Archive for November, 2006

19
Nov

Country Religious Music

   Posted by: John    in Fun Stuff

As we are getting ready for church this morning, we turned on some music of inspirational value.  Some of it is set in more modern styles, such as pop.  However, one that is on right now is of a country style.  I got to thinking about it and realized that there is very little “Mormon” music that is country.

Of course, here’s what would happen in country and western “Mormon” music.  Your spouse would leave you with the 7 children, the Bishop is upset at the talk you gave last week in church, the minivan broke down and your dog died.

Some things just don’t change.

17
Nov

Books of Wisdom

   Posted by: John    in Fun Stuff

We went to Joe’s Crab Shack for dinner tonight. Pretty good stuff, a little expensive, though. Anyway, the place is decorated up pretty good and the tables were fiberglassed with lots of stuff in them, pictures, patterns, little sayings and so on. This one just cracked me up. It’s a picture of a bunch of books with the following titles from left to right.

  • How to Pick up Women
  • How to Keep a Woman Happy
  • How to Keep a Woman From Leaving You
  • Dealing With Deep Depression
  • Can Stress Lead to Hair Loss
  • Considering the Priesthood
14
Nov

Chicken Enchilada Recipe

   Posted by: John    in Recipes

I decided to try out a chicken enchilada recipe.  This turned out very good.  Weight watchers points: 3 per enchilada; 6 per serving.

  • 2 chicken breasts (4 halves)
  • ¾ cup broccoli, finely cut
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • ½ medium onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
  • 1 can lowfat cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can lowfat cream of celery soup
  • 1 can (4 oz) mild diced green chiles
  • ¾ cup nonfat milk
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • ½ cup shredded cheese

Instructions:

Boil chicken breasts until cooked through.  Let cool and shred.  Steam broccoli and celery until tender. (You can use them raw, but it will make the enchilada crunchy.)  Mix chicken, broccoli, celery, onion, soups, chiles, and milk together.  Spray 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.  Fill tortillas with chicken mixture and place in pan.  If any mixture is left, spread evenly over top of tortillas.  Cover evenly with cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Makes 6 servings.

This past Sunday was Fast Sunday, and of course, Testimony meeting.  For some reason (after having what seemed a record number of people at church the previous week), there were not so many people attending this week.  Maybe 110 in sacrament meeting.  However, in spite of that, it was an amazing meeting.

There were only a few testimonies borne.  However, those few were some of the most heartfelt and spiritual testimonies I have ever heard in church.  Here’s a quick sample of what I heard:

Testimony of the power of visiting (and home) teaching, and how the influence of those people who, in the past, and now present, provided the groundwork for where people are now.  There were several who spoke about this.

Testimony about missionary work.  Brother Ownbey talked about how the missionaries were so persistent in seeing him that they braved severe weather and waded through flooded roads.  He figured that anyone who had that kind of dedication needed to be listened to.

Testimony about returning to church.  Brother Henderson related how he had been born in the church and baptized, but his father was not a member and encouraged his children to not go to church.  So he quit going about the time he was 12.  He married a woman who was a member, and, after some events, went to a meeting.  He was touched by the spirit and is now a very strong member, a person whose dedication to family history work is incredible.

The spirit was strong, and having few who felt the need to bear testimony gave these people enough time to bare their souls.  I noticed that Brother McArthur was very contemplative after the meeting.  (His wife was out of town that day, so he was sitting alone.)  He did not say why at that time.  However, at the beginning of Priesthood meeting (Brother McArthur is the High Priest group leader), he stood and mentioned that the testimonies borne of visiting teaching touched him greatly, and encouraged us to make our home teaching worthy of the same kind of testimony.

All being said, it was an outstanding spiritual Sunday.

This morning was our Stake Priesthood leadership meeting, at 6 AM.  Now, that sounds like an awful time of the morning to have a meeting of this nature, but President Olsen explained that, and in reality, having a meeting like this in the morning is a great way to start the day.  Not that I would recommend it every week…

Pres. Olsen’s reasoning for the meeting is based on a letter from the First Presidency some time ago that said Sunday meetings should be restricted to the necessary only in order to give church members the most time at home with their families as possible.  He reasoned that we were not doing anything productive with our spouses and children at 6 AM, so we might as well meet at that time.

Pres. Olsen started with a scripture from 1 Nephi 17, where Nephi, after arriving and living on the coast for some time, was commanded to build a ship.  In verse 9, Nephi asks “Lord, hither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?”  He then went into “tools” a little, and talked about how the church has programs, callings, and responsibilities that are used to give people means to grow and to serve others.

I got to thinking about tools in general.  A tool is just that, a tool.  It does nothing by itself, neither creative nor destructive.  It is merely an instrument that is useless unless someone picks it up and uses it.  Once in the hands of someone, it becomes an implement to create, modify, or even destroy.  Sometimes it becomes a member of a group of tools use to some end purpose.

Tools may have multiple purposes.  For example, a claw hammer’s primary purpose is to drive nails.  However, it may also be used to remove nails, straighten bent nails or other items, or even to take things apart by prying or hammering.  The hammer is used in different ways depending on the purpose needed at the time.  The scope of the hammer’s use is limited to its design and functionality.  It is not suitable for cutting wood or turning bolts.  Different tools are required for those functions.  Many tools, such as a table saw, should only be used by those who have been trained in their use and given “authority” to use them properly for their intended purpose.

The church is no different.  The Lord has given us a wide range of “tools” to use in our organizations and callings.  These tools have a scope of use and many are available only to those who are “authorized” to use them.  Many tools are “hammers”, to be used by anyone for the purpose of building spiritual strength.  Meetings, the scriptures, the sacrament and participation in lessons are some examples of “hammers” that almost anyone can use to build themselves up and put together their personal salvation.  Other tools are “table saws”, for use by quorum leaders, bishops, or anyone else who has a calling.  When someone is given a calling and set apart, they are given a set of tools to fulfill that calling.  How they use them is subject to some guidelines and their creativity within those guidelines.

How are we using the tools we are given?  Have we even picked them up?  Have we found creative ways to use them within their scope of operation to build in creative, innovative or other ways?  Are the products or end results a reflection on how we used the tools?  Are we clumsy or skillful?  Can we learn how to use them better and more effectively?

Nephi, having written his conversation with the Lord, gives us insight into how we should approach our callings, membership in the church, our personal lives, and the tools we use to fulfill them.  “Where shall I go…to find tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou has shown unto me?”  What is our “ship?”  It is any thing we need to build in our lives.  Nephi acknowledged that his ship’s design was the Lord’s design.  Virtually all of our “ships” are also designed by the Lord, given by His eternal wisdom.  Nephi knew he could build the ship, but also knew he would need the proper tools first.  Further, Nephi asked the Lord for the starting point, in this case, where he could find the raw materials.

Our starting point may be our baptism, a calling to the Bishopric, our marriage.  Once we start, having the tools to be successful is vital to finishing the job.  Most callings have releases, however new callings are issued.  Our marriages are a continual work, as is our personal salvation.  There are numerous tools given to us, but we may be required to make some of our own.  Then, by using them within the scope of their operation, we are able to progress.

This was a very interesting line of thought to pursue, but I feel that my eyes were opened to some level of understanding.

While attending a teacher development class last Thursday evening, Brother Larson, who was teaching, mentioned that we would understand lesson 18 much better if we read Doctrine and Covenants sections 128 and 138 beforehand.  So, I read them and a few things occurred to me.

Section 138 is a vision received by President Joseph F. Smith in 1918 in which he saw the mission of the Savior to the dead.  It opens with a description of the events leading to the vision.  Pres. Smith was pondering of the love of the Savior, in relation to the spirits who went from this life to prison, having never heard the gospel, or rejecting it in this life.  Then it describes His appearance in section 138:

18) While the vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful;

19) And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.

Then came something I did not know:

20) But unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and the unrepentant who had defiled themselves while in the flesh, his voice was not raised; 

21) Neither did the rebellious who rejected the testimonies and the warnings of the ancient prophets behold his presence, nor look upon his face. 

22) Where these were, darkness reigned, but among the righteous, there was peace.

I did not realize that Jesus did NOT go to the spirits in prison.  I had always thought that He went to all the dead.  Verses 29-37 confirm that He did not go, but sent others:

29) And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;

30) But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead. 

31) And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel. 

32) Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transfression, having rejected the prophets. 

33) These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying of on hand,

34) And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

35) And so it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross. 

36) Thus was is made known that our Redeemer spent his time during his sojourn in the world of spirits, instructing and preparing the faithful spirits of the prophets who had testified of him in the flesh;

37) That they  might carry the message of redemption unto all the dead, unto whom he could not go personally, because of their rebellion and transgression, that they through the ministration of his servants might also hear his words.

Jesus taught and appointed a missionary force to preach the gospel to those in prison.  He did not go there personally.  Rather, he went to the righteous, organized them, and built the bridge for them to the wicked.

Among the things that were taught is given in verse 33, namely, faith, repentance, vicarious baptism, and gift of the Holy Ghost.  Why?  In verse 34, it says that it was “necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”

There are a few observations I need to make at this point.

1) Christ did not go to the spirits in prison, but appointed others to do so

2) The reason for preaching to the spirits in prison (or paradise) is not, in my opinion, to convert them.  Rather it is to educate them.

3) Men will be judged on their compliance and obedience to the commandments.  Baptism is a commandment.

4) In order for everyone to be judged equally, everyone must have the same knowledge, and have the same opportunity to have their ordinances.  Those who died righteously without having a knowledge or opportunity to have their ordinances while living will be on equal footing with those who received them while alive.  Those who were wicked may not necessarily benefit from having the knowledge and ordinances, however, they will still be on equal footing in regards to being judged.

5) The principle of the righteous who died without the proper knowledge is given in Section 137.  It is well worth reading and pondering.

It took some thinking, but I am sure that the ordinances that we perform for the dead place them on level footing for the judgment.  Everyone will be judged according to the commandments, and baptism is a commandment.  Even Christ was baptized to fulfill the commandment.  Those being taught in the spirit world may choose not to accept the teaching and ordinances, but they will not be able to say that it was not given to them.

Higher ordinances, such as marriage sealing is also done for the dead, performed by the living, and sealed by one who has been given the sealing authority of the priesthood.

In reading Section 128, I came across a couple of verses that really stood out to me.  During the time that the sacrament was being passed, I reread much of this section, and found something that made a great impact on my mind.  This is D&C 128:10 and 11.

10) And, again, for the precedent, Matthew 16:18, 19: And I say also unto thee, That thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  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.

11) Now the great and grand secret of the whole matter, and the summum bonum of the whole subject that is lying before us, consists in obtaining the powers of the Holy Priesthood.  For him to whom these keys are given there is no difficulty in obtaining a knowledge of facts in relation to the salvation of the children of men, both as well for the dead as for the living.

Wow!  Joseph Smith is referring to the sealing power of the priesthood, of course, and describes in simple term what it does.  The person with that power can bind or loosen on earth and in heaven.  What a responsibility to have.

Verse 11, however, is what caused me the greatest thought.  “For him to whom these keys are given there is no difficulty in obtaining a knowledge of facts in relation to the salvation of the children of men, both as well for the dead as for the living.”

I have known personally one man who has held the sealing power.  My second mission president had been a sealer in the Seattle temple.  He had a knowledge of the plan of salvation second to no one else I know.  Having that authority opened his mind to the grandness of God’s plan of salvation.  How appropriate that the people who are commissioned to seal families are given the vision of what their works do.

It is my understanding that to receive the sealing power, an Apostle of the Lord must give it to them.  Thus, all people who have that sealing power received it from a special witness of Christ.  I think this pattern should tell us how very important and sacred this sealing power is, to receive it at the hands of one who has been directly commissioned by Christ to hold and carefully use that power for the salvation of man.  Obviously, these men must use that power carefully, and are authorized only to use it for the most righteous and holy purposes, namely, sealing of families within the temple.

This weekend was our Stake Conference. I have looked forward to it for the past few weeks, and I was not disappointed. Because I am part of the Elder’s Quorum presidency, I attended the Priesthood leadership session on Saturday afternoon. Then we had the adult session Saturday evening. Sunday morning was our general session. All were very good meetings. I took some extensive notes (12 pages) simply because the talks were so good and I knew I would not remember all of them.

I must say that I love my Stake Presidency. Presidents Olsen, Dopp and Leckie are great men, spiritually sound and able to speak and teach with the spirit. For this post, I want to briefly describe President Dopp’s remarks from Saturday evening and Sunday morning. The two talks have similar and continuing themes, and are worth relating. Just as a matter of interest, Pres. Dopp is a seminary teacher at Boise High School.

Saturday evening, President Dopp’s talk was based around an address that President Benson gave at BYU in 1980, entitled “14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”. These 14 items are quite interesting, and caused me to think some as they were read. They are:

1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

3. The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

4. The prophet will never lead the church astray.

5. The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

6. The prophet does not have to say “Thus Saith the Lord,” to give us scripture.

7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

8. The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

9. The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

10. The prophet may advise on civic matters.

11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

13. The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.

14. The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed—reject them and suffer.

At the time, Spencer W. Kimball was president of the church. I do not know the circumstances that led to this address. However, some of these points are interesting to ponder. For example, #2 and #3 indicate that a living prophet is absolutely vital to us, even over the past prophets and scriptures. These items are contrary to traditional Christian thinking, which, almost without exception, rejects the need for modern prophets and revelation. Pres. Dopp explained that revelation for a church could not happen without an absolute spokesman for the Lord. Simply put, there would be thousands of individual churches as each unit would soon be doing their own thing.

A good example of this was given by Brother Romero from the Spanish Branch. (He is from Spain and spoke in Spanish. Another person interpreted for him.) He had gone from Spain to the Canary Islands looking for work. After 2 months he had not found any was returning to Spain to be with his family. A few days prior to returning to Spain, one of the area authorities found him and extended a call to him to be the Branch President on the island. He at first did not wish to, knowing he was going home. However, after some conversation, accepted and served in that position for 7 years. When he first visited the branch, he found that the people had gone astray from the principles of the church, were few in number, and lacked a solid leadership to keep them solid. Over a year, he was able to correct the errors and build up the branch to 150 people of solid testimony. His talk was in the context of the blessings of serving. However, I can see that this story also emphasizes the need to have a prophet and to follow his counsel. These people hadn’t done so for whatever reasons, but when given the proper direction responded and became strong in faith and spirit.

In Sunday’s meeting, the topic was about prophets, and Pres. Dopp spoke about why a prophet is essential. He started with a series of items that had appeared in church bulletins (not necessarily LDS) that had good intentions, but the meaning was not clear. Such as “The choir is looking for donations to purchase 8 choir robes as several new people have joined the choir and some old ones have deteriorated”. Oops! The scriptures and doctrines of the Savior are sometimes misunderstood. The proof of that is the fact that there are thousands of Christian churches, all claiming to have the spirit and truth with them. Almost none claim to have a prophet who has the spirit of revelation at their head. Instead, those who lead and preach are either graduates of a theological school or those who believe they are called simply because they want to preach. It is true that the Lord considers those who have desires to serve as qualified to do so, but they must be called by the proper authority and given the authority to serve or the call is void. With a prophet at the head of the church, we can be assured that those who are called to lead are called by those with the proper authority. Along with this idea, #4 on the list becomes important.

One of the points that President Olsen made was that we do not need to be perfect to receive answer to prayer or the witness of the spirit. Rather, we need to be clean. When Joseph Smith entered a forest and received a divine manifestation of God and Jesus, he was not perfect. He was, however, clean and worthy to receive revelation. Throughout the early years of the church, he received revelation and visions, and while chastised at times, walked uprightly before the Lord.

I am very glad we have a prophet today. It is vital that we follow his teachings and counsel. I am very thankful to have these good leaders who are in tune with the spirit and can speak with the confidence and authority it gives.