Mission Prep

Front and back of four of the six Kinderhook plates are shown in these facsimiles (rough copies of even earlier published facsimiles), which appeared in 1909 in History of the Church, vol. 5, pp. 374–75. Image found on LDS.org

The discovery of fake ancient plates, called the Kinderhook Plates, and the excitement they caused within the LDS community teaches us a lot about how Joseph Smith received revelation and who he was as both a prophet and as a man.

A number of Latter-day Saints like to discuss ancient America discoveries and how they might relate to the Book of Mormon. This is not new to the twenty-first-century church but has been a topic of interest since the Restoration. Letters and journals from the 1830s indicate that many early Mormons—including Joseph Smith—were fascinated by any and all ancient American discoveries and, using their fallible human brains, tried to figure out if such finds were connected to the Book of Mormon.

Some early LDS critics took advantage of this interest and decided to set up a sting operation wherein they hoped to expose Joseph Smith as a fraud. In the spring of 1843, one of these men claimed to have had dreams of a treasure buried in a mound near Kinderhook Illinois. After sharing this story with a local Mormon, a group of men—including the Latter-day Saint—excavated the mound seen in the dream.

About ten feet down they unearthed some bones and six brass, bell-shaped plates that were engraved with curious characters. All of the men were excited about the find, but the Mormon in the group thought that this would help prove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Word and excitement about the discovery spread quickly—especially in the LDS community. The Saints were eager for Joseph to translate the plates. Although Joseph had a lot of other things going on, he did take possession of the plates for a little less than a week.

Read the full article at Meridian Magazine.

[Author’s note: This article is not intended as an endorsement of R-rated movies, or as a criticism of those who choose to either watch or abstain from them.]

I once attended a testimony meeting where a man stood and related an experience he had with his co-workers. One day after work, several of them invited him to go see a movie with the group. The film in question was The Wolf of Wall Street, which was critically acclaimed but also contained gratuitous displays of drug use, sexuality, and other mature content. In his testimony, the man announced to the congregation that he had declined the invitation of his coworkers. “I wanted to go,” he said, “but it was rated R.”

Since that meeting, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the relationship between Mormons and R-rated movies. Many Latter-day Saints avoid any film with the rating like a plague, believing that it’s against the commandments. Indeed, it could accurately be said that in LDS culture, ‘R’ has become the scarlet letter of the movie rating law.

But why is this? It’s been my experience that if you ask a Mormon why they don’t watch R-rated movies, their response will be some variation of “because the prophet said not to.” But follow-up questions (Which prophet? What exactly did he say? In what context?) aren’t likely to be answered quite so readily. This article will seek to provide answers to these questions, as well as others that may be helpful when selecting what media to consume.

Who Said It?

Read the full post at LDS Living.

Claire Pincock in the hometown of her grandfather

After a lot of prayer and fasting, I was told not to serve a mission.

Accepting the answer “no” was extremely difficult, but at the same time God told me that there were reasons why, and that I would know what they were in due time. Let me tell you the reasons why I’m so grateful I listened.

**Editor’s Note: This article was written by Claire Pincock and has been published in full by her request. 

God Still Used Me As an Instrument to Bless His Children
Pretty soon after I would have left on my mission, I met a boy with serious depression. While he had had people to support him, at that point he felt very alone because he was tired of hurting his friends. Four months into my “mission”, I was able to calm him down twice from suicidal thoughts. Throughout our relationship I helped to show him God’s love for him. I helped to show him that he was worth love and life and that he deserved happiness. God put me in his life, and I was an instrument in His hands to bring my friend happiness.

I Still Learned A Lot About Myself
I dated a lot while on my “mission”. I moved into a very social single’s ward and went on more dates than I can count. Most of them were just casual, fun, friendly double dates. I learned so much about the difference between what I thought I needed and wanted in a man and what I actually needed and wanted. I also learned my strengths in relationships. I learned not only who is good for me, but who I am good for. This has been instrumental in my life.

I Married My Best Friend
Because I didn’t get to serve, I diligently wrote a lot of my friends who did. I told them that I wanted to have the mission experience through them. I developed wonderful relationships with them and got to know who they were very personally. I would email one of my friends back and forth when he was online until his mission disallowed that. A year into my “mission”, that friend came home. I was so ecstatic. I couldn’t get to my hometown until nearly 10 at night, but we talked until 2 in the morning. He was just as ecstatic as I was. Because of that night and more dating experiences shortly after, I realized that this man, who had been my friend my whole life, was exactly who I was looking for. We were engaged before I would have gotten home.

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Claire and Seth on their wedding day
Claire and Seth on their wedding day

I Learned a Foreign Language Anyway 
There were many other wonderful advantages from listening to God’s plan for me. I found a major I love, and I have had irreplaceable experiences in my classes and doing research in my field. I went on a study abroad and learned my grandpa’s native language. I got to see the house he was born in and learn more about his culture. I got really into family history and have taken countless names to the temple with my friends and family. I developed a really close relationship with my mom as we would do this work together. I wouldn’t trade that year-and-a-half for anything.

Claire on her study abroad in Copenhagen
Claire on her study abroad in Copenhagen

I Felt Misunderstood and It Wasn’t Easy

It hasn’t always been easy. It was extremely difficult to say goodbye to all of my friends. I was sad to watch them go and a bit jealous that I didn’t get to. I’ve been in a room filled with just RMs and me, and it can be difficult while everyone shares in their wonderful experiences. I’ve been rejected by boys who want an RM. I’ve been looked down on by my leaders for not serving (very rarely, and not intentionally, but it’s happened). I’ve been asked countless times why I’m not on my mission. I’ve even had people question my answer. I’ve been told that God would never say no to a mission, so maybe I’m interpreting Him incorrectly. I’ve been told that I know less about the gospel because I didn’t serve a mission. People don’t mean to hurt. They don’t really understand that fight that I went through. They don’t understand how badly I wanted to go, and they don’t understand why these things could be hurtful. It’s always been clear to me that the church does not see us as second-class members, but people aren’t perfect, and sometimes you might be treated that way.

Luckily, there have also been a countless number of people who respect my decision and respected me for it. There have been so many people who see the reality of my spirit and my love of this church despite not serving. I’m actually grateful for those dating rejections because even if I had served a mission, that isn’t the kind of person I needed to marry. My husband looks up to me as I look up to him. He respects my spiritual insights despite the fact that he had I name badge and I never did. I’m also so grateful for my friends and family who did serve, especially my fellow sisters. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve learned to set aside my pride and rejoice at every call my friends receive. I rejoice in their service and in their joy, just as I hope that they rejoice in mine even though it’s different.

God Knew I Didn’t Need a Mission. I Needed to Stay Home, and That’s Okay
Six months after I would have gotten home, I’m so glad I didn’t serve. God had a much more beautiful plan for me. I didn’t need a mission. I needed to stay home, and that’s okay. Every member needs to pray and find out for themselves. While I would have been serving, I’ve almost finished my education, I went through the temple for this first time, I got married to the love of my life, and I’ve done so many other wonderful things I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Most Importantly, I Listened to God
So, if you’re a guy or girl who came home early or couldn’t serve, if you got the answer no and listened, or even God told you it was your choice and you chose no, as long as you are listening to God’s plan for you, you will be happier than if you had followed the plan which you made for yourself. Even if it’s nothing like His plan for me (if it doesn’t include dating or marriage or an education), you will be happier than if you hadn’t have listened.

This is an epic story about a rebellious missionary who was swallowed by a figurative “whale”, turned around and successfully finished his mission.

Enjoy the story!

*Watch videos about crazy/dangerous missionary stories.

*Watch videos about spiritual missionary stories.

*Watch videos for early returned missionaries.

4 ways to prepare for hard questions on your mission

By Andy Proctor

As a missionary, you’ll encounter thousands of questions and doubts from the people you serve. Many of these questions will be things you may have never considered. How can you best prepare for these questions? If you are the parent or friend of a preparing missionary, how can you help your missionary prepare for the hard questions? Here are four ways to prepare that have helped me as I have considered the most difficult questions about the Church.  

1. Don’t be afraid of inoculation in an environment of love and openness

Remember what Dante said: “the arrow seen before cometh less rudely.” This is true when it comes to missions as well. If you see what is coming, you’ll be more prepared, even if you don’t know the answer. At least you have heard the question before and it doesn’t come as a surprise to you.

The controversial questions that pop up during your mission will likely be determined by where you end up serving, but it’s good to be familiar with the most common ones because the Internet has globalized almost every country in which you could serve. The time to prepare to answer these questions is before you leave on your mission.

A great list of the most common questions that may arise is found in the Gospel Topics Essays produced by the Church under the direction of the first presidency. Don’t be afraid to read and become familiar with them.

Another great resource is a new book compiled by Laura Harris Hales, in which gospel scholars address the honest questions that many have wanted to ask. A Reason for Faith: Navigating LDS Doctrine and Church History is a collection of short essays on 17 controversial topics ranging from Joseph Smith and his years as a money digger to his practice of polygamy to homosexuality and the gospel to the relationship between religion and science.

One day Sister Hales was sightseeing in a metropolitan city in Europe. As part of her travels, she toured the temple site. While there she was approached by the Assistants to the President for the mission. When they found out that she and her husband write and speak about the past practice of polygamy in the Church, one of the missionaries asked: “Is it true that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy?” He followed, “It doesn’t affect my faith. I am just curious.”

Never worry about asking too many questions. Serious inquiry doesn’t need to be viewed as an expression of doubt. We need to destigmatize the questioning process and instead capitalize on its ability to lead us to a place where we can increase in learning. After all, wasn’t it a question that sent Joseph Smith, a world-class seeker, to a grove of trees almost two hundred years ago? Make studying these topics part of your preparation for your mission and share what you learn with your family.

 

2. Understand how to recognize authoritative sources

Something else that is really important is to learn how you can recognize what is an authoritative source and what is not. To do this, it is good to have a few questions by which you can filter the things you learn.

Here are a few examples of great questions you can use:

  • What are the credentials of the author?
  • When was it written?
  • In what cultural/historical/social context was it written?
  • Has this article or book been peer reviewed?
  • What were the motivations of the author in writing it?
  • Have you asked God to help you understand it?
  • Have you asked God if this is a good source?

If you find something that creates doubt, run the authority of it through the questions above before you accept it. Be careful what you accept as truth. Form a mental gatekeeper of truth for yourself before you let things in. Ask God for help with this. Seek to develop the gift of discernment. This will help you as you filter teachings from outside and yes even inside the Church. As Elder Christofferson has said: “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine.”1 And the second prophet of this dispensation, President Brigham Young, even said:

“I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves…I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful that they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of the leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God.”2

Just as important as it is to do this with our own leaders, it is equally important to know for ourselves concerning contradictory teachings coming from outside the Church.

3. Be okay with uncertainty

If you grow up in the culture of the Church, you have probably heard these phrases: “I know with every fiber of my being” or “I know without a shadow of a doubt.” There very well may be those who know with this kind of certainty. If you do, I commend you. However, these kinds of phrases might make those who may not have that kind of certainty feel sheepish when talking about what they do and don’t know. This is where I would suggest that we become more comfortable with uncertainty. It is okay to say “I don’t know.” Indeed there are many who may say: “I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet” or “I know that the Book of Mormon is true” because they have simply heard this phrase repeated thousands of times over the years at the pulpit and they don’t actually know this. But to say “I don’t know” would be socially awkward in the Church culture. I think this needs to change. Not to encourage people to doubt what is true or good, but to encourage every single member to seek truth independent of anyone else.

There are some things that we will never know until after this life. (D&C 101:32-34) And some of us are followed by these of “shadows of doubt” all our lives. The scriptures speak of saints of great faith who never received the promise in this life (Hebrews 11:39). To be human is to desire closure and certainty, but mortality implies uncertainty. That is okay. As a missionary, you can still have questions. You don’t have to be perfect to lead others to Christ.

We cannot know all things that we need to know before serving, and that’s okay. It’s okay to not know. And it’s okay to be wrong sometimes. Be open to correction. We are all constantly growing in spiritual maturity. As a missionary of the Church, I felt like I was supposed to be right all the time, but the most powerful teaching opportunities I experienced were the ones where those who I taught experienced my authentic humanity and imperfection. Then they could relate to my authenticity and love. They could not relate to flawless knowledge and unbreakable intellect. I believe righteous missionaries who love authentically will bring more people to the message of the gospel than missionaries who are always right.

4. Don’t abandon the truth you have found

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

The doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really is beautiful. Don’t abandon the truth you do have because of things you do not understand.

You have likely had an experience where you connected to something greater than yourself and saw further than human eyes could see. Maybe you were lifted and given strength beyond your own. Maybe you have experienced a miracle that you cannot explain. Maybe you have had pure intelligence flowing into your mind that was not there before. Perhaps you have or will experience the gift of tongues. These are all very real. Don’t throw out these experiences because of doubts, concerns or uncertainty. Keep them safe. Don’t cast them away. Let them strengthen you as you find your way and seek further light and knowledge. Start with the light of faith as you step into uncertainty.

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image via ldsliving.com

As a missionary, my favorite part of the day was the hour I had in the morning to do personal study. During those 18 months, I read many inspiring talks and messages from apostles and prophets, but the following five are still my favorites.

1) Missionary Work and the Atonement: Jeffery R. Holland

When a missionary comes home after a long and hard day, they can read this and realize the love the Savior has for them as a missionary. This talk is what got me through the hard times. It saved me! I recommend that every missionary have a hard copy of this.

“I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.”

2) The Fourth Missionary: Lawrence Corbridge

This talk focuses on how a missionary can change from being ordinary to extraordinary by making small improvements and becoming consecrated to our Father in Heaven.

READ the rest here.

 

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Picture of Heaven Spirit world

The following is an excerpt from Brent L. Top’s Beyond Death’s Door: Understanding Near-Death Experiences in Light of the Restored Gospel.

As “unearthly” as the conditions of the spirit world may seem to us, President Brigham Young and others of the latter-day prophets and Apostles have instructed us that the spirit world is here on this earth.

“Where is the spirit world? It is right here. Do the good and evil spirits go together? Yes, they do. . . . Do they go to the sun? No. Do they go beyond the boundaries of this organized earth? No, they do not. They are brought forth upon this earth, for the express purpose of inhabiting it to all eternity. Where else are you going? Nowhere else, only as you may be permitted.” (Brigham Young, inJournal of Discourses, 3:369.)

Elder Parley P. Pratt wrote that the spirit world “is here on the very planet where we were born, or, in other words, the earth and other planets of a like sphere have their inward or spiritual spheres as well as their outward, or temporal. The one is peopled by temporal tabernacles and the other by spirits. A veil is drawn between the one sphere and the other whereby all the objects in the spiritual sphere are rendered invisible to those in the temporal.” (Key to the Science of Theology, p. 80.)

Though one woman was informed by her deceased relatives that she was in the “spirit world,” like most of those who have experiences in that other realm she did not seem to comprehend that it was still on earth or, at least, she did not report any comprehension of it (see Return from Death, p. 80).

Dr. George Ritchie, however, seems to be one of the very few experiencers who actually understood that the realms he was being shown were still connected in some manner to this earthly sphere. He reported this observation several times. “As fast as thought we travelled from city to city, seemingly on the familiar earth, even the part of the earth—the United States and possibly Canada—that I’d always known, except for the thousands of non-physical beings that I now observed also inhabiting this ‘normal’ space’” (Return from Tomorrow, p. 58).

READ FULL EXERPT ON LDS LIVING OR PURCHASE THE BOOK HERE.

Check out this new mission prep promo “What If” featuring JamesTheMormon. If you served a mission, you’ll totally be able to relate.

Derrick Trotman, a BYU student and former intern of Prepare to Serve produced this video in the style of Nike’s well-known Michael Jordan commercial “Maybe It’s My Fault“.

*Subscribe to JamesTheMormon’s YouTube channel.

“More than 16 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.” These are the first words seen on the newest video produced by the Mormon Channel about mental illness. The video features new footage of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland talking about why he chose to speak about mental illness in his talk “Like a Broken Vessel” given in the October 2013 General Conference.

Elder Holland sympathizes with those who struggle with mental illness saying that it is very real. He says that this is an issue that more and more people are dealing with and that it isn’t getting any easier to handle. He also says that those who struggle are not alone and that Jesus Christ is there and does understand.

Along with the inspiring counsel from Elder Holland, the video features many members who struggle with mental illness. They share their stories and what has helped them. The videos offer a preview into the stories that these people share in more depth on the newest Church resource for those who have mental health issues called mentalhealth.lds.org.  The site shares the stories of members with mental illness and how they are striving to live with this trial. The site says:

“Whether you are just discovering the signs of mental illness in your life or you have been struggling, fully aware, for weeks, months, or even years—we know your path has been one of confusion, pain, and even grief. Please know, you are not alone.

“As the Savior of the world suffered for each one of us, He knows the pain you are going through more perfectly than you could ever imagine. He is here for you. He knows just how real the pain is that you are experiencing—He took upon Himself the ‘pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind’ for ‘every living creature, both men, women, and children’ (Alma 7:11–12; 2 Nephi 9:21; see also Hebrews 4:15–16).”

Watch the intro video below and please share the new website with those you know who may need to hear this message of comfort.

The new site also offers answers to many related questions such as:

  • I can’t feel the Spirit. Is it my fault that I’m struggling? Do I just need more faith?
  • How can I feel happy when I can’t feel anything?
  • I feel so alone. How can I help people understand what I am going through?
  • How can I deal with thoughts of suicide? What’s wrong with me?
  • I love someone with mental illness. How can I help them?

They also encourage that you ask even more questions by emailing [email protected] and they say: “We applaud you for seeking answers and for taking a step toward healing. We pray that with the Savior’s help you might find hope and help in your journey.” For more info visit the new web page: mentalhealth.lds.org.

via ldsmag.com

You can passionately and powerfully believe something that is completely false. False ideas do not always announce themselves as being counterfeit. If they did, we would be wiser.

Perhaps if each of our false assumptions was dressed as a wolf, baring its teeth, we’d identify it faster. Then, we’d run from assumptions that really hurt us. But they don’t and we don’t.

We embrace them, because we don’t know better.

This means you can cling to an assumption that really hurts you. What makes it worse is not only that you believe it, but that you begin to shore it up with evidence—sometimes a whole array of evidence—from your life. You unwittingly pile up examples to prove your false assumptions, until they seem to be a part of your outlook. They become burrowed into your soul as if they are reality.

Some false assumptions may have a minor affect on you, barely disturbing your wholeness. But some false assumptions are much more dangerous. It really matters if you assume a bridge across a ravine is secure, and you have misunderstood, not seeing that wooden slats have rotted through.

Here are five false assumptions that can severely mar your spirituality and relationship with God. Even if you don’t believe them overtly, you may believe them as silent assumptions that still influence your outlook.

1. If God loved me, my life would turn out better.

Two false ideas are at work in this assumption. The first is the most dangerous, which questions the very nature of God. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “The first great commandment of all eternity is to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength…but the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind and strength.”

To assume that God’s love for us is on the line or that he must prove His love to us by blessing us according to our script is to misunderstand the very nature of our Father. He loves and blesses us because it is impossible for him to do otherwise. It is his nature and he has made it his mission to invest in us and create the perfect, customized circumstances for us to return into his presence.

God is perfect in every particular and does not change with time or circumstance. That means his love is perfect for you in every particular, and combined with his omniscience, justice, mercy, holiness, and every other divine attribute knows how to make all things work together for your good, if you love him.

If we will let him, he will save us.

C.S. Lewis wondered if, “What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven — a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves,’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all.’”

We can be grateful that the Lord is not a senile, old benevolence, but the king of creation. If the only gift in all of eternity we ever received was the atonement, we could never give enough of our heart and praise to him.

We are forever the indebted—the blessed indebted.

So back to the pretty picture we have worked out for our lives. It is true that picture will be completely revised by reality. But that picture was based on a false assumption in the first place—that you knew what beauty really looked like and that a seamless road, a smooth path where everything worked just so, could create in you the wholeness God requires to return to the full joy of His presence.

We can’t make of ourselves or of our eternity the joyful, shining reality that God has in store for us. This means here and now, it hurts sometimes. It doesn’t mean that God has forgotten us.

2. I am only worthy of his love, if I turn in a perfect performance. God cannot accept me where I am.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT MERIDIAN MAGAZINE.