Monday, December 31, 2007

Pet Peeve


One of my pet peeves is when anti-Mormons accuse members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of conspiring to overthrow the U.S. Constitution. According to them, Mitt Romney's presidential run is part of said conspiracy.
If anti-Mormons took time to read our scriptures and listen rather than retransmit distorted statements about us, they might realize that Mormons uphold the U.S. Constitution as an inspired document. If you would like to read what our modern scriptures teach about the U.S. Constitution, here are the scriptural references:
D&C 98:4-10 (The principles of the U.S. Constitution belong to all mankind, and we are justified in befriending the U.S. Constitution); D&C 101:77-80 (God established the U.S. Constitution by the hands of wise men whom He raised up to protect the freedom of all mankind and to hold mankind accountable for their own actions); D&C 109:54 (Joseph Smith prayed that the U.S. Constitution would be established forever).

Further, D&C 134 is the Church's official stance on Government throughout the world. You'll notice we also believe in the separation of Church and State.
Additionally, this essay is excellent in outlining our views about the U.S. Constitution.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Prepares to Dedicate Its 125th Temple


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will soon dedicate its 125th temple. This temple is in Rexburg, Idaho. To read about Mormon Temple Worship, click here. The link also provides several photos of the Rexburg, Idaho Temple's interior. If you are in the Rexburg area, the temple will be open to visitors until it is dedicated. Take advantage of this singular opportunity to enter a Mormon Temple.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Do Mormons Believe Jesus and the Devil Are Brothers?

Before this world was created, we lived as spirits in Heaven. We were "beloved spirit [children] of heavenly parents." (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). God is the Father of our spirits, and we knew and worshipped Him as our Heavenly Father. (Acts 17:29; Romans 8:16-17; The Family: A Proclamation to the World) Our relationship with God was better than most of us realize. In fact, when this life ends and we see God again, "nothing is going to startle us more . . . than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us." ("Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations," Speeches of the Year, 1974, 1975, 313.)

Jesus Christ is the Firstborn of God's spirit children. (Colossians 1:15-17; D&C 93:21). Before he came to Earth, He was Jehovah, the Great I AM. (John 8:57-58; D&C 110:1-4). Nevertheless, He revealed Himself to some as Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. (See Ether 3:6-16). But it was not until Jesus was born in Bethlehem that He received a body of flesh and bones. (Luke 2:1-21; Ether 3:16). Jesus is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, which means our Heavenly Father is the Father of both Jesus' spirit and physical bodies. (John 1:14; John 3:16).


Lucifer, who is now known as Satan or the devil, was also a spirit son of God. (See Isaiah 14:12; see also D&C 76:25-26). Lucifer was an angel who was in a position of authority in Heaven. (D&C 76:25). But he became power hungry and rebelled against God and Jehovah. (Id.) This rebellion occurred during a great council in which our Heavenly Father presented a plan to us, the Plan of Salvation:


Although our spirits were created in God's image, we were not like our Heavenly Father in many ways. He possessed a perfect, immortal, physical body. (D&C 130:22). He had a fulness of joy and glory that we did not. And He was perfect in every way, unlike us.


But as our children have the capacity to become like us, Heavenly Father knew that we had the capacity to become like Him: perfect. And He wanted us to receive the fulness of joy that He had. And through the Plan of Salvation, we could become like Him. We would come to Earth for a body and to be given agency—the power to choose—whereby we would be tested if we would choose to follow God. (See Abraham 3:24-26).


The power to choose for ourselves was central to this Plan. We could not become like God at once. We would need to learn from our choices to be obedient. (Hebrews 5:8). Only by obeying could we progress until we became who our Father knew we could be. Without agency, no growth or progress would be possible.


Heavenly Father also told us of obstacles that would impede our progress. Although He would create a paradisaical Earth free of sickness, suffering, sin, and death, He taught that its first inhabitants would be given a choice to either remain in paradise or pass through mortality, and if they chose mortality, mankind would be lost unless He sent a Savior, "[His] Beloved and Chosen from the beginning" (Moses 4:2), Jehovah, who would be known in the flesh as Jesus Christ. Furthermore, because we would have the power to choose, at times we would choose to sin. Our sins would also cut us off forever from the presence of our Heavenly Father. And without Jesus, we had no hope to overcome them.


Our Heavenly Father’s Plan hinged on the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ which would overcome death and sin. Father testified that "there [would] be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation [could] come unto [us], only in and through the name of Christ, . . ." (see Mosiah 3:17).


Heavenly Father gave each of us the choice to accept His plan for us. And to accept the Plan of Salvation required faith in our Father’s promises and in the ability of Jehovah, Jesus Christ, to effect the Atonement.


Lucifer offered a variation to the Plan: He would take away our agency to prevent us from sinning so that none of us would be cut off. But he wasn’t interested in helping us to progress until we became like God with a fulness of joy. In fact, the only one he cared about was himself. (See Moses 4:1-3). Lucifer’s plan enticed some to follow him even though it would not allow us to become like our Heavenly Father.


And war erupted, polarizing the hosts of heaven.


The war that ensued wasn’t fought with sword and shield but with words. And even though Heavenly Father had gathered us together in the Great Pre-mortal Council to present the Plan of Salvation, I do not believe that it was first time that we had heard it; nor do I believe that it was a surprise that He presented His Firstborn, Jehovah, to be our Savior. I am certain that there were those among us who were already exercising great faith in Jesus Christ and who took every opportunity to learn the exalting doctrines of the Plan of Salvation, among whom were you and I. And when we heard Lucifer attack God’s plan and His Anointed, we stood and testified that Jehovah would do the Father’s will as He had promised. We were victorious, and Revelation 12:10-11 teaches that "[we] overcame [Lucifer and his legions] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of [our] testimony [of the Atonement of Jesus Christ]. . . ."


As punishment for their rebellion, God cast Lucifer and his followers, a third part of His spirit children, out of heaven. (Jude 1:6; Revelation 12:4, 9-17; D&C 29:36-38). And Lucifer became Satan or the devil who now seeks our misery and destruction because we refused to follow his plan. (D&C 76:25-26; Moses 4:2-4). As an additional punishment for Lucifer and his followers, they will never receive a body of flesh and bones. (See Abraham 3:24-28).


Therefore, because all of us, including Jesus Christ and the devil, are spirit offspring of God, the Eternal Father, we are all spirit brothers and sisters. So Mormons believe Jesus and the devil are spirit brothers. But Jesus and the devil are complete opposites of each other. Jesus is the perfect, obedient Son of God who has received the fulness of the Father. The devil is the selfish, rebellious, and evil father of lies and sin who will suffer for eternity for his wickedness.


Next Week's Post: If Jesus and Heavenly Father Are Two Separate Beings, Why Does He and the Scriptures Refer to Him at Times as "The Father?"

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Following the Star


Father
When shall I see His face
With heralding choir of angelic strain
Proclaiming His divinity?
Salvation,
Good tidings of great joy,
As declared on a bright Judean night,
And in haste I'd go to see
A Savior,
Born unto all men, Hope:
Jehovah, Messiah, Christ the King
Come to Earth as a humble child.
To see Him
And to know and feel,
I'd adore Him on bended knee.
And my eyes would then see
Redemption---
From sin's dark grasp on men,
And the sharp sting of death's doleful hold---
Laid in a lowly manger bed.
But the Child
Is not in Bethlehem,
For millennia have passed
Since shepherds found Him there.
So I seek Him,
Following the Gospel's star
Until my journey shall end
Before His glorious throne.
Oh Father!
Then shall I see His face
And my own song shall I raise
To worship Christ, my King.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Our Father's Christmas Gift


We are our Heavenly Father’s sons and daughters, and more than anything else, He wants us to come home to Him. At night I used to stare at the stars and wonder where our heavenly home was. The beauty and vastness of space filled me with awe for God and His creations. Still what we can see is just the beginning: there are more stars in the heavens than there are grains of sand on the earth. (See Neal A. Maxwell, "How Choice a Seer," Ensign, November 2003, 100.) Yet despite the vastness of His creations, our Father in Heaven has numbered the very hairs on our heads! (Matthew 10:30.)

Little wonder that when Moses saw our Heavenly Father’s creations he exclaimed, "Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed." (Moses 1:10.) Comparing man’s greatest accomplishments in technology, literature, science, government, medicine, philosophy, and like disciplines to God’s accomplishments, is like trying to compare a lightbulb to the sun. There is no comparison. Consequently, God’s superiority assures us that we can trust Him, even when things seem to go horribly wrong.

While the infinite works of God may be incomprehensible, our Heavenly Father, mercifully, is knowable. Before leaving His Apostles for Gethsemane and Golgotha, Jesus prayed and revealed one of the most simple and powerful doctrines recorded in the scriptures: "And this is eternal life, that [we] might know [Heavenly Father] the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He] has[] sent." (John 17:3.)

Thus, knowing the only true God must be the focus of our mortal sojourn. For if we know Him, we will be like Him, and if we are like Him, we will return to Him. (Moroni 7:48.)

And Heavenly Father will help us to know Him and His Son. Moses’ vision did not close with his sobering realization of mankind’s inferiority. Rather, Moses asked God a question, "Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?" (Moses 1:30.) And God answered:



For my own purpose have I made these things. . . . And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.


And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. . . .


The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.


And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.


For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:32-33, 37-39.)


This answer confirmed Moses’ recognition of mankind’s nothingness and refuted it. In essence, the Father told him: While compared to Me, mankind is nothing, to Me, mankind is everything. His eternal concern focuses on us.


Certainly, knowing that we are children of God explains why our Heavenly Father does what He does. How else could He send His Only Begotten Son to suffer, bleed, and die for us? And why else would He, time after time, "gather [us] as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings"?(3 Nephi 10:4-6.) And how else could He look on our iniquity and "spare [us] a little longer" (Jacob 5:50-51) hoping that we will repent and return to Him. After all, our time on Earth is but a "twinkling of an eye" to God, and the veil doesn’t retard His memories of our lives with Him in our heavenly home.

If we could glimpse, for a moment, our lives in our heavenly home, we would lose all desire to sin. But for us to keep our second estate and prove that we will keep all of God’s commandments simply because we trust and love Him, our first estate must remain a mystery to us. Thankfully, the scriptures and modern prophets under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost have given us glimpses of the premortal existence. For example, President Ezra Taft Benson taught, "Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us. (Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations," Speeches of the Year, 1974, 1975, 313.) We lived with God for a long time before we came here, and all He wants is for us to come home.

You and I have felt Heavenly Father’s desire for us to come home. I feel it as I search the scriptures and when I pray, not some superficial prayer, but prayer which necessitates "groanings" because words fail to express what I feel. Maybe a particularly beautiful piece of music, a sunset, or the birth of your child made you "long for home." (Phillip Paul Bliss, "More Holiness Give Me," Hymns, 131.) There are many ways that we feel Heavenly Father calling to us, but because He loves us, He will never force us to come. He loves us too much.

Heavenly Father’s plan is a plan of growth. Imagine receiving all that He has as we are right now! (See D&C 84:38.) The roots of Divinity would certainly overcome the tender branches of our capacity. (See Jacob 5:65.) Thus, He must nurture us as we cultivate our talents, attributes, and abilities to become "even as [He] is." (3 Nephi 27:27.)

And Father sent a master Gardener to bring us into His garners. (Jeffery R. Holland, "Missionary Work and the Atonement," Ensign, Mar. 2001, 15.) After all, the angels had good reason to sing that first Christmas night. In a vision explaining his father’s dream of the tree of life, Nephi saw the "most beautiful and fair [of] all virgins" holding the Son of God. (1 Nephi 11:15-22.) Instantly, Nephi recognized that the tree of life symbolized Christ and knew that the baby born in Bethlehem was the embodiment of God’s love for His children. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16.)

And God’s love abounded as Jesus walked among men. As Jesus healed and served, He testified that He merely did the works of the Father. (John 14:10.) That is, if Heavenly Father had been in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, He would have healed the sick, raised the dead, caused the blind to see, and lifted the sinner. For it was "God’s love [Jesus was] showing [us]." (Jeffery R. Holland, "The Grandeur of God," Ensign, Nov. 2003, 72.) The same sorrow which filled Jesus as He lamented over Jerusalem filled Heavenly Father, as did the same compassion which Jesus showed to sinners, even to a woman caught in adultery. How can we imagine a stern and unforgiving God when He refused to condemn one guilty of the heinous sin of adultery? (See John 8:1-11.) True, God cannot "look upon sin with the least degree of allowance," and "no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God." But He wants us to repent of our sins, and when we do, immediately He will extend the blessings of the plan of redemption to us until "He takes us on His shoulders and casts our sins behind His back." (Alma 34:31; Holland, The Grandeur of God, 73.)

Thus the greatest manifestation of God’s love for us was the offering of His Son as the "great and last sacrifice" for sin. (Alma 34:10,13-14.) None of us compared to Christ premortally. The prophet Joseph Smith taught that many years will pass after our deaths and resurrection before any of us attain perfection. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 348.) Yet Jesus continued "from grace to grace" (D&C 93:14) until He attained Godhood many billions of years ago, enabling Him to create all things. (Moses 1:32-33.) Despite His premortal perfection, Jesus yielded Himself as a willing sacrifice to the will of the Father. No one deserved greater praise, glory, and honor. Yet no one suffered more. (D&C 19:15-18.) Still, to glorify the Father and to exalt us, Jesus "descended below all things." (D&C 122:8).

Yes, the angels sang that first Christmas night because over Christ’s manger bed loomed the shadows of Gethsemane’s trees and of Golgotha’s cross. And the silence of that night portended the silence of the empty Garden Tomb.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."(Luke 2:14.)

I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who suffered the pains of death and hell to bring us home. And I know that the life and sacrifice of our Savior attest to our Heavenly Father’s love for us.

Did you know?

Did you know Glenn Beck, national T.V. and Talk Radio host, is a Mormon? Here's an article about him and how he became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I think Mr. Beck and his life is a perfect example of the goal of Mormonism: to make bad people good and good people better.
Enjoy,
Craig

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's Official


If you look to the right, you'll see that I'm now affiliated with other LDS blogs. There are two new links "Mormon Blog List" and "A Soft Answer." Feel free to check them out. Remember, however, that even though all of these blogs are written by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, none of us speak for the Church in any official capacity.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Truth


While serving as a missionary in Cayambe, Ecuador, my companion---Elder Flavio Ortiz, a native of Guayaquil, Ecuador---and I were knocking doors one day in the early afternoon. It was rare for us to find someone at home at that hour and even more rare to be invited in.

We came to a modest home. Like most homes in Ecuador, it was a one-story, flat-roofed, cement home. This home had a small yard with a few patches of grass mixed in with dirt. A metal gate separated us from the home, and so my companion used a coin to knock on the gate.

After a few moments, a man in his late thirties came toward us. We introduced ourselves as representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked him his name.

"William," he answered.

Recognizing he didn't look or act like the typical CayambeƱo, I asked, "Where are you from?"

"Guayaquil," William answered.
"So's my companion," I said. "What do you do for work?"

"I'm a missionary," he answered.

"So are we," I said. "We have a message we'd like to share with you, may we come in?"

To our surprise, William opened his gate and let us in. William's home was comfortable, for an Ecuadorian home. He had a couch or two and a few chairs. Instead of dirt, he had cement floors. He lived there with his spouse and their daughter.
We taught William the message of the Restoration of the Gospel Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith. The power of the Holy Ghost was there while we shared our conviction with William, and as he shared his ample knowledge with us.
William impressed me as a man who loved Jesus and who was completely devoted to Him. During our visit, over and over, I thought how wonderful it would be if William would accept our message and join the Church. The branch in Cayambe was struggling and needed strong leadership, and I could see a time when William would serve as the Branch President.
At the end of our discussion, Elder Ortiz and I offered William a copy of the Book of Mormon and invited him to read the account of Jesus Christ's visit to the American Continent after He had been resurrected. He took the Book and promised to read it. We also invited him to pray to discover for himself that the Book of Mormon is a True book. He said he would.

Because of conflicts with his schedule, we were not able to see William again for several weeks. When we finally caught up with him, he invited us into his home again. We sat down and we asked how he had enjoyed the Book of Mormon.
Trying to hide his disgust, he opened the Book of Mormon to Alma 46. In this chapter, those who believed in Jesus Christ called themselves Christians. But the events of Alma 46 occurred 72 years before the birth of Christ.
"This book can't be True," William said. "The followers of Christ were called Christians first in Antioch after Jesus had finished His ministry."
My heart sunk. William had dismissed the powerful message of Jesus Christ's divinity contained in the Book of Mormon just because there was a group of people on the American continent who called themselves Christians before those who followed Christ in the Middle East.

I often wondered why William, after having such a powerful meeting with him, rejected the Book of Mormon. And I wondered how something so trivial would be enough for William to deny the veracity of the Book of Mormon.
Then it hit me: William didn't start reading to know whether or not the Book of Mormon is True; rather, he already decided it was wrong and was determined to find out why. He read the entire Book of Mormon from cover to cover with the sole purpose of disproving it.

We continued to meet with William from time to time. But with each visit he became less and less willing to listen to what we had to say. Yet I will always be grateful to William for one thing: It was because of him that I became a more serious student of the Bible.

Up to the time I met with William, I had read the New Testament several times, and I had studied passages from the Old Testament. But I had never read the Bible from cover to cover. During our visits with William, he would encourage us to search the Bible, often implying that we were wrong. He also implied that if we would just read the Bible, we would realize how wrong the Book of Mormon is.

I took William up on his challenge, and I began reading the Bible trying to discover if William was right. After all, he had devoted his life to the Bible and to teaching it. As I studied the Bible, the depth and beauty of the Gospel deepened for me. And so did my testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through His prophet, Joseph Smith.

The Bible outlines the pattern of God's dealings with His children. Throughout the Bible, God constantly revealed Himself to inspired men, the prophets. The prophets received glorious visitations, ministrations, and visions. They also received Divine commissions to share what they had received. Even after Christ came, fulfilled His ministry, was crucified, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven, His servants, the apostles, continued receiving visitations, ministrations, and visions.

I learned from the Bible that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yet knowing the history of mankind, I realized that the glorious visitations, ministrations, and visions ceased. So what changed? The Bible teaches that before the second coming of Jesus Christ, there would be a falling away. That the children of men would fall away from the fulness of the Gospel. But in time, God would send another angel to declare the fulness of the Gospel to the inhabitants of the Earth.

My understanding of the doctrines of repentance, the Atonement, the fall of man, fasting, and prayer expanded, and my love for Jesus did too. I found parallels between ancient temple worship and the modern practices of Latter-day Saints in our temples (I can't talk in detail about these practices other than that we don't practice animal sacrifice).

And I could go on and on. I love the Bible. But I never would have learned what I know had I not accepted William's challenge. Really, I'm indebted to him. I am grateful that I didn't dismiss his words. I'm grateful that I was willing to use the Bible to investigate my own beliefs critically.

Had I merely dismissed William's challenges because I didn't agree with him, I wouldn't know now what I do.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Remembering


Throughout life, all of us will have problems. It's inevitable. Job did: He lost his family, his riches, and his health. Joseph of Egypt did: His brothers sold him into slavery and was imprisoned on false charges. Jesus did: He suffered persecution and hatred, was abused, and was crucified. Joseph Smith did: He was driven from place to place simply because he believed differently than others; he was beaten and tarred and feathered; he spent a winter in Liberty Jail even though he had never been tried or convicted of anything.

Problems happen to the best of us.

Some of us will experience great prosperity. We will have beautiful homes, cars, and clothes. We will have food and to spare. We will have summer homes, winter homes, boats, etc. . . . Of course, prosperity doesn't always come to the best of us.

But problems and prosperity share something: They can become our excuse to turn away from God. Some who suffer problems, like Job's wife (remember, they were her children, too) curse God and long to die. Some of the prosperous will believe that by the strength of their own arm they became prosperous, that God had nothing to do with their prosperity. Thus, they can turn their back on the poor as they pursue greater wealth. And those suffering problems and prosperity may lose their faith in God and cease serving Him.

Yet problems and prosperity need not destroy our faith. God has tried to teach us how to prevent losing our faith for a long time. One of the most important things we can do is to remember.

Foreseeing forty years in the wilderness, wars, captivity in Babylon, and the other problems the children of Israel would have, God instituted the feast of unleavened bread and the feast of the passover so they would remember what God did for them in bringing them out of Egypt. (See Exodus chapters 12-13). Jesus, the night before His crucifixion, instituted the sacrament so that we would remember what He did for us as we partake of the emblems representing His flesh and blood. (See Luke 22:15-20).

Remembering will preserve our faith in God.

Now, none of us were in Egypt as the destroying angel passed over those who had marked their doors with the blood of the lamb or as Pharaoh thrust them out of Egypt. None of us were in the upper room when Jesus instituted the sacrament of communion, nor were we there to witness His sacrifice and resurrection.

But God has given us our own Passovers and upper rooms which we can remember when things get too hard, or too good, for that matter. With little thought, we can remember the times when we felt God reaching out to us. When we realize the destroying angel has just passed without harming us or when we realize we have just communed with Deity.

I remember on my mission when I had received a new assignment. Prior to the assignment, I had been working in two branches of the Church. All of our investigators and work were in one branch. The new assignment took the branch with all our work and gave it to another pair of missionaries. So my companion and I began knocking doors and speaking with people in the street. During the first week of our companionship, we spent hours in the streets with little success, but we did succeed in setting about seven appointments for Saturday. One of the appointments was with a young family. We had spoken to the mother of the family and shared with her a brief message that through the ordinances of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, she could be with her family forever. She was interested, and we were excited to teach her and her husband together. They were our last appointment for Saturday. That was the appointment that we were sure would make our long week of hard work worth it.

Saturday came, and more than half our appointments fell through. We were struggling to stay positive, but at least we would soon be teaching that young family. The time came for our appointment with them. We knocked on their door. The mother answered, but she wasn't excited to see us. "My husband doesn't want to listen to you. You need to go."

We were crushed. And we still had more than an hour before we could go home. My companion and I talked about what we should do. It was dark. We were tired of knocking doors. And there was no one on the street to talk to. But we decided to pray. So my companion and I found a secluded place, knelt in the dirt, and asked God to guide us. When we finished, we stood and brushed off our suits.

"Let's knock on one more door," my companion said.

"O.K." I replied.

We walked to the first door we saw, knocked, and no one answered.

"Alright, one more, and if no one answers, we're going to the apartment," my companion said.

"Sounds good to me," I said.

We walked to the next house down and knocked on the door. An older woman answered the door.

"We're messengers of Jesus Christ, and we have a message for you," I said.

"We're members of another Church," she said.

Just then, I saw a light across the path from her home. I felt impressed to point to that light and say, "Would you say that's a good light?"

She looked puzzled, but answered, "Yes."

"Could you read by it?"

"Yes."

"In fact, that light will keep us from tripping as we walk by it, right?"

"Yes."

"But the strength of that light is limited to just the area around it. Is there a greater light?" I asked.

"Yes, the sun," she said.

"We're not here to take away the light you already have. It's a good light. A light that has guided your life for years, that has kept you from stumbling in darkness. But we've brought you the light of the sun."
She paused for a moment. Opened the door, and asked us to come teach her, her husband, and her two sons. The meeting we had with them that night was one of the most powerful and spiritual discussions I had with anyone during my mission.
They were all later baptised, all because God heard the prayers of two young men trying to serve Him, inspired them to knock on one more door, and gave them the words to speak which would touch the heart of one of His daughters.

I remember that story any time I wonder if God actually hears and answers prayers.

I've had many other experiences which when problems or prosperity attack my faith in God that I can remember to turn my heart to God. And I'm sure you have, too.

So when we find ourselves in problems or in prosperous circumstances, we need to pause and remember the great things God has done for us. If we are in problems, we will know that we can move forward, relying on God to strengthen us and help us through them. And if we are in prosperous circumstances, remembering will inspire us to thank God for our blessings and to share our blessing with those who have found themselves in problems.

(Feel free to share in the comments the things that God has done for you that you remember to preserve your faith in Him).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Recent Converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Share Their Experiences

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as it has for over 30 years, has produced several advertisements. But unlike previous years, this round of advertisements feature recent converts to the Church discussing their experiences. If you're having trouble with the videos, you can see both by clicking here and here.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Mischief"

One of my favorite movies is "Fiddler on the Roof." In it, Tevye, a Jewish dairyman with five daughters in late-czarist Russia struggles to maintain his traditions as the world changes around him.
Early in the film, as he is making his last Friday deliveries, his horse pulls up lame and Tevye must yoke himself to his dairy cart while his horse walks beside him. While pulling the cart, Teyve looks heavenward and says,
Dear God. Was that necessary? Did you have to make him lame just before the Sabbath? That wasn't nice. It's enough you pick on me. Bless me with five daughters, a life of poverty, that's all right. But what have you got against my horse?
Really, sometimes I think, when things are too quiet up there, you say to yourself, "Let's see. What kind of mischief can I play on my friend, Tevye?"
Sometimes, I feel a little like Tevye.
In the commotion of life, I'm often moments away from a much-needed rest when the Lord decides to play a little mischief on me. It happened after I graduated from BYU when despite excellent grades I couldn't find a job. It happened when instead of going back to BYU or the University of Utah for law school, I ended up at Baylor. And I can feel it happening now.
Since the day we came to Baylor, my wife and I have looked forward to returning permanently to Utah. And lately, I've been feeling very Utah-sick. It's October 21 here in Waco, and it was 88 degrees. The leaves on the trees are still green. But in Utah, I'm told, the air is crisp. And the mountains are a mosaic of fall foliage. It snowed yesterday.
I miss Fall in Utah!
But I don't think I'll see a Utah Fall for some time. Even though I interviewed for several positions in Utah this summer, that horse has pulled up lame. And now I find myself yoked to an unexpected burden.
Yet I know that what at first blush seems mischievous is really part of a better plan. For no matter how well-thought-out my plans are, the Lord's will is always best. Sometimes, it's His will to test my patience and faith. (See Mosiah 23:21). Thus, it's my privilege to "submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord," as hard as it may be. (See Mosiah 24:9-17).
And Christ has promised rest to those who are yoked to life's struggles. He said,
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30).
So, like Tevye, I must yoke myself to my cart and move forward knowing that I'm not pulling alone. For a Sabbath awaits. It may be in the Fall of Utah's mountain valleys. Or it may be the rest which comes only after a life well-lived.
But a Sabbath awaits.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

My Testimony


My friends, I hope you took advantage of the opportunity to listen to modern Apostles and Prophets as they taught us the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you missed it, you can still enjoy their messages because they are available on the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The conference was glorious. Henry B. Eyring, formerly a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was called to be the second counselor in the First Presidency, and Quentin L. Cook was called as the new member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to take the place of President Eyring. As I listened to each speak, I felt the power of the Holy Ghost testifying that Jesus Christ Himself called them to their new positions.

As I watched General Conference, I felt impressed to share with you my testimony:

I know that God lives. He is our Heavenly Father. He knows us by name and loves us personally. He is a personage of Spirit, and that Spirit is tabernacled in a tangible, exalted Body of flesh and bone. He has a face which we will see. He has arms which ache to hold us. And He has a heart filled with love for us. I know it.

I know Jesus Christ is God's Son. I know that although He died upon the cross of Calvary, Jesus overcame the bonds of death and was resurrected. His Spirit and Body were reunited, never again to be separated. He has a face which we will see. He has arms which ache to hold us. He has a heart filled with love for us. And His hands, feet, and side bear the tokens of His Messiahship. One day we will feel those prints.

I testify that Jesus Christ paid the price of sin. He has satisfied the demands of Justice so that He can extend grace to us. Through Him, we can overcome the effects of sin and become perfected. And because He was resurrected, we all will be resurrected. Our spirits and our bodies will one day be united, never again to be separated.

And just like He did anciently, I know that Jesus Christ has called Apostles to lead, guide, and direct His Church. The first Apostle of this era was Joseph Smith, Jr. Joseph saw Jesus face to face and received the keys of the kingdom which had been bestowed upon Peter anciently. But Joseph was not the only Apostle of this era: there have been approximately one hundred others. Today, the chief Apostle is Gordon B. Hinckely. He holds the same keys as Peter held and that Joseph Smith held. These Apostles are prophets, seers, and revelators. And if we heed their words, they will guide us in the ways of truth and righteousness until we return to the presence of God. God speaks to these modern Apostles and Prophets just as He did to the ancient Apostles and Prophets.

I testify the Bible is the word of God. It is a true book. It teaches that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It teaches that there is no other way whereby we may be saved except in and through Him. I love it and the the peace and power I feel as I read it.

And I testify that God has provided us another witness to testify of the Divinity of Jesus Christ: The Book of Mormon. It is a true book. It teaches that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It teaches that there is no other way whereby we may be saved except in and through Him. I love it and the peace and power I feel as I read it. And it is through the Book of Mormon that I know Jesus Christ lives and is the Savior of the World.

I testify that Jesus Christ has restored the fullness of His Gospel and has restored His Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr.

I know that through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the ordinances of the Gospel, we can return to live with God, our Heavenly Father forever. And by that same power, we can be united with our families eternally, not only until death parts us.

My friends, you can also know these things are true. I promise you, in the name of Jesus Christ, that if you will study the Book of Mormon, ponder its teachings, humble yourselves before God, and ask Him in the name of Jesus Christ, God Himself will manifest to you the truthfulness of these things. For I know them by this power.

As surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, I know these things are true. Are you willing to discover the truth of these things for yourself?

Please accept my invitation to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder its teachings, and to ask God if it is a true book.

For a free copy of the Book of Mormon, click here. The link to request a Book of Mormon is at the bottom of the page.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Few Questions for You

I'm still working on how to present my essay about the Priesthood to you, and I should have something to post within the next few weeks about it. But today I wanted to do something different. As you know, this blog is about understanding. And I would like to understand more about your beliefs.

Growing up a Mormon, serving as a Mormon missionary, and studying law at a Baptist university, I have had ample opportunities to explain and defend my faith. I'm sure many of my beliefs seem very different to you. But if you look at things from my perspective, many of your beliefs seem very different to me!
So I have a few questions for you. Be at ease; I'm not trying to corner you. And I will never attack what you say (see the seven rules above). I just want to understand you better.
Here are my questions:
1. Why do most Christian denominations teach that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost are Three expressions of the same Entity rather than Three distinct Entities?
2. If God spoke directly to His children through dreams, visions, the ministry of Angels, and by His own voice from the time of Adam, through the ministry, crucifiction and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and through the ministry of the Apostles, why did He stop when the Apostles were martyred?
3. Why is the Bible considered by most Christians as the sole repository of God's words? That is, why can there be no other scripture than the Bible?
4. Finally, I have noticed that each Christian sect has its own perspective on Salvation: some say a lip confession is all that is necessary, others say baptism is essential, and some say nothing is necessary because God has already decided who will be saved. My question is do you believe that regardless of sect, will all those who belong to a Christian denomination go to Heaven despite their conflicting views on Salvation, and why?
Feel free to answer all, some, one, but please not none of the questions above. I believe I've already addressed each of these topics. If I haven't please point it out to me, and I will address it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Barriers

I sometimes wonder why we are so quick to point out how people are different from ourselves. Maybe it's because if we were to take the time to list our similarities, it would take too long. But for centuries, we have used our differences as bricks to build barriers around ourselves to protect "us" from "others." Most of us began constructing our barriers as children. Some of us began building upon the already high barriers of our parents.
I've had my own barriers. But some of the most satisfying experiences I've had were when my barriers tumbled down:
As a citizen of the United States, it was easy for me to separate myself from citizens of other nations. The privileges and opportunities here have provided amazing opportunities for education and economic comfort. And it was easy to consider myself superior to non-Americans.
But in Ecuador, that barrier was quick to fall. After I had served as a missionary for four months in a remote Andean Indian village, my companion and I visited a family which belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to encourage them to share the message of our Church with their friends. Their home was a flat-roofed, cement shack with three rooms. They had an old television and used their bed as a couch from which they could watch it. They were more fortunate than most because their floor was cement and not dirt.
The mother of the family had served as a missionary herself, and she and I began exchanging missionary experiences. It was obvious how deeply she loved Jesus Christ and how important her time as a missionary was to her.
And then it hit me. The only real difference between her and me was that she had been born in Ecuador and I in the United States. And that difference didn't matter at all. If anything, I bore a great responsibility as a United States citizen to extend the privileges and opportunities of our nation to others.
I built another barrier in High School when the Southern Baptist Convention decided to hold its annual convention in Salt Lake City with the express purpose of making all Mormons Christians. It infuriated me. I had grown up singing songs like "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam," "I Feel My Savior's Love," "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus," "I Believe in Christ," "I Know that My Redeemer Lives," "Redeemer of Israel," and "Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee." My bedtime stories were about Jesus' ministry in Palestine. And I had studied the New Testament personally, in Sunday School, and in Seminary (a program for high-school-aged students). What was more, I had read the Book of Mormon, which teaches and testifies of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and only means of salvation, many times.
All I could think was, "How dare they tell me I'm not a Christian?" And I dismissed all Baptists as modern-day Pharisees.
Little did I know that I would attend a Baptist-sponsored law school. But even after we decided to come to Baylor, I expected that I would need to shield myself behind the barrier I built in High School.
But during orientation, my barrier began coming down. As I sat in a lecture about how to analyze cases by Professor Osler, a devout Baptist, he asked me to stand. He asked me about a few details of a murder case from Arizona. Then he talked about our legal system. And he asked if Ecuador's legal system functioned like the United States'.
I was immediately impressed that a professor doing an orientation lecture would take the time to read almost one hundred profiles so he could personalize a one-hour lesson. And most of those students wouldn't take one of Professor Osler's classes until they entered practice court.
A little over one year later, I began taking the criminal law classes Professor Osler teaches, and I started getting to know him better. He also made a presentation to the Christian Legal Society about his "faith journey." Even though I'm not a member of the CLS, I attended. He spoke of his childhood and the night while working as an itinerant crop harvester in Washington state when he humbled himself and pleaded for God to guide his life. I left that meeting knowing that Professor Osler loves Jesus Christ.
I've had the privilege to take other classes with Professor Osler, including one which he team taught with two Baptist ministers. As I listened to Professor Osler and those ministers, I often felt as if I were sitting in a Mormon Sunday School class. I recognized that Baptists and Mormons share so much when it comes to devotion to Jesus, loving others, and forgiving others. It was wonderful to be instructed by those three humble followers of Jesus Christ.
And my barrier crumbled.
Now, Professor Osler, someone whom I would have dismissed as a modern day Pharisee, has become my mentor, friend, and brother in the faith of Jesus Christ.
It's true that differences will always distinguish "us" from "others." But we can't let those differences divide us. So let's allow our commonalities to demolish our barriers, or at least bridge them. Otherwise, we will lose countless opportunities to learn and grow. And we will never know how many friends we could have had.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Heaven Wouldn't Be Heaven without My Family


The last two weeks have made me very grateful to know families are meant to be eternal. When I came back to Waco, my wife and kids stayed in Utah. We decided that, because I would participate in Baylor Law School's rigorous Practice Court program ("P.C.") this Fall, things would be easier if they extended their summer vacation by three weeks. Although P.C. has kept me busy, the absence of my family has given me cause to ponder about the eternal nature of families and heaven.
And I've realized heaven really wouldn't be heaven if my wife and children weren't with me there.
For two weeks, I've yearned to feel my wife's embrace, to see her smile, and to hear her voice free from telephone-line distortion. My arms have ached to hug my daughter. And I've longed to snuggle with my son while he sleeps in my arms. P.C. has been hard, but it doesn't compare to the anguish of loneliness and longing I have felt in my family's absence. I have counted down every moment that brings me closer to their return.
I'm sure in the future, circumstances, such as work, will separate me from them, and during each separation I will not be able to wait until we're reunited. But I'll always come home. And amidst hugs and kisses, we'll be together again.
Eventually, death will separate us. And if death were to work a permanent separation between me and them, I couldn't think of a more perfect definition of hell.
But God never intended death to destroy our families. The first marriage on the earth was eternal. (See Orson Pratt, "Celestial Marriage," Journal of Discourses, 1:58 (1852). God Himself united Adam and Eve while they lived in the Garden of Eden before they became subject to death. (See Genesis 2:21-24). Death could not separate them, nor could could it sever the bonds with which they were bound. (See Pratt, "Celestial Marriage"). Although they fell and all mankind became subject to death, Jesus Christ overcame the effects of the Fall and made it possible to be with our families forever. (Id.).

Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, God has restored the truth that a man, a woman, and their children can be united eternally. And in 1836, the Prophet Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and gave them the power to seal families together forever! (D&C 110:13-16).
My wife and I were married by this authority August 23, 2002. And the blessings of our marriage extend to our children. They are ours forever as long as my wife and I live worthily in this life. As more children are born to us, they will also be ours.
Aside from the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His redeeming sacrifice, there is no doctrine which brings me greater joy.
My friends who read this, I want you to know families can be eternal through the atonement of Jesus Christ. I know it. As I write these words, I feel the power of the bonds which bind me to my wife and children and those which bind me to my parents. It is a true power. And I want you to feel that same power binding you to your families.
Because, if we are honest with ourselves, it is impossible to imagine heaven without our families there.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Justice and Mercy

I will defer to another day the discussion I had planned to present today because this week my friend, David Corbett, asked, "What is worse, to be unjust or unmerciful?" Eloquently, he concluded it is worse to be unmerciful.
Since I read his comments, I have thought much about that question. And I feel both are equally devastating.
Justice is a two-edged sword, cutting for and against us. When we obey the law, justice ensures we receive every privilege and blessing we are entitled to under the law: liberty, life, joy, and ultimately salvation. But when we violate the law, justice demands punishment for our actions: captivity, death, misery, and ultimately damnation. And while we receive blessings for obedience, we do not receive any additional merit to satisfy the demands that justice rightly has against us.
By its nature, justice considers all circumstances surrounding our actions. Taking into account all aggravating and mitigating factors, it renders judgement. And if we are honest, the demands of justice are perfectly, well, just.
Without justice, all things would be compound in one. The dichotomy of blessing and punishment creates opposition in all things. We could not know joy if we did not know sorrow. We could not choose good if we could not contrast it with evil. And we could not receive the blessings of obedience without justice. When justice confronts us with our punishment, we will plead for mercy, promising we "will never do it again."
And if there were no justice to demand punishment for our evil deeds, there would be no need for mercy.
Mercy is available only through the atonement of Jesus Christ. It is His desire to save all mankind. To that end, He offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin to answer the demands of justice. He has extended mercy to all of us and will save us if we let Him.
Christ's mercy is the perfect and highest manifestation of pure love the universe has ever known. Thus, the failure to extend mercy is the failure to love. When we are merciful, we are filled with the pure love of Christ, or charity. And as the prophet Mormon taught, if we have not charity, we are nothing.
Therefore, if we fail to be just, we fail to take the time to analyze the individual circumstances of each person. We won't give praise where it is due. We won't correct the mistakes of others. And if we fail to be merciful, we lack charity, the perfect love of Jesus Christ, and we are nothing.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Each Life that Touches Ours for Good


Early this morning, President James E. Faust, Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, passed away.
Before his call to the ministry, President Faust was an attorney and served as a member of the Utah State Legislature, President of the Utah Bar Association, and was appointed as a member of the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy.
President Faust was a true disciple of Jesus Christ whose words and testimony of Christ served to strengthen and sustain my own devotion to Jesus. As a missionary in Ecuador, I listened as President Faust addressed the Church about the importance of having a growing testimony of Jesus Christ, the text of which is attached below. He spoke of his feelings of inadequacy: He was just an ordinary man called to an extraordinary calling, and the only thing which qualified him for the ministry as an Apostle was his burning and abiding testimony of Jesus Christ.
At that time, I was struggling with my own feelings of inadequacy: I had also been called to be a witness of Jesus Christ, yet my personal weakness often impeded the Lord's work in Ecuador. But President Faust's words helped me recognize that despite my weakness, I also have a burning and abiding testimony of Jesus Christ. And I moved forward, as an imperfect servant with a perfect witness, striving to follow the example of President Faust.
Nearly one year after my wife and I were married, we went to Park City for a weekend. We went to a local restaurant, and as we sat down, I recognized a man sitting just a few tables away. It was President Faust with his wife and two other members of his family. Certain that as someone with such a prominent position within the Mormon community he is constantly approached, my wife and I decided not to approach him to let him enjoy some time away from the burdens of his calling. I admired him from afar. But as he and his family left the restaurant, he walked by our table and asked, "How are you folks?"
All we could say was we were doing well.
I testify the President James E. Faust was truly an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ with all the powers, authority, and privileges enjoyed by ancient Apostles, such as Peter, James, John, and Paul. I will always remember him as a true disciple of Christ and someone I sought to emulate as I have strived to become a true disciple of Christ.
I will miss him.
The following is the talk I mentioned before and an excerpt of another presentation which President Faust gave as a Special Witness of Jesus Christ:

A Growing Testimony

My beloved brothers and sisters and friends, I have lived a long time. As I look back over my life, I recognize one source of singular strength and blessing. It is my testimony and knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. I am profoundly grateful that all of my life I have had a simple faith that Jesus is the Christ. That witness has been confirmed to me hundreds of times. It is the crowning knowledge of my soul. It is the spiritual light of my being. It is the cornerstone of my life.


As one of the least among you but in my calling as one of His Apostles, I testify of the Christ as our Savior and the Redeemer of the world. Since this testimony has been forged by a lifetime of experiences, of necessity this requires my relating experiences which are very personal in nature. But this testimony is mine, and I feel that the Savior knows that I know that He lives.


The first cornerstone of my testimony was laid a long time ago. One of my early recollections was having a frightening nightmare as a small child. I still remember it vividly. I must have screamed in fright during the night. My grandmother woke me up. I was crying, and she took me in her arms, hugged me, and comforted me. She got a bowl of some of my favorite rice pudding that was left over from dinner, and I sat on her lap as she spoon-fed me. She told me that we were safe in our house because Jesus was watching over us. I felt it was true then, and I still believe it now. I was comforted in both body and soul and went peacefully back to bed, assured of the divine reality that Jesus does watch over us.


That first memorable experience led to other strong confirmations that God lives and that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Many of these came in response to earnest prayer. As a child, when I lost things such as my precious pocketknife, I learned that if I prayed hard enough, I could usually find it. I was always able to find the lost cows I was entrusted with. Sometimes I had to pray more than once, but my prayers always seemed to be answered. Sometimes the answer was no, but most often it was positive and confirming. Even when it was no, I came to know that, in the Lord’s great wisdom, the answer I received was for my best good. My faith continued to grow as building blocks were added to the cornerstone, line upon line and precept upon precept. There are far too many of these to be chronicled individually; some are too sacred to utter.


These early seeds of faith sprouted still further when, as a young Aaronic Priesthood boy, I received a firsthand confirmation of the remarkable testimony of the Three Witnesses concerning the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. My stake president was President Henry D. Moyle, and his father was James H. Moyle. In the summertime Brother James H. Moyle would visit his family, and he would worship with us in our little ward in the southeast of the Salt Lake Valley.


One Sunday, Brother James H. Moyle shared with us a singular experience. As a young man he went to the University of Michigan to study law. As he was finishing his studies, his father told him that David Whitmer, one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, was still alive. The father suggested to his son that he stop on his way back to Salt Lake City to visit with David Whitmer face-to-face. Brother Moyle’s purpose was to ask him about his testimony concerning the golden plates and the Book of Mormon.


During that visit, Brother Moyle said to David Whitmer: “Sir, you are an old man, and I’m a young man. I have been studying about witnesses and testimonies. Please tell me the truth concerning your testimony as one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon.” David Whitmer then told this young man: “Yes, I held the golden plates in my hands, and they were shown to us by an angel. My testimony concerning the Book of Mormon is true.” David Whitmer was out of the Church, but he never denied his testimony of the angel’s visitation, of handling the golden plates, or of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Hearing with my own ears this remarkable experience directly from Brother Moyle’s lips had a powerful, confirming effect upon my growing testimony. Having heard it, I felt it was binding upon me.


One of the foundation stones of my testimony came when I served my first mission in Brazil as a young man. At that time our labors were unfruitful and difficult. We could not envision the great outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord which has come in that country and its neighboring countries of South America, Central America, and Mexico in the intervening years. Sixty years ago there was only one stake in all of these countries. Now there are 643 stakes in Latin America. I believe it is only the beginning. What has happened is beyond my wildest hopes and dreams. It is one of the many miracles we have seen. It is my witness that all of this could not have happened without the divine intervention of the Lord, who is watching over this holy work, not only in Latin America but in all of the countries of the world.


In my long life I have found peace, joy, and happiness beyond my fondest hopes and dreams. One of the supreme benedictions of my life has been my marriage to an elect daughter of God. I love her with all my heart and soul. Upon the wind of her spirit have my wings been carried. 1 We were married in the Salt Lake Temple 57 years ago when I was a soldier in World War II and did not know if I would come back alive. Her strong, unwavering faith and support have strengthened my own testimony in times of challenge and difficulty. My inevitable eternal journey, if I am so favored, will be wonderful with her at my side.


Another great blessing in my life has been to have children come into our family even though we thought we might never have any. Our joy has increased with our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Only by the power of a priesthood blessing did this come about.


Along with the blessings, however, I have known some difficult challenges and heartaches. I am grateful for the lessons learned in these adversities. As a young man, I lived through the Great Depression, when banks failed and so many lost their jobs and homes and went hungry. I was fortunate to have a job at a canning factory that paid 25 cents an hour. That may have been all I was worth! But it helped me get my education. I served three long years in the military in World War II. One time when we were in peril of our ship capsizing in a horrendous storm in the Pacific, I put myself in the Lord’s hands and fervently promised Him that if I survived I would try to serve Him all of the days of my life.


At times I have stumbled and been less than I should have been. All of us experience those wrenching, defining, difficult decisions that move us to a higher level of spirituality. They are the Gethsemanes of our lives that bring with them great pain and anguish. Sometimes they are too sacred to be shared publicly. They are the watershed experiences that help purge us of our unrighteous desires for the things of the world. As the scales of worldliness are taken from our eyes, we see more clearly who we are and what our responsibilities are concerning our divine destiny.


I humbly acknowledge that these many experiences have nurtured a sure knowledge that Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer. I have heard His voice and felt His influence and presence. They have been as a warm, spiritual cloak. The wonder of it is that all who conscientiously strive to keep the commandments and sustain their leaders can receive this same knowledge in some measure. The privilege of serving in the cause of the Master can bring great satisfaction and inner peace.


The united testimonies and faith of the early Church members brought them from Palmyra to Kirtland, and from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley. Eventually that faith will establish this work all over the world. That strength of testimony and faith moves the work of God forward in such a marvelous way. The power of the Lord is in this work, as evidenced in the wonderful happenings of our time.


President Gordon B. Hinckley presides over what is possibly the greatest number of faithful people who have ever lived upon the face of the earth. I testify that he is a truly great prophet. He needs faithful followers. The great strength of this Church comes from our collective and individual testimonies, born of our own trials and faithfulness. The faithfulness of the Saints has permitted this great Conference Center to be built and dedicated in the name of the Lord on this historic day. It is unique in all the world. So wondrous and great are the works of the Lord in our time. As a people, we are not as yet what we ought to be—far from it. However, I hope we will strive harder to become a more righteous people, worthy to continue to receive the blessings of heaven.


The acceleration of temple building in our time has been marvelous. Through the prophetic vision of President Hinckley, we now have many temples that dot many lands on the earth. This remarkable achievement has been made possible because of faithful tithe payers. This in turn has caused the Lord to redeem His promise spoken through Malachi: “And prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” 2 All of these exquisite holy edifices are a testimony of our belief that the Savior broke the bonds of death and opened up the way for us to enter into covenants which will be binding in another world.


Like Alma, I can testify, “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” 3
In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith that I know to be true, the Savior testified of Himself in these words:


“I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world;
“… I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one.” 4
The Lord has promised that “every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.” 5


When I was called to the holy apostleship many years ago, my sure witness prompted me to testify on that occasion in these words: “I understand that a chief requirement for the holy apostleship is to be a personal witness of Jesus as the Christ and the Divine Redeemer. Perhaps on that basis alone, I can qualify. This truth has been made known to me by the unspeakable peace and power of the Spirit of God.” 6
Since accepting that call many years ago, my certain witness has been greatly magnified. This is because of my undeniable testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.


My greatest desire is to be true and faithful to the end of my days on this earth. That we may all do so, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

(James E. Faust, "Testimony," Ensign Nov. 2000).

Excerpt from "Special Witnesses of Christ"

In the Gethsemanes of life which we all have, and often in my present calling, I have gone to my knees with a humble spirit to the only place I could for help. I often went in agony of spirit, earnestly pleading with God to sustain me in the work I have come to appreciate more than life itself. I have, on occasion, felt a terrible aloneness of the wounds of the heart, of the sweet agony, the buffetings of Satan, and the encircling warm comfort of the Spirit of the Master.


I have also felt the crushing burden, the self-doubts of inadequacy and unworthiness, the fleeting feeling of being forsaken, then of being reinforced an hundredfold. I have climbed a spiritual Mount Sinai dozens of times, seeking to communicate and to receive instructions. It has been as though I have struggled up an almost real Mount of Transfiguration and, upon occasion, felt great strength and power in the presence of the Divine. A special, sacred feeling has been a sustaining influence and often a close companion.


As I serve in the calling of the holy apostleship, I recognize that I am a very ordinary man. Yet I gratefully acknowledge one special gift. I have a certain knowledge that Jesus of Nazareth is our Divine Savior. I know that He lives. I know that through the unspeakable agony of the Atonement, men and women, if they repent, can be forgiven of their sins. Because of the miracle of the Resurrection, all will rise from the dead. I feel His love and marvel at the price He paid for each of us. I wonder how many drops of blood were spilled for me. This is the testimony I give of Him, even in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

(James E. Faust, "Special Witnesses of Christ," Ensign April 2000).

Monday, August 06, 2007

On Prayer



Prayer is a miracle. During the first few months of my time as a missionary in Ecuador, my companion, Elder Rekoutis, and I were across the room from each other, kneeling at our beds, praying. When each of us had finished, Elder Rekoutis quipped, "which of us was God listening to?" The answer, of course, was both, which is the beginning of the miracle. I wondered then how many millions of people were praying at the same time Elder Rekoutis and I were. Yet, during that prayer, I literally felt as if God was focusing all His attention on me and my concerns.


Still, God cares just as much about His other children and their concerns. And modern revelation teaches the inhabitants of this Earth are not the only children of God in the universe: There are other worlds and other men and women. (See D&C 76:18-24; Moses 1:29-34). And science estimates there are more stars in the sky than there are grains of sand on every beach on the Earth! When we look at ourselves within the context of the universe, we are specks living on a speck called Earth, which is a speck within our solar system, which is a speck in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is a speck within an ever-expanding universe.


Yet I have offered prayers when scarcely I have begun that I felt my Heavenly Father say, "I am here." And although Heavenly Father oversees the creation and governing of countless galaxies, He is completely devoted to us as individuals.


And what adds to the miracle of prayer is that God even cares about the minutia of our lives. For example, as my family and I traveled from Waco to Utah, we only had forty-five minutes to catch a connecting flight in the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. But our flight from Waco to Dallas was delayed. We were certain the plane to Utah would take off without us. But my wife and I were both praying that we would make it in time. And we did. As I sat waiting to take off, I said a silent prayer of thanks and was filled with the love of God. At that moment, I realized what a trivial thing catching a flight is when it compares to the grand scheme of things. But I also realized that our Heavenly Father took great pleasure in answering and granting that "trivial" petition.


Because it mattered to my wife and me, it mattered to Him!


That is the miracle of prayer. Even though we are specks, one of many billions of billions---or more---children of God, our Heavenly Father knows us individually, loves us personally, hears our prayers, delights in blessing us, and treats us as if we were His only child.


Thank God for the miracle of prayer.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Same-sex Attraction

Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released an official statement meant to reach out to members of the Church who are attracted to people of the same sex. To read the statement, click here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Eternal Marriage

Reading today, I came across the following quotes by Elder Orson Pratt relating to eternal marriage:

The Lord ordained marriage between male and female as a law through which spirits should come here and take tabernacles, and enter into the second state of existence. The Lord Himself solemnized the first marriage pertaining to this globe, and pertaining to flesh and bones here upon this earth. I do not say pertaining to mortality; for when the first marriage was celebrated, no mortality was there. The first marriage that we have any account of, was between two immortal beings--old father Adam and old mother Eve; they were immortal beings; death had no dominion, no power over them; they were capable of enduring for ever and ever, in their organization. Had they fulfilled the law, and kept within certain conditions and bounds, their tabernacles would never have been seized by death; death entered entirely by sin, and sin alone. This marriage was celebrated between two immortal beings. For how long? Until death? No. That was entirely out of the question; there could have been no such thing in the ceremony.
What would you consider, my hearers, if a marriage was to be celebrated between two beings not subject to death? Would you consider them joined together for a certain number of years, and that then all their covenants were to cease for ever, and the marriage contract be dissolved? Would it look reasonable and consistent? No. Every heart would say that the work of God is perfect in and of itself, and inasmuch as sin had not brought imperfection upon the globe, what God joined together could not be dissolved, and destroyed, and torn asunder by any power beneath the celestial world, consequently it was eternal; the ordinance of union was eternal; the sealing of the great Jehovah upon Adam and Eve was eternal in its nature, and was never instituted for the purpose of being overthrown and brought to an end. It is known that the "Mormons" are a peculiar people about marriage; we believe in marrying, not only for time, but for all eternity. This is a curious idea, says one, to be married for all eternity. It is not curious at all; for when we come to examine the Scriptures, we find that the very first example set for the whole human family, as a pattern instituted for us to follow, was not instituted until death, for death had no dominion at that time; but it was an eternal blessing pronounced upon our first parents. I have not time to explain further the marriage of Adam and Eve, but will pass on to their posterity.
It is true, that they became fallen, but there is a redemption. But some may consider that the redemption only redeemed us in part, that is, merely from some of the effects of the fall. But this is not the case; every man and woman must see at once that a redemption must include a complete restoration of all privileges lost by the fall.

Suppose, then, that the fall was of such a nature as to dissolve the marriage covenant, by death--which is not necessary to admit, for the covenant was sealed previous to the fall, and we have no account that it was dissolved--but suppose this was the case, would not the redemption be equally as broad as the fall, to restore the posterity of Adam back to that which they lost? And if Adam and Eve were married for all eternity, the ceremony was an everlasting ordinance, that they twain should be one flesh for ever. If you and I should ever be accounted worthy to be restored back from our fallen and degraded condition to the privileges enjoyed before the fall, should we not have an everlasting marriage seal, as it was with our first progenitors? If we had no other reasons in all the Bible, this would be sufficient to settle the case at once in the mind of every reflecting man and woman, that inasmuch as the fall of man has taken away any privileges in regard to the union of male and female, these privileges must be restored in the redemption of man, or else it is not complete.
Orson Pratt, "Celestial Marriage," Journal of Discourses, 1:58 (1852).

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sweet Land of Liberty

The Book of Mormon teaches that when the waters of the Great Flood receded, the American continent "became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof." (Ether 13:2). And an ancient-American General blessed it to be "A chosen land, and the land of liberty." (Alma 46:13-18). Today, those prophesies and blessings have been fulfilled, and no other nation in the history of the world can boast the great freedoms which we enjoy today.
My ancestors came to America for religious reasons. On my mother's side of my family, the first of my ancestors who came to America did so to realize the Puritan dream of establishing a "City on a Hill." Others came to America to establish Zion first in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, then in the mountain valleys of Utah. Their sacrifice was great, and many suffered as they strove to find the freedom to worship God as they saw fit.
And on my father's side of my family, my ancestors came to America because they refused to carry arms and shed the blood of their brothers. They were Mennonites and had been driven from country to country in Europe until they found home in the Midwest.
In honor of my Mennonite heritage and the great nation in which we live which affords us so many freedoms and blessings of liberty, I am posting a History paper I wrote years ago about my ancestors, the sister of my great-great Grandfather Peter Pankratz, her husband, and their family.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mennonite history, here is a brief synopsis: During the Reformation, several men in Switzerland decided their infant baptisms were invalid because they did not have the option to choose for themselves. They were rebaptised, and thus the Anabaptist movement was born.
Among all the sects which emerged in Reformation Europe, the Anabaptists were the most radical. They actively proselytized their neighbors, and many rejected the authority of their secular leaders. As a result, the Anabaptists suffered severe persecution. Among the most radical of the Anabaptists were those living in the city of Munster, Germany. There, one Anabaptist leader claimed to be the prophet Enoch and Munster the city of Zion. They drove all non-believers from the city, but their neighbors retaliated and slaughtered the Munster Anabaptists.
After Munster, the Anabaptist movement needed leadership when a former Catholic priest, Menno Simons took the lead of the largest group of Anabaptists. He preached the need for the separation of Church and State, the importance of Faith and Works to gain salvation, and pacifism. The were known as the Mennonites.
The Mennonites gathered in communities and supported one another physically and spiritually. And because they were pacifists, they were driven from place to place. Finally, they were allowed to live in Prussia in the early Seventeenth Century. After one hundred years and prosperity in Prussia, the Prussian government demanded that the Mennonites give their sons to serve in the military.
Cathrine the Great of Russia, hearing of the Mennoites' prosperity in Prussia, invited them to come to the Ukraine and Crimea, which Russia had just acquired in the Crimean War.
Now, here is the paper:
Here, They Found Home
Departing

Early on the morning of May 1, 1875, Abraham Hiebert and his wife Helena awakened their five children and bid farewell to the home they held dear. Eva, their oldest, was only ten years old, and her young mind must have strained to understand why they had to abandon all they had owned for a distant land in the west.1 Alexanderwohl2 was the only home any of them had known. The village was recognized throughout Russia for its industrious inhabitants and superior agricultural output.3 Through hard work, many of the villagers, including the Hieberts, had become economically comfortable,4 but money was not on their minds that morning: here, Abraham and Helena fell in love and were married; here, Helena gave birth to their seven children; here, they buried two sons.5 The Hieberts were leaving their home and a myriad of memories.

Loading the last of their things into their wagon, they looked over their house and land for the last time. Abraham helped his wife and their six-week-old daughter into the wagon with the rest
of their children. Soon, they would be on the plains of Kansas with the family of Helena’s brother, Peter Pankratz;6 soon, they would have a new home. "Thus," recorded Abraham, "[they] surmounted the hill of Alexanderwohl with the rising of the sun, the state of [their] feelings at the last view of [their] long inhabited village . . . known only to God."7 The time to leave had come. A new day was dawning.

The choice to leave must have been heartrending for Abraham and Helena. It is difficult to understand why the Hieberts would choose to leave their home, but such episodes were not uncommon in the late nineteenth century Ukraine. Abraham, Helena, and their children were among thousands of Mennonites who emigrated from South Russia to the United States and Canada.8 Their reason for leaving was clear: Mennonites were devout pacifists, and in 1871, Czar Alexander II of Russia ordered all men within the boundaries of his empire to submit themselves to military service. However, he opened a ten-year window of emigration for anyone opposed.9 The decree outraged the nearly forty-five thousand Mennonites, and after several failed attempts to dissuade the Russian government, the only solution was emigration.10 Nevertheless, only eighteen thousand succeeded in fleeing.

While the reasons for emigration are evident, the fact that only one-third of the Mennonites migrated presents unanswered questions. Why did the majority of Mennonites remain in Russia, and why didn’t the Hieberts stay? The answer is simple. Although the Czar initially demanded that all men defend Russia and attempted to block the Mennonite emigration, the Mennonites were adamant in demanding exemption from combat. Therefore, the Russian government, unwilling to lose the hardworking pacifists, did all in its power to calm the fears of the Mennonites and to stop their migration through a series of concessions and roadblocks. Alexander’s attempts at reconciliation satisfied many of the Mennonites, while his roadblocks discouraged others from leaving. Russia’s actions were effective. The majority of Mennonites stayed. Yet, despite the government’s efforts, several thousand pacifists refused to tarry in Russia. Consequently, only the most determined Mennonites, including the Hieberts, emigrated to North America while the rest remained in their homeland.

Favors and Failures

The relationship between Russia and the Mennonites began in the late eighteenth century. Years before the conscription crisis, the Czarina Catherine, having heard of the Mennonite’s prosperity in Prussia, had offered them fertile lands on the southern steppes of Russia and freedom from persecution.11 Her offer—no Mennonite would be required to bear arms—was to have been everlasting. This assurance resulted in an immigration to south Russia lasting several decades.12 However, eighty-five years after Catherine’s promise, the announcement of a broken contract, lamented one young Mennonite, "[boomed] like lightening out of a clear sky."13

Despite Russia’s double dealing, the Mennonites refused to despair before they had done all they could do. Four delegations petitioned St. Petersburg to extend Catherine’s exemption, but the Czar would not revoke his resolution. All who lived on Russian soil would participate in the defense of its borders. However, to deter an exodus, authorities promised the pacifists that they would be given noncombatant assignments. 14 This did not satisfy the Mennonites. The Herald of Truth, a Mennonite periodical, declared that "[making] the instruments, and [preparing] the clothing . . . other men use in the shedding of human blood" was no different than killing.15 Devastated, the Mennonites decided to emigrate.16

But the Czar was not willing to lose such prosperous pacifists. Therefore, when Mennonites requested passports, they were refused.17 Nevertheless, Alexander resisted further estrangement from his Mennonite subjects. In an attempt to pacify them, the Czar sent General von Todtleben on a special mission to the Mennonite villages.
Concessions
Anticipation must have filled the Hieberts’ hearts with the news that von Todtleben hoped to appease them. Perhaps they would not be forced to leave. When the general reached Alexanderwohl, the Hieberts and the village received him in the meetinghouse. However, von Todtleben quickly snuffed out Abraham and Helena’s spark of hope. He did not extend exemption, only adaptations: all Mennonites choosing to remain in Russia would not bear arms, but they would be assigned civil service as drivers, hospital orderlies, and foresters.18 Moreover, the general eclipsed the idea of emigration with a dark description of America.19 After a final plea for permanence, von Todtleben requested a prompt response and departed for another village. Abraham and Helena must have wept, but they were not alone. Neither they nor their neighbors accepted the adjustments.20 The sun was setting on their life in Alexanderwohl.
Nevertheless, Alexanderwohl was the exception. Dissensions followed von Todtleben from town to town.21 Emigration had lost its appeal. The first to accept the general’s offer were wealthy Mennonites unwilling to sacrifice their possessions.22 Had the rich bolted from Russia, they would have suffered staggering losses. Farms would have sold for only thirty percent of their value.23 Hesitant to forfeit their wealth, the Czar’s proposal convinced the wealthy of "[his] interest in their welfare."24 Other groups followed. Liberal thinkers, including a Mennonite missionary, claimed it would "yet be possible to worship God in spirit and in truth" despite civil service requirements.25 However, a third group, hoping to sell their property without suffering a loss, used the compromise to buy time before emigrating.26 Their hesitation provided an opportunity for the Russians to place several roadblocks in their paths.27
Roadblocks
However, those from Alexanderwohl did not delay. Nine months prior to General von Todtleben’s visit they had requested authorization to leave, but no permission would be granted until the Czar had exhausted his options. Nevertheless, after von Todtleben’s failed attempt to discourage emigration from Alexanderwohl, the villagers asked that he help acquire their passports. He consented. On July 22, 1874, seven-hundred-eighty-six Mennonites forsook Alexanderwohl and fled, 28 but the Hieberts stayed. Perhaps they hoped to follow after several months, but Helena later realized she was pregnant.29 Pregnancy and delicate health postponed preparations to flee from Russia until March of 1875, but after the birth of little Helena, they petitioned the government and received their emigration papers.30 Alexander’s first roadblock was little more than a speed bump.
Other dawdlers were not as lucky. Government officials effected more laws hindering further migration. One, issued in 1874, paralyzed many of the pacifists economically. All Mennonite land owners were issued deeds, and for three years, the sale of estates to non-Mennonites was banned. For example, the Lord Mayor in Altonau31 declared all land sales made prior to the decree illegal. Farms previously sold were returned, forcing many families to postpone emigration.32 A contemporary edict withheld passports from all military aged men and boys.33 Soon thereafter, the Russians compelled Mennonite young men to harvest timber and plant trees while their parents built barracks.34 These roadblocks impeded the Mennonite exodus. Thousands more would have emigrated had obtaining permission to leave been easier.35
However, emigration was not impossible; the obstacles placed in the path of the Russian Mennonites simply became an excuse to stay home. Despite all the controversy and problems created by the government, the Czar’s window remained open several years for dissatisfied pacifists to leave. Moreover, the law detaining draft eligible teens did not prevent families in Russia from leaving. Ship lists from 1874 to 1885 reveal that dozens of young men dodged the draft by retreating to North America.36 Therefore, emigration was imperative only for those who vehemently opposed the Czar’s edicts of the 1870s, as did Abraham and Helena Hiebert.
Home
Thus Abraham, Helena, and their children set their backs to Alexanderwohl, never to return. The night of oppression had fallen, and no lantern of compromise shimmered sufficiently to keep them in Russia’s shadows, nor could any obstacle obstruct their path. They sought freedom, freedom their homeland did not have. Yes, the Hieberts could have stayed with the thousands of others, but not in good conscience. Nothing in Alexander II’s power could placate or dissuade them from emigrating as it did other Mennonites. On July 24, 1875, Abraham, Helena and their family arrived in Kansas. Two weeks later they obtained land,37 and no Czar would be able to force them off it. Here, their children would fall in love and be married; here, their grandchildren would be born; here, they would be buried. The Hieberts had found a new home and future memories.
In dazzling irony, the sun had risen in the west and illuminated the Kansas plains.
Endnotes
1. Abraham Hiebert, "Dieses Buch Gehoeret Abraham Hiebert Aus Alexanderwohl," trans. Rufus Abraham Hiebert, [photocopy] Holdings of Vernon Marion Pankratz, Tooele, Utah, 6.
2. The village of Alexanderwohl was one of many in the Mennonite colony of Molotschna. Alexanderwohl was in what is now the Ukraine and was approximately sixty kilometers north of the Sea of Azov and eighty kilometers northwest of the port city of Berdjansk. Ben Boese, "Die Andre Kant," [photocopy] Holdings of Vernon Marion Pankratz, Tooele, Utah, 9.
3. David C. Wedel, The Story of Alexanderwohl (North Newton, Kans.: Mennonite Press, Inc., 1974), 15.
4. A detailed list of possessions and their worth is found in Hiebert, "Dieses Buch Gehoeret," 5-6.
5. Hiebert, "Dieses Buch Gehoeret," 3.
6. Peter Pankratz is my great-great grandfather.
7. Hiebert, "Dieses Buch Gehoeret," 6-7.
8. Brothers in Deed to Brothers in Need; A Scrapbook About Mennonite Immigrants From Russia, 1870-1885, ed. Clarence Hiebert (Newton, Kans.: Faith and Life Press, 1974), v.
9. C. B. Schmidt, "Reminiscences of Foreign Immigration Work for Kansas," Brothers in Deed, 451.
10. C. Henry Smith, The Coming of the Russian Mennonites (Berne, Ind.: Mennonite Book Concern, 1927). For further information on the Mennonite situation in Russia, The Coming of the Russian Mennonites is recommended; in it, Smith addresses the conditions of the Mennonite exodus in general terms. The author is also explicit in enumerating all of the reasons the Mennonites chose to leave Russia, military service being the dominant factor. Moreover, his work The Story of the Mennonites (Newton, Kans.: Mennonite Publication Office, 1957) is an encompassing history of the Mennonites as a people.

Several other authors have discussed the emigrations from South Russia in the late nineteenth century and the subsequent settling of the Mennonites in the American Mid-west and Canada. David C. Wedel, in The Story of Alexanderwohl, focuses the lens of the departure to narrate the settling and history of New Alexanderwohl, Kansas; the first two chapters of the work are centered on the emigration of an individual village from the Ukraine.

Presently, Royden Loewen is studying the social history of the Mennonites who settled in North America; his work is concentrated primarily on the Mennonite pioneers after they had crossed the Atlantic and became established in Canada and the United States. His books Hidden Worlds (Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press, 2001) and From the Inside Out (Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press, 1999) should be consulted for letters, senate debates, and other items pertaining to the emigration—Brothers in Deed to Brothers in Need. The collection is an excellent resource of primary sources for any historian, professional or otherwise, interested in the Mennonite movement from 1870 to 1885.

Additionally, a study of Russian history during the late nineteenth century may also prove useful in understanding the Mennonite exodus. Two books discussing the life and times of Alexander II are Tsar-liberator: Alexander II of Russia, 1818-1881 (Newtonville, Mass.: Oriental Research Partners, 1983) by N. G. Pereira, and Tsar of Freedom: the Life and Reign of Alexander II (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1968) by Stephen Graham.
11. Smith, The Coming of the Russian Mennonites, 16-17.
12. Ibid., 22-27.
13. Peter A. Wiebe, "Father’s Diary," trans. David Wiebe, [photocopy] Holdings of Vernon Marion Pankratz, Tooele, Utah, 18.
14. Smith, The Coming of the Russian Mennonites, 45-47.
15. "The Emigration from Russia," The Herald of Truth, September 1876, Brothers in Deed, 305.
16. Benjamin Ratzlaff, Jr., "Obituary of Bishop Benjamin Ratzlaff," The Herald of Truth, January 1875, Brothers in Deed, 212.
17. Eugene Schuyler, "To Hamilton Fish (No. 168), 30 March 1872," Brothers in Deed, 11.
18. Smith, The Coming of the Russian Mennonites, 95.
19. Rev. H.R. Voth, quoted in The Coming of the Russian Mennonites, 94.
20. Wedel, The Story of Alexanderwohl, 29. Although the majority of those from Alexanderwohl left for North America, some did stay behind.
21. Peter Wienss, letter to The Herald of Truth, 22 March 1874, Brothers in Deed, 156.
22. Unknown newspaper, Brothers in Deed, 316.
23. "News from Russia," The Herald of Truth, January 1874, Brothers in Deed, 98.
24. Schmidt, Brothers in Deed, 452.
25. "Missionary" Dirks, "letter from Pankaten, Sumatra, 18 July 1872," Brothers in Deed, 158.
26. Unknown newspaper, Brothers in Deed, 316.
27. "The Disciples of Mennon Simonis," Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 20 March 1875, Brothers in Deed, 226.
28. Wedel, The Story of Alexanderwohl, 29.
29. Hiebert, "Dieses Buch Gehoeret," 3. When the first wave of Alexanderwohl migrants left, Helena was approximately ten days pregnant.
30. Ibid., 4.
31. Altonau was a town approximately thirty-six miles southwest of Alexanderwohl; Boese, "Die Andre Kant," 8.
32. Abm. Goerz, "Extract from a Letter from Russia," The Herald of Truth, February 1874, Brothers in Deed, 115.
33. Wienss, Brothers in Deed, 156.
34. "My Buggy Ride," McPherson Republican, 1 May 1884, Brothers in Deed, 419.
35. "Our Brethren in the Faith," Brothers in Deed, 307.
36. Brothers in Deed, 151-152; 157-162; 167-178; 186-191; 199-200; 207-210; 237; 242-251; 258; 262; 287-297; 302; 320-323; 342; 347-352;359-362; 383; 391; 395; 403; 411; 423; 426; 429; 434; 442; 447.
37. Hiebert, "Dieses Buch Gehoeret," 9.