Sunday, June 24, 2007

Praise to the Man!

On June 27, 1844, at 5:00 in the evening, a mob of more than one hundred men, their faces daubed with mud to conceal their identities, stormed the jail in Carthage, Illinois. The guards posted at the jail fired into the air and stepped aside as the mob rushed up the stairs to a room where Joseph Smith—President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints— Hyrum Smith—Assistant President and Patriarch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—John Taylor—a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—and Willard Richards—also a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—were. The four men attempted to block the door, so members of the mob fired through it, striking Hyrum in the face. He fell calmly, exclaiming, "I am a dead man."

The mob continued to fire, wounding John Taylor, who rolled under a bed in the room for cover. Joseph, in an apparent attempt to save Taylor and Willard Richards, ran for the window and was shot in the back. When he reached the window, members of the mob who were outside shot him several more times. Joseph exclaimed, "O Lord, my God," and fell through the window to the ground.

Joseph Smith, the Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ was dead.

Willard Richards escaped the attack without a hole in his clothing, in fulfillment of a prophecy by Joseph, and because he was a doctor, he was able to tend to John Taylor’s wounds. Several weeks later, Taylor, who was recovering from his wounds, penned a tribute to Joseph:

Joseph Smith, The Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has bought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!

I write today to add my own praise to the man through whom Jesus Christ restored the fulness of His Gospel to the earth.

Certainly, at first glance, few names are as unassuming as Joseph Smith. Countless teachers and professors use "Joe Smith" as a hypothetical character. Perhaps only the name of "John Doe" would grant a man greater unanimity. But in the context of religious discussion—whether in the Andes of Ecuador, the ports of Hong Kong, the humidity of Texas, or anywhere else in the world—few names will arouse greater adulation or controversy than Joseph Smith. Many accept Joseph Smith as a prophet, called of God to restore the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; others call him a charlatan and a fraud. Truly, the name of Joseph Smith is had throughout all nations for both good and evil. Yet although his name is had for both good and evil, Joseph Smith must be one or the other.

There is no middle ground.

As I consider the life and ministry of Joseph Smith, it shocks me to consider how young he was when his ministry began. Unlike the great reformers, such as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and the Wesley brothers, Joseph had never received formal religious training. In fact, he barely had received any educational training at all, just enough to read, write, and do simple arithmetic.

And Joseph was only a boy when his work began. At the age of fourteen, he had a vision in which God, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to him: The many churches in his area said that it didn't matter which church you joined, as long as you accepted Jesus. But Joseph recognized that the several churches' good-will disappeared once people joined separate churches. The different churches fought over the meaning of the Bible and how to be saved.

Joseph was so confused that he turned to the Bible himself. One day, Joseph read James 3:5 which says if anyone lacks wisdom, he can ask God, and God will give him the wisdom he seeks. Joseph decided that if anyone lacked wisdom, it was him and decided that he would ask God which church to join.

On the morning of a spring day in 1820, Joseph went to a grove of trees and knelt to pray. As he prayed, he felt Satan attack him. He could not speak and feared that he would be destroyed. Joseph called out to God, and in the moment that he thought Satan would overcome him, Joseph saw a pillar of light above the brightness of the sun. And the light descended upon him. In the light, Joseph saw two Men standing above him in the air. One of them spoke, calling Joseph by name and pointing to the other, "This is my Beloved Son, hear Him!"

In response to Joseph's prayer, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him!

Among other things, Jesus taught Joseph that no church on the earth had the fulness of His Gospel, and through Joseph, Jesus would establish the fulness of His Gospel and His Church on the Earth again.

Joseph did not want attention, so he told only family members. Later, in confidence, he told his mentor, a Methodist minister, of his vision. Joseph’s mentor chastised him and spread the news of Joseph’s vision throughout their community. And although Joseph was nothing more than a poor farm boy, men of high stature within his community would stop to ostracize him whenever they saw him. At an age when mankind most feels the need to fit in, Joseph became an outcast. But he never denied what he saw.

At the age of twenty-three, Joseph published the Book of Mormon, a book surpassing all others except the Holy Bible. Twelve men and one woman testified they saw and handled the Golden Plates from which Joseph translated the Book of Mormon. Another woman testified she handled the plates beneath a cloth covering.

And the simplicity, beauty, and depth of the Book of Mormon’s doctrines and the way which it corroborates the doctrines of the Bible bolster my belief that a mere twenty-something could not have written it.

Consider the doctrine of salvation as taught in the Book of Mormon. For centuries, if not millennia, theologians have squabbled over how we are saved: by Grace through faith or by Works. The Book of Mormon teaches we are saved through an interplay of both. Faith is a gift made possible by the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Grace. (Alma 34, Ether 12). Faith comes by giving the word of God a place in our souls to grow and by acting on it. (Alma 32). Faith compels us to perform righteous works. (Mosiah 5, Alma 22, Alma 32). Works are possible only through the Grace of Jesus Christ. (Mosiah 2). Works do not save us from our prior sins, but through them, we exercise faith unto repentance and submit our wills to that of the Father, placing ourselves in the power of the Redeemer. (Helaman 5:11). Once we have submitted ourselves to Jesus Christ, His Grace, and only His Grace, is sufficient to save us from our sins, for although righteous living will bring us blessings, it cannot pay the debt we owe as the result of our sins. (2 Nephi 2; 2 Nephi 9; Mosiah 3; Mosiah 15; Alma 5; Alma 34:8–9; Alma 42).

When he was twenty-four, Joseph Smith established the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with six members in 1830 which have grown to nearly 13 million members. The opponents of the Church thought it would crumble if Joseph were to die, so they murdered him. But the Church moved forward because it was not the Church of Joseph Smith; it was and is the Church of Jesus Christ.

I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. He saw what he said he saw. I know it. The Book of Mormon and other scriptures we have received through him prove it. The growth and success of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prove it. His life and martyrdom prove it. But most importantly, the power of God, through the Holy Spirit, proves it: As you have read these things, you have felt peace, calm, and even a burning in your bosom. This is how God communicates to us through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. These feelings testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

I feel to shout hallelujah when I think of Joseph Smith, and I thank God for sending him to restore the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. For without Joseph Smith, I would not know my Savior, Jesus Christ, in the way I know Him now.

At Joseph's funeral, William W. Phelps read the following poem which has been set to music:

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him and nations revere.
Praise to his mem'ry, he died as a martyr;
Honored and blest be his ever great name!
Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,
Plead unto heav'n while the earth lauds his fame.
Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.
Ever and ever the keys he will hold.
Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,
Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.
Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;
Earth must atone for the blood of that man.
Wake up the world for the conflict of justice.
Millions shall know "Brother Joseph" again.
Hail to the prophet, ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;
Death cannot conquer the hero again.

As I add my "praise to the man" Joseph Smith, I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

To learn more about Joseph Smith, visit

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Eternal Nature of Families

In 1995, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued an official proclamation concerning the Family: The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Please read it before you read what I have to say.

Together Forever is a free video discussing how our families can be together forever through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you would like a copy, follow the link.

Family Answers is another free video which discusses how to have successful families. Again, follow the link if you would like a free copy.

The Eternal Nature of the Families

Several years ago, I listened to a man tell of his wife's most prized possession: her set of silver. She had obtained it piece by piece over the course of years and maintained it with the greatest care. She wrapped each knife, fork, and spoon in a special cloth to keep it from tarnishing. Before each time she used it, she and her husband polished it, and afterwards, they washed and dried each utensil by hand. And to protect the silver from burglars, she hid it under the bed.
The man often thought his wife was "a little bit eccentric, and then one day [he] realized that she had known for a long time something that [he] was just beginning to understand. If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by." F. Burton Howard, "Eternal Marriage," Ensign, May 2003, 92.

If we want our marriages and families to withstand the inevitable challenges and struggles of life, we must treat them differently than our common, day-to-day associations and relationships.

Our Pre-Mortal Family

All of us are members of a heavenly Family. We are children of God, and this relationship is not figurative or symbolic: He is the Father of our Spirits. As His children, we lived with our Heavenly Father before we came to Earth, and He loved us and taught us the ways of righteousness. We knew, worshiped, and loved Him. And when this life is over and we return to Him, "[n]othing will startle us more . . . than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar His face is to us." (Ezra Taft Benson, "Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations, Ensign, December 1988).
Everything our Heavenly Father did and does is to bring about our eternal joy and salvation. We are not a cosmic pass time to occupy His spare time as He manages the universe. No, His gaze and eternal concern fix undeviatingly on us. That is why He sent us to Earth and why He sent His Best Child, even Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of our sins. And that is why we feel Him near as we pray. Even though His children number in the billions, He is a personal, loving Father to all of us individually.
It is through His Family that He is glorified, and it is through His family that He has received the fulness of joy.

Families Can Be Together Forever
And we can have the same joy within our earthly families as our Heavenly Father has in His! As early as 1831, the Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith that marriage need not terminate when death separates a husband and wife. Rather, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the ordinances available in holy temples, they can remain as husband and wife for time and all eternity, and their children will also be theirs forever. (See Doctrine and Covenants 132).
But the joy of an eternal marriage and family requires more than a ceremony in the temple. It requires living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, work, sacrifice, selflessness, patience, repentance, forgiveness, and fun. Husbands and fathers must put their wives' and children's needs before their own. Wives and mothers must put their husbands' and children's needs before their own. Fathers are commanded to provide for the temporal and spiritual needs of their family. Mothers are commanded to nurture their children. As equals, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, help each other in their God-given tasks. And children are commanded to honor and obey their parents.
Fathers and mothers bear a sacred responsibility to teach their children the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are accountable to God in this capacity. (Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-28). And modern prophets have counseled us to pray and read the scriptures daily with our families. Once a week, usually on Mondays, the Lord has instructed us to gather with our families for "Family Home Evening." During Family Home Evening, we sing hymns, pray, discuss the Gospel, play games, share our talents, and enjoy each others' company.
And as we work together as a family, the Lord has promised we will be together forever. I cling to that promise because Heaven would not be heaven if I could not have my wife and children near me. The thought of being separated from them brings me to tears, and I draw immense comfort that no matter what calamities or tragedies which may befall us, if we are true and faithful, we will be reunited in the resurrection to enjoy the eternities together.

The Grace in Waiting

Several weeks ago, I listened as one of my classmates talked of her older brother. He was a prodigal, and neither she nor her parents had talked to him in years. Her parents, hoping he would soon return, refused to change the locks to their house so he could get inside if they weren't home when he returned. But he hadn't returned. Then my classmate asked the following question, "Where is the grace in waiting for the prodigal who hasn't come home?"

I wish I would have spoken up and told her where to find the grace in waiting. The marriage ordinances available in the temple do more than bind a husband and wife together forever: They bind the couple's children to them. These bonds are stronger than most realize, and only the most serious of sins can sever them.
The prophet Malachi foresaw the day when Elijah would "turn the hearts of the children to their fathers." (Malachi 4:6). And the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints solemnly testifies Elijah has returned to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers. And the power by which our children's hearts can be turned to us is the bonds created by the marriage ordinances performed in the temple.
The Book of Mormon tells of Alma, the son of a prophet, rejected his father's counsels and sought to destroy Christ's church. (See Mosiah 27). But Alma's father fasted and prayed for him. And to turn Alma back to his father, God sent an angel who appeared and called Alma to repentance. Because of his experience with the angel, Alma fell unconscious and was tormented by his many sins:

Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.

And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.

And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.

Yea, methought I saw, even as our father saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.

(Alma 36:15-22). Alma later became a prophet and leader of the Church.
We also learn of Enos who, although he was not as rebellious as Alma, did not live the Gospel as he should. Yet one day while he was hunting, he remembered the words his father taught him about "eternal life and the joy of the saints." (Enos 1:3). Enos knelt down and prayed all day and night until he received the remission of his sins through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Enos 1:4-8).
The hearts of both Alma and Enos were turned to their fathers. And even though they had been rebellious, the bonds linking them to their parents pulled hard enough to bring them to Christ.
Through His servants, the Lord has promised that if parents fulfill the promises they made when they were married in the temple, they will not lose their children:
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.
(James E. Faust, "Dear Are the Sheep That Have Wandered," Ensign, May 2003, quoting Orson F. Whitney).
It is within the ordinances of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ available in Holy Temples that we find the Grace in waiting. And like the prodigal, the children who have strayed will recognize there is "bread and to spare" in the house of their fathers. And as their hearts turn to their fathers, they will come to Christ and come home to their families.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Prerequisite to This Sunday's Discussion

This Sunday, our discussion will be about the importance of the family unit within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I would like to suggest to those of you who are interested to watch a forty-five-minute presentation about Latter-day Saint Temples. The program talks about the history of Temples and the centrality of Temples for the progress of the LDS family unit. And those of you who have never been within a Temple, the program has photographs and video of the interior of several Temples.
To view the program, go to, then go to "choose a date" and select Wednesday, June 13, 2007. Select "Between Heaven and Earth" at 3:00p.m. on the drop down menu.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Updated Website

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has rececently updated the website which explains our basic beliefs, complete with short videos. To visit the site, go to

Sunday, June 03, 2007


The Lord has counseled us to be content with the things that He has allotted to us. Throughout law school, I’ve realized that I need to take that advice. There’s no way I can be the best: I’m not that smart. But I can be my best. That’s all I have to give.

I’ve had the tendency to compare myself to others. When I see ten-year-olds playing Chopin or hear about athletes going straight from High School to the pros and make more in a year than I can even hope to make in a life time, I’m more than a little jealous. More than anything, I’ve wanted to excel in something, something that would make Jay Leno or David Letterman beg to have me come on their shows. But if I’m honest with myself, I don’t have any exceptional talents that set me apart from anyone. That thought has always depressed me.
But what’s wrong with being run-of-the-mill within the main stream when there are other rivers, even oceans, in which to swim?
Near the end of the two years I served as a missionary in Ecuador, I wanted to finish strong. I had promised to give two years of service, and I was determined to serve a full two years. But fatigue and the absence of success had worn on me. I took my concerns to my mission president, President Call, and asked for a blessing. President Call agreed and expressed joy that one of his missionaries wanted to finish his service with the same energy as when he started. During the blessing, President Call told me of a poet who, upon seeing an angel with a book, asked the angel what was written in the book. The angel replied that the book contained the names of those who loved the Lord. The poet then asked that his name be included with the names of those who love the Lord. Years later, the poet again saw the angel holding the same book. The angel showed the poet the book, and the poet’s name was first among those who loved the Lord.
Loving the Lord is the greatest talent that anyone can have. What’s better is that all can love Him equally, and each name may be written beside the other. If we love the Lord, then we will do what He has commanded, and if we do what the Lord has commanded, we will have eternal life.
Ultimately, what else matters?