I Believe…

Great blog post. In reality, we won’t be called in to die for our faith in Christ. We are, however, called on every day to live for our faith in Christ.

Welcome to my life as Ms Ari Marie

Just as Jesus Christ has died for me and my sins, I would do the same, well I would do similar: die in His name…

I was just thinking today, as I prayed to God, “Wow, you know I could never repay my debts to God. I sin every day and it hurts me to think that Jesus went through everything He did because I’m a sinner; I’m a mess up. What do I do to deserve His forgiveness and redemption?” Then another question hit me: “What if someone came after me and said ‘Renounce the name of God.'” And it was life or death? Well, my friends, I’d die in the name of Jesus Christ.  I have faith in my Lord that He will provide for me and take care of me, though. I have faith that I may never have to face that situation.

I fear God, but not…

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5 Truths we don’t want to admit about church decline

Interesting thoughts. In the LDS Church we struggle with some of these issues, while avoiding others. Some great insights!

The Millennial Pastor

Last Sunday in my sermon, I wrote about Jesus overturning the tables in the temple, and noted that much of western Christianity is waking up the day after the tables have been overturned. Our prominence at the centre of society is long gone. Now we are dealing with the reality of numerical and financial decline. These days church leaders are looking to experts, programs, and books that will help us figure out what on earth is going on, and why so many have just stopped coming to church.

As a millennial and a pastor, I regularly hear church people bemoaning the loss of young people. This is evident to me in the fact that I have been pastor to only a handful of people my age. The ‘Nones’ are the new buzz group that concerned church leaders want to reach. Church people want to understand why so many of…

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Speed is important

12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. (Old Testament, Genesis, Genesis 39)

45 Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder. (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi, 1 Nephi 17)

25 Agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him, lest at any time he shall get thee, and thou shalt be cast into prison. (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi, 3 Nephi 12)

This is My Body




In this final hours the disciples would spend with the Savior, He implemented a new way for His disciples to remember the upcoming sacrifice He would make. True to His method of teaching, He did so using powerful symbolism:

“Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (New Testament, Matthew, Matthew 26)

In reference to His upcoming atoning sacrifice, the bread and water represented His body’s flesh and blood. His disciples may have asked themselves at the time, why is He teaching us to eat his flesh and drink His blood? It may have crossed the mind that there was even a slightly morbid association in this symbolism.

Others may have glossed over this ritual as another portion of teachings that they didn’t fully yet comprehend but perhaps some day would. After all, He had already spoken of Himself as being the bread of life, the manna which came from heaven and (John 6:54) “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. ” (New Testament, John, John 6). This doctrine had been so difficult for some they lost faith in Jesus over it. Lacking the Spirit’s guidance, is it possible they too were disturbed by what they considered potentially unpleasant references to consuming his flesh and blood?

In any case, the symbolism the Savior chose here pushed the boundaries of the disciples’ comfort level at the time. Why did He teach that what we now refer to as the sacrament was eating His flesh and drinking His blood. English majors will note that He used stronger language of metaphor as opposed to less forceful simile phrasing – “this IS my flesh” rather than “this is LIKE my flesh”.

Many Christian churches reinterpret much of the bible to take events and teachings less than literal. In the competition to interpret the bible literally, the Catholic Church wins a prize in this verse. They literally believe that one is partaking of Christ’s flesh during this ordinance. Putting doctrinal disputes aside, I find it admirable that they hold so closely to the Savior’s representation in this instance.

Regardless, the Savior intended for something meaningful to be learned here. As partakers of the sacrament, we are making the Atonement part of us. We are commiting to bringing the Atoning sacrifice into our lives, internalizing it, becoming one with the Savior. The sacrament symbolism rather than being morbid, represents a deeply personal connection the Savior is offering between Himself and His followers.

In the Church we often speak of the purpose and reason the Savior taught in symbols. We know as students of His word that symbolism offers richness in meaning, depth of understanding that can be created in no other way. In the case of sacrament, this holds true. The Savior wanted His disciples to have a regular reminder of the crowning event of His life, and even of all events in earth history. This event He wanted them to internalize, even be part of in spirit. When all is said and done, if we consume the Savior’s Atonement, if we reach the spiritual plane that the fruits of the Atonement have become a core part of our identity, we can literally say we have partaken of His flesh and blood. Not in some metaphysical transformation of the atoms being passed around by the Aaronic priesthood holders, buy in a life-changing, daily-impacting sort of way.

The opportunity to partake of the sacrament is the opportunity to commune with the Savior in a deeply significant way. The Book of Mormon teaches of the infinite nature of the atonement. How profoundly fortunate we are to be offered a weekly glimpse into becoming one with the Savior and His atonement! Is there a limit to the level of meaning and richness of understanding that this ordinance can offer? In at least the my math classes I took, there was no limit to “infinite”.

Unto the end of the world

After the resurrection of Jesus, powerful and poignant encounters took place between the Savior and His disciples. The discovery of the empty tomb; the walk on the road to Emmaus; the sharing of bread; the feeling of nail prints in His resurrected body; the training to Peter to “feed my sheep”. Each of these moments brought insight, new resolve, deeper commitment to the Gospel of the Lord. One thought from the Savior in the last verse of the book of Matthew stands as His parting message, a message that undoubtedly left a powerful final impression of His unyielding support and commitment to them in the road that lay ahead.

In Matthew it reads:
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 ¶Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (New Testament, Matthew, Matthew 28)

These disciples had been through a refining process. They had now been singled out as disciples of a crucified Christ, He who the leading Jews had considered a threat and an enemy. Judas had left them, they were the committed ones remaining and would go through much more for Christ. These individuals had bone deep resolve to prosecute the cause of Christ’s kingdom on earth. They were prepared to sacrifice for Him, not just willingly, but with cheer and joy at the thought of being considered worthy to suffer for His name. They were prepared to give their lives for Him. Pondering the state of their commitment brings a peaceful spirit of sacred reverence and respect.

So what was the meaning of Christ’s reciprocating expression of commitment to them that He would be with them, “even unto the end of the world”?

Clearly at face value, this is the Savior’s promise of His presence to individuals who were committed to Him. But what’s the specific significance of His promise “unto the end of the world”?

As much signifying Christ’s commitment to them for the duration of their life, this was perhaps too signifying the depth of His commitment to them through the difficulties they would face.

Through ridicule, mocking, beatings and even death the Savior was there for them. He would be there for them more than any other source of support. More than acquaintances, more then governments or institutions, more then the hope of assistance from material wealth. More than even trusted friends and close family members. To a true disciple, which these men were to whom He spoke, the Savior’s commitment of support was powerful. What greater sense of support can one experience in this earth life than the feeling of the Savior’s presence and assurance?

Fast forward to our day. The Savior’s commitment to each of us is no less strong. Some may say, yes, but realistically it’s not the same. And admittedly, we haven’t experienced the refiner’s fire that the apostles did in that day. After all, wouldn’t it truly be glorious to feel the power of conversion and love that those disciples felt? What would it take to achieve that burning dedication, that passion for the Gospel cause? What would it take to obtain certain knowledge that the Savior was there for you “to the end of the world”? Can such a certain knowledge be obtained in a different time, setting and world circumstance? The answer is unequivocally yes!

The answer to this question can be considered in three aspects:

1. We may not be able to witness the miracles of Jesus or see him sacrifice for the sins of mankind on the cross. To witness those events undoubtedly left impressions never to be forgotten in the hearts of those that followed Him.

For us to approach a similar understanding and conversion we must go through a similar education process. To do so, rather than reliving those experiences we must demonstrate a consistent pattern of Gospel living. The Savior taught that those that believe after witnessing His resurrection were blessed. But more so were those blessed that believed without seeing. In this sense our faith has the advantage over the original disciples if we are true and faithful.

2. Spend time deeply pondering the eternal truths of the Gospel. Power and depth will only come with greater insight into the glorious truths of Christ’s Gospel.

3. Courageously defend what’s good, worthy and right, as did the disciples of old. Perhaps there was a greater risk in that day that preaching the Gospel would leave you at risk of persecution and death. But defenders of truth will always face resistance of some kind, albeit in our day perhaps it’s resistance of a social nature.

Are you on the team of disciples that were still around after the refiner’s fire was poured out? If so, the Savior is there for you:

20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (New Testament, Revelation, Revelation 3)

There is a children’s Primary song, “If the savior stood beside me”. It helps us ponder what choices we’d make if the Savior were close by. By doing so we invite His presence.

The Savior knows each of us in a personal way. He has assured us of His personal acquaintance, His awareness of our needs, and His presence in our times of need. He counseled, “I say unto you that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me” (D&C 38:7). Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “The Savior is in our midst, sometimes personally, frequently through his servants, and always by his Spirit”


Lift Where You Stand

Pres Uchtdorf introduced the principle “Lift where you stand” a few years ago in General Conference.  As an example of someone who lifts where he stands, he recited the story of John Rowe Moyle.  John was a convert to the Church who left his home in England and traveled to the Salt Lake Valley as part of a handcart company. He built a home for his family in a small town a valley away from Salt Lake City. John was an accomplished stonecutter and, because of this skill, was asked to work on the Salt Lake Temple.

Every Monday John left home at two o’clock in the morning and walked six hours in order to be at his post on time. On Friday he would leave his work at five o’clock in the evening and walk almost until midnight before arriving home. He did this year after year.

One day, while he was doing his chores at home, a cow kicked him in the leg, causing a compound fracture. With limited medical resources, the only option was to amputate the broken leg. So John’s family and friends strapped him onto a door and, with a bucksaw, cut off his leg a few inches from the knee.

In spite of the crude surgery, the leg started to heal. Once John could sit up in bed, he began carving a wooden leg with an ingenious joint that served as an ankle to an artificial foot. Walking on this device was extremely painful, but John did not give up, building up his endurance until he could make the 22-mile (35-km) journey to the Salt Lake Temple each week, where he continued his work.

His hands carved the words “Holiness to the Lord” that stand today as a golden marker to all who visit the Salt Lake Temple. 5

John did not do this for the praise of man. Neither did he shirk his duty, even though he had every reason to do so. He knew what the Lord expected him to do.

Years later, John’s grandson Henry D. Moyle was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and, eventually, served in the First Presidency of the Church. President Moyle’s service in these callings was honorable, but his grandfather John’s service, though somewhat less public, is just as pleasing to the Lord. John’s character, his legacy of sacrifice, serves as a banner of faithfulness and an ensign of duty to his family and to the Church.

I’ve had minor cut on my foot the last week or so. I notice it when I get out if the car and walk to my chair each morning and feel a little grumbly. Imagine the experience of John Moyle. I love his powerful example in enduring hardship for the sake of the Gospel cause.  He understood the meaning of “lift where you stand.”  To lift where you stand is to contribute in whatever role you’re in, regardless of the attention received or the status associated with that role.  At its heart, the meaning of the principle is to live your life as a disciple of Christ to the fullest extent in all aspects, even though you may not be considered a leader in the Church.

Perhaps the most dramatic story of Martyrdom in all of the New Testament is the story of Stephen.  Stephen was a mighty man of faith.  And while the scriptures don’t say much about him, it’s clear that his faith in Christ and the corresponding miracles he performed caused a stir in Israel.  So much so, that it served as a threat to the Jewish leadership.  In appearing before the Jewish council, he was full of the power of God, to the extent that he appeared to them as though he had the face of an angel.

After proclaiming the divinity of Jesus Christ, Stephen was stoned to death.  As he died he witnessed the Savior in vision.

So who was this man Stephen?  What calling did he have?  Apostle?  General Authority?  Stephen was one of 7 individuals called to help the Apostles in physical tasks.  One LDS Church article compared his responsibilities to that of an LDS Aaronic Priesthood holder – the Priesthood held by 12 to 18 year old young men.  How can it be that this dramatic story about one of the first Martyrs of Christ’s Church was about a “regular” member of the Church and not about one of the prominent leaders?

Stephen took his role as disciple of Christ so seriously that he gave his life for it.  It wasn’t status or accolades or social acceptance that drove him.  He faithfully served out his calling as witness of Christ in spite of the social perception in his society.

Pres Uchtdorf asks the question, “when we stand before the Lord to be judged, will He look upon the positions we have held in the world or even in the Church? Do you suppose that titles we have had other than “husband,” “father,” or “priesthood holder” will mean much to Him? Do you think He will care how packed our schedule was or how many important meetings we attended? Do you suppose that our success in filling our days with appointments will serve as an excuse for failure to spend time with our wife and family?”

The Savior Himself laid down the foundation for this principle.  He emphasized the important of anonymity when doing the Lord’s work.  Status plays no role.  Matthew 6:1-3 states:

aTake heed that ye do not your balms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the ahypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have bglory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

Pres Hinckley further built on this principle by highlighting the importance of the role every member of the Church plays.  He stated that  “You have as great an opportunity for satisfaction in the performance of your duty as I do in mine. The progress of this work will be determined by our joint efforts. Whatever your calling, it is as fraught with the same kind of opportunity to accomplish good as is mine. What is really important is that this is the work of the Master. Our work is to go about doing good as did He.”

Paul taught that the Church is an organization where each member plays a role towards the building up the Kingdom.  Ephesians 4:11-12 states:

11 And he agave some, bapostles; and some, cprophets; and some,devangelists; and some, epastors and fteachers;

12 For the aperfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the bedifying of the body of Christ:

The pioneer spirit represents what it means to lift where you stand perhaps more than any other example. In the most recent Ensign magazine the brief highlight is told of a Mrs Williams from Wales who died on the trip to America but said that the greatest honor she had ever received was to be able to become a member of the true church of the Son of God, that there was no fear in her breast concerning the other life and that her religion now proved its strength more than ever before. …She continued lucid through the night, and at a quarter past four the next morning her spirit departed in peace, leaving a smile on her lips.”5

Paul further taught in 1 Corinthians 12:21 that all of our talents are required, just as a hand can’t say to the foot that it’s not needed.

Pres Uchtdorf teaches that there are 2 categories people often fall into – serving for the status of it and trying to hide from serving.  Neither of these are acceptable.

Is Doubt Compatible with Christian Faith?

I agree “that uncertainty need not weaken one’s commitment to the claims of a religious life.” In the Book of Mormon, Alma 32, faith is compared to the growth of a tree from a seed. When the seed is nurtured properly, it grows. When our faith is nurtured properly, we can feel the growth of faith in our lives and the influence of the Spirit. This doesn’t mean doubt is gone. It simply serves as a confirmation that the faith is real and should be further nurtured. This is one of the most powerful sermons on the nurturing of faith.

Letter to America’s next generation

Young Adults,

I recently read a blog named a “letter to the church”. It represented a young person’s voice on the subject of gay marriage. There was palpable frustration in that letter that the Christian church of today is alienating young people because of its stance on gay marriage. This letter is my response.

Today’s world is full of mixed messages. We’re told that America is the greatest nation on earth, yet the struggle of the poor class to reach out of its situation seems more difficult than ever. We’re told to show respect for women, yet we see women portrayed in every lewd and offensive depiction imaginable. We’re told that hard work will ultimately pay off, yet untold numbers are being paid billions from a bankrupt national budget for not working.

How do you interpret those messages?  How do you live a good life and follow the rules when it’s not clear those rules are based in something you can count on to be good and consistent?

One of the most painful mixed messages is the issue of violence in society.  We’re told that if we remove the guns or the ammunition or the violent games that it will solve the horrible news reports we get almost daily of innocent victims being gunned down. At some level we all know the shallowness of this argument. Society is fractured at a fundamental level. Violence has soared in the last fifty years. People are disturbed at alarming levels. Passing a law involving a gun restriction of some kind is not going to change the trajectory.

Of all the mixed and even hypocritical messages today, none are worse than the one society sends out today about the institution of marriage. The institution of marriage is precious, we’re told, even holy. We should cherish this institution and preserve it. Yet we see very little in the way of cherishing when it comes to marriage today. Men and women divorce readily when problems arise. Greater and greater numbers skip the old fashioned, quaint “ritual” of getting married at all when deciding to make a decision to live their lives together. What is the meaning of marriage?  Who even needs it?

Fast forward with me a few years into a fifteen year marriage. Lately I’ve been noticing things – small things, albeit – but important ones in the development of my children. Two days ago my nine year accidentally dropped a Cutco knife straight into my foot. How did Dad react?  Well, I could have done better, but I could have done worse too. It was embarrassing explaining the hobble I had in my gait at work the next day. But this was an opportunity for a young boy to see how a grown man handles pain and forgiveness (which I managed to pull off fairly quickly). Where else should he learn this?

A week or so ago, I had a “birds and bees” talk with my twelve year old. Again, the outcome wasn’t one for the record books, but it got the job done. Again, a young man and his father at a small, but key turning point in the child’s development.

Zoom back now to the “getting married” phase of life. When my wife and I were first dating I asked her how she would raise kids. She would learn along the way was at least part of the answer. I wanted something more meaty, an exact philosophy. But over the years I’ve found truth in that answer. How do you respond when your nine year old accidentally stabs you in the foot?  How do you give birds-and-bees talks to twelve year olds?  A proper answer posed to a twenty four year old young man would be, “I have no clue!!!”

But finally this is where the sanctity of marriage comes in. The answer undoubtedly involves being loving. Patience and humor play an important role. But at some level the answer is that it involves a man and a woman learning as they go. There’s no playbook. There’s no perfect formula. But the ingredients for success start with a mom and a dad.

My heart goes out to the victims of gun violence. But my heart goes out to the disturbed perpetrators too. What kind of dysfunctional homes were they raised in?  What did their dad do to them when they dropped a knife in his foot?  Was he even in the picture?

Marriage is still a vital institution today and always will be. It’s primary role is to safeguard the environment in which children are raised. Without being antagonistic toward the homosexual community, we must stand up for what marriage needs to be and work in our own lives to preserve it and be true to the role it should play in society.