Sunday, August 30, 2015

What We Believe About Marriage and Families

We, the 16 and 17 year-old youth of the Cedar Hills 10th ward, believe and solemnly testify that:

Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and necessary to His eternal plan for our happiness here on earth and in the world to come.  We believe in chastity before marriage and complete fidelity after marriage.

The family is essential to God’s plan and we take earnestly his commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.  Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony and to be reared by both a father and a mother who love each other and who care for their children. 

As spirit children of loving Heavenly Parents, God provided a plan for our happiness and our eternal destiny of which gender identity plays an essential part.  In families here on earth and in the world to come fathers are uniquely qualified and primarily responsible to preside over their families in love and righteousness and to provide the necessities of life.  Mothers are uniquely qualified and responsible for the nurture of their children.   It is vital, however, that fathers and mothers work together as equal partners in rearing their children. Together they are like the right and left hands on the piano; each hand plays its own unique part yet together they compliment each other and are greater than the sum of their parts.

We believe that someday we will be held accountable before God for our roles as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.

See: The Family:  A Proclamation to the World
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints



Thursday, August 20, 2015

“I WAS IN PRISON AND YOU CAME UNTO ME”

Matthew 25:35-43

We have had the privilege of serving 13 years visiting or writing to incarcerated men and women in many places throughout the world.  For a few of those years it was as much as 20 to 30 hours per week, now it’s just 5 or 6 hours one day a week.  The LDS Correctional Services office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has provided us this opportunity.

It has been an enlightening experience to say the very least.  It has proven several facts to us; the most inspiring simply put is that those who embrace the love of Jesus Christ and endeavor to follow Him are less likely to return to prison.  This is called the rate of recidivism.  There are other things that reduce this rate but the process of coming unto Christ seems to be the most obvious to us.   

One inmate was taught that “My life would change if I would read the Book of Mormon.  When I got out of prison I went back to church, but I still had the urge to return back to my old habits.  As I continued to read the Book of Mormon, I learned about the people of King Lamoni in Alma 19:33, whose hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil. I began to pray for this change of heart.”  He found answers to his prayers in Helaman 15:7, which teaches that “faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart.”  As he continues “As I laid my sins at the Savior’s feet, I received a true change of heart.”

The sad state of being incarcerated is that so much of one’s life can be lost and bitterness sets in because of the unfairness that often accompanies being caught up in the judicial system.  So many inmates claim their innocence, but most are not; and yet some are. Family experiences are missed; relationships are strained and often broken never to be repaired.  Loneliness sets in and often depression. There can be mistreatment from guards and other inmates; safety becomes a vital concern. 

Attitude becomes a key to survival for every inmate. Help from others like cellmates, good guards, a chaplain or volunteers is so welcomed.  Another inmate came to prison frightened about everything so he prayed that he would be acquitted; he was not. He prayed that his father would live until he got out of prison, but he did not. He prayed that the parole board be lenient; but they were not continuing his matrix recommendation.  He was humbled and discovered that these were good experiences for him. He said “when we pray for what we want, our Heavenly Father gives us what we need because he knows us and knows what we need to make us happy”

Joseph Smith was falsely accused and imprisoned for months along with several of his friends and church associates.  He pleaded with God for relief when he said in prayer, “how long shall we suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions.”  The answer came: “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.”
Whether guilty or falsely charged, relief of the accompanying pain of prison time can come from humbly asking God to carry our burdens that they may be light.  “…the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease.” (Mosiah 24:10-16)
This would apply to all of us who struggle with some burden or another.


Bill Wilhite

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Haven’t you noticed..? So bring water and drink it!

A couple weeks ago our young women youth group headed to Moab. Every year we do a week long camp trip to provide the girls with some outdoor experiences. We love to see them get away from their electronic devices, enjoy the outdoors, learn how to cook, cleanup, set-up tents and see Gods creations. It’s always a great experience. We decided to switch things up a bit and do a river rafting trip! I’m so glad we did, it was amazing!


We managed to convince the young women that a hike in 100 degree weather was going to be worthwhile! Miraculously, after it was all done and over with, I think they all agreed. One of the many things we try and accomplish at camp is to learn that we can do hard things. It would be nice if life was easy but there wouldn’t be a lot of spiritual/mental growth. Haven’t you noticed that you learn the most when life is the hardest? This life is about learning, growing, and becoming a better person-which means you better be prepared for some hard times!

We tried to help the girls be prepared for the hike. We provided them with an empty water bottle and water. All they had to do was fill it up. It was a simple task but their action was required. If they took off on that hike without water, in 100 degree temperatures, it was not going to be a positive outcome. 

Just like our own lives, the Savior is the water. He is there for us, ready to quench our thirst at a moments notice. All we have to do is fill up the bottle. We need to be the ones that take the first step of action. The water can’t get in the bottle unless we initiate the first step. We need to go to Him, humble ourselves and He will lift us up.

We took off on our hike with all different levels of excitement. There was the “I’m happy to go” group and the “I do not want to be here” group and everything in between group! In life, we have to be prepared to help others along the way. Sometimes we’re going to be the upbeat/ready to take on the challenge and other times we will be the one needing someone else who’s ready for the challenge. It was good for the young women to see we each play a role in someone else’s journey. Heavenly Father wants us to be there for one another.

It was not your typical “fun” but the hike gave them all a sense of accomplishment. Even though the hike was hot and physically exerting, the end result was a magnificent sight. The journey to get there was not easy but usually the things that are the most worthwhile require the most effort.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"Father of Lights", the Constitution, a Land of Liberty

We recently celebrated the fourth of July, which is a holiday commemorating a pivotal point in our nation’s history, leading up to it becoming a land of liberty. During such holidays, we typically feel a heightened sense of patriotism. We may demonstrate this patriotism by flying the flag or going to patriotic events. We may even spend some time remembering the countless numbers of individuals who sacrificed everything to preserve this land and give us the freedoms we enjoy. We may even consider ways in which we can go beyond our typical civic responsibilities and contribute to the maintaining of this land as a land of liberty.

As worthwhile as such activities may be, I would suggest that there is something we can do, which has more power and is more effective in maintaining this land as a land of liberty. It is also the best thing that we can do for ourselves and is also the greatest contribution we can make to our fellow citizens. To introduce what I wish to speak about, I want to tell you of an experience I had, while serving as a missionary in Germany.

My companion and I were tracting out a rather large high-rise apartment building, going door to door without any success, which was typical back then. On one of the upper floors, we knocked on a door and a man opened it. In our best German, my companion and I told him who we were and why we were there. Sensing something in our accents, a smile crossed his face and then his whole face lit up with excitement. He said “you’re Americans aren’t you.” We told him that we were. Then he enthusiastically invited us into his home.

At this point, I was thinking that he might perhaps be someone we could teach the Gospel to, but that is not why he invited us in. He extended his hospitality to us, providing us with a very wonderful meal, then listened politely to what we had to say. When we had finished, he told us that what he really wanted to do was to tell us why he had invited us in and extended his hospitality to us. He was eager to tell us his story. This, then, is Karl’s story.

Karl had been a soldier in the German army during WWII and early in the war; he and several others were captured. They were sent to POW camps in America. Karl was first sent to Louisiana, where he admitted that he had some fear as to how he would be treated, seeing that he was an enemy of America. His fears were soon erased, as he recognized that he was well fed and well treated. “In some ways” he said, “I was fed better and treated better as a prisoner of America than as a soldier in my own army.”

He was then transferred to Texas, where he spent the majority of his time, and then later, he was transferred to Utah, where he remained until the end of the war.

During his time in Texas, he told us that the guards came around and invited any of the prisoners who were willing, that they could leave the prison camp each day and work on local farms and ranches. In exchange for their labor, they would be paid. Karl told us that he was paid $29.00 each month for his labor. “Think of it,” he said, “America, the only country in the world that pays its prisoners to be prisoners.”

Karl then told us that he had the opportunity to work on one family farm for many months, and that he had become quite close to the family and they became rather fond of Karl, to the extent that Karl got special permission on a couple of occasions from the prison camp to take the daughter of that farm family to see a movie. “Think of it, “ he said, “I was a prisoner and I got to go on a date.”

Karl told us that every morning when the sergeant came around with his clipboard to take roll, that the Sgt. would often say, “How are you today Karl?” then Karl said he would stand up straight and tall and respond “I am very proud to be a prisoner of America today.”

Karl was then transferred to Utah, where he told us that a representative of our church came around to invite any who were interested, to take a tour of Temple Square, or as Karl put it, “to see the building with no nails,” referring to the Tabernacle. He told us that several thousand prisoners signed up, but when the actual day came to take the tour, only about 10 percent showed up. Karl was very embarrassed for his countrymen, thinking it quite rude not to show up, after having been treated so well.

The war finally ended and Karl and the other prisoners were informed that they would be repatriated to the countries of their origin. Hearing this, Karl begged the guards to allow him to stay in America, but this was not to be.

After several months of coordination, Karl was sent home to Germany. When he got to the front door of his family home, his mother opened the door. At first, she did not recognize Karl. You see, he had gained 20 pounds, was the picture of health and well being, and had a pocket full of money, which he had saved from his farm labors.

When she realized it was her son, she fell to her knees with tears of gratitude, seeing her son returned to her in such a good condition, having feared the worst. You see, what Karl didn’t know was that his brother had arrived home a couple of days earlier. Karl’s brother had been captured late in the war by the Soviet Army and had been so harshly treated that he was literally skin and bones and very ill. In fact, Karl told us that his brother had passed away shortly after returning home, due to his harsh treatment.

When Karl saw the condition of his brother compared to his own condition, he vowed right then and there that if he ever met Americans that he would treat them with kindness and respect, in some small way to re-pay them for how he had been treated.

I shall never forget, as we left Karl’s apartment that evening and began to walk down the hallway, there stood Karl in the hallway, singing out loud, in his broken English, his own unique version of “God Bless America.” Words cannot express the feelings in my heart and the pride I felt to be an American at that time.

In the early 1830’s, a famous French statesman and philosopher, Alex de Tocqueville, came to America to discover for himself, the source of America’s greatness. For many months, he traveled throughout the land, talking to the people in their homes, in their churches, in their businesses and in the taverns. After his exhaustive research, he concluded “America is great because she is good and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” Alex de Tocqueville stumbled upon part of the source of America’s greatness, the goodness of her people, but he did not know the whole story, he didn’t know that the Lord’s hand was in it.

In 2 Nephi 1, the Lord tells us that the people brought to this land were brought here by the hand of the Lord. First the Jaredites, then Lehi and his group, then the Mulekites and later Columbus, the Pilgrims and many other Gentiles, all brought here by the hand of the Lord. Referring to those brought to this land by the hand of the Lord, we read in 2 Ne 1:7 “And if it so be that they shall serve Him (Christ) according to the commandments He hath given, it shall be a land of liberty.” You will note that this is a conditional promise and is the crux of what I wish to talk about today. This land will remain a land of liberty so long as we are found serving the god of this land, which is Jesus Christ. We know that the Lord’s hand was in it.

In D&C section 101 the Lord tells us of his direct involvement in establishing this land and its constitution. In D&C 101:77 we read, “…the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles.” The constitution is just that, based on just and Holy principles.

We read further in D&C 101: 80 “And for this purpose have I established the constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.”

The founders knew that the Lord’s hand was in it, as many of them spoke of it and wrote of it. During the constitutional convention in Philadelphia, for example, when both the temperature and the tempers of the delegates were rising, they were at an impasse and could not agree. The convention was on the verge of collapse and failure. Seeing the critical situation, Benjamin Franklin stood to be recognized by George Washington, who was the president of the convention.

Franklin gently rebuked his fellow delegates and reminded them that many of them in that room that day had been in that very room, years earlier, during the recent conflict with Great Britain. He reminded them that they had sought the “Father of Lights” for divine assistance and that their prayers were answered, in that very room.  He then went on to ask, “How is it that during this convention, we have not sought the “Father of Lights” to illuminate our understanding?” Then he concluded by saying, “If a sparrow cannot fall without his notice, is it probable that a great nation can rise without His providence?”

Humbled by the words of Franklin, the delegates adjourned the convention and returned to their various places of residence in the city and reflected, pondered and prayed. Being sufficiently humble, the Lord’s spirit could move upon them and when they re-convened, they were able to create the constitution, a divinely inspired document.

They gave to us, a constitutional republic, similar to what King Mosiah in the Book of Mormon gave his people when they changed the affairs of the government from a monarchy to a system of judges, elected by the people to judge them according to their law.

Since the time of the founders and since the time of Alex de Tocqueville, America has become less good. Over the last several decades we see the more part of the people beginning to choose wickedness. We see them, as prophesied; call good evil and evil good. We see them driving every reference of God out of the public square and as indicated in the Book of Mormon, we see the guilty go free because of their money, their influence and their connections, while the meek and humble are trampled upon.

When the more part of the people begin to choose wickedness then the Lord removes His blessings from the land and sends forth drought, disease, pestilence, the sword and natural disasters, all in an effort to humble his people and to awaken them to a sense of their awful state, that they perhaps might be persuaded to turn back to God and be blessed.

In Mosiah 29:27 we are told, “And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time He will visit you with great destruction even as He has hitherto visited this land.”

I believe that there is even a connection between how we live upon the earth and how the earth itself responds because In D&C 123:7 we read, “The whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity.” This indicates to me that there is a direct correlation between how the people live upon the Earth and how the Earth responds, either positively or negatively.

We know, for example, that when the people live, as they should, the Lord tempers the elements and the earth for their good. We read such things as, the fruit of the vine does not cast its fruit upon the ground prematurely; the rains come when they should and the harvest is bountiful. We also read that their flocks and herds do increase and that they are blessed and prospered. When the people do not what He says, as indicated in D&C 82, they have no promise.

I know that there are many people in the world that are concerned with what is called global warming and climate change, and the perceived negative effects, which will stem from it. I would suggest, however, that all of the computer models, all of the scientific theories and all of the well meaning people have not nearly as much power to alter the climate for our good as does the power of righteous living upon the Earth.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my talk, I believe there is something we can do, which has more power and is more effective in maintaining this land as a land of liberty, it is the best thing we can do for ourselves and is also the best contribution we can make for our fellow citizens. It is, in my mind, the most powerful form of patriotism we can exercise to preserve this land as a land of liberty. This formula is found throughout the scriptures, but I have selected two.

In Moroni 10:32 we read “Yea, come unto Christ and be perfected in Him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness…” In Alma 7:23 we read “And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times…”

In short, if we are striving to become true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, if we are found keeping His commandments and His counsels, and in conjunction with our stake theme, being found following the prophets and living upright and moral lives, we will be blessed.

I know there is great power in righteous living in preserving the land because of what we learn from Gen. 18 when Abraham is conversing with the Lord about the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Abraham asks the Lord that peradventure there be 50 righteous in the cities; will not the Lord spare the cities for the righteous sake? The Lord assures Abraham that if 50 are found, the cities would be spared for the sake of the righteous.

Emboldened by this, Abraham goes on to ask peradventure there be five fewer than 50, for a measly five fewer would the Lord destroy the cities? Again, he is assured that the cities would be spared. Abraham gets the Lord down to ten, saying peradventure there be ten righteous found in the cities would the Lord not spare them? The Lord responds by saying that if there are ten righteous found in the cities that the cities would be spared for the sake of the righteous.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the conditions in the cities would improve much, but that they would be spared for the sake of the righteous. We know in the account that there was not ten righteous found and so, after Lot and part of his family were allowed to escape, the Lord utterly destroyed the cities.

I believe there is something to this heavenly math that peradventure there be a sufficient number, whatever the number is, both in and out of the church, striving to live as they should, keeping the commandments, that the land will be spared for the sake of the righteous. This may be the most powerful catalyst, which will prevent the land from being destroyed and in my mind, is the most powerful form of patriotism. I also believe that the negative effects due to the tribulations, which will surely come because of wickedness, may even be mitigated for the sake of the righteous.

I have a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that God our Heavenly Father lives and like any good parent, when His children get out of line, He will correct and discipline them in the hope that they will turn again to Him and be blessed. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that He had both the capacity and willingness to perform for us the atonement. His atonement not only paid the price of our sins, but also, because of its infinite nature, has the power and capacity to fix everything that is broken, repair everything that is damaged and will make everything right in the next life, if we will but apply to it. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. The pattern played out time and time again in its pages is being played out before our very eyes in our day. After all, the book was written for our day. Among the many things the book is, it is also acts as a warning voice, that in the words of one of its prophets, “we might be wiser than they.”

It is my invitation and prayer that we might be wiser than they and that peradventure there be enough of us, both in and out of the church, striving to live as we should, that this land might be spared and remain a land of liberty for the sake of the righteous.

Ron Forstner

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ask and Receive

I've been thinking quite a bit lately that there's just a lot of confusion, controversy, and even contention in the world today. A lot of it is distributed via social media. During church today one of the brothers there shared a scripture that rang so true to me, and I believe it applies to everyone, regardless of your faith, religion, opinions, desires, etc. It's a promise that comes from God, and I just wanted to share it really quickly. "If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things--that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal." -Doctrine and Covenants 42:61  We can understand and come to know the truth of anything through prayer to God. He has promised that He will reveal it to us. I know He'll be true to His promise, and that comforts me because to be honest, I don't know what to make of all the controversy. But He does. And if we follow Him, we'll never be wrong. This brings me a lot of comfort as I think about what's in store for us in the near future. There are going to be all sorts of ideas, opinions, laws, and so much more that may leave us confused or even shake our testimony of Christ or our sense of what's right. If we trust in the promise of our loving Heavenly Father to guide each one of us and give us a personal witness, we'll be save and secure. We'll be prepared for what's coming, and we'll be lead to truth. This is comforting to me, and I hope it is to you. He answers prayers all the time. He'll answer yours!

Reaching the Summit through Repentance

Anyone who has ever hiked up Mt. Timpanogos knows that it is a very long and miserable hike that is really hard and seems to never end.  This  around, we decided to hike up the Aspen Grove side,
which is even more steep and miserable.  This gave me a lot of time to think about the gospel and
different principles to try and keep my mind off the pain.  I imagined the path to the summit to be the
path of repentance—it is really long and really difficult.  Whether your repentance process be for
something as small as making scripture study a matter of daily habit, or repenting of a sexual sin or
alcohol/drug addiction, it will still take a long time to really make a solid change and to feel the full force of repentance.  It is also extremely painful to repent of any sin, just as hiking to the top of Mt. Timp is painful.
Many times on the path, the faster bunch and the slower bunch would separate.  I happened to be with the slower bunch, and often felt abandoned and alone when the group ahead moved on without us in the back.  However, we believe in the buddy system while hiking, which ensured that there was always someone with me.  The same happens when we repent—often times we feel alone and alienated, like no one knows our pain and no one is really there to help us through it.  This is not true—there is always someone with us, whether that be good supportive friends, the bishop, family, and ultimately, our loving heavenly father.
Through the entirety of the trail, our single and ultimate goal was to reach the summit by sunrise.  Even though the trail was miserable and we wanted to quit and give up and go back many times along the way, once we reached the summit just in time for the sunrise, it was all totally worth it.  The view was glorious, and the sunrise was breathtakingly remarkable.  When we repent, we always have a single goal in mind—to have scripture study be a normal daily habit, or have our sexual sin or drug addiction swept clean from our life.  The road is difficult, and it is easy to want to give up and go back to where you were in the beginning.  But once you have pulled through and made it to the end where that goal has been accomplished, life is beautiful and everything is worth it.
The most beautiful part of this analogy however, is of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The whole way up the trail, we often would stop and catch our breath, or just stop for a bit because we were tired and needed a break from the trail.  It was in these moments that we really noticed the beauty all around us.  The view behind us, seeing how far up we had made it, the beauty of the flowers and trees and waterfalls and meadows.  The rocky ridges and shallow ponds, snowy mountain valleys and the glow of the moon.  Wherever we were, there was always something beautiful to look at.  That, to me, is the perfect representation of the atonement.  The atonement is something readily available, something pre-organized and performed for our benefit.  Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that he provided us a Savior who performed this glorious sacrifice for us so we could feel the beauty of life amidst darkness. The atonement isn’t the goal, nor is it the journey, but it is the gift we are given to see beauty on the trail and make our goals become reality.  The beauty along the trail was always just enough to help us push forward and remember our ultimate goal.   As does the atonement always provide just enough hope and love to move forward with faith toward a better ending—the cleanliness of full repentance.

Written by: Derrick S. -Provo, Utah