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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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Two lessons from Michael Phelps

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The underestimated power of faith

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Faith fitness – day 1 (Testimony)

This post is part of a series called Faith Fitness – increasing our capacity to believe.  Don’t forget to see the intro, part 1 (Testimony), part 2 (Optimism), and part 3 (Hope).

Fantastic.  You’ve all joined me again.  That must mean you’re ready to improve the fitness of your faith and increase your capacity to believe.

From now on, let us refer to ourselves as FAITH CADETS.  Oh, okay, so that’s a bit much…

Still, I want to emphasize the importance of becoming lifelong students of faith.  Faith is a foundational principle.  Our ability to understand, accept, and live accountably for the deeper principles of exaltation is directly proportional to the soundness of our faith.

Like a muscle, your faith will either grow, or atrophy depending on how much you exercise it.  When our faith falls into disuse, it too grows weaker.  That’s the unavoidable law of entropy.  Those of the strongest faith are those who use it regularly, those who make it a part of their daily lives, and not just some vague principle taught in Sunday school.   

It is up to us to take faith from principle… to practice.

Before we begin today’s exercise, we need understand an important part of faith – that faith is founded upon testimony of truth.  Faith not founded on pure doctrine is merely self-disillusionment.

So what pure doctrine must we know to exercise faith?  I propose at LEAST the following.

1. Believe in God

In order for you to exercise faith, and believe in anything (to the point where you can actually affect change, simply through belief), you must first believe in God. 

I’m not talking about a flippant “yeah, I think God is real, and I accept it because it’s been told to me so many times”.  I’m talking about a pure and solid testimony that God lives.  You have to know that at the core of your being.  You have to have sought Him out and felt His love.  You need to accept unequivocally that HE IS REAL.

This is the first and foremost step in building your capacity to believe.  No other step can be achieved successfully without this.  Even if your personal relationship with him is still young and underdeveloped, that’s okay; it will grow as you complete these exercises.

2. Believe that you are a child of God

As a child of God, He loves you.  He is interested in your success, he is omnicaring as much as he is omniscient and omnipotent, and He is anxious to help you.

It means you are of royal birth… divinity is your heritage.  It’s your nature.  You are of infinite worth.  Once you realize that you are an actual son or daughter of God, your whole bodies shall be filled with a natural self-confidence, and you’ll have a sure acceptance that you can do or be anything.  For with God, nothing is impossible.  So too with you, in partnership with Him as your Father, is nothing impossible.

You have to believe that with His help, you are capable of works far beyond that of your native capacity.

3. Perspective on weakness

For you to exercise faith fully, you must understand your own limitations, and their perspective.  Our weaknesses are not some symbolic representation of our own ineptitude.  They’re gifts from God.  God said “I give unto men weakness that they might learn to know me”.  We’ve each been given our own set of “building blocks“, and it’s up to use to learn to use (and overcome) what we’ve been given.

But we should not fall victim to the belief that we are failures, just because we have weaknesses.  We have to abandon our self-imposed limitations, those beliefs we harbor against ourselves that obstruct our progress in life. 

This perspective is crucial feeling the full effects of the testimony of God, and our relationship to Him.

As these basic beliefs become indelibly imprinted in the foundation of your soul, they will begin to pervade your subconsciousness.  Hope will flow through you and optimism will envelope you.  Faith will naturally follow.

Today’s exercise…. Make sure you have a testimony of these three core things.  A solid testimony.  And don’t forget to stretch.  For afterall, can any of us really say that we cannot better understand our relationship with god?  We must stretch ourselves, push your capacity, and build this foundation.

That will prepare you for tomorrow.

Rusty

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There must be opposition in all things.

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Do you want a donut? A lesson on the atonement.

The following story came to me in email today.  If you happen to know who originally wrote it, please let me know so I can give them credit.  Until then, thanks… somebody.

Do you want a donut?

There was a boy by the name of Steve who was attending Seminary in Utah. In this Seminary classes are held during school hours. Brother Christianson taught Seminary at this particular school. He had an open-door policy and would take in any student that had been thrown out of another class as long as they would abide by his rules. Steve had been kicked out of his sixth period and no other teacher wanted him, so he went into Brother Christianson’s Seminary class.
 
 Steve was told that he could not be late, so he arrived just seconds before the bell rang and he would sit in the very back of the room. He would also be the first to leave after the class was over.
 
 One day, Brother Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. After class, Bro.
 Christianson pulled Steve aside and said, ‘You think you’re pretty tough, don’t you?’
 
 Steve’s answer was, ‘Yeah, I do.’
 
 Then Brother Christianson asked, ‘How many push-ups can you do?’
 
 Steve said, ‘I do about 200 every night.’
 
 ‘200? That’s pretty good, Steve,’ Brother Christianson said. ‘Do you think you could do 300?’
 
 Steve replied, ‘I don’t know… I’ve never done 300 at a time.’
 
 ‘Do you think you could?’ Again asked Brother Christianson.
 
 ‘Well, I can try,’ said Steve.
 
 ‘Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I need you to do 300 in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it,’ Brother Christianson said. Steve said, ‘Well… I think I can… yeah, I can do it.’
 
 Brother Christianson said, ‘Good! I need you to do this on Friday.’
 
 Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the ro om. When class started, Brother Christianson pulled out a big box of donuts. Now these weren’t the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited-it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend.
 
 Bro. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, ‘Cynthia, do you want a donut?’
 
 Cynthia said, ‘Yes.’
 
 Bro. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, ‘Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?’
 
 Steve said, ‘Sure,’ and jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Bro. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.
 
 Bro. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, ‘Joe do you want a donut?’
 
 Joe said, ‘Yes.’ Bro. Christianson asked, ‘Steve would you do ten push- ups so Joe can have a donut?’ Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut.
 
 And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten pushups for every person before they got their donut. And down the second aisle, till Bro. Christianson came to Scott.
 
 Scott was captain of the football team and center of the basketball team. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship. Then Bro. Christianson asked, ‘Scott do you want a donut?’
 
 Scott’s reply was, ‘Well, can I do my own pushups?’
 
 Bro. Christianson said, ‘No, Steve has to do them.’
 
 Then Scott said, ‘Well, I don’t want one then.’
 
 Bro. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, ‘Steve, would you do ten pushups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?’
 
 Steve started to do ten pushups. Scott said, ‘HEY! I said I didn’t want one!’
 < BR> Bro. Christianson said, ‘Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.’ And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.
 
 Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow. Bro. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry.
 
 Bro. Christianson asked Jenny, ‘Jenny, do you want a donut?’
 
 Jenny said, ‘No.’
 
 Then Bro. Christianson asked Steve, ‘Steve, would you do ten pushups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?’ Steve did ten, Jenny got a donut.
 
 By now, the students were beginning to say ‘No’ and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks. Steve was also having to really put forth a lot of eff ort to get these pushups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.
 
 Bro. Christianson asked Robert to watch Steve to make sure he did ten pushups in a set because he couldn’t bear to watch all of Steve’s work for all of those uneaten donuts. So Robert began to watch Steve closely. Bro. Christianson started down the fourth row.
 
 During his class, however, some students had wandered in and sat along the heaters along the sides of the room. When Bro. Christianson realized this; he did a quick count and saw 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.
 
 Bro. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.
 
 Steve asked Bro. Christianson, ‘Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?’
 
 Bro. Christianson thought for a moment, ‘Well, they’re your pushups. You can do them any way that you want.’ And Bro. Christianson went on.
 
 A few moments later, Jason came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled, ‘NO! Don’t come in! Stay out!’
 
 Jason didn’t know what was going on. Steve picked up his head and said, ‘No, let him come.’
 
 Bro. Christianson said, ‘You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten pushups for him.’
 
 Steve said, ‘Yes, let him come in.’
 
 Bro. Christianson said, ‘Okay, I’ll let you get Jason’s out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?’
 
 ‘Yes.’
 
 ‘Steve, will you do ten pushups so that Jason can have a donut?’ Steve did ten pushups very slowly an d with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.
 
 Bro. Christianson finished the fourth row, then started on those seated on the heaters. Steve’s arms were now shaking with each pushup in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. Sweat was dropping off of his face and, by this time, there was not a dry eye in the room.
 
 The very last two girls in the room were cheerleaders and very popular. Bro. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, ‘Linda, do you want a doughnut?
 
 Linda said, very sadly, ‘No, thank you.’
 
 Bro. Christianson asked Steve, ‘Steve, would you do ten pushups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?’
 
 Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow pushups for Linda. Then Bro. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. ‘Susan, do you want a donut?’
 
 Susan, with tears flowing down her face, asked , ‘Bro. Christianson , can I help him?’
 
 Bro. Christianson, with tears of his own, said, ‘No, he has to do it alone, Steve, would you do ten pushups so Susan can have a donut?’
 
 As Steve very slowly finished his last pushup, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 pushups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.
 
 Brother Christianson turned to the room and said. ‘And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, plead to the Father, ‘Into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, he collapsed on the cross and died. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.’ .
 
 When everyone in the classroom heard what the teacher meant by it and realized everything. Steve smiled on the ground where he laid in his own sweat and began to cry.

(Again, thanks for whoever wrote this)
Rusty

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The cross we bear

The following cartoon sequence came to me in email the other day, and I thought it was worth posting here…  If anyone knows the creator or source of this cartoon, please let me know, so I can give them adequate credit.  Until then, thank you …. Somebody.

cross.jpg

We often complain about the cross we bear, but we forget that it’s preparing us for the chasm ahead that only the Lord can see.

Rusty

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Opportunity is like a bar of soap

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Self-imposed limitations

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The National Spirituality Index

Economic indicators are key measurements that have proven particularly powerful at predicting the performance of the economy.  There’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), unemployment, consumer confidence, S&P 500 stock index, housing starts, home sales, manufacturing, the yield curve, inflation-adjusted monetary supply, orders for capital goods, and more.

But anew indicator, the National Spirituality Index (NSI – which, admittedly I just invented), has already proven far more accurate at predicting our economic future than any of the others. 

If you’re Christian, and believe in the scriptures, then you’ve got ample evidence of repeated economic meltdown following sustained periods of wickedness.  A recurring theme that shows a societies overall economic health is directly proportional to the cumulative level of that societies overall righteousness – their NSI.

As societies become increasingly wicked, they begin to experience all manner of tribulations.  Sustained tribulation begets humility and an acknowledged reliance on the Lord, people repent, turn to God, and “magically” things get better.  It’s happened over and over.

But the turnaround doesn’t take place until the individuals in that society realize that the change has to happen with them – in their own personal lives.  It won’t be fixed by any blanket policy from the government, nor by some $150 billion economic stimulus package (which is money that doesn’t exist anyway – it’s a printing press, merely adding to our already staggering deficit, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has already estimated will jump to $250 billion because of the economy – without the stimulus package).

No, the NSI is nothing more than the sum total of every individual’s PSI (Personal Spirituality Index).  So it’s not until we, as individuals, realize that WE have to change.  It’s always easy to think “I’m not the problem”, but that’s not how the NSI works.  Every individual contributes or detracts from the index, and every weakness we cling to further depresses the index as a whole.

But as individuals begin to focus on changing their own lives, increasing their own spirituality, and staying in tune, can we stay the course of spiritual entropy.

As individuals change, they have a positive impact on those around them (the spiritual equivalent of gravity, which I discuss here).  Soon you get these islands of expanding righteousness, and pockets of perpetuating virtue.

So Ben Bernanke can continue to lower rates (like his predecessor), but we should expect very little effect until the NSI begins to improve.  But it doesn’t start with the whole; it starts with the individual – with you and me.

 Rusty
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Gravity’s lesson on influence (watch your environment)

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Someone who decided to make a difference 2

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A windshield wiper for life

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Phantom Leg Syndrom – repentance and hope

I read an article the other day on CNN about Phantom Leg Syndrome.  It’s something I’d heard of before but never really given much thought to.Phantom Leg Syndrome describes a medical condition where someone who has lost a limb (not necessarily a leg) feels itching, pain, or other sensations in the limb that is no longer there.  It occurs because of neuron stimulation at the point where the limb was severed, and as those signals travel to the brain, they’re interpreted as coming from the missing limb.  The result is an excruciating and unnerving experience because there’s clearly no way to alleviate that itch/pain/sensation.

As I thought about it, I couldn’t help but appreciate the striking similarity there is between this syndrome and one’s moral and spiritual conscience.

Often in life, we succumb to spiritual entropy, we get out of tune, take a wrong turn, or sometimes simply fall flat on our face.  Whatever the cause, a core part of our spiritual and emotional well-being goes missing. 

Sometimes it takes an unbearably long time to realize it, but inevitably, God has built into our souls a mechanism to eventually surface that to our awareness.  Much like the phantom limb syndrome, where neurons deep within the body are pricked and call for attention, our conscience eventually gets pricked and we come to realize something is missing.

Unlike in the instance of a missing limb, the Atonement of Christ has made it possible to replace that crucial component that is missing from our lives.  Repentance, while not always easy, IS always available.

Repentance gives us a spiritual regenerative ability that is unmistakable and undeniable.  The atonement was given to all – if we will but receive it.

But sometimes thinking beyond the pain of the “now” (for those who have found something missing) is impossibly difficult.   You get stuck dwelling upon your past, which tends to result in an ever inhibiting cycle of self-imposed limitations.  We convince ourselves that help is somehow beyond reach.

It’s not.

The Atonement represents an irreplaceable, unmovable, and unchanging ability to become whole again.  Christ performed miracles as he walked the earth, making people whole, all along the way.  His atonement extends that cycle of regeneration today and forever.  His ability to heal today, is no less real or compelling than it was 2,000 years ago.

Rusty

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Faith Fitness – Day 4 (Believe)

This post is part of a series called Faith Fitness – increasing our capacity to believe.  Don’t forget to see the intro, part 1 (Testimony), part 2 (Optimism), and part 3 (Hope).

At long last, we’re moving on to the next step in building our capacity to believe.  We’ve moved now from a testimony on pure principles (step 1 – Testimony), to the ability to see things not for what they are, but what they can be (step 2 – Optimism), to an active level of hope for those things to come to pass (step 3 – Hope), and we’re now ready to take the next step, again, this more active than the last.

If you haven’t truly gone through the first three steps, this step may be very difficult, but either way, I highly encourage you to keep working on those first 3 steps.  Reread them, keep working on them.  Like any exercise, after all, these are not one-time instances of exertion, but ongoing endeavors that must become an active part of our life.

Hebrews 11:1 says that “…faith is the substance of things hoped for…”, or other translations:  “…the assurance of things hoped for…” and “… the evidence of things not seen.”

Faith isn’t some wishy-washy fell-good sensation where we simply wish for something to come true.  It’s “substance”, “evidence”, these words convey something very concrete and real.  The power of faith is perhaps the most powerful principle in the universe.  By faith, all things were created.

If God can work such mighty faith, then surely we, as his spiritual children, can begin to work faith at a much smaller level.

When the Apostles woke the savior, fearing for their lives, he calmed the storm and then gently chastised them for being of such little faith.  When Peter attempted to walk on water, but started to sink, he did likewise.  When the apostles were unable to heal certain sicknesses he offered the same feedback.

Clearly the Lord knows we’re capable of affecting real, substantial, concrete change in our environment, in our lives, and in the lives of others.  

So, the first thing you must have faith in, is God.  You must take your testimony to an active use, and put your faith and trust in him.  Believe that he is all powerful.  Believe that he is all knowing.  Believe that he has a divine plan and purpose.  Believe that you are his child and are of limitless potential.

Once you can firmly say that you have faith in God, now you must believe in yourself.  How can you exercise faith to exert change if you don’t first believe in yourself?  This is not arrogance.  It’s not boasting in your own strength, this is believing that you can affect change, that you do not have to be some simple bystander, but that the Lord wants you to participate, and play a part. 

Now shift your focus to something else in your life that matters.  Clearly it must be a righteous desire, or at least with righteous intentions.  Remember the steps – look through the lens of optimism, see what it is that it CAN be, then actively hope for it to be that way, and now believe that it will come to pass.

And don’t worry, it’s not meant to be easy.  Belief is when the muscle is fully flexed, which is not often easy (although it does get easier).  When your muscles are fully flexed you quickly experience fatigue.  When you exercise your faith, you may find the same kind of experience.  But don’t worry, just like exercising, the more you exercise, the more your endurance grows.  Experienced distance runners are able to run great distances and feel minimal effects because they’ve toned their body for the endeavor.  Such it is with faith.  The more you work that muscle, the easier it becomes, the more you can do, and the less tiring it is.

Now, don’t let yourself stop believing, don’t succumb to fatigue and give in because it’s too difficult.  Faith is all about perseverance.  Be confident, trust in God, and believe.

Rusty

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