Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

The Pros and Cons of LDS Perfectionism

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

We are commanded in the scriptures to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And so, many people, in particular religious people, seek for ways to live a life that is considered “perfect.” However, is the idea of being “perfect” even remotely possible? The question that begs an answer is, “How does a person go about living a perfect life in an imperfect world?” According to a new study, our quest to answer that question has significant bearing on our mental health.

Defining the Terms

When we hear the words “perfect,” “perfectionist,” or “perfectionism” what thoughts come to mind? The philosophical definition of perfectionism is “a doctrine holding that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable, especially the theory that human moral or spiritual perfection should be or has been attained.” The Apostle Paul addressed the subject of being perfect in his treatise to the saints of the church at Philippi. In Philippians 3:12-16 Paul exhorts:

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

What Paul is telling the saints is that he is not perfect, but he lives his life in such a manner as to daily strive to become perfect or more Christ-like. He further explains that he has left behind those things in his life which he once thought would gain him favor with God, and instead continues to look ahead and set the attaining of a Christ-like life (a perfect life) as his spiritual and moral target.

High Expectations and Striving for Perfection

Mormon FamilyMembers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught to have high expectations and to strive for perfection, a task which frequently leaves members finding themselves falling short of the mark. This often leads to feelings of discouragement, dissatisfaction, anxiety, and stress. However, Professors G. E. Kawika Allen from the McKay School of Education at Brigham Young University, and Kenneth T. Wang at the Fuller Theological Seminary, argue that perfectionism, or striving for high standards, is not the problem.

In a recent study published by the American Psychological Association in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality which focused specifically on Latter-day Saints, they surveyed approximately 267 active members of The Church of Jesus Christ in Utah which consisted mostly of young adults in their mid-20’s, and asked questions ranging from their satisfaction with life to inward and outward commitment to their faith. From their study they were able to categorize the responses into three main groups:

The first group, 22% of people surveyed, were not perfectionists, that is, they don’t believe they hold themselves to high personal standards. The rest were considered perfectionists, but had an interesting split among them – a new type of perfectionism. Of the perfectionist group, 30% were classified as what Allen and Wang labeled maladaptive perfectionism, while 47% were classified as adaptive.

Allen admits that the populace surveyed for the test was perhaps the most appropriate as it is at that crossroads in a person’s life when they feel the most pressure to live up to the high standards of perfectionism as they contemplate going on a mission, getting married, and pursuing a higher education.

The study indicated that over half of the 267 LDS members surveyed could be classified as adaptive perfectionists which can be described as follows:

Adaptive perfectionists are likely to feel acceptance of themselves and their efforts, even when they fail or fall short of the high personal standards they have set for themselves. They are also more inwardly and outwardly committed to their LDS faith, which supports previous peer-reviewed findings that religious commitment plays a role in achieving better psychological health. That means adaptive perfectionism is actually healthy.

Taking this into consideration, the Apostle Paul would be classified as an adaptive perfectionist.

By contrast, however, members who were classified as maladaptive tend to feel less satisfied with their lives, and often experience depression and anxiety. They also tend to have a deeper fear of being punished by God for their sinful behavior. The study renders the following explanation about maladaptive perfectionists:

Maladaptive perfectionists are those folks who have high standards and high expectations for themselves, but when they are unable to meet those expectations, whether it’s school, family, or personal expectations, they struggle a little more with feelings of failure, feelings of not being good enough, disappointment, discouragement, and they feel down about themselves because they’re not able to meet those high standards.

Allen further commented that “adaptive perfectionists are more resilient to discouragement and create a ‘buffer’ for themselves if they fail —allowing themselves a chance to simply try again and again and again and do their best. He relates this to the repentance process.

How Members Can Achieve a Healthier Perfectionist Behavior

LDS Young Man Studying the ScripturesAllen offers three basic suggestions for helping members to become adaptive perfectionist versus maladaptive perfectionists. He states that the first step is for a member to figure out the type of perfectionist that he or she is. For those who struggle with maladaptive perfectionism, Allen states that, “Knowing that they have this negative tendency is half the battle. Then they can begin practicing more patience with themselves and studying the Atonement – both key steps to becoming an adaptive perfectionist.” He also states that it can be encouraging for adaptive perfectionists “because it reinforces the ‘Okay, I can be perfectionist in an adaptive way, and I can feel good about myself when I’m not able to meet those expectations.”

The second step in the process is to not allow fear to rule how the gospel is lived. Allen states,

Oftentimes we find ourselves doing things out of fear and anxiety rather than wanting to do it out of the love and out of faith—our own faith. When we’re driven by fear and anxiety, that’s when we need to take another look at the meaning of the Atonement and grace and our testimony of the living Christ.

He further emphasizes that adaptive perfectionists are motivated by love for the Savior more than they are by fear of repentance or punishment.

The third step is to apply the atonement in daily living and remember the unconditional love that God has for each of us. Allen commented:

As we let go of fear, we also need to strive to understand the Atonement and God’s love. When we understand that the Atonement allows us to strive for perfection simply by doing our very best and we remember that we are already imperfect, it helps us pick up the pieces and start again when we make a mistake.

Each of Us Strive for Perfection

Mormon Youth PrayingNone of us are perfect. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The psalmist also declared, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:1-3).

The only One who is perfect is Christ Himself. He is our Exemplar. As mortals, being perfect is an impossibility, but yet we should continue to strive towards becoming perfect. If we would keep that as our perspective and goal in life, we will be able to become adaptive perfectionists, continuously working to improve ourselves. Allen concludes with this counsel:

The next time you find yourself feeling like a failure, and that achieving perfection is impossible, take a step back, pick yourself up, and remember that the beauty of the Atonement is our ability to frequently fail, but always be able to move forward, a little better than we were before.

Soldiers and Missionaries – Serving on the Battlefield

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

When we think of a person as being a soldier, we generally picture someone who dons a military uniform, puts his or her life on the line each day defending the freedoms that we at home so dearly cherish, and stands a vigilant watch by land, air, or sea. These are valiant men and women who consider it a great honor to serve, some giving their last full measure of devotion, to protect the country that they love. Their life is not necessarily a glamorous one. They face day-to-day challenges as they fight to stay alive, and not everyone, including some of their own countrymen, is appreciative of the service that they provide. The service that they provide is strictly voluntary, and in most cases they spend days, weeks, months, or even years separated from their families.

Missionaries are Also Soldiers

MOrmon Missionarines Sharing the GospelContrast that to the life of a missionary. He or she willingly leaves their family for a period of 18 months to two years to also provide a service. The service that they provide is going throughout the world teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the military soldier, they too don a uniform; however, their uniform consists of a nice suit for the males, and nice skirts and dresses for the females. They also wear a name tag as part of their “uniform” to identify them as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a sense, they are also soldiers – soldiers who march to the orders of their Commander-in-Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ. Their life is not necessarily glamorous either, as they are often called to serve in many parts of the world that do not quite have all the comforts of home that they may be accustomed to. Like the military soldier, not everyone is appreciative of the service that they render, and so they also face day-to-day challenges as they are rejected and criticized by some of the people they try to present the gospel message to, not only in faraway lands, but at home in their own country as well. In some areas of the world, their lives could also be placed in danger at a moment of social up rise or political upheaval. However, like the military soldier, they consider it an honor to be serving.  They are on the Lord’s errand, doing what He would have them to do.

Soldiers and missionaries both serve on battlefields, albeit the battlefields where they serve are somewhat different. Both have a goal and a purpose for their mission. As they go forth to fulfill their missions, the words that the Lord spoke to Joshua can provide great comfort, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9). In times of loneliness, discouragement, and despair, there are also the words of the Apostle Paul to help strengthen them, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). And the Psalmist gives this gentle reminder as recorded in Psalm 18:31-36:

For who is God save the Lord? Or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.

The Soldiers Return Home with Honor

Soldier Returns HomeWhen a military soldier returns home after his or her tour of duty, or a missionary returns home after his or her mission, both are returning home with honor. However, the world may seem a bit out of sorts, and it may almost seem to them that they have entered a new dimension, as life may not be quite the same as when they had left. In addition, there will be people who cannot begin to understand the impact that their tour of duty or missionary service has had on their life. They are definitely not the same people that they were when they left.

In a recent Meridian Magazine article dated 21 July 2014, Hermana Rachel Raynor, a returned missionary from Laie, Hawaii, recounted what it was like when she arrived at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in November 2012 after serving an 18 month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She realized that for the first time in 18 months, she was in a public place alone without her companion. As she sought to gain her bearings, she recalled the words of her grandfather who had once told her that war changes men. In the article she commented,

It [war] makes the soldier either believe in God or it makes one question Him. He chose to believe. I used to think it was because it was the only way for him to stay sane in battle. Now, I know, it’s because grandpa knew that God was the only one who would ever understand what he had experienced and been through.

She further commented on her experiences upon returning home,

As I checked into my flight, I couldn’t help but feel confusion engulf my mind: what was I supposed to do now? How was I supposed to cope in a world that that knew nothing of what I had experienced, a world that knew not the journey I had just taken, the things I had learned, the people I had met, or who I had become. How was I to cope?

As she walked through the airport in route to the departure gate for the flight that was to take her to her final destination that day, these are some of the thoughts that flooded her mind. When she arrived at the gate she observed people standing up and cheering. Through the disillusionment that she was experiencing at the time, it appeared to her that people were standing and cheering for her – a missionary who had just returned home with honor, but in reality, the crowd that day were cheering as three older, uniformed men who were being pushed through the airport in wheelchairs. These men were wearing WWII and Korean War Veteran hats. She recalls that she also joined the crowd as she arose to her feet to applaud these brave soldiers who had valiantly fought for their country to protect the freedoms that she and everyone around her cherishes. As she stood to applaud, the thought occurred to her,

Those men had probably been shot at, beaten, abused, held in captivity, scared, seen their friends die and yet they had continued to fight. I am sure that they had served to the best of their ability; that they had given all that they had. They likely had experienced and endured many things that no man or woman should ever experience, things that no one would ever understand without being in combat. They had fought for their families, their friends, their country, their religions, and for me. I was grateful for their service.

MIssionary Homecoming CelebrationWhen the final boarding call was made and she was about to board her plane, she started to reflect upon her own service as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ. Like the soldiers, she too had been in the thick of a war, a spiritual war. Her battlefield included the areas of Arlington, Alexandria, and Fredericksburg, Virginia. During the time of her mission she had seen people who were battle worn from the heavy burdens that they carried – people who prayed for help and relief. She had been one who had been called upon to rescue those souls from the heat of the battle. Although she gave of her service valiantly, there were those who cursed her, despised her, and rejected her help – her message of hope. She too bore battle scars – bloody and callused knuckles from knocking on thousands of doors, and blistered feet from walking countless miles through all of the streets in the areas where she served, in every type of weather imaginable.

However, through it all, Sister Raynor, like the many returned soldiers from war, is able to hold her head high, knowing that she had done what her Commander-in-Chief had asked her to do, and that she had served to the best of her ability. She, like the soldiers, had stood on the front lines battle – the soldiers as representatives of the country that they love, and she as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. She further commented,

I had bags under my eyes from exhaustion. I had experienced physical and spiritual highs and lows that no one would ever understand. I had served the Lord to the best of my ability. And now, I had a permanent smile on my face from an indescribable joy that I felt from serving my brothers and sisters. I had done the best I could.  I had been obedient.  As I boarded the plane, I felt a wave of satisfaction sweep over me and a confirmation of God’s acceptance of my sacrifice. I knew that up in heaven, there were people, friends and relatives, standing and cheering for me, grateful for my individual efforts in fighting this spiritual war on earth.

Shield of Faith – Why Mormon Youth Are Happy and Successful

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Research and studies show that teens who are active in their religions – in particular, Mormon teens – are less prone to get in trouble, because they live their lives according to gospel principles, which help them to avoid the snares of worldly temptations. As a result, they are also more likely to live healthier, happier lives.

Mormon Teens are Living Testimonies of Their Faith

LDS TeenIn the Oxford book Soul Searching, and its follow-up volume Souls in Transition, sociologist Christian Smith, based on his research about the religious behavior and attitudes of American teenagers, revealed that “although American youth profess belief at a high level (in God, the afterlife, and the Bible), their level of religious practice does not typically match what they say they believe.” Using that research as a foundation, Princeton Theological Seminary professor Kenda Creasy Dean, one of the researchers in the National Study of Youth and Religion, drew some interesting conclusions. In the book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church, Dean shares the following observations:

If teenagers don’t have a firm grasp of core Christian doctrines and instead worship at what she calls “the Church of Benign Whatever-ism” — or don’t worship at all — it’s because youth pastors and other leaders have watered down the message, she claims. Teenagers in Protestant churches get the idea that they’re supposed to feel good about themselves, but that little is expected of them; Christianity is designed to make them “nice,” but it’s not supposed to form them as disciples. . . .The problem [is] that Protestant teens are being taught a brand of Christianity that is a mile wide and an inch deep.

In the chapter in the book titled “Mormon Envy,” Dean, who admits that she has deep theological disagreements with Mormonism, cites the religious group as one that is doing right by its teenagers. She states,

From a sociological perspective, Mormonism is succeeding in creating young adults who firmly understand what they believe and why their faith needs to have a claim on their behavior. She says that Mormonism is giving teens the four things they need in order to have a growing adult faith: 1) they are sufficiently catechized in beliefs by their own parents and by a spiritual community that expresses consistent expectations, 2) they acquire a personal testimony, 3) they have concrete religious goals and a sense of vocation, and 4) they have hope for the future.

In short, Mormon teens are taught from the early days of their youth that their faith is not just a Sunday religion, but rather they are to be living testimonies to the world as they strive to walk in the footsteps of the Great Exemplar, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are reminded of the Apostle Paul’s counsel to his young son in the gospel, Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). They are further admonished from the scriptures:

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

Religious Teens: The Evidence of Their Faith

Christian TeensCorrie Ten Boom, the author of The Hiding Place is quoted as having said, “Faith is like a radar that sees through the fog.” In the vernacular of today’s teens, faith is that guiding light that helps them to navigate safely through the dense fog of obscurity caused by the temptations of the world. Their faith is evidenced as they learn to stand in holy places and not be moved (see Doctrine and Covenants 87:8). Daily prayer and scripture study help to fortify their faith as they are reminded to “be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

A recent study from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which represented over 14,000 American youth, revealed that religious youth with intact families are less likely to:

  • get into fights
  • use hard drugs
  • have ever committed a theft of $50 or more
  • have ever shoplifted
  • have ever run away
  • have ever been drunk
  • have been expelled or suspended from school
  • engage in physical intimacy

Additionally, the study indicated that religious teens also have higher GPAs in high school.

Another study indicated that teens who put the religious principles that they are taught into practice will:

  • achieve a higher level of marital happiness and stability
  • develop greater educational aspirations
  • contribute more generously to their community
  • live longer and healthier lives
  • display higher levels of self-control and self esteem

All of this is not meant to convey the idea that teens who govern their lives by religious principles will necessarily go through life on a bed of roses, but rather when the thorns from the rose bushes begin to prick them from time to time, they will be better equipped to cope with the pain. As someone has wisely stated, “Faith makes things possible, not easy.”

What Sets Latter-day Saint Teens Apart from Teens in Main Stream Protestantism?

In her book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church, Princeton Theological Seminary professor Kenda Creasy Dean asserts:

In Mormonism, there’s a great emphasis on personal testimony. More than half of LDS teens (53%) reported giving a talk or presentation in church in the last six months, compared to one in seven Southern Baptist youths and one in twenty-five Catholics. Mormon teens also exercise leadership, which Dean says is a crucial part of faith formation; 48% reported attending a church meeting where they were called upon to make a decision that would be binding on a group. These practices aren’t just window dressing, according to Dean; they pave the way for other crucial faith-forming events, such as missionary service.

In Mormonism, children prepare for missions and the temple; start fasting with the community every month at age eight; are expected to pay tithing just like adults; give up time on weekends to clean the church building and do service projects; and actually track these things in personal progress journals. They work toward Eagle Scout status or being a Young Woman of Excellence.

In Mormonism, Dean says, teens talk confidently about the purpose of this life (which they understand as being tested and growing spiritually so they might return to their Heavenly Parents after death). In Protestantism, she says, there has been an erosion of eschatological hope.

ILDS Seminaryt is interesting to note that the studies and research that have been conducted emphasize the fact that while many religious youth are devoted to their faith, they are uneducated in their doctrine, and therefore, they have no knowledge or understanding of what they believe. Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, are taught the principles and doctrines of their faith from an early age, and as they mature in their faith, their testimony of what they believe is strengthened, thus enabling them to confidently explain their doctrine. That Mormon youth have milestone ordinances and responsibilities to attain to leads them on along a marked path to gospel fluency and commitment.

Mormon youth teaching gospel principlesThe National Study of Youth and Religion points out “Mormon youth were off the charts in terms of their articulacy and understanding of their faith.” In his article “Why Mormons Do a Better Youth Ministry than We Do,” Greg Stier from explains, “Mormonism pushes their kids harder and takes them deeper and farther than even the most ardent of evangelical youth ministries would ever dare.” He continues, ““Mormons expect a lot out of their teenagers. We don’t. Mormons ordain their young men into the ministry at the age of twelve. We don’t. Mormons require their teens to attend seminary every day of high school. We don’t. Maybe that’s why Mormons give more, work harder and are exploding as a religion.”

What Can Parents Do to Help Their Youth Remain Strong and Grow in the Faith?

President Harold B. Lee taught, “”The most important . . . work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes.” Therefore, parents have an awesome responsibility to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They are to “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). They can best do this by:

  • being a good example for their children to follow
  • holding regular family home evening, family prayer, and scripture study
  • teaching practical applications of gospel principles
  • providing settings for potential spiritual experiences
  • encouraging children to come to know for themselves

Youth today face many challenges and temptations from the effects of peer pressure to the influence of social media. In order to live happy, healthy, productive, and successful lives, they must remain true to their faith, and adhere to the religious principles that they have been taught as they journey through life.

Being Alone and the Despair of Loneliness

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Charlotte Brontë, a British novelist whose novels have become standards of English literature, is quoted as having said, “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” There are perhaps many people in the world today who could echo Brontë’s sentiments concerning being lonely. Whether they are rich, poor, married, widowed, divorced, or single, there are those who seem to be hopelessly and eternally trapped in an abyss called loneliness.

Heinrich Karl Bukowski, a German-born, American poet, novelist and short story writer, once described loneliness in the world as being “so great that you can see it in the slow movement of the hands of a clock.” And T.S. Eliot, “one of the twentieth century’s major poets,” said,

Any decent society must generate a feeling of community. Community offsets loneliness. It gives people a vitally necessary sense of belonging. Yet today the institutions on which community depends are crumbling in all the techno-societies. The result is a spreading plague of loneliness. (more…)

Mormons Are Still Going to Church–Why?

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Religion is falling out of vogue. We’ve all heard it. Though people may identify with Christianity on a census form, in reality they are not  particularly interested in religion anymore. People don’t attend church with regularity. But, what about  Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)? They still attend Church services on a regular basis.

Why? And how does The Church of Jesus Christ manage to grow and stay strong in a world that continually diminishes the importance and role of religion? The answer is simple: Mormons keep the message of the gospel at the forefront of their lives.

Doctrine Never Changes

mormon-jesus-christ4The message of The Church of Jesus Christ is simple: Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and when we commit ourselves to Him, we find lasting peace, qualify for saving ordinances, and will eventually live with God and our families forever. The core doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ remain constant, and if there is a change in church operations or policy, it comes directly from general church leadership. (more…)

Mormon Church: Contradictory Beliefs?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

As a sophomore studying physics at Brigham Young University, I have a different view on the world than a lot of youth my age. Many people wonder how I can reconcile such strong religious beliefs with such secular logical theory. But I have a strong testimony of both. To me faith fortifies the logical, and my secular knowledge of physics and the mechanics of the universe broadens my understanding of God. If I was limited to only one or the other, I would in fact find myself confined and restricted in understanding.

mormon education

Learning more about the world around us can help increase our faith in God.

For example, throughout scripture God commonly uses the concept of light as His preferred metaphor for Himself. To many this would merely be an accepted condition and they would move on to read the rest of the verse, but to me, as I study light in my physics classes at BYU, I understand the great meaning that can be drawn from this name alone. For example, light is used to not only expel darkness and bring warmth, but it is also the byproduct of electrons bumping up an energy level and thus emitting a photon.

This can be compared to God’s presence becoming more and more evident in our life as we ascend to higher spiritual levels. In addition, light is the only material that is truly constant in the universe—being the basis of all the equations and theories that we have,—just as God is the only true and unchangeable constant in the universe, the only constant upon which if we build we can never ever fall. And finally, light is the only material that is both a particle and a wave, and whose behavior varies upon whether or not we are observing it (double-slit experiment). A single photon will inexplicably behave as a wave if unobserved, but once placed under the scrutiny of the human eye it will behave as it should, or rather as a particle. Similarly, God does not always act the way we expect, seeing as we are observing a celestial and infinite subject through finite mortal eyes, as He says “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8). (more…)

Mormon Church: Our Power Over Our Destinies

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Hey there, my name is Stuart and I’m a college student here at BYU. I’m hoping to someday become a surgeon, but I still have a lot of school left ahead. I’m nearly 22 and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (mistakenly called The Mormon Church). We’re known that way for a book of scripture called the Book of Mormon, which is very much like the Bible in that it teaches of Christ and was written by prophets, but it is different because it was written by ancient prophets in America. One of the first of these was a man named Nephi, a very righteous man who lived roughly around 600 BC. He took great care to teach his people the law and the commandments and of the Savior who was to come. To do this, many times he read to them words of previous prophets and helped them understand and apply them. That is also the way we should use scripture, trying to make it personal. One of his favorite prophets to quote was Isaiah. Nephi dedicates several chapters to sharing some of Isaiah’s teaching that he used. This last week I read some of those chapters and some things jumped out at me, especially in chapter 24 of 2 Nephi. In this chapter Nephi is quoting what we know today as Isaiah 14 and it speaks about the devil. Usually that’s something people frown upon, thinking that it’s not even good to talk about him, but in reality it depends on what’s being said and why. Isaiah in this part is taunting the devil and at the same time teaching us a valuable lesson. He speaks of the last days, how the Lord will be victorious and reward His covenant people. He speaks of how the world will rejoice, that it will break forth in singing at the downfall of the tyrant. The next verses have always caused me to ponder, they read: (more…)

Mormon Church: “Ye Must Pray Always”

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

I’m in my second month as a freshman here at Brigham Young University and I couldn’t be more grateful for my required Book of Mormon class. The fact that twice a week I get to learn more about scriptures in an academic setting always amazes me! Both our class lectures and my out-of-class readings help me keep my priorities straight and remind me of my Heavenly Father’s love. This last week I was especially touched by a passage spoken by the ancient American prophet Nephi as he was nearing the end of his life. This is found in 2 Nephi 32:9.

“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.”

Mormon Prayer

The Lord wants us to come to Him so He can help us make decisions.

Nephi is reminding those who read his words of a powerful principle. If we are trying to do something “unto the Lord” it is imperative that we pray to Heavenly Father about it. This way He will be able to make our experience something that will enable us to obtain our goal of eternal life. Perhaps the strongest word employed by the prophet Nephi is anything. There should not be anything that we are doing which is not “unto the Lord,” and thus if we take the proper steps there should not be anything in our lives which is not being consecrated by the Lord for our eternal welfare. School, work, relationships, service—these are all facets of our lives where we can obtain incredible support from our Heavenly Father. (more…)

Mormon Church: Serving Others

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church”) are firm believers in helping the poor and needy. We believe that it is what Christ would do, and so we should follow His example by helping others. We learn principles like this from the Book of Mormon, a book of holy scriptures similar to the Bible, because it talks about it in there. The Book of Mormon is about the God’s people who lived on the American continent. The Book of Mormon tells and preaches of Christ; Christ even appears to the people in that land after He was resurrected.

One of the more prominent parts of the Book of Mormon that talks of helping the poor among us is from the book of Jacob. Jacob was a prophet among the nation of the Nephites (the “father” of their nation was Nephi, who left Jerusalem in the year 600 BC, 13 years before the city was destroyed by the Babylonians) who was commanded to tell the people to repent of their ways and return to God. One of the sins that the Nephites were struggling with was pride. Many of them believe that because they had more money and riches compared to others, that they were better than the poor. Jacob tells them that this is a false assumption, and that everyone is equal to each other. He tells them that if they do seek for riches, that the riches should be used “for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and afflicted” (Jacob 2:19).

Mormon Tithing

By paying tithing and fast offerings Church members help provide for the Church’s needs and for the poor and needy.

As members of the Church today we try to do this. One of the ways we do this is a “fast offering” fund. A fast offering fund is where members of the Church, or anyone who wants to participate, donate money to the cause of helping others that are going through financial struggles. By doing this, those who need the money will receive it. What is amazing is 100% of the money donated is given to the cause of those in need. Now-a-days, many charities only give a portion of the money donated to the actual cause. With our Fast Offerings, 100%, and no less, goes to those who need it. We also have what is called tithing, where members give 10% of all their income to the effort to help build our Church. It is used to build more church buildings, and things of that nature. None of the money donated ever is given to our clergymen; they do not have salaries at all. They do not get paid a penny for all the time and effort they put into helping out the Church. (more…)

Mormon Church: “See Ye for the Kingdom of God”

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Everyone has priorities in his/her life. For some, it is getting ahead in business, even if it means harming others to get there. For others, it is putting food on the table for their families before following their own dream career. Some priorities are good; others can be not so good. However, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church”, I have recognized a pattern throughout my life. Whenever I take a minute to set aside pressing matters like school work, jobs, or social events, and focus on putting God first, everything else seems to work out better.

Mormon Missionaries

When we put spiritual things first, we will find that we will still have enough time to make everything work.

As a new freshman in college, I often feel the stress of assignments and tests. Quite often, I think of skipping church activities or not fulfilling my church responsibilities to the fullest. I notice that when I skip these things, I can get the work done, but I will be easily distracted and the quality of the work will be less than satisfactory. When I do take the time to put spiritual matters first, I find myself more focused and motivated when I come back to do my work. Things usually work out for the better when I set aside a little time to put church before everything else in my life.

Jacob, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, also spoke to his people on this same matter. Jacob’s people were becoming wicked and prideful in their riches and success. They did not realize that God was the reason for their success, so they boasted of their own greatness and thought that they were better than less wealthy people. Jacob taught them a great lesson. In Jacob 2:18-19, he said, “before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good.” (more…)