Sunday, June 20, 2010

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith - Faith in Christ

            Introduction to the Author
           As this is my first official post on this very excellent blog, I’d like to start off with a little bit of an introduction to who I am, how I got here and where I’m going.
            First off, my name is Katie Plett, and I’m from the cities of Langley, Surrey, and Maple Ridge in British Columbia, in the land known as Canada. As a little bit of a background, I first became aware of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was 13, when my mother was going through some rough times and was run into by the Sister Missionaries. She was eventually baptized, as was my little brother. My sister was in Manitoba at the time, and when she found out that our mom and brother had gotten baptized, she was enraged. She spoke to me often on the phone and told me not to listen to “the Mormons,” although at the time I didn’t need her to tell me that. I was very angry at my mother’s decision, and I let my anger drive a wedge between my brother and me. I had convinced myself before this that God didn’t care about me, and didn’t listen to my prayers; I decided since He didn’t listen to me, I wouldn’t listen to Him. The way I saw it, God was going back on the bargain I had made with Him now that the Sisters, Elders, and the Church were in my life.
            A pair of Sisters, who I will always consider “my missionaries,” asked if they could teach me, and since I had previously made a connection with them, I agreed. Much to my mother’s astonishment, she would often come home to find the Sisters teaching me – the first few times this happened she thought maybe she had forgotten about a lunch or dinner appointment with them. After a few lessons, one of the Sisters asked me how I felt when we read the Book of Mormon together, and I responded that I felt good. Excitedly, she asked if I would pray about the Book, and I said I would. Well, I didn’t. The next time we met, she eagerly asked if I had prayed, and I told her I hadn’t. It was easy to tell that this upset her, but she would cheer up and again challenge me to pray. I don’t remember how many times this happened, but one night after I went through my bedtime routine and got into bed, I found that I had lacked any ability to fall asleep. It just wasn’t happening. I turned over various thoughts in my mind but eventually came back to the Sisters challenge, and how every time I failed to pray to know whether the Book was true or not, they were actually sad, troubled, and hurt by my failure. 

            I remember staring at my ceiling and finally saying aloud, “What the heck?” So I knelt down and closed my eyes, and tried to think of what to say. It’s hard to explain, but while I was still organizing my thoughts and before really “commencing,” the prayer, I felt exactly what I read I would feel. The Lord says it succinctly: “you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right” (Doctrine & Covenants 9:8). This was a feeling that spread from my chest to the very tips of my fingers and toes, and I felt as though someone had put their arms around me. This was astonishing, because I was fairly convinced God had forgotten about me, and that He didn’t care whether I was troubled, or in pain, or suffering. When I met again with the Sisters, I was again asked if I had prayed. “Yes,” I said, feeling like my feet had been thrown out from under me. The Sister who asked me had a huge smile on her face, “And?” she asked. “It’s true,” I said, or rather mumbled. “So do you want to be baptized?” I felt severely humbled by my experience, but after having a relatively secret baptism (my mother only discovered it when a man in the ward walked up to her after sacrament and congratulated her on my decision), here I am coming up on 7 years.
            Right now I’m preparing my papers to submit so I can serve a mission, which I get to do in 76 days, but who’s counting, right? Hopefully I can contribute something awesome to this blog before I leave, while still remaining spiritual about it, of course. While I’m here though, I’ll post regularly about various teachings, sermons, doctrines, etc., taught by our first President, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and when space permits, various arguments presented against his teachings by anti-Mormons and the like.

Faith in Christ
Absolutely basic, and essential really, to any Christian religion is the need of faith in Christ. This is because we were not there when Christ was born, we did not hear him teach, and we did not witness his brutal sacrifice. We do not have physical evidence to show that Christ is the Son of God, which is why we cannot authenticate, in the traditional sense of the word, Christ’s divine origin, mission, and resurrection. However, just because it cannot be proven, does not mean it is, or can be disproven. As Christians have faith that Christ existed, so do others need to have faith that he did not.
Faith is not just confidence or trust in something or someone; it is a hope that something which you cannot see is true. Paul said simply to the Hebrews, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
It is not enough to simply have faith that Christ is the Son of God, although that is tremendously interesting, and may help one develop faith that Christ and God exist; it does not help us in our quest to return to their presence. “Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence...” (Moses 6:57). Through the fall of Adam and Eve, sin entered the world. And because all of mankind sins, we are separated from God and Christ.
As Christians, it is not enough to simply have faith that Christ was born, lived, and died. It is not hard to imagine someone existing. It is much harder however, to have faith that someone existed who could remove us from our sins, was resurrected, and enables us to return to God’s presence. But Christ did that, and that is what our faith needs to be based in, the fact that salvation comes to us through the sacrifice, or Atonement of Christ.
By merely telling of his experiences, Joseph Smith showed his faith in, as well as bore his testimony of Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith recorded that, “[he] saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description... One of them spake unto [him], calling [him] by name, and said – pointing to the other – “This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him.” (History of the Church, Vol. 1, pg 5). During the early years of Church history, Joseph received revelations from the Lord which have been compiled into what is known today as the Doctrine and Covenants (Explanatory Introduction, Doctrine & Covenants).
As though that is not evidence enough of Joseph Smith’s faith and the importance of Christ’s Atonement and Resurrection, Joseph Smith also lectured much on those subjects. On one such occasion, “to save [himself] the trouble of repeating the same a thousand times over and over again,” Joseph Smith had the following printed in the Elder’s Journal: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it” (History of the Church, Vol. 3, pg 30).
In what has become known as the “Wentworth Letter,” Joseph Smith reiterated the “rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-day Saints” (History of the Church, Vol. 4, pg 535). Parts of what he wrote then has since become regarded as “The Articles of Faith,” and the first, third, and fourth declare the following:
We believe in God the eternal Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost... We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. We believe that the first principle and ordinances of the Gospel are: (1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ;  (2) Repentance;  (3) Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins;  (4) Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
            Joseph Smith taught of the Atonement, Resurrection and salvation afforded us by Christ; the very concepts taught by the Bible are taught in the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, by the Prophet Joseph Smith and by every Prophet who succeeded him.

But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed... For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
For behold, he surely must die that salvation may come; yea, it behooveth him and becometh expedient that he dieth, to bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, that thereby men may be brought into the presence of the Lord. Yea, behold, this death bringeth to pass the resurrection, and redeemeth all mankind from the first death—that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual. But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.

            Doctrine & Covenants 76:22-24
And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of [Christ], this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.
            To believe that Christ was born, lived and died is just not enough. To lead us to salvation, our faith, as the scriptures teach, as Joseph Smith taught, as we are taught today by our Prophet and the Apostles, needs to be centered on Jesus Christ, that he not only was born, lived, and died, but that he atoned for our sins and was resurrected, because “... if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Prophets in their Place

Introduction to the Author
           My name is Lynden Jensen. I was born in Lethbridge Alberta Canada but have moved around Canada considerable since then. Subsequently I have lived in Lloydminster AB/SK, Cornwall Prince Edward Island, Saskatoon Saskatchewan, Maple Ridge British Columbia, Las Vegas Nevada, Carlin Nevada, and now Rexburg Idaho. (Map of the Above)

           When I was born both of my parents where members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My father had converted when he was in his late teens and had served a mission to Chile. My mother, a Lethbridge native, had been a member of the church her whole life, however her mother had been a convert and subsequent immigrant from Australia after she got kicked out of her home for joining the church.

           Although I was born in a condition of church and some of my most basic memories are related to church I did not receive a testimony of belief of the church until I was 14 years old and in 10th grade. It was at that point that I seriously questioned remaining in activity as I did not believe in the validity of the church.  I ultimately asked in prayer to know if it was true and it was at that point that everything in my life changed.  Since that point I have been rather obsessed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I started researching about the church in my free time. I knew it was true, but I didn’t know what it was. Most of my friends at the time were atheist and had a great influence on my search both positively and negatively. Positively because they were all intelligent about their beliefs which caused me to apply critical thinking to the gospel, but negatively this was the very reason why I finally asked God if it was true, because I really didn’t logically or spiritually think so.

           As a newly converted member I strove to justify my beliefs to my friends, to logically assert the gospel, this had me running through dozens of anti-Mormon site, talking with hundreds of Anti-Mormons, viewing their claims and seeking out the answers. Although I did not find all the answers or definitive proof for God or my religion I came to a much deeper understanding of what my religion really was. As I continued to branch out I sought to understand other religions, their beliefs, their unique beneficial contributions to religion and philosophy on the idea that if my religion was then the viewing of others beliefs would only strengthen my own. I engaged in sincere interfaith dialogue with representatives or faithful member of most of the major world religions.

           When I was 19 years old I served two years as a full time Missionary in Las Vegas, and Carlin, Nevada teaching people about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I Am now 21 years and attending Brigham Young University – Idaho.

           I am also the primary founder of this blog which is designed for conceptual religious exposition. I will personally be posting a blog article every month or so; I have chosen to focus on "Questions About Church History" focusing on historical issues relative to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you have any suggestions feel free to comment on this post, E-mail us, E-mail me, or join our forum.

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The Role and Importance of The Prophets
           In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a paramount theme and doctrine is the doctrine of the prophets. Christ’s church has always been founded on the prophets, and always will.  In the New Testament Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ taught this to the newly baptized members of the Church in the city of Ephesus:

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone”
(KJV Holy Bible, Ephesians 2:19-20, emphasis added)

           Paul told these people that the foundation of the church that they had just joined, this “household of God” was made of three parts: Apostles, Prophets, and Jesus Christ. Having worked construction in high-rises I can appreciate better the need of a sure foundation; my grandfather died when my mother was sixteen on a construction site because the building was not structurally sound and it collapsed on him, killing him and others. Christ is the master architect and has placed at the foundation of his church Prophet and Apostles with himself, Christ, being the cornerstone or most important piece. This foundation was given, as Paul explains two chapters later for:

“the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ”
(KJV, Holy Bible, Ephesians 4:12-15, Emphasis Added)

           The whole purpose of Prophets and apostles is to lead the church towards Christ in unity, to correct errors creeping in, so that the people would not be left on their own to be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. Or going back to the analogy of a building, it is the foundation, the basis, the piece that ensures the changing earth will not destroy the building. This was not a new concept; it has been since the beginning of man. In the Old Testament book of "Amos" it speaks of the importance of the role of the Prophets:
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”
(KJV, Holy Bible, Amos 3:7)

           God has always through prophets and always will, it is the foundation of His gospel in the past, in the present, and in the future. As we look through many religious texts in all the periods of time we see a pattern of prophets:

  1. A man is called of God
  2. The people accept him
  3. The people become prosperous
  4. The people become prideful
  5. The people reject and cast out of the prophets
  6. The people lose their prosperity
  7. The People are humbled 
  8. The People turn to God

           History has shown us that there will always be a time when prophets are rejected and taken away; when the people reject the very stones that support them. When a structure does not have a foundation it is subject to the changes of the world, it will shift with the world, and will eventually fall.

           At the time that Paul wrote the previous letters he was one of the twelve Apostles and was also a Prophet. He fulfilled this calling as was he was supposed to; we have great evidence to that as we look at his epistles or letters, they are combating those philosophies of men that were entering into the church, he was trying to keep the Saints unified without deviation or division so that they would not go the natural way of things and pervert the doctrine of the Lord as had happened with the Jews.

           The Latter-day saints believe that we still do need Apostles and Prophets. Have persecutions and divisions ceased? Have men’s philosophies become less persuasive or prevalent? Has Christ’s church remained the one church that prophets and apostles established in Christ’s day? The answer is a clear ‘no’. We need prophets and apostles more than ever, to bring us back into the unity of faith, to stop our wandering eyes diverting from the image of the fullness of Christ. We need prophets.

           Having established the basic role and importance of the prophets, particularly in Latter-day Saint theology I have found most Latter-day Saints alarmingly, if not surprisingly, ignorant of what a prophet is.

           As a missionary I found many Saints confused in their definitions of what a prophet was. So the first Question is:

What is a Prophet?
           I believe the most common response to this question from a Latter-day Saint perspective would be something like this:

“A prophet is a chosen mouth piece of God to deliver his message to the whole world. He is an authoritative spokesman speaking with will of God and is given proper authority and power to do on earth what God himself would to do if he himself were there.”

           This definition of a prophet is not entirely correct, what the above answer is portraying is the cultural use of the word in relation to the President of the Church, or the presiding prophet.

           The word “Prophet” literally means “Speaker” in the Greek root, it is a person who speaks in behalf of God but it is not nearly as narrow or constricting as many Latter-day Saints may think. Furthermore in relation popular belief that a prophet is a foreteller, or soothsayer figure, a prophet does not need to foretell events or condemn anyone to be classified as such, the role of a foreteller would be that of a seer, which will be discussed later.

           Harold B. Lee, the 11th president of the church taught:
“In a broad sense, a Prophet is one who speaks, who is inspired of God to speak in His name.”
(Lee, Harold. “The Place of the Living, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” in Charge to Religious Educators, p. 107)

           Moses lamented for the hardheartedness and individual incapacity Israel saying:
“Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”
(KJV, Holy Bible, Numbers 11:29, Emphasis Added)

           John the Revelator tells us in his book of Revelation that a messenger of God came to him, as John knelt down to worship him the messenger forbade him and taught him the true meaning of a prophet saying to him:
“See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
(KJV, Holy Bible, Revelation 19:10, Emphasis Added)

           We all, members and non-members, ought to be prophets. Being a prophet does not give us authority over anyone else; it does not give us power or influence but only is a reflection of our testimony of Jesus, and our relationship with him. You are a prophet inasmuch as you believe and obey Jesus Christ.

           Being a prophet allows us to speak authoritatively from God, but it does not give us authority to speak on behalf of God to others, but only for the jurisdiction that God has given us. If we are a parent, we are a prophet for ourselves and for our children in which we are entitled to receive revelation, or divine guidance, for the family. If we are properly ordained and authorized servants of a group (such as Relief Society Presidency, Deacons Quorum Presidency, Bishop, Stake President, ect) we are entitled to revelation for that group. Thus the president of the Church is often called “The Prophet”, meaning “The Prophet with the authority to receive revelation in behalf of the whole world”.

How is “The Prophet” any different than any of us?
           When we as a cultural church say “The Prophet” we are referring to the current “Prophet of the World” (As discussed above) who is also known as “The President of the Church”. We see him as the chief administrator of Gods kingdom on earth with power and authority delegated to him from Jesus Christ. We sustain him as the president and head on earth of the Prophets Seers and revelators; he being the only one of such that independently holds all the keys and authority to administer all ordinances and rites therein.

           We have above discussed the role and definition of prophets and “The Prophet” in relation to being a prophet, but what is a Seer or Revelator?

What is a Revelator?
           The world Revelator comes from the root “reveal” meaning the Latin revelare meaning to un-veil, or to make known. This is the role of a revelator of God, to make known a previously unknown truth from God. To be a Revelator you must first be a prophet, or in other words you must first have a Testimony of God and Jesus Christ. This makes a lot of sense as it would be rather bizarre to receive knowledge from a being you neither knew nor believed in.

           From the acclaimed apostle John A. Widtsoe comes the following definition:
“A revelator makes known, with the Lord's help, something before unknown. It may be new or forgotten truth, or a new or forgotten application of known truth to man's need. Always, the revelator deals with truth, certain truth (D&C 100:11) and always it comes with the divine stamp of approval. Revelation may be received in various ways, but it always presupposes that the revelator has so lived and conducted himself as to be in tune or harmony with the divine spirit of revelation, the spirit of truth, and therefore capable of receiving divine messages.”
(Widtsoe, John. Evidences and Reconciliations. Bookcraft, 1997. Print. P. 258)

What is a Seer?
           The word seer come from the root “See” meaning one that does see., in particular one who does see the things of God, things that most men do not. He is a foreseer, and fulfills the role of what many consider prophets to be.

           In the Book of Mormon Ammon teaches us:
“…a seer is greater than a prophet… A seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.”
(The Book of Mormon, Mosiah 8: 15-16)

           To be a seer is the panicle quality which man can obtain. As was said “A seer is greater than a prophet . . . and a gift which is greater can no man have . . . “.

           John A. Widtsoe defines seers as:
“…one who sees with spiritual eyes. He perceives the meaning of that which seems obscure to others; therefore he is an interpreter and clarifier of eternal truth. He foresees the future from the past and the present. This he does by the power of the Lord operating through him directly, or indirectly with the aid of divine instruments such as the Urim and Thummim. In short, he is one who sees, who walks in the Lord's light with open eyes. (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 8:15-17)
(Widtsoe, John. Evidences and Reconciliations. Bookcraft, 1997. Print. P. 258)

           The role of “The Prophet” or “The President of the Church” is to be the head of Gods organization on earth; to lead and the church in this latter-day. He is the chief Prophet, Seer, and Revelator on earth; the only one such that independently holds all the keys and authority to administer all ordinances and rites therein. Through the power and authority that has been delegated to him from God, it is in turn delegated to us to bless our families.

           Just as Paul defined in his letter to Ephesus it is His job, and the job of those chosen to the holy Apostleship of the Lord to keep the course steady, to warn and forward, that the Children of God may have a banner to follow, that they be no longer children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, but be an established nation of God; to be built upon the ancient architectural foundations of Prophet and Apostle, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. That when, as Helaman proclaimed to his sons,:

“…the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. “
(Book of Mormon, Helaman 5:12)

           It is only once we start rejecting the stones upon which we are built that we fall. God is faithful and will not leave us alone, but gives us these righteous men to lead us to receive our own revelation and assurances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not follow any prophet blindly but have a responsibility to be a prophet unto ourselves and receive conformation and revelation in regards to Gods truth.

           God is there and he does care, he never forsakes us, but we may forsake him.
“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. “
(KJV, Holy Bible, Isaiah 49:15-16)

           "For thousands of years there have been constant broadcasts from heaven of vital messages of guidance and timely warnings, and there has been a certain constancy in the broadcasts from the most powerful station. Throughout all those centuries there have been times when there were prophets who tuned in and rebroadcasted to the people. The messages have never ceased.”
(Spencer W. Kimball, in Conference Report, Apr. 1970, p. 121.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gospel Scholarship: Coming Distractions

Gospel Scholarship: Coming Distractions

In the recent popular Disney movie, “Up” (, we find an old gentleman who lifts his home into the sky with thousands of helium balloons, in order to settle it in his dream adventure location. Along the way, he picks up a cub scout and meets up with dogs with special collars that allow them to speak in... Squirrel!

The heroes win in the long run because the evil dogs are prone to distraction. Their main goals often fail because of such distractions. Perhaps distractions are one of Satan’s primary tools to prevent us from becoming all we can become as sons and daughters of God.

According to statistics, in 2006 the average household watched over eight hours of television per day ( Imagine how that is today compounded by the number of people seeking to be entertained on IPhones, IPads, Twitter and Facebook! (see also: )

American University law professor Jane Raskin stated in 2004, "Everybody’s got values.... The thing that frightens me is the way that an eroding public school system ... and television on all over the place is leading to a steady dumbing down of the American public and a corrosion of basic critical thinking in the population." (

I recall a few years ago giving a talk on gospel scholarship. One of the key points made was to continually be reading, learning, and questioning things. Afterward, an older lady came up and told me that she agreed how important reading was. She went on to explain how she had read hundreds of Harlequin Romance books. It took all my strength to refrain from commenting on how she totally missed the point of the lecture.

This isn’t a new problem, either. The Lord warned the Laodicians: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16) Today, many people are lukewarm in their testimonies because the world distracts them. They have a testimony and attend Church, but are too busy with looking at shiny objects the world dangles in front of them that they do not notice that they are spiritually adrift.

Mormon noted, “But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they.” (Mormon 5:18)

Ships use sails and anchors to guide and stop. In conjunction with charts and other tools, they guide a ship through dangerous waters to safe harbors. However, when sails and anchors are not used, the ship is left to aimlessly drift with the currents, distracted by every tug on the bow.

Does this make television and other entertainment evil? In many cases, no. But is it the best use of our short lives? Was our life created for us to be simply entertained? Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Twelve Apostles spoke of Martha and Mary, close friends of the mortal Lord, who had different focus. Martha busied herself cleaning house and making dinner for everyone, while Mary sat at the Savior’s feet listening. When Martha complained, Jesus explained that Mary actually had chosen the better part.

In this life there are good things, better things, and best things, according to Elder Oaks,
“Some uses of individual and family time are better, and others are best. We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families....To our hundreds of thousands of home teachers and visiting teachers, I suggest that it is good to visit our assigned families; it is better to have a brief visit in which we teach doctrine and principle; and it is best of all to make a difference in the lives of some of those we visit. That same challenge applies to the many meetings we hold—good to hold a meeting, better to teach a principle, but best to actually improve lives as a result of the meeting. “ (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Good, Better, Best”, Ensign, Nov 2007)

Are we properly using our time to its best? Are we using it to develop talents, knowledge, skills, family relationships, and serve others? Or do we spend our time seeking to be entertained and numb our minds towards the realities around us and the things of God?

What goals have we made for ourselves, our families, our jobs, our church callings? Are we just doing the bare minimum to get by, eagerly awaiting for the end of the week so we can play? Or are we making the best of each moment?

Each of us should sit down weekly and review the week, our successes and failures, and determine where we can do better in the following week. Goal setting is necessary to achieving a fulfilling life. Both long term and short term goals need to be set. How many books will you read this year, this month, this week? What kind of books? What new talents or knowledge will you develop over the next year or two? How can you improve on your home/visit teaching? Is the major babysitter in the home a television or a set of books? What can you do to make a difference in the world today? Are you hot, cold, or lukewarm?

“And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God. “ (D&C 88:118-119)

What is it that we should learn and why?
“And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
“Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
“That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.” (D&C 88:77-80)

As we learn to focus on what is best, eventually the squirrels will no longer distract us from our true potential as sons and daughters of Heavenly Father.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Mission and Roots of The Sign of Jonas

The Mission

            The Mission of The Sign of Jonas Blog, created May 16, 2010, is to increase our secular and religious knowledge, involve others in that effort, collaborate information, and ultimately to fulfill our baptismal covenant: that through Abraham’s seed “shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of... salvation, even of life eternal” (Abraham 2:11).
The authors of the Sign of Jonas serve our readers, and each other. What we do for those to enrich their lives is explain the gospel and that which is gospel-related in basic, life-applicable, albeit scholarly terms; in other words, we strive to strengthen and build each other’s and our own testimonies.
We will strive to build an environment that is conducive to having the Spirit in attendance, and promotes open and truthful discussion; one which conveys a sense of openness, that our authors are within reach and can be engaged in a dialogue.
We are on an equal level with each other, and despite our various qualifications, all authors are valued equally for their individual strengths and that which they bring to the Blog. The openness of our environment will ensure that readers can and do play as important a role as our authors – without readers we would lack purpose and our goals would be left unfulfilled.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we will seek to “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom,” that we may be “instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for [us] to understand” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:77-78).

Where did you get the name "The Sign of Jonas," and what does it mean?
The name comes from an incident recorded in the gospels in of New Testament. At this time in history Jesus was in northern Israel, around 100 miles from the city of Jerusalem.  He was ministering to the people in lower Galilee.  This was the area and time where Jesus fed the 5,000, walked on the Sea of Galilee, taught the Bread of Life sermon, healed various people, and fed the four thousand. 
It is at this point that Jesus arrives on the coasts of Magdala or Magadan.  This city was on the south western coast of the Sea of Galilee near the mount of Arbel.  It was a city famed for fishing; the literal translation of Magdala meaning "Tower of Fish."  It is probably most famous for being  the hometown of Mary of Magdalene, a woman who Christ had saved from a demonized life.  
Christ’s reputation had spread throughout Galilee and as he began to minister in the city the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the Jewish ecclesiastical leader of time, united despite some conflicting interpretations of the Law and approached Jesus to trap him, and to prove him a false prophet.  They approached Jesus and told him that their desire was that he would show unto them a sign that they may know of the truthfulness of his claims. They wished for a physical manifestation of his heavenly commission. After such, they then would believe that he was who he said he was.
Christ answered them saying:
“When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring, O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.”
(KJV Holy Bible - Matthew 16:2-4, emphasis added)

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of the day for seeking for a physical sign of the truth of the prophets and their messages. He told them that the only sign that was to be given was the sign of Jonas. So who was, and what is the sign of Jonas?
Jonas is the Greek name for the Hebrew name Jonah whose story is found in the Christian Old Testament book of Jonah.  Jonas was a man from Gath-hepher less then a days walk from Magdala, he lived during the 8th century BC and was called as a prophet to the city of Nineveh, which was a historical enemy to Israel. Jonas was not too enthused about his calling so he decided to, in effect, run from his calling and left Israel on a ship to Tarshish (in modern day Spain, or what is alternately thought to be Turkey).
Shortly into the trip, a tempest came upon the boat. The occupants thought it was divine punishment from God, and that someone in the ship had displeased God. Eventually it was known that the perpetrator was Jonas, who came forth admitting that it was he who had upset God, and told them to cast him overboard thereby saving the occupants of the ship. He was thrown over and eaten by a fish.  While he was in the fish he repented and after three days, was consequently spat out onto dry land. At this point Jonas went to preach to Nineveh.
Christ's reference to this event and a future related sign can be seen as a foreshadowing of the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ was eventually crucified and laid in a tomb for the space of three days, after which he was resurrected into new life.  This event is the typified, climatic event of the overall Atonement of God and man by and through Jesus Christ.  Through this final event God and men are reconciled and have the ability to coexist together in amity.  The sign of Jonas can be interpreted as the Atonement itself, which Christ says is the only sign that will be given.
In relationship to this blog it is referring to the fact that although it is academic and may be dealing with physical facts, we cannot rely on any of these things to believe in Christ. What we do have is our testimony of the only sign which he gave us to know him by, The Sign of Jonas, the Atonement, breaking the chains of physical and spiritual death.
Jesus demonstrates this later in that same chapter as he inquired of apostles asking:
"Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say aye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
(KJV Holy Bible - Matthew 16:13-18 Emphasis added)

Constantly we are bombarded with like demands as were given Jesus of old.  “Why do we need a prophet today when we have the old prophets?”, “If the prophets today are true, show us a sign and we will believe”, “If the Book of Mormon is true where is the evidence of it?”, “The Bible says this, which proves you wrong”.  There will never be an end to questions or those who ask them in malicious desire to disprove, tear down, and destroy, seeking to justify their own faith and pride rather than build up others. The world has not much changed in 2000 years, and Christ's response says it best when answering these type of malicious questions:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.”
(KJV Holy Bible - Matthew 23:29-32)

There is no hope in finding the truthfulness of this gospel through any other source than the source itself; God. It is not to be found in archaeology, in logic, in philosophy, or in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but in the still small voice of the Holy Ghost in the cavity of your own heart.
 The gospel is true and will go forth, no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

The Sign of Jonas Team