Sister Dibb’s talk in General asked members of the Church to be bold in declaring their membership and commitment to the Church and its message. I created this graphic to represent the theme of her talk.
LDS General Conference Infographic – March 29th, 2012
This may be a first.
I came across an infographic today that gives some information about LDS General Conference. Twice each year, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide come together either in person or through the use of technology to receive instruction from Church leaders.
This infographic was produced by the Church to give a visual explanation of the magnitude of General Conference.
Education a Spiritual Endeavor – March 20th, 2012
One of my favorite scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants explains the importance of learning, and places within the reach of humans a recipe for increasing intelligence.
Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the life to come.
This makes the acquisition of knowledge a spiritual pursuit. Learning through diligence and obedience places a person closer to the ultimate goal of God’s offspring: becoming like He is. That’s why many Latter-day Saints prefer to send their children to private schools, where teachers and curriculum are held more accountable than in public schools and closely match the learning preferences of parents. Where private schools are not practical, many LDS parents home school their kids so that they can be more involved with the learning process. They can integrate spiritual with secular learning, and they can ensure that their children are not held to a pace (often slower) that doesn’t push them to their potential.
The Purpose of Life – March 15th, 2012
Through out history many individuals have asked questions such as what is the purpose of life? Or why do we exist? Many people have asked these questions and many have tried to answer these questions through different mediums of thought such as philosophy and science.
But just like any question about life and our purpose the answers to these questions can only come from the source of all truth—a Supreme Being or in other words from God.
To understand our purpose we must first understand God’s purpose which is found in the Book of Moses:
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.“(Moses 1:39).
Everything God does and says is meant for our benefit not just in this life, but in the life after our life here on earth or in other words life on into the eternities. Knowing that about God then begs the question that is the topic of this blog post—what is our purpose in life? In the Doctrine and Covenants we learn this about our purpose:
“Behold , this is your work to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength” (Doctrine and Convenants 11:20).
Following the commandments given to us from God acts as a path or a guide that aids us in returning back to Him. Before we lived here on earth we lived with God. We learn in the Old Testament that God knew Jeremiah the prophet before he was born:
“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Like Jeremiah, God knew us because we lived with him before being born into this life on earth. When we were born we were born into a life that was in a fallen state because of the Fall. The Fall occurred when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit God forbade them to eat. As a result they were cast out of the Garden of Eden away from the presence of God where they faced the trials of a mortal life (Genesis 3).
The very trials that all human kind face because of the Fall are to test us to see if we will keep the commandments that God has given us. God also knew, even before the Fall occurred, that we would fall short in keeping His commandments and so He provided a way back to Him by sending His Son Jesus Christ to give his life as a ransom for us all.
Jesus Christ was born in the meridian of time as the literal Son of God. He came because:
“…God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life“. (John 3:16).
In a book of modern day scripture called the Book of Mormon, an ancient prophet named Alma teaches about what is termed as the Atonement:
“…he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy… the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might blot out their trangression…” (The Book of Mormon, Alma 7:12,13).
If we will place our faith in Jesus Christ and repent the Atonement can become active in our lives and we can become reconciled to God and return to live with Him again.
In essence the purpose of life is to do what God wants us to do, which is to keep His commandments. When we do this we contribute to God’s purpose by making correct choices. When our choices fall short of what God wants us to do, we can repent, change our beliefs or attitudes, and try again.
There is a way to reconcile ourselves with God through the Atonement. The Atonement becomes active in our lives when we change our behavior that goes against God or in other words when we repent. Repentance takes faith in Jesus Christ. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). At the beginning, we may not have full knowledge of the outcome when we put our faith in Christ and repent, but Christ has promised us that “…whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
Mormonism 101 Infographic – March 9th, 2012
Infographics have become popular communication tools. They describe concepts using a combination of images and text. The Mormon Newsroom (the official news of the LDS Church) released the following infographic today to provide a look at the Church to those who may be unfamiliar. I found it useful and informative for Latter-day Saints as well.
Becoming a Priest – June 14th, 2011
Schema Creator Form
Becoming a priest feels like a big step for many young Aaronic Priesthood holders. Moving forward after four years of duties as a deacon and teacher, the experience of becoming a priest is a significant step towards manhood for young men in their later teens.
What are the duties of a Priest?
Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants explains in great detail what duties become your responsible upon becoming a priest:
46) The priest’s duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament,
47) And visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.
48) And he may also ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons.
49) And he is to take the lead of meetings when there is no elder present;
50) But when there is an elder present, he is only to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize,
51) And visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.
52) In all these duties the priest is to assist the elder if occasion requires.
Looking at this list of the duties of a priest may prompt a feeling of being overwhelmed for many young men. I remember the intimidation I felt as I said the sacrament prayer and officiated at the sacrament table when I turned 16. The important thing to remember when taking the step from teacher to priest is that you are not expected to know everything immediately, and you are allowed mistakes. Transitioning from a deacon to teacher to priest to elder is a development process. It is well understood that young priests are learning their duties at their own personal rate.
Dealing with Social Pressure
The age for becoming a priest in the Lord’s Church – 16 years old- falls during a time in a young man’s life when he is experiencing a lot of physical and emotional development. The timing of the two is likely not a coincidence. Such experiences as learning to drive a car, taking a particular interest in girls, and growing more independent of parents run perfectly alongside the growing responsibilities expected by the Lord of one who is a developing priesthood holder.
Unless you live in an area where you are surrounded by strong members of the Church, most of your 16-18 year associates have a limited understanding of priesthood duties, especially because the Church is unique in its understanding that the priesthood ideally pertains to all males in context of the plan of salvation, which prepares boys and men to ultimately possess the same authority and power God has. Understanding that most your associates likely haven’t had the opportunity to learn the gospel as you have should bring to your mind the need for sharing those principles with them, and it should prevent you from making condemning judgments upon them while retaining your own worthiness.
The Church wants its youth to know that they are not alone in their beliefs. Young men who are preparing to become priests can interact on the LDS Church Youth Web Site. Here is one of the helps provided by the web site.
How Mormons can Share the Restored Gospel Using the Internet – June 8th, 2011
In 1839, Joseph Smith was inspired to write these words:
For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations…who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it (D and C 123:12)
The inspired meaning of those words, written more than one hundred and fifty years before the invention of the modern Internet, has become remarkably clear considering how the modern world educates itself on matters ranging from trivial facts to the deepest of spiritual questions. Whereas a person’s ability to find the truth of the restored gospel in the 1830’s depended upon the improbable occurrence of meeting an LDS missionary or gaining access to a copy of the Book of Mormon, our current technological environment facilitates the ability to efficiently spread the gospel throughout the world via the Internet. The framework has been put into place so that sincere seekers of truth can now find and study the principles revealed to modern prophets using search engines such as Google or web content hosts that allow members of the Church to post personal experiences, videos and other web content related to the Church. Our responsibility to share the gospel has been transformed by the Internet into an opportunity to reach a wider audience than we could ever reach without it.
There are several ways members of the Church can share the gospel online. I will discuss some ideas that you can use to share your experience and testimony with non-members throughout the world. So many venues exist (from using “microblogging” web sites like Twitter.com and Identi.ca to publishing images, videos, and gospel explanations on web sites like HubPages.com and Squidoo.com to creating your own WordPress blog using your own domain name) for describing your beliefs publicly for the benefit of others.
Getting Started: Social Sharing
The easiest way to begin sharing the gospel online is to simply bookmark Church content using a social sharing web site like Facebook.com. Facebook allows you to “Like” pages on the Church’s web sites. Recently, the Church has built in easy ways to share information on LDS.org and Mormon.org.
You can also set up free social bookmarking accounts on web sites such as Delicious.com or StumbleUpon.com. Setting up an account with one of these social bookmarking web sites takes just a few minutes, and most of them are free to use.
After you’ve set up your account, you can begin bookmarking your favorite pages from one of the Church-related web sites. When you bookmark a web page, you are telling others, including search engines, “I think the information on this page is worth sharing.” When many people share the same page, the page can become much more popular, making it visible to a wider audience than it would reach otherwise.
Interacting with Church content on web sites like YouTube.com is helpful too. For instance, if you create a YouTube account, you can “Like” videos from the Church’s YouTube channels (such as http://youtube.com/mormonmessages) and leave comments. Having more views, likes, and comments on a video increases its popularity.
Microblogging and Creating Topic Pages
The next step up from social bookmarking is publishing information about gospel topics. One of the main obstacles members of the Church face in sharing their religious beliefs online involves not knowing where to get started. Here are some simple steps that can help you successfully publish your explanation of the Church’s teachings.
1. Make a list of five gospel related subjects that you’d like to share with the world. You might want to write about your mission experiences, lessons you’ve learned as a mother or father, benefits of living a chaste life, the gospel perspective on debt and family finances, or topics from the scriptures such as the gathering of Israel.
2. Create a free account on http://www.squidoo.com. Squidoo.com is one of many web sites that allow users to create free accounts and publish their favorite subjects to an audience already ready to read what you have to say. Squidoo.com allows you to create “lenses” that describe your view of various subjects.
3. Choose one of the topics from your list. Write a few paragraphs describing the topic. If it feels like you’re preparing a talk or a Sunday School lesson, in a way you are. Only in this case you’ll be sharing with an audience largely comprised of people who are not very familiar with the Church.
4. Find one or two videos from one of the Church’s many YouTube channels to embed with your Squidoo– http://youtube.com/mormon, http://youtube.com/MormonMessages, http://www.youtube.com/LDSPublicAffairs, http://www.youtube.com/MormonMessagesYouth, http://youtube.com/preservingmarriage, http://www.youtube.com/familysearch.
5. Put together your first lens by inserting your description of the subject and the videos you’ve chosen to include. Where appropriate, place a link from your lens to a related page on one of the Church’s web sites: LDS.org, Mormon.org, FamilySearch.org, ProvidentLiving.org, ItsAboutLove.org,
The Next Level: Your Own Gospel Themed Blog
For those with the interest and available time, a gospel oriented blog can help speak to an ever-growing audience. If you don’t feel like registering your own domain name and paying monthly web hosting fees, you can adopt a blog for free from the More Good Foundation, a non-profit organization with the mission of promoting opportunities to share positive information about the Church. If you don’t already have a blog, but would like to set one up, you can register a domain for around $10 per year and set up a web hosting account for as little as $5 per month. You can also set up a blog for free on TypePad.com, Blogspot.com, WordPress.com, LiveJournal.com, OpenDiary.com, or any one of the other free blog hosts available.
Getting Search Traffic to Your Web Site
I’ve seen many well designed web sites perform under their potential simply because they haven’t been optimized for search engines. Here are some guidelines for making sure that your gospel centered web site or blog gets traffic.
1. Get links to your web site. When another web site links to yours, it has two benefits: 1) It brings people to your web page from the web site that links to yours; and 2) A link from another web site, especially a web site that is relevant to yours, tells the search engines that your site should rank higher. The link text used to create the link to your web page also tells search engines that the page should rank highly for that term. For instance, if a web page that discusses Christian beliefs about baptism linked the word baptism to your blog post that discusses the teachings of the Church regarding the importance of baptism, your web page will rank higher in search engines for searches related to baptism.
2. Make sure that your web page content is optimized for search engines. If you want your web page to rank highly for a specific topic, then you should make sure that the page gives all the right signals to the search engines for that topic. That includes the <title> tag and the meta description tag. The content of the page should use the phrase you want to target as a natural part of discussing the subject. Any images you use on the page should be named consistently with the topic of the page. The URL of the web page should also help search engines understand what the page is about. For example, a good URL about faith in Jesus Christ would be http://www.mygospelblog.org/faith-in-jesus-christ. (If you’re using WordPress, you can easily configure your blog to accomplish that.) Giving consistent signals about your page to the search engines, in addition to having links coming to your page from other web pages make it so that your web page ranks highly in searches related to the page’s topic. If you follow these guidelines, your web page will be rewarded with visits from people interested in reading what you have to say.
Example: Teaching About Life After Death
Consider this example. Many people are interested in knowing what happens to a person after death. Google’s Keyword Tool estimates that there are about 165,000 searches done each month for phrases similar to “life after death”. Here’s how I would approach the goal of using search engines to share the Church’s teachings about life after death with as many people as possible. I would create a post (or a page) on my blog entitled “Life After Death – What Do the Prophets Teach?” In my post, I would refer to life after death in such a way that it is clear to the search engines that that is what my page explains. I would include scriptures that describe what happens when we die (Alma 40:11). I would reference the LDS.org study topic page about death. Using the Church’s YouTube channels, conference talks published on LDS.org and other resources, I would put together a coherent and heart felt explanation of what the Lord has revealed about life after death, and I would publish it on my blog.
After I published the article, I would bookmark it using my Facebook account and my StumbleUpon.com and Delicious.com accounts. I would send out a message using my Twitter.com and Identi.ca accounts referencing the new post. I would ask friends to link to the post from their own gospel-themed blog posts. Using the strategies recommended by the search engines (not spamming forums or using other unethical tactics), I would build some good links from relevant web sites to my web site, more specifically to the article I published on life after death. In time, my article would begin to gather traffic to it, and I would see visitors coming to my page to learn about life after death.
LDS.org has a section dedicated to sharing the gospel online. You can find more ideas about ways you can share the gospel through the Internet by checking that page regularly.
Sharing the gospel online using some of the methods described above can be very fulfilling. Using the Internet, there are more opportunities to do missionary work than you can imagine. Finding a strategy that suits your preferences shouldn’t be difficult, and it is a good way to strengthen your testimony. I’ve even found that my scripture study is enhanced as I put what I learn into an organized presentation and post it online. I’ve appreciated the feedback I’ve received from people who read my web pages. Making a record of my thoughts and impressions and publishing it to be read by an audience of Church members and non-LDS alike helps me feel like I’m contributing to the fulfillment of God’s intended use of the Internet: to preach the gospel to the earth.
Who Is God? – June 7th, 2011
Since the beginning of mankind’s creation, people have asked this question: “Who is God?” The definitions around who God is are as diverse as the people and organizations that produce them.
The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints comes from modern prophets, the first of whom, Joseph Smith, was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ. Referred to as the First Vision, Joseph’s experience with the Creators of this world and many others debunked centuries of misunderstanding about God’s existence and nature. The Nicene Creed, developed more than one hundred years after the apostasy of the original Christian Church, created a God who was somehow two people in one. It removed the form and ultimate literal Fatherhood of God. Joseph’s vision restored what was lost centuries before.
Elohim – The Father of Our Spirits
Modern revelation helps us understand clearly what God’s role and relationship to his mortal children is. From spirit intelligence, which is made of a finer and purer matter than what comprises our mortal bodies, God created our souls long before this earth was created. The purpose of that spirit creation centered around the concept of God’s eternal progression, which is manifest in the perpetual creation and development of offspring similar in nature and potential to himself. God’s offspring inherited gender, male and female, which understanding leads us to believe that God has a female spouse. In a favorite Mormon hymn, O My Father, is found the words “In the heavens are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare. Truth is reason. Truth eternal tells me I’ve a Mother there.”
God’s perfection and omniscience put him in compliance with eternal law. He has a perfect sense of justice and mercy. His plan for his children meant that they would have to develop spiritually to become like him. Doing so required a separation from their Father, where they would be required to exhibit faith and obedience. Essential to God’s plan for the development of his offspring was the preservation of agency, and his plan ensured that the ability of his intelligent offspring to choose for themselves would not be lost. Those who desired to become like their Father could choose “liberty and eternal life.” On the other hand, they are also free to choose “captivity and death”.
God’s Firstborn spirit Son, who was known among the Old Testament people as Jehovah, developed through obedience and diligence to become perfected in intelligence and in compliance with eternal law so that his role during the temporal existence of this world would be one of intermediary between God the Father and his imperfect children. Jehovah, or Jesus Christ as he became known during his earthly life, is the gatekeeper for those who wish to enter the kingdom of God. His eternal sacrifice in Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary enabled his spirit brothers and sisters to enjoy the opportunity to reach perfection through faith, repentance, baptism, and other saving ordinances.
What does the Bible teach about who God is?
In the Bible, the God of the Old Testament is known as Jehovah. Acting under the direction of Elohim, the Hebrew Mormons understand Jehovah to be Jesus Christ, the one who would come in the meridian of time to fulfill the role of Savior and Redeemer of all who inhabit the earth.
Mormons in the Media: The Singles Ward – June 1st, 2011
With all of its social hyperbole, occasional irreverence, and what appears sometimes to be an exaggeration of many elements of a Mormon lifestyle, The Singles Ward still captures very well many aspects of the LDS lifestyle.
Following the story of Jonathan Jordan as his life is met with a series of unexpected setbacks (especially a failed temple marriage realized when Jordan’s wife hits a spiritual wall, which then leads to his own fall from faith), triumphs (including a rebound of faith and romance that are tied together, and everything in between, LDS cultural stereotypes are emphasized throughout the movie. Among sub-cultures within the LDS faith, singles wards tend to have their own unique flavors. The Singles Ward picks on many of them.
Although I generally cringe at the depiction of sacrament meetings (one of the more sacred meetings for Mormons) in a movie, I found myself chuckling about some of the difficulties portrayed in the movie of parents attempting to have a spiritual experience while monitoring energetic kids whose priorities obviously align more with their ages rather than their parents’ ideals for reverent behavior. As a father of three kids, the youngest of which (just under a year) loves to make attempts at rushing the stand, I’ve lived that scene many times. Many of the other depictions of conversations had in Mormon circles and among Mormon singles are somewhat close to being accurate, the main difference is that they’re portrayed by The Singles Ward with more humor than we tend to understand within our culture.
I liked this movie enough to watch it a few times. I’d not really recommend it as a replacement for family home evening or Sunday School, but its entertainment value outside of those settings is worth an hour and a half.
The Book of Mormon: What the Broadway Musical Misses – June 1st, 2011
The Book of Mormon has been getting a lot of attention recently. One might expect Latter-day Saints to welcome that news. However, the majority of the Church’s membership doesn’t have a desire to pay much attention to the version of The Book of Mormon that’s garnering such a popular response.
From the perspective of its creators, The Book of Mormon play seems to have directly hit their target, entertaining revenue-generating ticket-purchasers whose enthusiastic reviews attract others to the show. But what does the Broadway Book of Mormon miss that the one on your nightstand successfully targets?
The Church’s Official Statement in response to the Broadway parody sums up the difference:
The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.
Experience tells us that years after The Book of Mormon play – with the banter and short-term appeal that make it attractive to its audience – has faded from the spotlight on Broadway stages and elsewhere, the volume of scripture will continue to quietly strengthen families and promote Christian values.
Share The Book of Mormon
The recent interest in The Book of Mormon gives us a great opportunity to share our beliefs. Mormon.org has a page about the Book of Mormon that describes very clearly what the purpose of the book is. Here are some ways you can share the page, which includes a video introducing The Book of Mormon and an opportunity for visitors to request a copy.
• If you have access to a blog or web page, you can describe how The Book of Mormon has influenced your life and include a link to http://mormon.org/book-of-mormon/ so that people who read your web page can learn more about The Book of Mormon.
• You can visit the Mormon.org Book of Mormon page and “Like” it using your Facebook account. Doing so will allow your Facebook friends to recognize your interest in The Book of Mormon.