Monday, September 30, 2013

Come Listen to Living Prophets

Eternal Marriage and the Abrahamic Covenant

Temple marriage is the crowning ordinance of the gospel here in mortality. Because of the significance of temple marriage and temple ordinances in general, we ought to understand the doctrine of eternal marriage and appreciate how the Lord has restored these blessings during our dispensation.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith was seventeen years old, he was visited by the prophet Moroni, who taught Joseph that the long-anticipated return of the prophet Elijah was about to occur and that he would “plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and [that] the hearts of the children [would] turn to their fathers” (Joseph Smith History 1:39; emphasis added).

The way in which this scripture was quoted to Joseph Smith emphasized that the Lord was about to restore very specific and important covenants that the he had made to “the fathers” during past dispensations of the gospel. Who are “the fathers” referred to in this scripture? What were those promises the Lord would soon restore to the earth as part of the gospel in the last days?

According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, the “fathers” mentioned in Malachi are specifically Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Studies in Scripture, Vol. 3: Genesis to 2 Samuel, ed. Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, 52). In sending Moroni to quote that important passage of scripture to the young prophet, the Lord was not merely making a generic statement regarding the importance of genealogy, though that is certainly part of the message. The Lord was specifically referring to those remarkable promises he had made with these three ancient patriarchs.

The blessings referred to in that marvelous prophecy are the covenants and promises known as the Abrahamic covenant, which the Lord personally made with that ancient patriarch. Those same blessings were subsequently extended to Isaac and then to Jacob. The Lord assures the Saints that if they are “Christ’s [followers], then are [they] Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).

Years later, the Lord sent the prophets Elias and Elijah to commit their vital priesthood keys to the Prophet Joseph Smith. On April 3, 1836, in the recently dedicated Kirtland Temple, the unidentified prophet Elias appeared to Joseph and Oliver and “committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham” into their hands, “saying that in [them] and [in their] seed all generations … should be blessed” (D&C 110:12).

In connection with the appearance of Elias, Elijah came to “plant in the hearts” of Joseph and all the Saints those wonderful privileges and blessings which had been offered to the righteous prophets and patriarchs of past dispensations.

Regarding these marvelous revelations to Joseph and Oliver, Elder McConkie said the following:

God came to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob and he said to each of them in turn that in them and in their seed all generations should be blessed. And he said the same thing to Joseph Smith in modern times; he said exactly what he said to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…. Joseph Smith was being told that he was going to receive the kind of blessings that Abraham received….

This is the promise of eternal increase…. Everyone in the Church who has been married in the temple has received exactly the same promise that God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Everyone who is married in the temple and who keeps the covenant has the assurance that he or she will have eternal increase [and] that his [or her] posterity will be like the dust of the earth and the stars of heaven in number (Ibid. 60; emphasis original).

It is remarkable to consider the tremendously significant appearance of Elias and Elijah to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Through his Prophet, the Lord has restored the unsurpassed privileges and blessings of eternal marriage and the astonishing potential of eternal increase. The Lord has endowed us with the holy priesthood and with all the blessings that attend the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Lord spoke anciently with the prophet Abraham, and said, “In thee … and in thy seed … shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal” (Abr. 2:11; emphasis added). He has renewed these promises with us in this last dispensation: “This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham …. Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved” (D&C 138:31-32).

By: Alan Stout

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Missionary Blessings

When I was a young girl nine years old, two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came knocking on my front door in Summerville, Georgia. They began teaching us about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We lived in a very rural country home.
We lived on a farm and as a young girl I had the opportunity to work very hard, taking care of cows, chickens, goats, horses, etc. We only had three neighbors that lived close by and when I say close by, I mean over ½ a mile away. I didn’t have many friends because people did not live close to us and there wasn’t a lot of extra time to “hang out” with all the farming responsibilities that we had.

I remember at this age being excited when the missionaries came to our home. They were so friendly and excited to teach us. We fed them each week as they came to give us the discussions. I don’t remember how long it took us to commit to baptism, but I still remember the wonderful Spirit that I felt, even at this young age. I consider myself to be a convert to the church, because I was over the age of eight in which you are normally baptized. I can remember my baptismal day even all these years later. It was a special day because by our farm we had a lake that was just our own. No one hardly ever visited this lake. Because we lived so far from an LDS building, the missionaries were given special permission to let us be baptized in “our own lake”.

It was November 2, 1974 and it was very, very cold outside. A little snow was on the ground and the water was frigid!! My parents were baptized first and then my brother and me. We all wore white and I remember thinking that I didn’t want to walk down into the muddy water and get my clothing dirty. I remember one of the missionaries telling us that as we walked into the dirty water and got baptized, we were getting rid of our past sins and starting a “New” life as newly members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I remember feeling so happy, even though it was so cold outside. We had warm blankets so that when we came out of the water, we could wrap ourselves up and head back to the house to change. I have treasured this memory since that day because most people are baptized in church buildings. I remember feeling special and thankful for these wonderful missionaries that “tracked and found us” in our little remote country home. I know it was hard work for these Elders to bike to our house and it took hours of work and preparation for them to visit us when we lived so far away. It helped me to gain a testimony of this wonderful work. I have since lost contact with these wonderful Elders, but I know that my mom kept in touch with them for a long time. 
When I think of missionaries now, my thoughts instantly go to my son, Elder Taylor Seeley, serving in the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Mission. He is currently serving in Delaware and has been out a little over 6 months.I am so thankful for the opportunity my son has to serve his Heavenly Father and the people of the mission he is in. I have seen incredible growth and faith promoting experiences over these 6 months. He has faced many hardships and challenges, but has endured with patience and faith.
In a recent email home, Elder Seeley shares an experiment that he and his companion have tried. Here is what Elder Seeley said:
“It has been a super exciting week. We have been working really hard to find new people to teach the gospel too! We had a really cool idea on how we could find new people the other day. We basically made a Book of Mormon and a Bible costume made out of posters, markers and tape. We went on a street corner and danced on the side of the road with a poster. (Kind of like you see when someone is dancing around with a Little Caesar Pizza Sign) at home. We had a sign that said “Honk if you love Jesus” and wore our costumes. It turned out super good-we got 3 new investigators in 40 minutes. We have decided to use this again sometime and hopefully have continued success. I have been able to witness many miracles since I have been out on my mission and I know the Lord will continue to show me more.”
I am so thankful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my life and especially for the Book of Mormon. I read the Book of Mormon every year and I have a strong testimony that it is true. I know that if we live the teachings in this great book our lives will be blessed and we will see the hand of the Lord in our daily lives. Seeing my son’s testimony grow on his mission helps me to know the bigger picture and what our Savior wants us to be like. The Savior wants us to “Come Unto Him” and to partake of the many blessings and opportunities that are within our reach. I know that there are specific people that Elder Seeley is meant to find and teach the gospel to while he is serving his mission. I am thankful for a son who sets such a great example for his two sisters and for his other family members, and thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ in my own life. I also know that we as members of the church need to do our part in bringing people unto Christ. There is so much happiness in the gospel and we should want everyone to have the same happiness in their lives too.

By: Syndee Seeley

Saturday, September 21, 2013

God’s Creation – The World

I have seen a little bit of this wonderful world which God created totally for our benefit and enjoyment.  As I think about the beautiful places I have been, the first thing that enters my mind is gratitude, even deep gratitude.

I remember driving through the Canadian Rockies down a valley road with giant tree covered peaks on either side feeling awe and wonder and just being overcome with the glory and majesty of His creative powers.  It was what I would call a significant spiritual experience.  Gratitude filled my heart.

I had all those same feelings driving from Simi Valley California through the Santa Monica Mountains and coming upon my first view of the vast Pacific Ocean at the beautiful city of Malibu.  The words “thank you God for such beauty” just came out of my mouth spontaneously.

I have been to the Alps near Innsbruck Austria, Bavaria Germany where my sir name comes from, Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina, the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii, flown over the top of Mt. Rainier Washington. I have seen the calving of the glaciers in Alaska, the Isle of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea, I have sailed the Islands of the Caribbean and been to so many places in Mexico and other places.

All of the memories that come back to me of seeing these many places again fill me with gratitude and confirm the fact that He is the Creator of this earth.  When you consider all of this creation and the environmental and atmospheric conditions and the natural resources that make life possible here, how could one ever doubt the existence of God.  The evidence is overwhelming that He is real to me.  I know this is not a very scientific opinion, but truth can be determined in spiritual ways as well.  The Lord said in the Book of Mormon to Moroni the prophet that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”  I challenge any honest reader of this blog to put it to that test, as I have many times and the truth shall be confirmed to you.

“The heavens declare the Glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork; and a moment’s reflection is sufficient to teach every man of common intelligence, that all these are not the mere productions of chance, nor could they be supported by any power less than an Almighty hand.”  --Joseph Smith.

Bill Wilhite

Monday, September 16, 2013

Living The Abundant Life

As I look back on my life of 65 years, my observations of both myself and of others, demonstrates that people go through life in one of two ways, or perhaps a combination of both at times.
            One of those ways is to simply “go with the flow,” allowing events and those around us to lead us wherever they will. Perhaps, living this way is a reflection of an individual not taking the time and effort to establish principles, upon which, that individual will pattern his life, giving it purpose. Some seem content to just let life happen to them. This approach to life seems to be the road easily taken and often reflects a sort of selfishness in its pursuit because it is more concerned with self than in serving the needs of others or a higher purpose.
            Much of my early life was lived this way, being quite content to just let life happen, taking little responsibility to give it direction. This tendency at times tugs at me still, as living the purposeful life takes effort.
            The other way of living life is to be grounded in principles, principles that are thought out, understood and which give specific direction to one’s life. Such living provides a template, by which our efforts and activities conform to serve a greater purpose than ourselves. Such living is more selfless than selfish, consisting of worthy goals, which not only serve others, but also enhance our own life as well.
            There is a Biblical account, which demonstrates the juxtaposition of these two ways. The story of Jacob and Esau reflects the difference between the directed or abundant life versus the emptiness of the undirected life. This tale of two brothers is in itself a tale of the two ways.
Esau, being the firstborn, had the birthright, a position esteemed in that culture. He who held the birthright was in a prominent position of trust and responsibility, taking over the leadership of the family or clan when the current patriarch was dead.
Esau did not consider this birthright of much value, trading it to his younger brother for what the Bible states as a “mess of pottage” or a simple meal. He was more concerned with his own immediate need than the responsibility of his future position, a position, which would require him to lead a purposeful life, being responsible for those under his care. It was selfish versus selfless in nature. At one point Esau states, “What profit shall this birthright do to me?” And in a way he was right, of what value is a birthright if one is unwilling to live up to its potential and its blessings. In effect, Esau traded a “full life” for a “full stomach”, the here and now.
Jacob, who valued the birthright and was willing to honor that position by taking the heavy responsibility in serving those in his care, went on to live a directed and principled life. He became Israel and went on to lead a great family of twelve tribes, which would have a great impact on those in their day as well as having a profound impact on the world at large and for many future generations.
Living for oneself has the appearance of ultimate freedom, but in actuality, it is a hollow trap, as Esau’s stomach was soon empty. I have known people like this in my life, some acquaintances and some in my own family, people who lived for themselves and not for a greater purpose and it is very sad to witness.
I too have been guilty of such living, especially in my younger years and recognize now my folly.
So, with all of this being said, how does one go about determining to live what I describe as the abundant or purposeful life? For me, it came in a most miraculous way, but only after I unknowingly prepared for that miracle.
While serving in the U.S. Navy, stationed in Guam, I finally did what needed to be done for a long time and that was to take stock of my life. I began to actually and purposefully ask some of the deep and cosmic questions of life. For many months, as I patrolled the jungles of Guam surrounding our ship’s anchorage, on perimeter security watch, I had time to gaze at the stars and to think.
I gazed in awe at the vast expanse of the universe and for the first time in my life, I began to ask questions such as, “Was there a God, and if so, who or what was he?’ I wondered about who I was and what the meaning of life was. I also pondered the meaning of the universe and my place in it. These were not merely questions of curiosity, but real heartfelt questions, the answers to which, I was willing to conform my future life to.
At the same time I was pondering such cosmic questions, my good friend back home had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormons. Months later, this friend sent me a letter informing me of his joining this faith. I must admit that the first thoughts entering my mind were “what in the world has my friend done?” I envisioned the Mormons to be like the Amish of perhaps like the man portrayed on the Quaker Oats box. These were less than favorable images and based on inaccurate information.
Enclosed in this letter was a pamphlet about Joseph Smith and out of respect for my friend, but still with dubious inclinations, I read the pamphlet. As I began reading the words of Joseph Smith, recounting his miraculous vision, in which he was personally visited by both our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ, I can only describe what happened as miraculous. I felt the strong influence of the Holy Ghost come over me, as I read. I knew that Joseph was telling me the truth. It was as though I somehow in some distant past knew these things already and I had the strong feeling that I had come home.
Without going into much detail and multiplying many words, I will simply say that this was the beginning of all the answers to my questions. I now know who God is and my relationship to Him. I also know who I am, and what the purpose of life is. This knowledge of things as they really are became the foundation or template by which my life in the future would be lived. In effect, it informed me of my birthright.
This knowledge helped me to depart from the natural and selfish tendencies to live for myself and to instead, turn towards living what I would call the more abundant life, the life lived for a higher purpose. This knowledge also gave me direction in how I could live up to my birthright, the birthright we all share as literal spirit children of a Heavenly Father. Unlike Esau, it is something I value. It has been the best thing that could ever happen to me.
By saying this, I am in no way implying that I have it all together, or that I am in some way someone to be emulated. I am still and will be in the future, deeply flawed in so many ways, but at least I have a pattern for living based on eternal truth. Striving to live according to true principles has enhanced my life.
I can’t imagine what my life would have been like had I not asked those questions and been willing to hear the answers. I do believe that my life would have been less than exemplary, to say the least. It is my firm testimony that to so live is to find great joy, the kind of joy that overshadows anything the world with all of its enticements can offer. What the world offers is as empty as was Esau’s stomach, whereas, the abundant life will not give us cause for many regrets.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thanks for all the FUN!

I just want to share a few photographs that I have taken over the last couple of years and tell everyone, “Thank You!”  Thanks for the fun times and thank you for the spiritual experiences that we have shared.
I remember stories of prayers as we hiked in the deserts and mountains.  Stories of girls praying for the safe return of their lost sisters, and I remember stories of the boys praying for their sick and dehydrated brothers.  I remember each of the prayers being answered with the safe return of the lost and the return to health and strength of sick friends.
What do you remember from these photos?

Do you remember the great advice given by Chin Wa?

What about the slip and slide at girl’s camp?

Hiking to the hot pots in Spanish Fork Canyon?

Summer camp 2012 at Lake Powell?

We seem to always take the Cookie Monster with us.

And Cookie Monster is on this hike to Pittsburgh Lake in American Fork Canyon.

And from this picture: Gabby, Abby, Becca, and Jennifer (who I like to call Lucy) now all serving full-time missions.  What a difference two short years can make.

Here are a few of my friends hiking the Little Wild Horse Canyon near Goblin Valley.

And the next day a few of us hiked Ding and Dang slot canyons near Goblin Valley

I remember the fun times we have had with the scouts on several winter camps.  I always thought winter camps were supposed to be miserable.  These guys look like they are enjoying this.

Brother Scruggs claims to have seen a young man get washed over this water fall (in Battle Creek Canyon) and survive the fall.  It is a cool story; you should ask him about it.

Remember the 10 mile hike up Battle Creek Canyon and back down Grove Creek Canyon?  Who prayed for the rain?

  Anyone else remember the 10 mile hike in Bell Canyon?  A great hike in another slot canyon near Goblin Valley, of course someone brought the Cookie Monster, chocolate chip, or oatmeal?


How about two adult leaders waiting their turn to climb the walls of the Little Wild Horse slot canyon?

How could anyone forget Summer Camp 2013 near Boulder Mountain, Utah?  This first photo is two hours into a 4 day 50 mile hike.  Everyone is still all smiles.

This is an hour later.  This canyon is called cry baby canyon.  But no tears were shed here from our boys.

This is on our third day near Water Canyon in “The Gulch”.  What a beautiful canyon this is.

On day four, the boys were still going strong, only 15 miles to go to complete the full 50 mile hike.   This photo is at 9:30 in the morning.

This photo is 5:13 pm as the boys just finished the full 50 mile hike.  I remember one young man who was so excited to finish that he sprinted up the last hill.  I was so tired I could barely walk, but he was so excited he ran.  What great young men.

  And one more look.

It just occurred to me that I have not included any cooking pictures.  These boys can cook.

And just in case you think we only go to hot, dry, places in the desert.  Here is a water activity.  Does anyone remember the huge rain storm that happened just minutes after we left the lake? That was definitely an answer to my prayers to have us safely off the lake before the storm. 

Thank you, again, for the fun times and great memories.  Thanks to our Heavenly Father who has blessed us with safety.  I will always remember the prayers that have been answered as we have shared these experiences.  I encourage all of us to remember the love that our Father in Heaven has for us, and the gift of the Atoning Sacrifice made by our Redeemer Jesus Christ.
Daniel Burr