, I said, "Wait! There's something coming up behind the car!" "Da-ad!" was the reply. What the kids didn't know was that the rubber on the rear window's windshield wiper had fallen off the day before. I had discovered this by accident when I turned it on during a brief rain shower and it made a loud, scratching noise against the glass that made me nearly jump out of my skin in broad daylight. In the inky blackness that surrounded us, I sneaked my hand up to the button and turned on the rear windshield wiper. "SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH!" the thing went. The children's screams were authentic as were the tears afterward. Old dad had pulled a good one on them. I don't think I ever laughed so hard in my life. Does your family have any good Halloween traditions or have you pranked them in a memorable way to celebrate the season?
  13. I find that I have come to favor the North American model. There's linguistic and DNA evidence of links between the Cherokee people and the Middle East. So far that hasn't turned up in Central America. When Joseph sent missionaries to preach to the Lamanites in 1831, he sent them to the Central Plains, not Central America.
  14. On "angels" or pre-mortal spirits having free will, we should look at D&C 93. When I read this, the Lord correlates intelligence, agency and existence. We don't know what "intelligences" are and how they differ from spirits, but I would propose that, in our premortal progression, an intelligence occurs when we become self-aware. When we become self-aware, we can start to exercise agency. Otherwise there is no existence. Satan or any of us can choose not to follow the will of God at any point in our existence. We don't need to be tempted by another. I can't recall where I read it long ago, but Joseph Smith said that the devil doesn't get credit for all the evil in the world. Much of the evil comes from us and our choices. If solely he was responsible, we'd could not be held accountable. As it relates to the OP's question, Lucifer didn't have to be tempted by any external being or force. The existence of choices makes it possible to act contrary to the Lord's will.
  15. I'd have to say the single most common affliction is DEATH!
  16. If it's any consolation, every bishop hates to get that call from the Stake President telling him that he's taking one of his stalwart members to hold a stake calling!
  17. I hope I haven't already used up too much forum space with my previous post, but I'll try to give you a shorter synopsis of the "mechanics" of my conversion. I was about to turn 19 and I worked at on the shipping dock of a big factory. It was my first job out of high school. As I said earlier, I had drifted away from Christianity and had an interest in eastern religions. One day I was assigned to work at a different loading dock location with a guy I later found out was LDS. I didn't know anything about the Mormons and I relished the opportunity to ask some questions. I thought the answers he had were interesting. As I mentioned earlier, one of my chief objections to Calvinism specifically and Christianity in general were the notions of predestination, free will, and what happens to people who die without a knowledge of the gospel. The teachings of the Church about the gospel being preached by Jesus in the spirit world were surprising to me. It just seemed so fair! I always figured that God would have a way that would be fair to those who didn't have a shot in this life. The guy offered me a copy of the Book of Mormon. I accepted his invitation to read it and he brought be a copy the next day at work. This was on a Friday. At day's end, I was waiting on my ride and I began to peruse the pamphlets that he gave me along with the book. I read them in this order: Joseph Smith's Testimony, The Plan of Salvation, and Read the Book of Mormon, It Can Change Your Life. I remember being strongly impressed at the earnestness of Joseph Smith's account. It was clear that he wanted to present an extraordinary experience in a sober, direct manner without sensationalizing it. I reserved judgment because I thought the guy could have just been delusional or something, but I kept an open mind. I felt that, if he were so, it would become manifest in the stuff he had written. A was also impressed about the angelic visitations of Moroni, John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John. It made the connection about the keys of the kingdom and authority that I had believed to be lacking. I thoroughly enjoyed The Plan of Salvation. It was the most reasonable Christian explanation of those topics I had ever read. I was, up to that time, more Hindu/Buddhist in my thinking, believing in Karma, reincarnation, etc. I also appreciated the selections from the Book of Mormon in the last pamphlet because it gave me some insight into what I'd be reading about, and it contained the critical reference to Moroni's promise. Moroni's promise struck me profoundly. Everyone had previously answered my questions either with just Bible verses (which people interpreted differently) or with a claim that one needed to just believe without question. The promise of a personal revelation was unprecedented. NOBODY had the cojones to say that before! I have to say that I was somewhat astounded by that. The guy had essentially said that, if you read this and ask if it's true, you can ask God with the expectation that you'll get an answer. I took the Book of Mormon home and began to read it. I read it most of Friday night and most of the day on Saturday. There were certain things that challenged me. I think they are placed there by God to dissuade those who are unwilling or too biased to get past them. The killing of Laban by Nephi bothered me, but I had read enough of the Bible to know that God had ordered Joshua to kill men, women, and children in conquering some cities in the Promised Land. There was the ingrained prejudice that the Bible could not be "added to," but Nephi's arguments about God adding to his own word made sense to me. The dark skin thing about the Lamanites was a bit troubling, too. I was the product of a liberal 1970s education at the time and that was a little worrisome. Then I considered that a book written thousands of years ago might not share the same views on race that our more "enlightened" times would. An ancient record that had a more "politically correct" presentation might be even more suspect, I thought. By Sunday afternoon, I came to realize that I really couldn't find any flaws in what I had read up to that point. I was near the end of 2nd Nephi or thereabouts. I realized that, much like Joseph Smith, I was too young and unacquainted with "men and things" to figure it out on my own. Moroni's promise was still hanging out there so I decided to make the attempt. I had only really prayed one other time in my life where I felt that I had received an answer. I mustered up the same degree of sincerity and faith that I had exercised at that time. I understood that you couldn't be trifling with God. You can't fake him out or play him. He knows if you're for real or not. There's no sense it trying to be insincere about faith. So when I prayed, it was kind of like KIng Lamoni's prayer: "God, if there is a God, and you're God..." I resolved that I would accept whatever answer came. I think that was the key to me getting the answer I did. I knew that, if this would be true, it would require a commitment. I would have to do what God directed. If it was true, I'd have to commit my life's path to that truth. When I prayed, I didn't immediately feel anything. I prayed for several minutes and then stopped. I resolved, "Well, I'll just keep on reading then. Maybe I'll find out later after I've read more." Within minutes, a warm glow enveloped me. I can't really describe it, but I went from not knowing to knowing. I marveled that there were people holed up in caves in the HImalayas, meditating, trying to find truth and there it was in my hand. I had found it. (I had actually thought about going to India to find a guru, but a book I read told me that, when you're ready, the guru comes to you.) I didn't realize my "guru" would be a 19 year-old Mormon guy. I have to mention that there was a logical "domino effect" that sort of rewired my understanding. The answer was that the Book of Mormon was true and that Joseph Smith indeed saw God. That led me to conclude that God indeed did exist and that Jesus Christ was his Son. That was a big hurdle. In a moment, with this exciting new information, I had to consciously decide that I would accept Jesus Christ as my Redeemer. I thought, "Dang, I'm a Christian, now!" That realization made me determine that I truly had some things to put aside in my life and repent of them. The the flood included, the need to be baptized, priesthood authority, keys of the kingdom, revelation, apostasy, restoration, and a million more things. All this seemed to happen in just a fraction of a second. It was exhilarating! I went back to work on Monday and around lunch time the guy came and asked me what I thought of the Book of Mormon. I told him that I though it was true and asked if I had to be baptized or something to follow through. I could have pushed him off the loading dock with a feather! He asked how I knew and I tried to explain to him what I had felt. He responded, "That's the Holy Ghost!" When he said that, I felt it all over again. I learned in that moment how the Spirit speaks. I had not met a missionary or even been to a Church meeting at that time so he hooked me up with some elders to take the discussions. I went through all seven discussions in three days. The next week was the Hill Cumorah Pageant in Palmyra. I gladly went along on the 14-hour trip from Virginia to upstate New York to experience it. I can't tell you how great it felt to be an unbaptized investigator walking around those Church sites. Everyone was so friendly and for two days, if felt like the heavens were opened to me. There was so much I didn't know and new information came pouring in like Niagara Falls. For example, we'd been on the road about 4 hours, leaving after work on a Friday evening. I'm in the car devouring, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, by LeGrand Richards. Somebody said something about the Prophet, and I asked if he meant Joseph Smith. He said, "No, Spencer W. KImball--the current prophet." Imagine my excitement to find out in that moment that the Church still had a prophet and 12 apostles leading it! Then about 10 minutes later, we pass the Washington Temple. You can imagine how mind-blowing that was and the discussions about baptism for the dead. The whole weekend was like that. I was baptized the next weekend. It was an amazing experience. I left for a mission 20 months later. When I came back from my mission, I had been a full-time missionary longer than I had been a member before my mission! It was a great experience and I grew a lot in my testimony. Shortly thereafter, I met my wife-to-be and we married. Now we've been together 33 years. We have five kids, and very soon our 10th grandchild will be born. We've had many adventures and many trials. I have never regretted my decision to join the Church and I still enjoy teaching the gospel today.
  18. There are a lot of facets to the OP's question. Here are some things that come to mind. I heard President Hinckley say once that "Even in the highest councils of the Church, the "still, small voice" is still the "still, small voice." The same Spirit that guides you in your life is the same Spirit that guides the Church. D&C 8:2-3 says: Think of what that says. One of the greatest Biblical miracles, the parting of the Red Sea, came from the Holy Ghost speaking to Moses' mind and heart. It was what we call a prompting. A great miracle can come about from a revelation that is almost imperceptible to an outsider. I've been in Ward council meetings where such promptings came to leaders and inspired guidance was received. Many of us can testify of receiving personal guidance in this manner. It's just the way the Lord works. Sometimes it's necessary for him to come down and straighten things out--like the First Vision. The whole world had the nature of the Godhead so wrong that he had to appear to set it straight again. Most issues aren't that critical and the Lord lets us work our way through them. Paul called it seeing through a glass darkly. Everything is a test for us, every single day. Another reason things are not perfect is because of opposition. There has to be opposition in ALL things. Whatever great plans we make based on God's inspiration inevitably must be opposed. That makes our plans less effective and we have to struggle our way through them. Opposition tests our vision of what we desire. If our desires are true, then the vision will endure the opposition. If our desires are just wishes or whims, they'll fail when opposed and we won't be able to maintain the vision of what we desire. The Church is perfect in its organization because it responds to revelation. We tend to think of something perfect as unchangeable. That's a false sectarian concept, like the "inerrant" Bible in which they believe. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances guided by divine inspiration is a hallmark of a perfect organization.
  19. I was a precocious child raised in a believing, but non-affiliated family. We were Presbyterians in the same way Trump is a Presbyterian (lol). My first experience with the Bible went like this. I found a Bible on a shelf in the house and somehow made my way to Exodus 20 and the Ten Commandments. I learned to read very young (like age three) and thus, I was able to read the text from Exodus with fairly good comprehension, but some of it confused me. My grandmother found me with the book and we had an interesting conversation about it. I tell that story to illustrate where I began. I had an innate curiosity about God and took things at face value. Shortly after that, an older neighbor kid tried to frighten me telling me that the devil was as tall as a telephone pole, was red, had horns, and a long tail. It was frightening to think about, but I developed a bit of skepticism about what he told me. After all, how did he know? At the age of seven, my family visited a Baptist Church. Even 50 years later, I still recall the preacher's booming voice. It was thrilling and he was a great singer, too. This particular Sunday was the day they served communion (what we Mormons call the Sacrament). I watched with interest because this ritual was unfamiliar to me. I saw people take little crackers and grape juice. Some of them bowed their heads afterward. Some wept. It was fascinating. I wanted a little cracker when the tray came by so I could see what all the fuss was about. When the tray came to me, my mom put my hand down and passed the tray on to my father, who then passed it on to someone else. I whispered to my mother, "Why can't we have any?" She tersely replied, "Because we're not SAVED!" I didn't like the sound of that. I didn't know what it meant, but being saved sounded a whole lot better than not being saved! My next experience came at the age of 10. A big Baptist church in our area (in the South) used to send school buses through the neighborhoods to pick up kids and take them to church meetings on Sundays. (I can't imagine the uproar that would occur if Mormon churches did that in the South. There would be angry mobs with pitchforks and torches!) Parents used to send their kids to church and stay home while they watched the ball game. Some friends of mine had been going and I thought I would join them. If you went ten Sundays, the church would give you a free Bible as a reward. I went every Sunday for about a month. It was a huge church with a large congregation. The preacher was an exciting orator. He preached what I now recognize as doctrines taught by Jonathan Edwards, about man's fallen nature. Edwards described man as being no more important to God than a "scurvy spider" and would think no more of casting us into hellfire than we would of tossing a spider into a campfire. Today, I think that preaching that sort of doctrine to a ten year-old ought to qualify as child abuse. He scared me and probably everyone else in the room. I didn't want to burn in hell forever. I was only 10! So one week, they had the usual "altar call" and up I went. To LDS folks who may have never been in another denomination's services before, an altar call is done after the sermon where the preacher has scared you to death about hell fire and offered the way to escape: a profession of faith in Jesus. The choir starts to sing the hymn, "Just As I Am" and the preacher beckons you to come up and pray with him. On this occasion, I went up. In a room full of grown-up, as a little 10 year-old, I swallowed hard and stood up. I walked down that long aisle to the preacher calling to me. My head was swimming. I truly wanted to be saved from hell. He knelt down with me and said a little prayer, which I recognize as what is now called "the Sinner's Prayer." It's a little ditty wherewith the new believer confesses belief that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior. You accept him as Savior and you're considered born again from that moment forward. I went home and told my parents about it. They were amazed. It wasn't explained to me how this was to occur, but there was supposed to be a baptism on the first Sunday of the following month. My family showed up on the appointed day, but there wasn't a baptism service. There had been no information given to us. We didn't know what was expected. Turns out that they don't baptize children under 12. I drifted back into adolescence and the usual distractions until high school. At age 11, I found one of those Chick Publications tracts on a school bus about the Apocalypse and the Last Judgment. That started a lifelong interest in prophecy and the end times. I remember taking it home and looking up the references in Ezekiel and Revelation. When I was in high school, around the age of 15, I started going to Methodist meetings with some friends. They had a very active youth group and a friendly, low key pastor. He focused on the joy of faith more than hellfire. We shared a common interest in music and he often asked me to play guitar in the church. I had several spiritual experiences in that church which I now understand to have been the influence of the Holy Ghost. However, there wasn't any instruction on how one was to feel this communion or guidance from the Spirit. When I asked one of my friends why he went to the Methodist Church, he said that it was a good church because it didn't demand much in the way of lifestyle or obedience. It didn't preach hell fire. If there wasn't a God, you didn't waste a lot of time or energy there and, if there was a God, you were "covered." I had conversations with the minister about the creed that stated we believed in one church, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Where were our apostles? Why catholic when we weren't followers of the Pope or any other authority? My biggest question was what happened to people who died in ignorance of the gospel? It was conceivable that billions of souls had died before John the Baptist came along preaching repentance and before Jesus appeared and taught the gospel. What happened to those people who died before any Christian missionaries could ever reach them? I couldn't imagine that God could be fair and just while condemning those souls to damnation. The pastor had no good answers. The more I studied the doctrines of Calvinism, Methodism, Presbyterianism, and Catholicism, the more my faith failed me. I came to the determination that, not only was there no true church on the earth, but that God probably didn't exist either. I eventually drifted off into studying Buddhism and Hinduism, believing that Jesus was an "avatar" or enlightened soul like Buddha, Mohammed, Moses, or other teacher who taught men a way to enlightenment relevant to their culture and time. I no longer saw God as a personal being. After high school, I went through a period of trial, during which I turned to the Bible. I got more questions than answers from this time of intense study. What was the connection between the Old Testament patriarchs like Abraham and the New Testament apostles? How did Moses fit in with those two extremes? What did it mean when Christ gave the apostles to "bind" or "seal" on earth and in heaven? What happened to visitations by angels, spiritual gifts, healings, prophecies, and revelation. I recall having a conversation with my mother contemplating what it would be like if there still apostles and prophets like there were in the New Testament. Pardon the length, but I just wanted to paint an accurate picture of the conversion process. It took years, but when my heart was ready to receive it, the Lord introduced me to the Book of Mormon and the Church. The converting power of the Book of Mormon touched me. The astounding promise of Moroni was amazing to me. I could know for myself. Nobody ever told me that. It was always, "just believe" in what some man said--and every man said something different! All of a sudden, I could know for myself, directly from God. I did receive an answer regarding the veracity of Joseph Smith's testimony and the divinity of the Book of Mormon. I recall thinking after my answer came, that I was now finally "a Christian." I was compelled by the spiritual "evidence" to believe in Jesus and follow him. I did this without benefit of missionaries. It was just the power of God. A new friend had given me the Book of Mormon and the Spirit took care of the rest. I was baptized shortly afterward. I served a mission for the Church, married in the temple, and raised my children in he gospel. I served in many different callings over the years, including a bishopric and two branch presidencies. It has been 39 years and I'm still on the path, working out my salvation "with fear and trembling," as Paul called it. I found the answers I always sought in the doctrines of the Restoration. It hasn't always been easy. There have been many trials. I look back on my early spiritual experiences in other churches with gratitude because the Lord used them to prepare my heart. It has been a great blessing to be a member of the Lord's earthly kingdom.
  20. In the centuries following the Great Apostasy, a false Gnostic teaching crept into Christianity that has been called the "Serpent Seed" doctrine. The doctrine taught that "Original Sin" as Catholics and Protestants refer to Adam and Eve's transgression, was sexual intercourse. The eating of the forbidden fruit is a metaphor for sexual relations. The "Serpent Seed" version of it goes so far as to say that Eve had intercourse with Satan and then seduced Adam. Latter-day Saints have never taught such a doctrine. Wikipedia gives some further info: The doctrine has been taught by fringe Christian movements even into the present day. It has been used to justify racism, bigotry, and oppression of women. One variation of the doctrine states that Cain was the offspring of Satan and that his seed is still present on the earth. The racist "Christian Identity" movement still teaches this. Catholics and Protestants avoid going into speculations on what "Original Sin" was, but because of the biblical passages mentioned earlier in the thread, there is a presumption that the Fall was Eve's fault. The LDS understanding is far more generous to Eve, who is celebrated as Adam's eternal companion, help-mate, and forms a more liberal notion of the roles of men and women as equal partners in marriage. We understand that we wouldn't be here unless they made the conscious choices they did. We are blessed because of their transgression and our eyes are opened to the gift of redemption.
  21. I live in a big college town and lots of our members are young student families. Beards are common in the academic world. A bunch of our members are professors or retired academics and many of them sport beards. The young students tend to adopt the look, either because of the present hipster fashion (along with fade haircuts and man-buns), or to appear older and more mature than they are. A beard tends to make a man look older. That's fine when you're 20-something and want to look like you're 30-something. I've worn beards occasionally, but as I've grown older, it comes in gray and white. I'd rather not add ten years to my 57 years and look like I'm 67!
  22. Culturally, Europeans and some other cultures regard the right side as the place of honor. Military men salute with the right hand, a tradition that goes back to the times of chivalry. The right hand was the most likely to bear a weapon, thus showing an open hand was a sign of peaceful intent. It's customary for dignitaries to stand to the right of subordinates. Americans put our right hand over our hearts when we say the Pledge of Allegiance or hear the national anthem played. In Japanese martial arts, when one performs a kneeling bow, the left knee goes down first and the right knee leads when getting up. There are probably lots more cultural examples that people can mention. These are a few that just came to mind.
  23. Here is an analogy that applies to several of the questions the OP posed. The Church was given the keys of the kingdom during the Restoration. This is like the quarterback receiving the ball in the football game. No matter who has the ball, the QB, a running back, or a wide receiver, the opposition is going to try to tackle him and take him down. The opposition the Church receives from apostates, secularists, and false religions comes from the Adversary of truth. If we did not have the "football" nobody would be trying to tackle us. Nobody goes after Jehovah's Witnesses or Seventh-Day Adventists with the same fervor that that anti-Mormons attack the Church. When the Church abandoned Nauvoo, the properties in the city went to the Icarians, a communal religious movement that had much in common with the saints. The people in Nauvoo tolerated Etienne Cabet and his followers, but they sought to murder Joseph Smith and the saints. Why? The Icarians didn't have the keys. Satan always persecutes and attacks those who hold the keys. That's why you'll always find sources that oppose everything about the Church. Satan can't let the work go unopposed. Elder Sitati once quoted an African aphorism that says, if everyone's throwing rocks at the mango tree, the fruit of it must be good. We follow prophets and apostles because they have the keys. There have been apostles who have fallen away in our early history. There may yet be apostles who will fall away. If we stay with the majority of the Twelve and the President of the Church, we will be in a position to get inspired revelation to guide and protect us. That said, the Holy Ghost will give us personal guidance to help us interpret the instructions we receive from scripture and the leaders of the Church for our own situations. Think of the leaders of the Church and the scriptures as a big map that give us a broad picture and the Holy Ghost as a GPS that gives us turn-by-turn instructions. They work together for our good and safety. On the difference between a person who feels the Spirit when he is taught the gospel and one who receives the Gift of the Holy Ghost after confirmation: the first is a temporary manifestation to guide a person to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The temporary manifestation leaves the person in time, if he does not act upon the Spirit's guidance. After repentance and baptism, a person's sins are remitted. (They are not prior to that time.) After the remission of sins, the member is worthy to be admitted into the presence of the Holy Ghost on a permanent basis, conditional upon obedience. It is a partial redemption of sorts. The Gift of the Holy Ghost works in the member to bring him into the presence of the Father and Christ, which is the Second Comforter, the full measure of redemption.
  24. 5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. Consider that the answer is already in the verse cited above. Jesus asked the Father to glorify him by restoring to him the glory that he had departed from--the glory he had from the Father's presence before he became mortal. Jesus lived like the rest of us. The weight of mortality was upon him. He lived perfectly, but he was subject to all that we are subject to: fatigue, illness, stress, sadness, loneliness, and ultimately death. He had overcome the veil and remembered being with the Father. I'm sure that is something he pined for, to return to that state of glory and shed the burden of mortality. This utterance is Jesus longing to be with his Father again, in his presence.