Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Being Disciples of Jesus Christ

Last Sunday, I taught the lesson in Relief Society (the women's organization) at church. I spoke about the Savior: His life and His ministry. I also spoke about how we can be true witnesses (disciples) of Christ. Below are two items from my lesson which help me focus my thoughts on the Savior this Christmas season. Enjoy!

“As disciples of Christ, we stand apart from the world. There may be times we feel uncomfortable as the fingers of scorn mock and dismiss what is sacred to us. President Thomas S. Monson warned, 'Unless the roots of your testimony are firmly planted, it will be difficult for you to withstand the ridicule of those who challenge your faith.' Nephi said, '[Heed] them not.' Paul admonished, 'God hath not given us the spirit of fear; … Be not … ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.' We never leav
e Him” (Elder Neil L Anderson, "Never Leave Him").

When God wants something great done in the world,
He doesn't dispatch a legion of avenging angels,
Neither does He call forth a whirlwind nor ignite volcanic fireworks;
No commandeering of troops into battle nor discharging zealous crusaders to holy causes;
He does not orchestrate the burst and boom of thunder nor display His fiery arrows' majesty across the sky to bring His purpose to pass.

When God wants something done in this world...
He sends a baby - then He waits.

- Anita Robinson

Monday, September 27, 2010

Secret versus Sacred

My brother in law, Matt Woodruff, wrote a "note" on Facebook that answers one question I've heard about Temples: Why is it a secret (what happens inside LDS Temples)?

Here is his eloquent answer:

The dictionary defines secret as "done, made, or conducted without the knowledge of others: secret negotiations" or "kept from the knowledge of any but the initiated or privileged: a secret password."

It defines sacred as "devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated" or "entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity or divine things; holy." and also "pertaining to or connected with religion (opposed to secular or profane ): sacred music; sacred books" and pay close attention to these next three:
"reverently dedicated to some person, purpose, or object: a morning hour sacred to study."
"regarded with reverence: the sacred memory of a dead hero."
"secured against violation, infringement, etc., as by reverence or sense of right: sacred oaths; sacred rights."

Pay particular attention to the last definition because it in particular pertains to my thoughts tonight. In fact I want to combine a few particular definitions: "reverently dedicated to some person, purpose, or object, regarded with reverence, and secured against violation, infringement, etc., as by reverence or sense of right: sacred oaths; sacred rights."

I am a Latter-Day Saint, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a Mormon. Many, if not all of you know this, it is no secret, nor are any of my beliefs secret, nor are any of the practices, rights, ceremonies, or ordinances of my religion secret. But they are sacred. I hold a few so sacred and holy, that I do not even discuss them with other members of the church outside of the temple where those sacred ordinances are performed. I know it sounds secret, it sounds "kept from the knowledge of any but the initiated or privileged" but that is not how I see it. They are sacred promises that I made to my Heavenly Father, "Reverently dedicated" to Him, that I regard with reverence and keep "Secured against violation."

I share these promises with many of you, and would love to share them with all of you, but in the right time and in the right place.

The LDS Temples are beautiful places, both inside and out. I personally feel the Washington DC is one of the most beautiful, but maybe that is because that is where Becky and I were married and "Sealed for time and eternity." In the Church of Jesus Christ we do not marry for this mortal life only, but we make sacred vows and are bound together forever, to each other and to our children. I love my wife and I love my children, my love for them is beyond words, and coming from me that means a lot. Words are what I do and yet I have no words to adequately describe just how much I love them. I'm sure you feel the same way about your family. Can you begin to understand then how much it means to me that we will be together forever, even should death claim our mortal existence, it cannot break that bond that was sealed in the Temple. It is the other ordinances, the other work we do in the Temple that make it possible for us to realize that great blessing of an Eternal Family. Can you understand why I keep these things so sacred?

Again, those things, those blessings as I view them, are not secret, I just hold them so sacred I do not talk about them outside of the Temple. They are promises if you will, that I have made between God and myself, and that is who they stay between, Him and me. I would love to share these blessings with each of you, you would just need to prepare yourself to enter into the temple to receive them. If you are interested in doing so I can help with that, I know some missionaries who would love to help out. Just let me know and I will send them your way. :-). But that is not why I am on my soap box tonight.

Tonight I am on my soap box because this week a TV show plans to violate what I hold sacred by fictionalizing and trivializing it. I read an article about this today, and how the Church responded to it. I was going to name the show and the cable station that plans to air this show, even though the leaders of our church has asked them not to, but for my own reasons I decided not to. I don't want to guilt you into not watching that show, or anything like that. I will only say this; if you ever see something on TV about my religion that leaves you with questions, if you want to receive true and accurate answers to those questions come to me, or to another member of the church to get answers, not the media or any who would seek to trivialize, violate, or profane what I hold sacred. If you are really curious about what goes on in the Temple, find out from the real source, not some fictionalized account. If you really want to see that TV show, well you can figure out what show it is for yourself :-). If you want to make sure you don't watch it, well, stick to Network TV this weekend and you'll be fine.

I think I have said all I had to say. I step down off of my soap box.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What Happens Inside Mormon Temples?

In my previous post, I addressed the question, "Why can't I go inside Mormon Temples?" Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe Temples are sacred and literally the House of the Lord. Due to the sacred nature of what happens inside the Temple, one must hold a Temple recommend to enter an operating Temple.

I am not going to give you a detailed description of everything that goes on inside the Temple, but I will give you a good overview.

Inside Mormon Temples, faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ receive instruction and make covenants with God. One of those covenants is eternal marriage. When a man and a woman are married in the Temple, they are married forever. The marriage covenant does not end when death occurs. It is eternal. One only needs to attend the Temple once to make these covenants for themselves. When members return to the Temple for subsequent visits, they do Temple work for their ancestors. (Please see below for a more detailed description.)

Inside the Temple, one can perform baptisms on behalf of deceased ancestors. (No baptisms for living persons are performed inside the Temple. Those are done at LDS church buildings.)

There are many individuals who died without having the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ or to be baptized. As baptism is essential, God has provided a way for all His children to receive this saving ordinance. All individuals have the opportunity to learn about the Gospel after death and can choose to accept or reject the baptism (or any other ordinance) done on their behalf.

Baptism for the dead is referred to in the New Testament of the Bible.

"Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" - 1 Corinthians 15:29

Below is a picture of the Baptistry in the Washington D.C. Temple.

Another ordinance is called the Endowment. During the Endowment, one receives instruction about scriptural topics. It helps individuals understand their purpose in life, and their relationship with God. These are done for both living and deceased individuals.

Below is one of the Endowment rooms in one of the Temples. (I think it's the Draper Temple, but I'm not sure.)

Another ordinance performed in Temples are Eternal (or Celestial) Marriages. When one is married in the Temple of God, one is "sealed" or married to their spouse for eternity. When I was sealed in the Temple, I thought long and hard about whether or not I really wanted to be with my husband FOREVER. (My husband is wonderful, and I am so grateful to be married to him.)

As an interesting side note, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were married in the Temple have a lower divorce rate than the rest of society.

Here's a tidbit from the LDS Newsroom:

  • Members of the Church believe that marriages performed in temples are “sealed,” or blessed to last for eternity. The concept that the family unit can continue beyond the grave as a conscious, loving entity, with the marriage partnership and parent-child relationships intact, is a core belief of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • Once a couple is married and sealed in a temple, any children who are then born to them are automatically sealed to them at birth. If children are born before the couple is sealed, those children can later participate in a temple sealing with their parents. Children that are adopted also have an opportunity to be sealed to the adoptive parents.

  • The concept of eternal families comes from scripture and modern-day revelation. For instance, the New Testament reference in Matthew 16:19 records Jesus Christ telling the Apostle Peter: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The Church equates the word “bind” with “seal.”

  • According to research cited in a 2000 article in the Los Angeles Times, “in an era of divorce, Mormon temple weddings are built to last,” with only a 6 percent divorce rate. Another study, published in 1993 in Demography Magazine, concluded that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who marry in one of the Church's temples are the least likely of all Americans to divorce.

This is the Celestial Room in one of the Temples. In the Celestial Room, one can meditate and pray. It is incredibly peaceful. Though no ordinance work occurs in the Celestial Room, it is an important part of every Temple.

If you live near a newly constructed Mormon Temple, there will be an open house prior to it's dedication. I encourage you to take a tour of the Temple, so you can see it for yourself.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why Can't I Go Inside Mormon Temples?

Why can't I go inside Mormon Temples? What happens inside?

I think this is one of the most common questions I've been asked about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons): Why can't I go in the Temple?

The truth is, you can. There are a couple of ways.

1. There is an open house before each LDS Temple is dedicated. During this time, the Temple is open to the general public for tours. A brief explanation is given for what happens inside the Temple during your tour. If you want to find out about a Temple near you, check out the following website: http://temples.lds.org. This site has an index of all the LDS Temples and includes announcements for new Temples.

2. All members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the opportunity to receive a Temple Recommend. Once one holds a Temple Recommend, he or she may enter any Mormon Temple in the world. To obtain a Temple Recommend, one has an interview with his or her Bishop (the leader of the congregation) and with his or her Stake President. During this interview, one is asked if they are living the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the best of their ability. One is also asked if he or she is living the Word of Wisdom (law of health which includes abstaining from alcohol, coffee, tea, and illegal drugs), living the law of Chastity (sexual relations only within the bonds of marriage), and is paying a full tithe (10% of one's gross income). If one is keeping the commandments to the best of their ability, one can receive a Temple recommend.

If you are interesting in learning more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you can email me for a missionary referral, or visit one of the following websites: http://JesusChrist.lds.org or http://www.mormon.org.

3. Some Temples have Visitor Centers where one can see pictures of the interior of the Temple and learn what occurs inside. I can think of three Temples off the top of my head that have Visitor Centers: the Washington DC Temple, the Los Angeles Temple, and the Salt Lake Temple. One of the Salt Lake Temple Visitor Centers (there are 2) has a scale model of the Salt Lake Temple with the side cut out so one can see what the rooms look like inside. It's actually really neat. We went there during our recent trip to Utah and I took 2 short videos of it. I've put those at the bottom of this blog entry for your viewing pleasure.

4. Finally, the following website has some information about Mormon Temples: http://temples.lds.org. There is a short video which talks about what happens inside the Temple as well as some photos and announcements.

Regarding what happens inside Temples, I will answer that in my next blog post.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Can Mormons be Democrats?

Yes! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not endorse any political party or candidate. None! (Very rarely, the Prophet will take a stand on a particular issue. This is very rare, and it usually is for issues related to or likely to impact families. I remember only 3 instances in my almost 40 years.)

If anyone tells you differently, they are misinformed, or trying to sell you something.

There is one popular talk show host, Glenn Beck, who has some pretty strong political views. He happens to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). Personally, I do not agree with many of the opinions he expresses. I believe that most talk show hosts, regardless of their beliefs, are trying to increase their audience and inflame issues beyond what they normally would.

They should not be accepted as spokespersons for their religions, unless that religion appoints them as such.

In other words, Mormons are members of many different political parties. The Mormon church does not require or encourage membership in any party.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Offensive Misconception.

I was reading my "wall" on Facebook this morning, and found the following quote posted by a Mormon group.
"The saints are peculiar. This is true of them both regarding their habits and their religious belief. If they are true to their faith, they cannot help being different from other peoples. Their religion requires it of them." Joseph Fielding Smith

One comment from a Facebook user was quite offensive, but I thought it should be addressed. Here is the user's comment:

"You are so different from other people. I don't know anyone who has 5 wives. None of my friends make love to their children. We have a whole system that locks up child molesters. Maybe that is why you all are scared of government."

Wow. I was speechless for a few minutes. Then I composed the following response:

"I don't know any Mormons with 5 wives. If any did, they'd be excommunicated. I also don't know any who "make love to their children." If they did, I'd be the first in line to report them to the police. Mormons believe in honoring, upholding, and sustaining the law."

Let me make this clear. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe in living the law of Chastity. This means no sexual relations outside of marriage, and then only with your spouse. This means no molestation. No inappropriate touching. None whatsoever!

As to the wives comment, I addressed that in my first post. Polygamy (more than one wife) was practiced in the early days of the church. Most members of the LDS church did not practice polygamy, but some did (I've read estimates from 10-30% of the church members practiced polygamy). The US Government made it illegal to practice polygamy. The LDS church fought that in court and lost. Many people went to jail. The majority of those who went to jail were already in polygamous marriages; they were not forming new marriages. In the late 1800's, the practice of polygamy was discontinued.

That was over 100 years ago!

If members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have more than one spouse, they are excommunicated. If someone claims to be part of a "Mormon Fundamentalist Group," they are not a part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).

Whew! That was a mouthful!

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Mormon?

What does the word Mormon mean to you? As a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly known as the Mormon church), I think I've heard just about every question and comment you can imagine.

How many wives does your Dad have?

Do Mormons have horns? Can I see them?

Can you lie?

Are Mormons Christians?

Do you worship God? I thought you worshipped Joseph Smith.

Don't Mormons think everyone else is going to Hell?

Don't all Mormons live in Utah?

Do you believe in the Bible? I thought you only believed in your golden Bible.

These are only a few of the questions I've been asked or heard over the years. While I've been happy to answer any questions posed openly and honestly, I had never thought about using the Internet as a venue to answer questions and talk about my beliefs, until now.

So I'm opening it up. If you have ever had a question about Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), ask me. You can send it in as a comment (and I'll repost it with an answer), or email me at ldswhyibelieve@gmail.com. If it's a genuine question, I'll post it on the blog and answer it. If it's designed to insult, be offensive, or is filled with profanity, I will not respond. So, please, keep it clean and kind.


Here are my answers to the questions I posted above.

How many wives does your Dad have?

One. My parents have been married for almost 50 years and have 11 children. No multiple births or adoptions.

Do Mormons have horns? Can I see them?

I've never met a Mormon with horns. I don't have them. (My doctor can attest to this, and he's not Mormon). If I had them, I'd show them to you, but I don't. Sorry.

Can you lie?

Sure. Everyone can lie. Should we? No.

Are Mormons Christian?

I've heard this question many times. Sometimes it is posed as a statement: Mormons aren't Christians, because you worship a different Jesus. I believe in the Jesus Christ in the Bible. I study the Bible regularly and strive to follow the example of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I know it is only through Him and His atonement that I can return to live with my Heavenly Father again. No matter how hard I try, I will always be imperfect, and it is only through the grace of my Savior that I have any hope of salvation.

Do you worship God? I thought you worshipped Joseph Smith.

Yes. I worship God (Heavenly Father). I do not worship Joseph Smith, nor do any other Mormons I know worship Joseph Smith.

Don't Mormons think everyone else is going to Hell?

No. Mormons believe individuals are judged based upon their knowledge and beliefs. By that I mean that God will look to see if I lived the way I said I believed.

Anyone who did not have the opportunity to learn about the Savior and the gospel of Jesus Christ will have the opportunity to learn about it in the hereafter.

Don't all Mormons live in Utah?

No. At one time, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were encouraged to move to Utah, but this changed before I was born. I grew up on the East Coast of the USA.

Mormons live all over the world, and there are more members of the LDS church outside the United States than inside the United States.

Do you believe in the Bible? I thought you only believed in your golden Bible.

Yes, I believe in the Bible. It is a sacred scriptural work. The "golden Bible" some people refer to is The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It is a companion to the Bible which further testifies of the divinity of Jesus Christ. It is a record of a family who left Jerusalem around 600 B.C. and traveled to the Americas. It contains information about other people in the Americas as well.

I also believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God. It strengthens my testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ. It also helps me find solutions to other problems in my life, like dealing with my teenage children.