Don’t take on the USS Montana, unless…

I ran across this YouTube video the other day, and just loved it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvjQPHDu5xE]

It makes me wonder at how often we blind ourselves to advice and promptings which would otherwise ensure our own spiritual safety.  Sometimes it’s arrogance, sometimes it’s tradition, sometimes it’s simply that we aren’t paying enough attention.

Rusty

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Global Religious Trends (Are we less religious)

On Friday, I posted about an article I found that suggested that intelligent people are less likely to believe in God.  With all the comments I received, it got me wondering about religious trends in general.  While none of this is conclusive, it is, however, interesting.

Using Google’s search trends analyzer, I found that search trends for religious words were generally down accross the board.  In other words, fewer people are searching on these words today than there were in 2004 (as far back as these trends go).  What’s more, all this in the context of an ever-increasing trend toward online usage.  In short far more people are online today than in 2004, usage and familiarity with search engines has climbed in that time, broadband and internet access in general has increased, yet fewer people are searching on religious terms.

Here’s what I found (more below the charts)…

Search traffic for the term “Christian

For the term “Christianity

For the term “Religion

For the term “God

For the term “Mormon

Searches for the term Faith, Church, Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, and LDS were all down in general as well, some more than others (clearly there are myriad other search terms to look at – feel free to pick your own and peruse at will at http://trends.google.com).

Could this indicate a reduced global interest in religion in general?  Could it be another sign that as society evolves intellectually and scientifically, they push God away in general – trusting more in themselves and their own knowledge?

One possible alternative explination, is that churches in general have been slow to embrace the new medium and build up a suitable online offering.  In short, if pickin’s are slim, and search results find little of value, people will stop searching.  But is that just the optimist in me?  What do you think this means?

Rusty

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Ongofu on Twitter!

For those of you who don’t know what twitter is – it’s a micro-blogging platform.  Whereas with a blog you post fewer, but longer articles, on Twitter you post a lot more frequent (and vastly smaller) ideas, thoughts, and ramblings throughout the day.  Each “post” in twitter is called a “tweet”.  Cute eh?

In any event, just like you can subscribe to blog updates, you can “follow” someone on twitter.  They even have tools where you can get TXT updates sent to your mobile phone (only recommended if you pay for unlimited TXT messaging).

In any event, while there are lots of “older” twitter users, Twitter really has a vast youth crowd, so this really helps me expand my reach out to a younger audience.  If you’ve followed me very long, you’ll know that I’m constantly looking for ways to expand my reach and touch more lives.

But more importantly, because with a blog I feel that more than two posts a day is simply too much (please let me know if you disagree), I end up NOT talking about so many things.  I only end up picking those few items I really feel necessary to explore more fully.  But Twitter enables me to share thoughts on all those smaller, less “robust”, but often just as meaningful things throughout the day.

In any event, if you’re interested in following me on twitter – simply click here:  http://twitter.com/rustysblog.

Of course, you can also subscribe to an RSS feed to read all tweets in your favorite RSS reader.

What’s more, I’ve built a page (here) where we can discuss any particular tweet you would like to comment on.  Simply type the tweet into your comment followed by any remarks you’d like to add.  That way we know which tweet you’re talking about.

Either way, this’ll be fun.

Rusty

Symbolism in Nephi’s journey to the promised land

The story of Nephi’s journey to the Promised Land is well known and widely told amongst Mormons.  It’s a beautiful and compelling story, rife with principles and drenched in doctrine.   But I sometimes wonder if we overlook many of the most meaningful and marvelous symbolic lessons within it.  Here I’d hope to explore at least a few of these, and invite you to share with us those that I’ve missed by adding your own comments.

If you’re familiar with the story, feel free to skip ahead to the first symbol, otherwise, perhaps you’d enjoy a brief refresher of what happened more than 2600 years ago (view the illustration).

 

Early in The Book of Mormon we find the story of the prophet Lehi, who was commanded to take his family and leave Jerusalem around 600 B.C.

After departing into the wilderness with little more than their tents and a few supplies, and after experiencing untold trials, the family of Lehi eventually made it to the seashore.  There, Nephi, a righteous son of Lehi, was commanded by the Lord to build a ship.  This ship was to carry them across the ocean to a promised land that had been prepared for them, a land where they would enjoy freedom and prosperity.

Nephi, who of course had never built a ship, least of all one that could sail across the ocean, didn’t doubt or complain.  Rather, he simply inquired “Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship…”

The Lord told Nephi where to go, and showed him how to construct the ship, using “curious workmanship”.

Once complete, and likely with much anticipation, Nephi and his family went into the ship, and launched into the sea.  They were carried before the wind for many days, after which many of them began to “rejoice”.  But they got carried away, and Nephi, fearing that the Lord would be angry, tried to persuade them back to humility and righteousness.

His two older brothers, Laman and Lemuel, weren’t keen on their younger brother acting as their ruler, so they took and bound him, and treated him “with much harshness”.  Upon so doing, the Lord, angry at their wickedness, caused the Liahona (a compass he’d provided them in the wilderness, and that worked upon their righteousness) to stop working.  A great storm arose, and they were driven back for four full days.

During all this time, Nephi remained bound, and in much pain.  On that fourth, and final day, when the tempest became “exceedingly sore”, Laman and Lemuel thought they would die, and so released Nephi and begged his forgiveness.  Nephi, in spite of his swollen and sore limbs, forgave them and did not complain about his afflictions, but rather worshiped the Lord and prayed for assistance.

The tempest died, Nephi took the compass, which resumed working, and after “many days” of travel, they landed upon the promised land (the American Continent), where they were blessed in abundance.

 

To Nephi the Lord said “And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land, and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.”

Always has the Lord blessed the lives of the righteous, and prepared for them a place or circumstance of similar abundance.  As we work to keep the commandments of God, and endeavor to be as obedient, faithful, and enduring as Nephi, so too will the Lord prepare for us a “land of promise”.

 

Nephi’s ship, can appropriately symbolize our own lives.  Just as the Lord commanded Nephi to build a ship, strong, and secure enough to carry his family to the Promised Land, so too has he commanded us to build our own lives, and make them strong enough to carry ourselves, and even our families to our own “promised land”.

What’s more, of the ship Nephi observed:  “Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me…” (1 Nephi 18:2).  So too, have we been commanded to live, not as the world liveth, but as God lives, to build our lives not after the manner of men, but after the manner of god.

Only then, will we find our lives a vessel sufficiently capable to weather the storms of life, to provide shelter for those we love, and that will allow us to endure to end.

 

Not after the manner of men

When the Lord told Nephi to build the ship, not only was it after a fashion completely foreign to him, but it was a work that he’d never before done.  But never did he complain, never did he doubt, rather always he simply went forward with faith.

Many times in our lives we may be asked by the Lord to do things that we have not before done, or that may seem impossible.  But our faith should be in God, for with God, all things are possible. 

Of this, Nephi said “If god had commanded me to do all things I could do them.  If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done. Now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?”

We must always remember, when seemingly overburdened, or overwhelmed by the requirements set before us, that while relying solely on our own native capacity our task may be impossible, but when we involve the Lord in our lives, we augment our capacity with his, and can do anything.

Seek the Lord often

It is also enlightening that Nephi includes “I did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things”.

How often then do we seek out the Lord, how often do we find ourselves on the “mount”, or in the temple, or seeking the Lord in other holy places?  Doing so is a critical component of receiving the necessary inspiration to guide us as we build our own ships.  It is true, that as we seek the Lord he will show, even unto us, great things.

Line upon line

It should also be noted, that while Nephi knew what he was building, he was not given it all at once.  He said “And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship”. 

How often we want to know it all, to see the end from the beginning, but generally it is simply not so.  Instead we are given line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.  We are expected to build our lives step by step, strengthened by the exercise of faith and our ongoing reliance upon continued revelation and intervention from the Lord.

As Nephi, we too must seek the Lord often, and not shun aspects of our lives that push us out of our comfort zone.  For again, we’re building the ship, our lives, after the manner of God, according to his vision, and not our own – a principle so beautifully portrayed in the famous poem “Life Sculptor” by George Washington Doane.

 

The compass provided by the Lord to Lehi and his family clearly represents the spirit of God, the companionship of the Holy Ghost.  It’s profound and vital guidance hinging upon our own righteousness, humility, and willingness to obey.  Often we may find ourselves directionless, wondering which way to turn, with feelings of isolation and helplessness.  But it doesn’t have to be so.

We too have been provided a spiritual compass, but its value is only as good as the heed we give it.  When we attempt to steer our own lives, on our own course, and look not for the directions from the Lord, we too may find ourselves lost, alone, and facing the fierce winds of the world.

But by repenting of our sins, turning back to God, and asking for his help, we’ll find our course correcting itself as the spirit takes hold of the reigns of our life.  The seas of the world seem calmer when we sail with God, in truth, the very wind that so previously tortured our existence, becomes the pushing power that drives us forward.  But only when we remember God, and include him in our lives.

 

At times, we may find ourselves in the position of Nephi, endeavoring to teach, but finding ourselves regularly rejected, or even persecuted.  But as with Nephi, we must never let fear of failure or fear of man, prevent us from proclaiming the gospel, and standing up for that which is right.

And in those times when, alas, even confronted by our fiercest adversaries, may we too be as forgiving as Nephi, too focused on an eternal perspective to let the fleeting actions of others long win our attention.

 

Perhaps even more often we find ourselves in the position of Laman and Lemuel.  There are inspired leaders, such as Nephi, all around us.  These leaders seek to guide us, they care for our souls and seek our welfare.  But often their counsel comes sharply, is unwelcome, or at least unexpected.  Often, just as Laman and Lemuel, we shun that counsel, whether in anger or not, and by so doing, bind those leaders, at least symbolically, from their ability to help us.  Not with physical cords, but with mental, emotional, and spiritual deafness.  By turning a blind eye, and a deaf ear to their inspired guidance, we bind them just as Nephi.

When we do this, we are left unto ourselves, to face the world alone, and we find the wind against us gaining strength, with the seas and troubles of life working against us.

We must not be like Laman and Lemuel of whom Nephi proclaimed “And there was nothing save it were the power of God, which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts”.

We must elect to be humble, before we’re compelled to be humble.  Life is too good, too sweet, too rich for us to waste our time with the self-inflicted burdens that only come from “going it alone”.  Instead, may we embrace the Lord, and let his strength be our own, that our lives might be lived in righteousness, and that we too, may find ourselves with our families, safe in a Land of Promise.

Rusty

P.S.  To read or listen to the full story of Nephi’s marvelous journey online, click here.

What religion can learn from science

Appetite.  That’s what seems so prevalent in the world of science and so often lacking in religion, the appetite to constantly learn more, to not be satisfied with what we have, to continuously search, ponder, and strive to increase our knowledge and understanding.

It’s clearly not always the case- there are true spiritual giants among us, who set the example for the rest of us.  But by in large, it seems that more often than not, religion is often taken for granted, as though it’s a side-note to our lives.  As though it’s something that we think about on Sunday, or at Christmas and Easter, and not something that constantly occupies our minds, as we yearn for more.

But the world of science is constantly asking questions, trying to understand why, trying to get to the fundamental principles that lie behind the things that they observe.  They experiment, observe, take notes, draw conclusions, and then test those conclusions with more experiments. 

How often do we experiment upon the word of God?  How often do we take those experiments so seriously that we make a study of them?  How often do we strive to test our knowledge, and how unquenchable is our desire to further our understanding?

It’s so easy to let the urgent aspects of our life dominate our thoughts and monopolize our time, as the more important and everlasting side of us, that spiritual side, suffers the pains of disuse and apathy.

But we must learn, we must engage ourselves, we must seek learning, we must grow in knowledge and understanding.  Only then, will we be truly ready for the trials of life, and ready to stand firm amidst the buffetings, and the fiery darts of the adversary.  Only then shall our confidence wax strong in the presence of God, and shall the doctrines of the priesthood distill upon our souls as the dew from heaven.  Only then shall our foundation be so firm as to withstand the cunning craftiness of the adversary as he seeks to shake us from our testimony.

Joseph Smith once said “Thy mind, oh man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into, and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanses of eternity.  Thou must commune with God… None but fools will trifle with the souls of man”.

Truth is light, and if it be in you it shall abound, and if your eye be single to the Glory of god your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.  (D&C 88:67)  What a glorious promise. 

As leaders, as parents, as friends, and as individuals, let us all find ourselves a bit more engrossed in the gospel of Christ, and a bit more anxiously engaged in our study.

Rusty

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What do mormons believe – Part 5

(Disclaimer: These views are all based on my knowledge and interpretation as an active Latter Day Saint, or “Mormon”, only the actual article of faith I list should be considered “official”.  Still, I try to be accurate and do my homework 😉

We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

5th Article of Faith

Core to Mormon Doctrine is the notion of divine authority, the priesthood of God.  For something to be binding in heaven it must be done by the proper authority.  No man can simply declare himself an authority and conduct the eternally binding business of the Lord on the earth.  A man cannot simply aspire to an office, calling, or ministry, or declare any authority of himself or through his education or accomplishments (“And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that was called of God, as was Aaron” Hebrews 5:4)

But rather we believe that a man must be called of God by divine inspiration and revelation by those who are in authority, and then given the keys, or the rights, to administer in specific and limited ways.

So, you might ask, wherein do “those who are in authority” claim their authority?  The answer is the same now as it was in the days of Christ – from the Lord.  For the priesthood and the keys to administer thereof must be passed directly, by the laying on of hands, in an unbroken chain.

When Christ was crucified, there began a great apostasy, where truth diminished, the gospel became polluted with the teachings man, and the rights of the priesthood were removed from the earth, for those who held it were killed, or died.  Because of that great falling away, it became crucial for a complete restoration, not only of truth, but of authority, for the work of God must continue today as it did in Christ’s time (“he is the same yesterday, today, and forever” Hebrews 13:8). 

So Mormons believe that there was a great restoration, where the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, along with the priesthood authority to administer the gospel and the affairs of the church were brought back to the earth in their totality, through the prophet Joseph Smith.  And that since that time, those keys have been passed in an unbroken chain, by the laying on of hands, down through the generations to our present day, at all times overseen by a prophet of God, just as in times of old (“for surely the Lord God will do nothing except he reveal his secret to his servants, the prophets” Amos 3:7).

What’s even more interesting is that in practice, it creates a dynamic within the church that is indeed very unique.

For since all who serve are called of God, and don’t “graduate” or “earn” a position, you have no idea who might be called, or when.  Consequently, the people that lead the church today, even the very apostles and prophet, all come from different walks of life.  None of them aspired to their position.  And since the general “clergy” of the church are unpaid (very unique indeed), they all continue to work, serving the Lord in their various capacities in an entirely volunteer manner.

None of these are professional “clergymen”, but rather ordinary people, called to do extraordinary things and make extraordinary sacrifices, enabled and empowered by the extraordinary power and priesthood of God.  Because he whom the Lord calls, he qualifies.  Through divine assistance, they’re able to conduct the Lords work on the earth, far beyond what would is befitting their native capacities.

How wonderful it is to know that we are led by men who have been called of God, chosen and called up to do his work, and who are given the authority and rights to function in ways that make the ordinances for our salvation official, binding, and eternal.

Rusty

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

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Lives of great men

Lives of great men

I didn’t mention in my last post, the reference made to a poem as a tribute to President Hinckley.  I believe it was President Monson who quoted it, and in quoting it, he only mentioned a single stanza (noted by the stars below) probably because of time constraints. 

It was a poem I memorized in college as a “guide to life”, and I think it typifies the prophet completely.  It covers his “put on your shoes and go to work” style attitude, his passion for life and service, his tireless drive to be better and do more, and his commitment to the other “Be’s” he’s become so well known for.

Note the stanza’s about a heart that’s stout and brave – was there ever a braver, stouter heart than that of President Gordon B. Hinckley?  And finally (‘cause you can read it yourself and draw your own connections), I’ll comment on the “Be a hero in the strife”.  He had become nothing short of a Hero amongst the saints, what else could have prompted so many Latter Day Saint youth to spontaneously decide, through an explosion of text messages, to pay public tribute to their prophet through their scholl attire the day following his death.  He will be well missed.

A Psalm of Life
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream,
for the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, –act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

*Lives of great men all remind us
*We can make our lives sublime,
*And, departing, leave behind us
*Footprints on the sands of time.

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Note:  This is just from memory, and so is subject to slight inaccuracies or errors in formatting from the original.

Rusty

Introducing TimeTube

I don’t know if you’re a big YouTube fan or not, but a fascinating way to browse YouTube is through TimeTube.  TimeTube lets you put in a key word (like “Mormon”) and up pops a timeline of all videos submitted that use that keyword.  You can drill down by double clicking anywhere in the timeline, or by using the zoom feature at the top.  You can play around with other features as well, you can even set up an account for yourself and create your own timeline (I’m creating one for my Blog).  But if you follow the link below you can check it out.  It will be interesting to watch, over time, the increase in the number of YouTube posts about Mormonism, particularly since the recent encouragement for Mormon members to speak up online.

http://www.dipity.com/user/timetube/timeline/YouTube_Mormon?msg=askperm_asked

Or, if you’d like to just build a TubeLine of your own, go here:  http://www.dipity.com/mashups/timetube 

I hope you enjoy it.

Rusty

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Writing on an open canon, line upon line

One of the foundational principles taught in scripture is that we are given “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little”, but many overlook the magnificent implications of this profound principle.

The unstated, but astoundingly clear premise of this principle is simply “what I have given you, is not all I have to give” and “what I have taught you, is not all I have to teach”, followed with a resounding and exhilarating “…there’s more”.

What beautiful and compelling doctrine, for at its heart is the promise of continued revelation, and the assurance that what he has already taught us, will be added upon.

That refreshing realization revitalizes our search for truth and renews our need for a religion whose philosophy embraces the ideals of ongoing communication from God.

For God has always communicated with Man, through prophets, an ancient and historically proven  pattern.  And as he does so, they record his words, as they did in Ancient Isreal which brought us the Bible.

And within the Bible Christ himself declared that he had other sheep that should hear his voice, other people to visit and teach.   Those too heard his voice, and recorded his words, bringing us the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, and another witness that God gives man line upon line, precept upon precept.

And finally, the Lord restored his pattern of prophets to the earth, through Joseph Smith, thus renewing the ongoing availability of prophetic guidance and instruction to the true followers of Christ, that our divinely outlined “line upon line” instruction may be endlessly fed by inspired leaders of God.

That’s the miracle of Mormonism, wholeheartedly embracing the principle of progression, line upon line, precept upon precept, ever looking for that next line, that next precept, rather than the devestatign proclamation that “we’ve had enough”.

Rusty

P.S.  Click here “Discussing an open canon” for further reflection and discussion on the subject.  See also a video of Jeffrey R. Holland discussing an open cannon on “Gods words never cease

Gratitude, the key to righteous desire

Throughout my study of the scriptures, I often find recurring themes.  One of those is the use of gratitude to instill righteous desire.

One clear instance of this within the Book of Mormon is in the opening verses of 2 Nephi.  It’s around 575 BC, and Lehi and his family had just arrived in the Promised Land.

In the preceding chapters, Nephi, who had found his two older and very rebellions brothers – Laman and Lemuel – uncharacteristically open minded, had therefore been teaching them from the Book of Moses, and expounding upon the doctrine of Isaiah. 

Once he had finished, his father Lehi then wanted to speak to them.  I find it interesting to see the approach of this prophet as he endeavored to instill upon his sons some righteous desire.

If you read the first several verses (here), you’ll find that he simply lists out all the multitude of blessings they’d received.   He mentions how they were spared in spite of their rebellion on their trip over the sea, their obtaining a Promised Land, their being saved from the destruction of Jerusalem, etc.  And then he goes on to prophesy great things about America.

Additionally, within the scriptures, we often see this principle in action with those who have recently had poignant experiences with the spirit, personal manifestations, visions, etc. and who are subsequently filled with gratitude which leads to profound desire to do the works of righteousness.

When you recognize the hand of the Lord in your life, and you realize how much you’ve been given, the natural response is loyalty and the desire to do better, to “pay back”.  Corporations use this all the time to build employee loyalty.  Good leaders in any organization know how to leverage this principle in macro and micro scales.

So what is the practical application of this principle?

First, it speaks of the importance of recommitting ourselves to acknowledging the Lord in our lives.  If you want to ensure that you start each day with a healthy dose of righteous desire, try making a habit of counting your blessings.  Just try it, it really works.  Tomorrow on your drive to work, turn off the radio and just try thinking of all that you’ve been given.  Let your mind sweep through all aspects of your life, large and small.  You’ll find yourself amazed at what it does to you.

Secondly, this principle can be put to use by any leader, whether you lead a team, a corporation, or a family.  There are those within your sphere of influence that you can have a legitimate impact on simply by helping them appreciate the hand of the Lord in their lives.  Help them count their blessings.

Be the one to help them feel gratitude to the Lord, and you’ll be an instrument for righteousness in His hands, and you’ll find that all of you were enormously enriched by the endeavor.

Rusty

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An eternal perspective – what role will you play?

We are encompassed about by things of no eternal consequence, but which ceaselessly fill our lives, occupy our thoughts, and consume our time… the vain aspirations of man and the constant ongoing minutia of daily life.

While all around us wages a war.  A war that is extended from before the foundations of this world;  a war over the souls of the children of men.

A battle, the individual results of which will determine the fates beings all, whether it is to their everlasting salvation unto eternal progression, or unto eternal damnation.

Surely we must live, and the demands of daily life must be met, but we must also bring ourselves to see that behind all these frivolities lays a far greater purpose, one with everlasting ramifications. 

We must be able to look through this husk of mortal life and witness the kernels of eternity, the potential that lies within the souls of the children of God.

Too much is at stake for us to take our task lightly. 

You must pause, witness the world around you, and ask yourself, what role you will play.

Will you be one who stands up to make a difference?  Will you be one who puts on the armor of god in defense of the truth, to battle the adversary despite the cost?  Or will you sit idly by and let the cards fall where they may?

What role will you play? 

May we rise together, and may we find each other on the side of truth, anxiously engaged in this great eternal battle, for none but fools will trifle with the souls of men.

Rusty

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What do Mormons believe, part 6

(Disclaimer: These views are all based on my knowledge and interpretation as an active Latter Day Saint, or “Mormon”, only the actual article of faith I list should be considered “official”.  Still, I try to be accurate and do my homework 😉

We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

6th Article of Faith

The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is organized according to revelation, with leaders that are called of God and not of man and who hold the authority of the Holy Priesthood, and is based on the same structure that Christ established himself on the earth. 

Hebrews 5:4 (and numerous references in the Book of Mormon) help us understand that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   Throughout life we’re constantly bombarded with the challenge of discerning truth and right.  Those of you who are reading this post who are not Mormon face a similar challenge, to determine for yourself if the teachings of Mormonism are true (which you can know through personal revelation – James 1:5, Moroni 10:4). 

But how refreshing it is when we find instances, such as this, where the establishment of His church today is the same as it was in times past.  Seeing the same template of organization is one of the easiest ways to recognize His church.  For “by their fruits, ye shall know them”.  How is that so?  Because the things that they know, do, and believe, shall be recognizable as what He taught and did on the earth.

And aside from the refreshing sameness of church structure, how invigorating it is to know that at the head of His church today, just as in times of old, we are guided by a holy prophet, called of God, who holds all the necessary keys and authority of the priesthood to officiate in the church of God and all the necessary ordinances required for us to reach our exaltation.

The belief in a true and living prophet is very unique to Mormonism.  For we believe that God truly is the same today as he was yesterday, that today, just as yesterday, he works through prophets.  “Surely the Lord God will do nothing save he reveals his secrets to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).  These prophets play a crucial role today, as they did in times past, in teaching and testifying of the Savior and his gospel, and in warning us of those timely issues that we face, that we might, at all times, be prepared.

How wonderful it is that this prophet, the apostles, and other church leaders were called of God, and did not aspire, nor ever seek for their positions, but rather agreed to give up their lives to serve the Lord, when they were asked.  I find great inspiration in the organization of the church, and enjoy the distinctive flavor of divinity in its structure and workings.

Rusty

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

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Are Mormons Christian? What truly defines a Christian?

This post is a continuation of the series “Are Mormons Christian“.

In the comments on the post “Are Mormons Christian? Do doctrinal difference define us“, the Pondering Pastor and I began a most crucial discussion that strikes at the very heart of this matter.

The post was about the importance of having a commonality of definitions of terms for accurate communication.  How differences in belief do not disqualify someone from the definition of Christianity, since in truth, we all differ to some varying degree. 

If our doctrine differs by degrees, is it therefore possible to be 50% Christian, or 80%, depending on how greatly your doctrine departs from what is orthodox?  And is orthodoxy truly the best measure?  Wasn’t Christ himself unorthodox in his day?  How about Luther?

So to say to one “you’re not a Christian”, simply because their beliefs diverge from your own, is a definition that does us no good.

But then what is a good definition?  If the exact alignment of the details of our doctrine cannot qualify us as Christian, what can?  What is fair?  What is the righteous way to judge?

Fortunately, that answer has already been given.  Surely the Lord knew that so many varying beliefs would sprout up, and as such, gave us the mechanism with which we may judge.

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:20)

That is how you know a Christian.  Not by what they say they believe, but by what they demonstrate of their beliefs through their actions.

For as Matthew continues “…not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”  (Matthew 7:21)

In that chapter the Lord clearly teaches that men do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles.  If you’re finding grapes, you’re not in a thorn bush, but a vineyard.   “…neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit”, but a “good tree bringeth forth good fruit”.  Hence, by their fruits ye shall know them.

Much can be discussed about doctrine.  What you believe, how you interpret scripture, what manner of baptism you subscribe to, etc.  But those don’t define a Christian.  Being Christ-like is what makes a Christian. 

For actions are the evidence of faith.   Remember, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20)

And as we read in John “though ye believe not me, believe the works:  that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. (John 10:38)”

That is the one true, fair, and righteous way to define a Christian.  By their works, not their talk.  “I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:18).

Rusty