Sunday, August 31, 2008

Where Do We Go When We Die?

Over the past few days, I have written about where we came from and why we are here. Today's topic is centered on what happen after we die or what to expect after this life.

Death, or the literal separation of our body and our spirit, is unavoidable. However, death is not the end. Death is merely a step on the path. After death, our spirit enters the spirit world (Ecclesiastes 12:7), which is divided with two commonly-known distinctions: heaven and hell. In the scriptures, heaven and hell are also referred to in many ways including as paradise and prison. Essentially, all those who accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ while on this Earth go to paradise and everyone else goes to prison. The prophet Alma wrote:
"Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life. And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow. And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil" (Alma 40:11-13).
However, a residence in heaven or hell is not the end. Because God is a merciful God, he still has provided a way that those in hell might be saved. After Christ was crucified, he visited hell, or spirit prison, and began to preach his gospel (1 Peter 3:18-20). This preaching goes on today (Doctrine and Covenants 138). Christ began this teaching in spirit prison so everyone who has ever lived will have an opportunity to choose to accept or reject his gospel, so that they might be judged according to the laws God has given us upon this Earth (1 Peter 4:6).

We will live in the spirit world until the resurrection when, just as Jesus Christ did, our physical body of flesh and bones will be reunited with our spirit in an immortal, perfect state (1 Corinthians 15). This is only possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, because Christ exercised power over death. Resurrection is a free gift given to us by our Savior that all people receive, whether they are righteous or wicked.

Once we are resurrected, we are judged as to our works and the intentions of our hearts at the great and final judgment. In the Apostle John's words:
"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works" (Revelation 20:12-13).
This judgment results in our reward for our performance in mortality where we made many choices. It determines where we will reside as immortals. There are three kingdoms of glory where we have the opportunity to reside called: celestial, terrestrial, and telestial. Paul taught the Corinthians about these kingdoms, "There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory" (1 Corinthians 15:40-41). In other words, the greatest glory, reserved for those that fully accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ and his Atonement, strove to keeps his commandments, and received all of the saving ordinances, is in the celestial kingdom, or the glory of the sun. Those who lived honorable lives, but did not accept the gospel of Jesus Christ go to the glory of the moon or the terrestrial kingdom. Those who continued to sin unrepentantly receive the telestial kingdom, compared in glory to the stars, relative to the sun and the moon.

Paul also implies that there are multiple degrees of glory within each kingdom "for one star differeth from another star in glory". This statement makes so much sense to me. The idea of a clear-cut heaven and hell in the end does not make a whole lot of sense, in my opinion. Where would that line be drawn? Rather, our merciful Heavenly Father has given us the Plan of Happiness where we will be rewarded according to our faith and our works (James 2:17-26). We are blessed in the life after this based on our individual performance, we are not simply lumped into one of two groups.

I know that the Plan of Salvation is true doctrine. I feel assured that when I die or when those I know and love die, all is well. If you have even been to a Mormon funeral, you would see a total difference in the minds and moods of the attendees for this very reason--we know what happens after death! I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have prepared three distinct kingdoms for us. I know these things because I have asked God in prayer and he has brought peace to my soul, he has given me an assurance of the truth of the Plan of Salvation. I share this testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why Are We Here?

Previously I wrote about "Where Did We Come From". Today I continue our eternal journey with "Why Are We Here?"

We are here to find happiness. The prophet Nephi taught that "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25).

We are here to gain a physical body, just as Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have. As we are human, caused by the fall of Adam, we have an imperfect body that is subject to death. However, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can also break the bands of death, just as he did, and be resurrected with a perfect body of flesh and bones.

We are also here to learn. In our human condition, again created by the fall of Adam, we are in a state of spiritual death, or separation from our Father in Heaven. However, we have the opportunity through faith and our actions to draw close again to our Father in Heaven. Of course the adversary, Satan, is trying to keep us distant from our Father in Heaven, so much of our learning comes from growing strong in faith and resisting temptation by overcoming our natural state. "For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father" (Mosiah 3:19).

The last line of this scripture "willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him" almost seems to conflict with the first purpose I wrote of our being here on this Earth, "to have joy". However, I would submit to you, how would you know joy without sorrow? How would you know how sweet tastes without tasting bitter? God gives us trials and hardships while we are on this Earth so that we might learn, so that we can appreciate what we are blessed with and have joy. Then, once we have found the true gospel of Jesus Christ, we will know the joy it entails!

However, we will make mistakes. We will sin. Heavenly Father, being a merciful God knew this, which is why he provided a Savior for us. Jesus Christ truly suffered and died for our sins. He completed the Atonement where he becomes our mediator, and offers us his grace. He offers us the opportunity to rise again from spiritual death by forgiving us of our sins, allowing us to be near Heavenly Father, piercing our minds and our hearts through the Holy Ghost.

The true gospel provides joy, gained through our opportunities to learn on this Earth, is part of a grander path. This path is where we go after this life. However, without Jesus Christ and his central role in the Plan of Salvation, none of this would be possible. But through Christ's Atonement, we can be made pure again and through his resurrection we can live again, because there truly is life after this life.

Our place in the life after Earth will be determined by what we do while on this Earth for the Apostle James declared "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20-26).

To summarize, we are here to have joy, receive a body, learn, and overcome our natural wickedness so that we might return to our Heavenly Father to the estate we have earned. This is why we are here. I know this is true doctrine. I share it in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Also, please watch Jennifer's testimony about what movtivated her to learn more about why we are here.

Next: Where Do We Go When We Die?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Where Did We Come From?

A basic question that we should all have an answer to is "Where did I come from?" There is an answer. We are quite literally the children of our Heavenly Father. In Acts 17:29 we are taught that "we are the offspring of God".

We existed in a world of spirits with our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and all mankind. However, once we reach this Earth, we forget where we came from so that we can learn by finding our way, through faith, study, and prayer. Jesus Christ taught the prophet Jeremiah that "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee" (Jeremiah 1:5). The same applies to all of us, the Lord knew us before we came here.

"Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord" (Doctrine and Covenants 138:56). We learned all that we could learn in the world of spirits, so Heavenly Father created a perfect plan to accomplish his purpose. commissioned the creation of the Earth so that we might continue our learning.

We are here because we chose to follow that plan. In the scriptures this plan is referred to by several names such as the Plan of Salvation, the Plan of Happiness, the Plan of Redemption, and a Merciful Plan. Jesus Christ is central to the plan. Through the Atonement of Christ, we can all be forgiven of our sins and be made pure again, so that we will be able to once again live with our Father in Heaven.

I know that we did live together in the spirit world before this life. I know that I am a child of God and that he sent me here with a purpose and a plan so that I might learn his gospel and return to him. I know that this is only possible through the plan, which centers around Jesus Christ and his Atonement. I know that Jesus Christ took upon himself all sins, so he might serve as my mediator, that I can be made whole again. I know that a merciful Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ live! I know that they know me personally and I know them personally! I know that I love them deeply and they love me deeply! I know that I, like the Prodigal son, can repent of all of my sins, and God will welcome me back into his presence with open arms. I know that these wonderful blessing are available to everyone. Of this I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Please also watch Isaiah's testimony about where we came from.

Also, please watch Debbie's testimony about the pre-existence.

Next: Why Are We Here?

All Good Comes From God, All Evil Comes From the Devil

12 Wherefore, all things which are agood cometh of God; and that which is bevil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to csin, and to do that which is evil continually.
13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do agood continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and benticeth to do cgood, and to love God, and to serve him, is dinspired of God.
14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is aevil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to ajudge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16 For behold, the aSpirit of Christ is given to every bman, that he may cknow good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do aevil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the alight by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same bjudgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the alight of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a bchild of Christ.

Moroni 7:12-19

Monday, August 18, 2008

Freedom is One of the Greatest Gifts Given by God

In The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, a great military leader, Captain Moroni (depicted here to the left), had become frustrated with the people (see Alma 46). There was an uprising in the land. Many people were supporting politicians, if you will, that were in favor of limiting the freedoms of the general public. These politicians came from different backgrounds, ranging from what seemed to be unelected new-comers to elected judges with lesser power than other judges in the land.

The politicians gained the favor of the people by saying what the people wanted to hear. This flattery had garnered the politicians much favor in many parts of the land and a growing number of supporters, even though when the general public scrutinized the politicians closely, they would know that the politicians were only interested in limiting the people's freedom.

The purpose, of course, of limiting freedom is the acquisition of power. The more people rely on their leaders or their government, the more power the general public willingly cedes to their rulers. Generally, arguments are made about how much the politician cares for us and our well-being, when in reality, the politician desires us to need them, thus giving him power.

In this political climate, Captain Moroni, it seemed, became incensed, in my opinion, because of the large number of people willing to follow that which sounded good, without critically thinking about the consequences of the flattering words. So Moroni tore his coat and wrote on it: "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children" (Alma 46:12).

Then Captain Moroni took this flag, fastened it onto a pole, put on his full battle armor, and prayed for everyone around him. After that Captain Moroni stood and he stood for something. Captain Moroni stood for one of the greatest gifts God has given us, the freedom to choose. He went about in the land proclaiming freedom, which in some parts of the land was probably not popular, though those who were against freedom certainly had created new names for their causes (because who is really going to proclaim to be anti-freedom), they still likely despised Captain Moroni's heroic efforts.

I love the freedom that living in the United States of America gives me. I know that God appointed this land to be a free nation from its birth so that his church could be restored. I also know that there are those who take advantage of this freedom and use flattering words to attempt to gain power on both sides of the aisle, with the intent to whittle away at our freedom little by little. However, I know that righteousness will prevail, that in the last days God will preserve his people.

In the up coming elections, I will ask God in my prayers who will do the best at upholding our freedom. This is who I will vote for. I will not vote strategically or vote against someone. I will stand for something and vote for someone. I hope you are willing to do the same.

Why I Choose Mormonism

The purpose of this blog is to show why I choose to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormonism, and to share these feelings and bits and pieces of our complex yet simple doctrine. Today I found another faithful member's blog titled "Why I Choose Mormonism". It's awesome. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Divine Institution of Marriage

Originally located here at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints newsroom, this paper is the position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on marriage.

The Divine Institution of Marriage

Introduction

The California Supreme Court recently ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in California. Recognizing the importance of marriage to society, the Church accepted an invitation to participate in ProtectMarriage, a coalition of churches, organizations, and individuals sponsoring a November ballot measure, Proposition 8, that would amend the California state constitution to ensure that only a marriage between a man and a woman would be legally recognized. (Information about the coalition can be found at http://www.protectmarriage.com/).

On June 20, 2008, the First Presidency of the Church distributed a letter about “Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families,” announcing the Church’s participation with the coalition. The letter, which was read in Latter-day Saints’ church services in California, asked that Church members “do all [they] can to support the proposed constitutional amendment.”

Members of the Church in Arizona and Florida will also be voting on constitutional amendments regarding marriage in their states, where coalitions similar to California’s are now being formed.

The focus of the Church’s involvement is specifically same-sex marriage and its consequences. The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.

The Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a husband and a wife united in the bonds of matrimony.

The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility towards homosexual men and women. Protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not affect Church members’ Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people.

As Church members decide their own appropriate level of involvement in protecting marriage between a man and a woman, they should approach this issue with respect for others, understanding, honesty, and civility.

Intending to reduce misunderstanding and ill will, the Church has produced the following document, “The Divine Institution of Marriage,” and provided the accompanying links to other materials, to explain its reasons for defending marriage between a man and a woman as an issue of moral imperative.

The Divine Institution of Marriage

Marriage is sacred, ordained of God from before the foundation of the world. After creating Adam and Eve, the Lord God pronounced them husband and wife, of which Adam said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” [1] Jesus Christ cited Adam’s declaration when he affirmed the divine origins of the marriage covenant: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.” [2]

In 1995, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” declared the following unchanging truths regarding marriage:

We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children . . . The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.

The Proclamation also teaches, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” The account in Genesis of Adam and Eve being created and placed on earth emphasizes the creation of two distinct genders: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” [3]

Marriage between a man and a woman is central to the plan of salvation. The sacred nature of marriage is closely linked to the power of procreation. Only a man and a woman together have the natural biological capacity to conceive children. This power of procreation – to create life and bring God’s spirit children into the world – is sacred and precious. Misuse of this power undermines the institution of the family and thereby weakens the social fabric. [4] Strong families serve as the fundamental institution for transmitting to future generations the moral strengths, traditions, and values that sustain civilization. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms, “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society.” [5]

Marriage is not primarily a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations. Rather, marriage and family are vital instruments for rearing children and teaching them to become responsible adults. While governments did not invent marriage, throughout the ages governments of all types have recognized and affirmed marriage as an essential institution in preserving social stability and perpetuating life itself. Hence, regardless of whether marriages were performed as a religious rite or a civil ceremony, married couples in almost every culture have been granted special benefits aimed primarily at sustaining their relationship and promoting the environment in which children are reared. A husband and a wife do not receive these benefits to elevate them above any other two people who may share a residence or social tie, but rather in order to preserve, protect, and defend the all-important institutions of marriage and family.

It is true that some couples who marry will not have children, either by choice or because of infertility, but the special status of marriage is nonetheless closely linked to the inherent powers and responsibilities of procreation, and to the inherent differences between the genders. Co-habitation under any guise or title is not a sufficient reason for defining new forms of marriage.

High rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births have resulted in an exceptionally large number of single parents in American society. Many of these single parents have raised exemplary children; nevertheless, extensive studies have shown that in general a husband and wife united in a loving, committed marriage provide the optimal environment for children to be protected, nurtured, and raised. [6] This is not only because of the substantial personal resources that two parents can bring to bear on raising a child, but because of the differing strengths that a father and a mother, by virtue of their gender, bring to the task. As the prominent sociologist David Popenoe has said:

The burden of social science evidence supports the idea that gender differentiated parenting is important for human development and that the contribution of fathers to childrearing is unique and irreplaceable. [7]

Popenoe explained that:

. . . The complementarity of male and female parenting styles is striking and of enormous importance to a child’s overall development. It is sometimes said that fathers express more concern for the child’s longer-term development, while mothers focus on the child’s immediate well-being (which, of course, in its own way has everything to do with a child’s long-term well-being). What is clear is that children have dual needs that must be met: one for independence and the other for relatedness, one for challenge and the other for support. [8]

Social historian David Blankenhorn makes a similar argument in his book Fatherless America. [9] In an ideal society, every child would be raised by both a father and a mother.

Challenges to Marriage and Family

Our modern era has seen traditional marriage and family – defined as a husband and wife with children in an intact marriage – come increasingly under assault. Sexual morality has declined and infidelity has increased. Since 1960, the proportion of children born out of wedlock has soared from 5.3 percent to 38.5 percent (2006). [10] Divorce has become much more common and accepted, with the United States having one of the highest divorce rates in the world. Since 1973, abortion has taken the lives of over 45 million innocents. [11] At the same time, entertainment standards continue to plummet, and pornography has become a scourge afflicting and addicting many victims. Gender differences increasingly are dismissed as trivial, irrelevant, or transient, thus undermining God’s purpose in creating both men and women.

In recent years in the United States and other countries, a movement has emerged to promote same-sex marriage as an inherent or constitutional right. This is not a small step, but a radical change: instead of society tolerating or accepting private, consensual sexual behavior between adults, advocates of same-sex marriage seek its official endorsement and recognition.

Court decisions in Massachusetts (2004) and California (2008) have allowed same-sex marriages. This trend constitutes a serious threat to marriage and family. The institution of marriage will be weakened, resulting in negative consequences for both adults and children.

In November 2008, California voters will decide whether to amend their state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has joined in a broad coalition of other denominations, organizations, and individuals to encourage voter approval of this amendment.

The people of the United States – acting either directly or through their elected representatives – have recognized the crucial role that traditional marriage has played and must continue to play in American society if children and families are to be protected and moral values propagated.

Forty-four states have passed legislation making clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. More than half of those states, twenty-seven in all, have done so by constitutional amendments like the ones pending in California, Arizona, and Florida. [12]

In contrast, those who would impose same-sex marriage on American society have chosen a different course. Advocates have taken their case to the state courts, asking judges to remake the institution of marriage that society has accepted and depended upon for millennia. Yet, even in this context, a broad majority of courts – six out of eight state supreme courts – have upheld traditional marriage laws. Only two, Massachusetts and now California, have gone in the other direction, and then, only by the slimmest of margins – 4 to 3 in both cases.

In sum, there is very strong agreement across America on what marriage is. As the people of California themselves recognized when they voted on this issue just eight years ago, traditional marriage is essential to society as a whole, and especially to its children. Because this question strikes at the very heart of the family, because it is one of the great moral issues of our time, and because it has the potential for great impact upon the family, the Church is speaking out on this issue, and asking members to get involved.

Tolerance, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom

Those who favor homosexual marriage contend that “tolerance” demands that they be given the same right to marry as heterosexual couples. But this appeal for “tolerance” advocates a very different meaning and outcome than that word has meant throughout most of American history and a different meaning than is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Savior taught a much higher concept, that of love. “Love thy neighbor,” He admonished. [13] Jesus loved the sinner even while decrying the sin, as evidenced in the case of the woman taken in adultery: treating her kindly, but exhorting her to “sin no more.” [14] Tolerance as a gospel principle means love and forgiveness of one another, not “tolerating” transgression.

In today’s secular world, the idea of tolerance has come to mean something entirely different. Instead of love, it has come to mean condone – acceptance of wrongful behavior as the price of friendship. Jesus taught that we love and care for one another without condoning transgression. But today’s politically palatable definition insists that unless one accepts the sin he does not tolerate the sinner.

As Elder Dallin H. Oaks has explained,

Tolerance obviously requires a non-contentious manner of relating toward one another’s differences. But tolerance does not require abandoning one’s standards or one’s opinions on political or public policy choices. Tolerance is a way of reacting to diversity, not a command to insulate it from examination. [15]

The Church does not condone abusive treatment of others and encourages its members to treat all people with respect. However, speaking out against practices with which the Church disagrees on moral grounds – including same-sex marriage – does not constitute abuse or the frequently misused term “hate speech.” We can express genuine love and friendship for the homosexual family member or friend without accepting the practice of homosexuality or any re-definition of marriage.

Legalizing same-sex marriage will affect a wide spectrum of government activities and policies. Once a state government declares that same-sex unions are a civil right, those governments almost certainly will enforce a wide variety of other policies intended to ensure that there is no discrimination against same-sex couples. This may well place “church and state on a collision course.” [16]

The prospect of same-sex marriage has already spawned legal collisions with the rights of free speech and of action based on religious beliefs. For example, advocates and government officials in certain states already are challenging the long-held right of religious adoption agencies to follow their religious beliefs and only place children in homes with both a mother and a father. As a result, Catholic Charities in Boston has stopped offering adoption services.

Other advocates of same-sex marriage are suggesting that tax exemptions and benefits be withdrawn from any religious organization that does not embrace same-sex unions. [17] Public accommodation laws are already being used as leverage in an attempt to force religious organizations to allow marriage celebrations or receptions in religious facilities that are otherwise open to the public. Accrediting organizations in some instances are asserting pressure on religious schools and universities to provide married housing for same-sex couples. Student religious organizations are being told by some universities that they may lose their campus recognition and benefits if they exclude same-sex couples from club membership. [18]

Many of these examples have already become the legal reality in several nations of the European Union, and the European Parliament has recommended that laws guaranteeing and protecting the rights of same-sex couples be made uniform across the EU. [19] Thus, if same-sex marriage becomes a recognized civil right, there will be substantial conflicts with religious freedom. And in some important areas, religious freedom may be diminished.

How Would Same-Sex Marriage Affect Society?

Possible restrictions on religious freedom are not the only societal implications of legalizing same-sex marriage. Perhaps the most common argument that proponents of same-sex marriage make is that it is essentially harmless and will not affect the institution of traditional heterosexual marriage in any way. “It won’t affect you, so why should you care?’ is the common refrain. While it may be true that allowing single-sex unions will not immediately and directly affect all existing marriages, the real question is how it will affect society as a whole over time, including the rising generation and future generations. The experience of the few European countries that already have legalized same-sex marriage suggests that any dilution of the traditional definition of marriage will further erode the already weakened stability of marriages and family generally. Adopting same-sex marriage compromises the traditional concept of marriage, with harmful consequences for society.

Aside from the very serious consequence of undermining and diluting the sacred nature of marriage between a man and a woman, there are many practical implications in the sphere of public policy that will be of deep concern to parents and society as a whole. These are critical to understanding the seriousness of the overall issue of same-sex marriage.

When a man and a woman marry with the intention of forming a new family, their success in that endeavor depends on their willingness to renounce the single-minded pursuit of self-fulfillment and to sacrifice their time and means to the nurturing and rearing of their children. Marriage is fundamentally an unselfish act: legally protected because only a male and female together can create new life, and because the rearing of children requires a life-long commitment, which marriage is intended to provide. Societal recognition of same-sex marriage cannot be justified simply on the grounds that it provides self-fulfillment to its partners, for it is not the purpose of government to provide legal protection to every possible way in which individuals may pursue fulfillment. By definition, all same-sex unions are infertile, and two individuals of the same gender, whatever their affections, can never form a marriage devoted to raising their own mutual offspring.

It is true that some same-sex couples will obtain guardianship over children –through prior heterosexual relationships, through adoption in the states where this is permitted, or by artificial insemination. Despite that, the all-important question of public policy must be: what environment is best for the child and for the rising generation? Traditional marriage provides a solid and well-established social identity to children. It increases the likelihood that they will be able to form a clear gender identity, with sexuality closely linked to both love and procreation. By contrast, the legalization of same-sex marriage likely will erode the social identity, gender development, and moral character of children. Is it really wise for society to pursue such a radical experiment without taking into account its long-term consequences for children?

As just one example of how children will be adversely affected, the establishment of same-sex marriage as a civil right will inevitably require mandatory changes in school curricula. When the state says that same-sex unions are equivalent to heterosexual marriages, the curriculum of public schools will have to support this claim. Beginning with elementary school, children will be taught that marriage can be defined as a relation between any two adults and that consensual sexual relations are morally neutral. Classroom instruction on sex education in secondary schools can be expected to equate homosexual intimacy with heterosexual relations. These developments will create serious clashes between the agenda of the secular school system and the right of parents to teach their children traditional standards of morality.

Finally, throughout history the family has served as an essential bulwark of individual liberty. The walls of a home provide a defense against detrimental social influences and the sometimes overreaching powers of government. In the absence of abuse or neglect, government does not have the right to intervene in the rearing and moral education of children in the home. Strong families are thus vital for political freedom. But when governments presume to redefine the nature of marriage, issuing regulations to ensure public acceptance of non-traditional unions, they have moved a step closer to intervening in the sacred sphere of domestic life. The consequences of crossing this line are many and unpredictable, but likely would include an increase in the power and reach of the state toward whatever ends it seeks to pursue.

The Sanctity of Marriage

Strong, stable families, headed by a father and mother, are the anchor of civilized society. When marriage is undermined by gender confusion and by distortions of its God-given meaning, the rising generation of children and youth will find it increasingly difficult to develop their natural identity as a man or a woman. Some will find it more difficult to engage in wholesome courtships, form stable marriages, and raise yet another generation imbued with moral strength and purpose.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has chosen to become involved, along with many other churches, organizations, and individuals, in defending the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman because it is a compelling moral issue of profound importance to our religion and to the future of our society.

The final line in the Proclamation on the Family is an admonition to the world from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve: “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” This is the course charted by Church leaders, and it is the only course of safety for the Church and for the nation.


________________________________________________

[1] Genesis 2:24.

[2] Matthew 19:4-6.

[3] Genesis 1:27.

[4] M. Russell Ballard, “What Matters Most is What Lasts Longest,” Ensign, November 2005, p. 41.

[5] United Nations, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III), 10 December 1948.

[6] David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem (New York: Basic Books, 1995); Barbara Schneider, Allison Atteberry, and Ann Owens, Family Matters: Family Structure and Child Outcomes (Birmingham AL: Alabama Policy Institute: June 2005); David Popenoe, Life Without Father (New York: Martin Kessler Books, 1996); David Popenoe and Barbara Defoe Whitehead, The State of Our Unions 2007: The Social Health of Marriage in America (Piscataway, NJ (Rutgers University): The National Marriage Project, July 2007 ) pp. 21-25; and Maggie Gallagher and Joshua K. Baker, “Do Moms and Dads Matter? Evidence from the Social Sciences on Family Structure and the Best Interests of the Child,” Margins Law Journal 4:161 (2004).

[7] David Popenoe, Life Without Father (New York: The Free Press, 1996) p. 146.

[8] Ibid., p. 145. See also Spencer W. Kimball, “The Role of Righteous Women,” Ensign, November 1979, pp. 102-104.

[9] David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America, pp. 219-220.

[10] Stephanie J. Ventura and Christine A. Bachrach, “Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States, 1940-99,” National Vital Statistics Reports 48:16 (18 October 2000); and Brady E. Hamilton, Joyce A. Martin, and Stephanie J. Ventura, “Births: Preliminary Data for 2006,” National Vital Statistics Reports 56:7 (5 December 2007).

[11] Alan Guttmacher Institute, “Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States,” In Brief, July 2008.

[12] Christine Vestal, “California Gay Marriage Ruling Sparks New Debate,” stateline.org, 16 May 2008, updated 12 June 2008. Stateline.org is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

[13] Matt. 19:19.

[14] John 8:11.

[15] Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Weightier Matters,” BYU Devotional speech, 9 February 1999.

[16] Maggie Gallagher, “Banned in Boston: The Coming Conflict Between Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty,” The Weekly Standard, 15 May 2006.

[17] Jonathan Turley, “An Unholy Union: Same-Sex Marriage and the Use of Governmental Programs to Penalize Religious Groups with Unpopular Practices,” in Douglas Laycock, Jr., et al., eds., Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008, forthcoming).

[18] Marc D. Stern, “Gay Marriage and the Churches, paper delivered at the Scholar’s Conference on Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty, sponsored by the The Beckett Fund, 4 May 2006.

[19] “European Parliament Resolution on homophobia in Europe,” adopted 18 January 2006.

The Pathway of Discipleship

"Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship. It comforts, counsels, cures, and consoles. It leads us through valleys of darkness and through the veil of death. In the end love leads us to the glory and grandeur of eternal life.

For me, the Prophet Joseph Smith has always exemplified the pure love of Christ. Many asked why he gained so many followers and retained them. His answer: 'It is because I possess the principle of love' (Mark L. McConkie, Remembering Joseph: Personal Recollections of Those Who Knew the Prophet Joseph Smith [2003], 57)."

(Joseph B. Wirthlin, "The Great Commandment", Ensign, Nov. 2007)


Sunday, August 10, 2008

How Can Justice and Mercy Be Fulfilled?

video

"22 But there is a law given, and a apunishment affixed, and a brepentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the claw, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and amercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the batonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the cresurrection of the dead; and the dresurrection of the dead bringeth eback men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be fjudged according to their works, according to the law and justice.
24 For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also amercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.
25 What, do ye suppose that amercy can rob bjustice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God" (Alma 42:22-25).

Friday, August 08, 2008

How to Worship God

From one of Christ's disciples:

"To worship the Lord is to follow after him, to seek his face, to believe his doctrine, and to think his thoughts.

It is to walk in his paths, to be baptized as Christ was, to preach that gospel of the kingdom which fell from his lips, and to heal the sick and raise the dead as he did.

To worship the Lord is to put first in our lives the things of his kingdom, to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, to center our whole hearts upon Christ and that salvation which comes because of him.

It is to walk in the light as he is in the light, to do the things that he wants done, to do what he would do under similar circumstances, to be as he is.

To worship the Lord is to walk in the Spirit, to rise above carnal things, to bridle our passions, and to overcome the world.

It is to pay our tithes and offerings, to act as wise stewards in caring for those things which have been entrusted to our care, and to use our talents and means for the spreading of truth and the building up of his kingdom.

To worship the Lord is to be married in the temple, to have children, to teach them the gospel, and to bring them up in light and truth.

It is to perfect the family unit, to honor our father and our mother; it is for a man to love his wife with all his heart and to cleave unto her and none else.

To worship the Lord is to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.

It is to work on a welfare project, to administer to the sick, to go on a mission, to go home teaching, and to hold family home evening.

To worship the Lord is to study the gospel, to treasure up light and truth, to ponder in our hearts the things of his kingdom, and to make them part of our lives.

It is to pray with all the energy of our souls, to preach by the power of the Spirit, to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving.

To worship is to work, to be actively engaged in a good cause, to be about our Father’s business, to love and serve our fellowmen.

It is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to comfort those that mourn, and to hold up the hands that hang down and to strengthen the feeble knees.

To worship the Lord is to stand valiantly in the cause of truth and righteousness, to let our influence for good be felt in civic, cultural, educational, and governmental fields, and to support those laws and principles which further the Lord’s interests on earth.

To worship the Lord is to be of good cheer, to be courageous, to be valiant, to have the courage of our God-given convictions, and to keep the faith.

It is ten thousand times ten thousand things. It is keeping the commandments of God. It is living the whole law of the whole gospel.

To worship the Lord is to be like Christ until we receive from him the blessed assurance: “Ye shall be even as I am” (3 Nephi 28:10).

These are sound principles. As we ponder them in our hearts, I am sure we shall know increasingly of their verity.

True and perfect worship is in fact the supreme labor and purpose of man. God grant that we may write in our souls with a pen of fire the command of the Lord Jesus: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:8); and may we in fact and with living reality worship the Father in spirit and in truth, thereby gaining peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come" (Bruce R. McConkie, “How to Worship,” Ensign, Dec 1971, 129).

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Blogging Bishop

TD, the "Blogging Bishop" has plenty of good stuff. Go check it out.

A Hope in Christ

Today I was comforted by God through reading this passage:
1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Testimony Meeting

At my church the first Sunday of each month is set aside for the members of the congregation to bear testimony of their beliefs. Yesterday was such a day. From the start of the meeting, I felt the Holy Ghost compelling me to stand in front of our congregation and bear witness of the things I know to be true. After the hymn preceding the sacrament and the administration of the sacrament, the bearing of testimonies began. The spirit only compelled me further rise and speak from my heart. I had several thought in my mind of the things most precious to me, such as my family, that I am so grateful for, that I know I can be united with forever through God's great Plan of Salvation.

Yet when I rose to speak and began to walk to the pulpit, which, let me tell you, usually feels like a long walk, but in this particular case it was a near-excruciatingly long walk, as we had been a little late and were sitting on the back row. I felt all eyes in the congregation on me. I should have felt like I needed something overwhelming and powerful to say. The build up almost demanded it. However, my mind was clear. I knew I was walking to the pulpit guided by the Holy Ghost. I would say what he would have me say. For God knows I have a deep and sincere testimony of his gospel. As I walked, I looked over at our gentle, kind bishop who is always smiling, cracked a giant grin of my own, and felt peace and comfort of his love.

As I reached the pulpit, I began to bear witness about how dearly I love the scriptures starting my day in their pages, with my heart and mind opened to the Holy Ghost, allowing the Holy Ghost to remain with me throughout my day. I also spoke about the stark contrast of days that I do not start in the scriptures, which I unfortunately have had many of in the past few weeks. This still amazes me that it has happened because I have been in the habit of scripture study every morning for quite awhile. But as I spoke about the extreme differences, I felt my testimony of the scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit only increase further and I felt forgiveness for slipping from my study commitment. I know that God has given us the Holy Ghost to teach us in all things, to discern between good and evil, to delineate between light and darkness. I know that the Holy Ghost will be our companion in all aspects of life, spiritual and temporal. I am a better employee because of the influence of the Holy Ghost. I am a better father because of the influence of the Holy Ghost. And I am nearer to God because of the influence of the Holy Ghost.

After speaking about this subject, which I had intended to speak on, I spoke about other subjects, including the Prophet, President Monson, that though I have a testimony of, I had taken no thought to before the minute I spoke the words. Clearly, our Father in Heaven had some things he wanted me to say, with which he influenced my mind through the Holy Ghost.

Following the meeting, several people thanked me for my testimony. I always feel very strange when this happens, because I do not share my testimony, my deepest beliefs, the things in my set of beliefs that the Holy Ghost centers my mind around, to be acclaimed of men. I share by beliefs because they are in the deepest recesses of my heart, often having left to realm of faith to becoming actual knowledge. So I am almost embarrassed in this situation. I expressed this feeling to my amazing wife. She reminded me that when people comment on my testimony it is more to say that something I said touched their heart. She, of course, was correct, which really brought it all together.

By sharing my testimony and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide me, I grew a little more spiritually. At the same time, whatever I said, or however my words were organized, influenced others who were prepared through the Holy Spirit, allowing them to grow a little more spiritually. So, through my testimony and the testimony of everyone else who also felt compelled to rise and share their beliefs at the pulpit, all who were seeking in the congregation drew a little closer to God, and that is the purpose to true worship.