Scripture Study

Missionary Name tag - Sister Anna Parker - Honest Truth about a misison
image credit sandandsunshine2.blogspot.com/

When I received my mission call on December 26, 2009, I was instantly overwhelmed by the reality of a mission. It really hit me, for the first time, that I would be leaving home for 18 months and that I would be preaching the gospel every day as a servant of the Lord. Humbled by my calling, I tried my best to pick the brains of returned missionaries I knew, trying to glean from them as much information as I could. My question for each of them was the same: “If you could serve your mission all over again, what would you have done differently?” I was blessed and inspired by the counsel I received, and I tried my best to take their advice to heart.

Now, as a returned missionary myself, I can’t help but look back at my mission and consider what I would do differently, if given the chance. Every great missionary tries to serve with no regrets, but with age and experience comes knowledge and wisdom that we wish we could have imparted to our younger selves. It is with that idea in mind that I would like to share some of the insights from some fellow returned sister missionaries. I hope that as you serve or get ready to serve, you can avoid common mistakes and be saved from some of the heartache and struggle experienced by those who served before you. It is with love in my heart that I share this advice so that you can serve without regrets and have the best possible experience on your mission.

“The thing I would change is how much effort I would put into personal study in the mornings. I’ve never been a morning person, so it was always a struggle, but I’ve always felt since then like I really lost an opportunity to grow in understanding there.” – Sister Cindy Cluff, Arizona Tucson Mission, 2010

Read more at She Traveled.

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Picture of Heaven Spirit world

Job posed the question of the ages when he asked: “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14).

Jesus Christ answered, saying; “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). Like birth, death is a necessary step in our eternal progression—a doorway that leads into the next life. The written accounts we have of early Latter-day Saints visiting the spirit world stand as a witness that life does not end with death. When the Savior came to earth, died, and rose again, He opened the doors of salvation, breaking the bands of death so that we might live.

Brigham Young said, “Our bodies are composed of visible tangible matter . . . What is commonly called death does not destroy the body, it only causes a separation of spirit and body, but the principle of life, inherent in the native elements, of which the body is composed, still continues” (Discourses of Brigham Young, compiled by John A. Widstoe, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 1954), pp. 368-369).

Since none of us has died, death remains unfamiliar and unknown. However, a few people have visited the spirit world through near-death experiences, dreams, and visions. We can learn much about death and the next life from their accounts.

1. We Are Not Left Alone When We Die

One such insight we learn from these accounts is that in the first moments after death, newly-departed spirits are often met by a guide who escorts them to the spirit world.

Lorenzo Dow Young, who had a near-death experience in the early 1800s, said:

“In a moment I was out of the body, and fully conscious that I had made the change. At once, a heavenly messenger, or guide, was by me. I thought and acted as naturally as I had done in the body, and all my sensations seemed as complete without as with it,” he went on to say, “the personage with me was dressed in the purest white. My guide, for so I will call him, said ‘Now let us go’” (Marlene Bateman Sullivan, Gaze Into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History,(Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2013), 27-30).

Tom Gibson, who had a near-death experience following a heart attack, shared that his friend Daniel came to escort him to the spirit world. He wrote:

“The world was different from this one. I’m not sure how I got there . . . I just followed Daniel. It seems as if all I had to do was think of where I wanted to be, and I could go there at any speed I wished. . . We continued walking for a while and I noticed someone on the path ahead of us. . . As we got closer to the individual on the path, I could see and feel that he was a magnificent person, and it was . . . I felt overwhelmed as I looked at him. He was bathed in light. Daniel asked if I knew who that was, and I answered, yes; it was Jesus Christ.

“When we got close to the Savior, I felt a tremendous love emanating from him. It’s hard to describe, but you could feel it all around him, and I felt a similar enormous love for him. I fell at his feet—not because I thought about it, but because I couldn’t stand” (Marlene Bateman Sullivan, Gaze Into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, op cit. pp. 89-90).

It is comforting to know that loved ones or angels will greet us when we leave our mortal bodies and help us know where to go.

2. The Spirit World Will Be Glorious but Familiar

Read full article at LDS Living.

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Kolob star

Kolob. We sing about it in one of our favorite hymns. We’ve named canyons and mountains and wards and stakes after it. But do we really know what Kolob is and what it’s like?

Generally defined as “the place nearest where God dwells,” most of what we know about this briefly-mentioned governing star comes from a heavenly astronomy lesson found in the book of Abraham.

And while it’s not a part of core Church doctrine, learning about Kolob is a wonderful way to begin to understand each of our places in the universe and comprehend the significance of the Creation. Here are just a few interesting things we know for sure about Kolob:

1. Kolob is the star that governs all the others.

We first learn about Kolob in Abraham 3:2-3, when Abraham sees it in a vision through the Urim and Thummim. He says, “And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it; And the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.”

From this scripture, we learn that Kolob is a huge star, which God has designated as the one to govern even the other “governing creations” (see Abraham Facsimile 2:2). But what does that mean?

Abraham 3:16 explains further that there is always one star greater than another, but that Kolob is the greatest. Not because it is the biggest or the brightest, but because it is the one that is closest to God. Joseph Smith adds one more piece of revelation in the first description of Facsimile 2: “Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God.”

So we also learn that not only is Kolob closest to God, but it was also His first creation—a creation we can probably assume is near the center of the universe, or at the very least, our galaxy, with God’s throne where He sits “in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things” (D&C 88:13).

2. Kolob’s calculation of time is different than Earth’s.

Read the full article at LDS Living.

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.

Photograph of pages of the Book of Mormon in Japanese, Portuguese, and German by Laura Seitz, Deseret News

This experience is familiar to those who have been involved in translating the scriptures from English into other languages. It happens over and over:

A young Armenian holding a copy of the Book of Mormon only recently translated into his language approaches a member of the team who assisted with the translating: “Thank you,” he says. “I have read the Book of Mormon in English. I have read the Book of Mormon in Russian. I have read it in Ukrainian. But until I was able to read it in Armenian, I did not truly understand it. When I read it in Armenian, it finally made sense. It was like coming home.”

Coming Home

If the gospel of Jesus Christ is our spiritual home, then it is only right that it feel comfortable and familiar. At home we rest. We nourish ourselves. We talk with those we love in the language taught us at our mother’s knee. This is the language of our heart, and since the heart is what the gospel must reach, reading the scriptures in the language of our heart is vital.

The Doctrine and Covenants suggests as much. There the Lord reveals that through the priesthood keys held by the First Presidency, “the arm of the Lord shall be revealed in power in convincing the nations … of the gospel of their salvation.

“For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ” (D&C 90:10–11).

Read the full story at LDS.ORG.

Image via LDS Smile

Many times those who so adamantly oppose The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintswill deploy a “Big List” tactic to convince members or other individuals that the church is not true.

What we wanted to do here is the exactly same thing only in reverse. Ultimately one doesn’t become truly converted without a testimony being born by the Holy Ghost but we figured if they have their “Big List” we ought to produce one of our own. Sometimes you just need to play a little offense and not constantly be on the defensive. On their own, no one piece of evidence can be held as a standard as to the truthfulness of the church. However, collectively put together, this list goes a long way in providing other non spiritual proofs as to why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true.

1- Witnesses

“In addition to Joseph Smith, 11 official witnesses and several unofficial witnesses testified to the existence of the plates and, in some cases, to dramatic supernatural confirmation of their truth. Meticulous research on these witnesses has confirmed their good character and the veracity of their accounts” – LDS.org

2- Why Involve Witnesses at All?

If you are going to conspire this great conspiracy of making up “Golden Plates” and the whole back story of the Book of Mormon, why involve any witnesses at all that could just spill the beans and ruin the whole foundation of the church?

3- Nahom

Was it just blind luck that the rare place name Nahom in the Book of Mormon, identified as the place where Ishmael was buried, turns out to correspond to an ancient burial site right where the Book of Mormon says it is? Jeff Lindsay

4- Scriptures Written on Gold Plates

“What is more, although the Prophet’s critics found his claim of angelic visits and gold plates ridiculous, we now know that the writing of religious texts on metal plates (sometimes on gold), was an authentic ancient practice. Indeed, the ancient practice now is known to have occurred at precisely the era and place from which Book of Mormon peoples came. In fact, with the Copper Scroll and other materials from the Dead Sea, we have an almost exact parallel: like the ancient Nephite plates, these materials were sealed up in a hillside just prior to military disaster, to preserve them for a future time.” – LDS.org

5- Martin Harris

Why would a prosperous man who by many accounts from non-Mormons was a respectable and man full of integrity stand by his testimony when it only brought harm to him.

6- Joseph Smith

How could Joseph Smith make up dozens of names in the Book of Mormon that would later be shown to be authentic ancient Semitic names?

 

7- River Laman

How does one account for the recent discovery of a plausible candidate for the River Laman, continuously flowing into the Red Sea as the Book of Mormon indicates, in spite of the repeated claims of critics that no such river exists? Reference

8- Reform Egyptian

“The Book of Mormon claims to have been written in “reformed Egyptian” (Morm. 9:32). Most who have studied the subject conclude that this signifies writing the Hebrew language in modified Egyptian characters. In recent years, we have learned that several ancient documents were written in precisely that fashion.” – LDS.org

9- Never denied their witness of the plates

How did Joseph get several of the witnesses of the original golden plates to never deny their experiences with the golden plates even after they were angry with him and when some of them left the church?

Read the full article at LDS Smile.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, I underwent a project to satisfy my personal curiosity: discovering what words were used the most during last year’s general conference. I thought that if I looked at the text from a new perspective and if I really analyzed the words that were spoken, maybe new messages would somehow reveal themselves to me. Maybe I would find some deeper, surprising message that our Church leaders were trying to communicate.

The Most-Used Words in Conference Last Year

So, I copied every word spoken at all 12 sessions of general conference in 2015. Then I ran these long pieces of text (126,545 words total) through several online text analyzers to compare the outcome.

And guess what the most-used word for both general conferences was?

“The.” Yep, in spring “the” was used 3,659 times and in fall it was used 3,606 times, making up approximately 6% of all of the words used. And the second most-used word? “And.” Not surprisingly, this word came in with 2,383 uses in spring and 2,429 in fall, making up nearly 4% of all words used.

Though interesting from a language-use perspective, that wasn’t exactly the message I was going for. But once I weeded out all of the prepositions and articles, I was left with the most-used words from general conference: the real meat of our inspired leaders’ messages.

But what I found still wasn’t particularly surprising.

After all, wasn’t it Nephi who said, as members of Christ’s Church, “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” The results of my analysis was just a little confirmation to me that the teachings of the Church have remained consistent from 600 B.C. to the present. (For an interesting read, check out why a Catholic professor said “Mormons are more Christian than many mainstream Christians” because they are “obsessed with Christ.”)

Read the full article at LDS Living.

Image via Utah Valley 360

The magical world of Harry Potter has captured the imaginations of millions of people worldwide, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are no exceptions. The Twitter hashtag #MormonHarryPotter emerged a couple years ago, and one of UtahValley360.com’s most popular articles is “Who Said It: Dieter or Dumbledore?”

For all you Mormon Potter fans out there, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to answer yet another pressing question: Which Hogwarts house would Book of Mormon characters be sorted into? With help from the Sorting Hat’s song in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and the LDS Guide to the Scriptures, we’ve come up with a few ideas.

Gryffindor

You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;

Captain Moroni

Fast Facts: Captain Moroni was a righteous Nephite military leader who inspired soldiers to fight for “our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children” (Alma 46:12). He later became angry with the government for their perceived indifference to the plight of the military. Read about him in Alma 43–62.

Gryffindor because of: His bravery in military affairs; his daring and nerve in condemning the government leaders; his chivalry as he fought for Nephite women and children.

Nephi

Fast Facts: Nephi was a righteous son of Lehi and Sariah with strong faith, an obedient man of action. Read about him in 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi.

Gryffindor because of: His bravery in obtaining the Brass Plates from Laban; his nerve in condemning his brothers; his chivalry in providing food for his family in the wilderness. Also, Nephi is (like Godric Gryffindor) famous for his sword, which became an important historical artifact.

Teancum

Fast Facts: A great Nephite military leader who served under Captain Moroni. He was a confident leader with a passionate hatred of evil. He liked to take matters into his own hands. Read about him in Alma 50-52; 61-62.

Gryffindor because of: His bravery in battle; his daring and nerve in singlehandedly killing both Morianton and Amalickiah — who was, as discussed below, a quintessential Slytherin.

Read the full article at UtahValley360.

We don’t know about you, but Brittney and I can’t think of many significant spiritual experiences that weren’t directly related to the scriptures (whether by pondering the words as we go about our day, having a focused study session, or hearing a verse read or expounded in a talk). We’ve come to know for ourselves why Prophets like President Benson have so strongly emphasized that the Book of Mormon, and other scriptures, can change your life.

Dustin and I have also learned, however, that reading a few verses in a “going through the motions” sort of way, isn’t going to change anyone’s life. You’ve got to do more than endure through a chapter if you want to have experiences with the Spirit.

We’ve definitely had our fair share of days when we’ve read just to read. We probably all have. But the difference between those days and the times when we have really feasted on the scriptures is tremendous. Once you have tasted of the inspiration and spiritual experiences that come through true scripture study, you develop a deep hunger to come back again and again.

The tools Britt and I list below have dramatically impacted our scripture study experiences, and we hope they make a difference for you too.

1. The 1828 Dictionary

I don’t think we realize how quickly language changes. Words that meant one thing at the time of the BOM translation have since taken on very different meanings. Lucky for us, Noah Webster completed his famed American dictionary in 1828. By doing so, he preserved in time the meaning of words at about the exact time that Joseph Smith published the first edition of the Book of Mormon.

Using this dictionary (there are apps and websites for it) can help you find little treasures that you may have otherwise completely missed. We want to share just two examples of the impact that the 1828 Dictionary can have.

Read the full article at Happiness Seekers.

In scriptures, the Lord gives us poignant and moving imagery to understand the meaning of the atonement. He tells us he will gives us “beauty for ashes”[i]. He says “the prisoners shall go free.”[ii] He will make the “waste places” and “wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of the Lord.”[iii] He will bring us from darkness into the light.

Who doesn’t want beauty for ashes or to have their chains of bondage burst? Who doesn’t want the waste places of their lives to become a well-watered garden? The hardest part for us, who are so fully trained to be residents of a fallen world, is to comprehend that. Who is this God who can give such a gift and what am I to Him that he would extend it to me who so often sits in ashes and chains?

The answer to those questions is found in perhaps the most loving and personal image of the atonement of all. Lehi tells us, “I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love”[iv] In the face of his weaknesses, Nephi pleads, “O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!” [v]

We are held in His divine embrace, and the atonement itself is pictured as an encircling robe. I think of an embrace as when I am cold and someone warms me with a blanket or when I am sad and someone comforts me. Or when I am young and someone scoops me into his arms to comfort me.

All those images of comfort are certainly there, but the scriptures take it farther. Encircled in the Lord’s robes of righteousness, our nakedness is covered. We who are fragile and vulnerable, weak and sinful are covered by the Lord’s atonement.

This same idea is echoed in John the Baptist’s rebuke to the people, “If ye receive not me, ye receive not him of whom I am sent to bear record; and for your sins, ye have no cloak.[vi]

Read the full article at Meridian Magazine.