Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Everyone knows about the recent $700,000,000,000 economic bailout, and I think all would agree that we could use a little of it. Suppose, then, that I use my computer skills to draft a check for myself. After all, I'm a citizen of the United States of America. And I'm not asking for much; $70,000 would be just enough to get me out of debt. But we all know that if I tried to cash that check, instead of giving me the money, the government would give me a new set of clothes: a bright-orange jumpsuit. Why? Because I do not have the authority to act in the name of the United States of America. The power to write checks and spend money belongs to the United States Treasury and other duly commissioned officers.
The same principle applies to the acts which men purport to do in the name of God. God will not honor the acts of man as His own unless He first authorized them.

The authority that God has given to man to act in His name is called the Priesthood. And to the presiding bearer of the Priesthood, God gives the Keys of the Kingdom, or in other words, the Keys of the Priesthood. The presiding bearer of the Priesthood is the President of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Adam was the first man, prophet, and President of the Church of Jesus Christ. God taught him that through Jesus Christ all mankind may be saved through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. God also gave Adam the priesthood or authority to act in God's name. Adam received commandments from God, such as the law of sacrifice, for Adam, Eve, and their children to obey. Adam and Eve accepted these teachings, obeyed the commandments, and taught their children to do the same. Some of their children, like Abel, listened and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. But others, like Cain, rejected Adam and Eve's teachings.
Those who rejected Adam and Eve's teachings cut themselves off from the Priesthood and its Keys and fell into what is called apostasy. Apostasy is when we are separated from the truth and light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But because God loves His children, even those who do not listen to Him, He called another prophet, Enoch, to teach them of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation. Enoch also received the Priesthood and its keys. When God calls a prophet, gives him the Priesthood and its Keys, and sends him to teach the Gospel to a people who are in apostasy, this is called a restoration. Enoch succeeded in bringing many to the knowledge of God's Plan of Happiness. He established the city of Zion, and they obtained heaven.
After Enoch, the world again fell into apostasy, but God called another prophet, Noah, who restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ for those who survived the flood.
The process of apostasy and restoration continued for thousands of years. God would call prophets who held the Priesthood and its Keys such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph of Egypt, Elijah, Elias, and so forth, and those prophets and their teachings would be rejected.

When Jesus Christ was born, the world was again in apostasy. Jesus was a prophet, but He was also more than a prophet. He was the Son of God. Through Him, God restored the truths of the Plan of Salvation. Jesus established His Church, paid the price of sin, and was resurrected.

But as you know, the world eventually rejected Jesus and His apostles, and it fell into apostasy. That is, no one held the authority to act in the name of God. No one held the Priesthood or its Keys.

So what would God do? The same thing He did whenever His children fell into apostasy anciently. God called a prophet to restore the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Priesthood.

In the early nineteenth century, a young boy in upstate New York wondered which church to join. His name was Joseph Smith. 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 1:5 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, then fourteen years-old, 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 was called to be a prophet. Later, he would translate the Book of Mormon from ancient plates written by prophets who lived on the American continent. Joseph also received the Priesthood and its Keys through the angelic visitations of John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elias, and Elijah. Because Joseph was a prophet and held the Priesthood and its Keys, he had the authority to act in the name of God. He taught of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation. He also restored the Church of Jesus Christ as it had existed anciently.

What God did through Joseph Smith was the same thing He had done whenever His children had fallen into apostasy: He restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Plan of Salvation, and the Priesthood and its Keys through a prophet.

To read Joseph Smith's own account of what happened click here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Daily

When life gets hard, it’s natural, and understandable, to complain. Heaven knows I’ve done more than my fair share. But I’ve never finished a gripe session without feeling worse than I did before I started. Unlike me, there are others, who despite their trials, thank God for the many blessings they receive from Him.

In 1856, my great-great-great grandfather Jesse Soar Taylor, just a boy at the time, his brother William, and their mother Mary Soar Taylor emigrated from England to come to Zion in Utah’s mountain valleys. They were poor and couldn’t afford a wagon, let alone a team of oxen, so they pulled their belongings and supplies in a handcart in the Martin Handcart Company. But they left for Utah late in the summer, and by late September, an early snow storm caught their company on the high plains of Wyoming.
They were stranded.
Providentially, Elder Franklin D. Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had found them before the snow storm as he was returning from a mission in Europe. He had a fast team of horses and a carriage and made it to Salt Lake City on October 4 to report that there were still two companies on the plains.
Even though Brigham Young immediately sent help, my ancestors and their company didn’t arrive in the Salt Lake Valley until late November. Many died, and those who didn’t lost toes, feet, fingers, and legs. William eventually died from the effects of the experience. (For more information about the Martin Handcart Company, see James E. Faust, "Go Bring Them Home from the Plains," Liahona, Nov. 1997, 3; James E. Faust, "A Priceless Heritage," Ensign, July 2002, 2; "Remembering the Rescue," Ensign, Aug. 1997, 38; Paul H. Peterson, "They Came by Handcart," Ensign, Aug. 1997, 30.
Of all people, I think the members of the Martin Handcart Company were justified in complaining and criticizing Brigham Young and the other leaders of the Church. But they didn’t; other members of the Church did. The following is an account of one survivor of the Martin Handcart Company as he responded to criticism:

Some sharp criticism of the Church and its leaders was being indulged in for permitting anycompany of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded.

An old man in the corner … sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.

In substance [he] said, "I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes.

But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? …

"I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it."

He continued: "I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

"Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company." (James E. Faust, "The Refiner’s Fire," Ensign, May 1979, 53).

I know that Mary, Jesse, and William felt the same way.
Now, I’m not going to say be grateful because so many people have had it worse. Rather, be grateful because there are others who went through hard times, refused to become embittered, and thanked God that they were counted worthy to pass through the refiner’s fire. For after they passed through the fire, they knew God.
There is a price for everything worth having.
Gratitude will also help us through trials. My first quarter of law school was difficult, and I was one discussion with my wife from quitting. But she wouldn’t let me give up. I realized that I could keep being negative and complaining about how hard life was, or I could change my focus.
I found that being grateful for the things that were going well in my life eclipsed the negative feelings I had about law school. But it took time. Still, as I felt overwhelmed or angry, thinking about my wife, my daughter (and now my son), my relationship with God, His love for us, the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the blessings of the Restoration brought things into perspective.
And I couldn’t help but feel thankful.
So often, we look past our blessings to what we don’t have. Maybe that’s why stores tend to skip Thanksgiving and go straight to Christmas advertisements.
The Book of Mormon tells of a poor group of people who were mocked by their neighbors and kept from worshiping in the synagogue they had helped build. When missionaries came to teach them of Jesus Christ, they asked, "What shall [we] do, for [we] are despised of all men because of [our] poverty?" (Alma 32:2-5).
To answer their question, among other things, the missionaries taught, "[L]ive in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which [the Lord] doth bestow upon you" (Alma 34:38).
Although trials may rage, like they did for those impoverished people, we can find peace as we reflect on what God has done for us. And if we can’t see anything, then today we can "come unto [Christ] . . . and find rest unto [our] souls." (Matthew 11:28-30).

During this season of Thanksgiving, may we reflect on the great blessings we have received. And let us refuse to complain when things get hard.
Let us live in thanksgiving daily.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On Morality, Legislation, and Same-sex Marriage

Normally, I try to stay away from politics on my blog. This has been a way of explaining my faith and a means of trying to lift others. But sometimes politics bleed into matters of faith. Such was the case when the far right attacked members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during Mitt Romney's campaign for the presidency. And now such is the case as the far left attack members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for our support of California's constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Some of you, when you read this post, will be angry with me. I expect a backlash. If you think I'm a bigot or a hater, you're entitled to your opinion. I will not respond in kind. And to avoid contention, I am not allowing comments on this post, and attempts to comment on it on other parts of my blog will be deleted. If you need to respond, write it on your own blog.
But I need to speak up.
There's a tired one-liner that comes up when controversial laws pass: "You can't legislate morality." If what people who repeat it mean is that you can't force people to be good, they're right. But they usually don't. What they usually mean is that the government has no business telling them what conduct is acceptable and what is not. Thus, their meaning reveals the flaw in their argument.
Consider the following definitions from Webster's Dictionary:

Morality . . . 2 a: a doctrine or system of moral conduct b plural: particular moral principles or rules of conduct 3: conformity to ideals of right human conduct 4: moral conduct : virtue.

Moral 1 a: of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior

So morality is a system which defines the difference between right and wrong.

And if the government has no business defining what conduct is right and wrong, there's no reason to have a government. If the government is not allowed to legislate morality, then we can't punish murderers or thieves or rapists or child molesters or child abusers or spouse abusers. We couldn't punish corporations like Enron. We couldn't prohibit tortious conduct. And Congress and State legislatures could do nothing to answer the current outcry for greater regulation on greedy CEOs and businesses.
The fact is that legislation is society's expression of its morality.
And our current system based on the ideals of popular sovereignty, democracy, and representative government grants the majority, with a few exceptions expressly outlined in State and Federal Constitutions, the right to establish the morality of society. It is a line that has been shifting throughout the last two centuries. What was wrongful conduct two-hundred years ago may no longer be prohibited, and what was once acceptable two-hundred years ago may no longer be acceptable.
State constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage are nothing more than an exercise of the majority's inherent right to outline what it feels is right and wrong.
Let me be clear, however, that I do not believe homosexuals are inferior to or not equal with heterosexuals. They are children of a loving Heavenly Father. As such, they have intrinsic and divine worth. They are entitled to all the blessings God desires to give them if they are willing to keep his commandments. And they should not be treated differently regarding hospitalization, health care, probate, employment, and receiving the protection of law enforcement and other government agencies.
But same-sex marriage is not and never will be equal to marriage between a man and a woman. Biologically, two men can't have sex with each other and produce offspring. Neither can two women. Further, God has only blessed marriage between men and women, and He has prohibited homosexual relationships because they are an abomination in His sight. Genesis 13:13; 18:16-33; 19:1-38; Lev. 18: 22; Lev. 20: 13; Deut. 23: 17; Isa. 3: 9; 2 Ne. 13: 9; Rom. 1: 27; 1 Cor. 6: 9; 1 Tim. 1: 10; Jude 1: 7; 2 Ne. 13: 9; see also Isa. 3: 9; Ezek. 16: 50; 2 Tim. 3: 3; 2 Pet. 2: 10; 2 Ne. 9: 40.
Society has the right to accept God's prohibition on same-sex marriage or reject it. The majority will decide. That's what happened in California and other States amending their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage.
I am compelled by the covenants that I have made with God to defend His commandments and add my warning to that of modern Prophets:
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World. And if necessary, I will defend God's definition of marriage until my last breath.
So help me God.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Purpose of Life

The Pre-mortal Existence

We are our Heavenly Father’s spirit sons and daughters and lived with Him before we came to Earth. And more than anything else, our Heavenly Father wants us to come home to Him
While we lived with our Heavenly Father, life was similar to what we experience here: We had friendships; we learned; we progressed, and, although we cannot remember, we developed a very personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. In fact, President Ezra Taft Benson said, "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" (Ensign, Dec. 1988).

Our proximity to our Heavenly Father also taught us that we were not like Him. He possessed a perfect, immortal, physical body (D&C 130:22), but we were spirits. 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. (Consider Psalm 82:1,6; Matthew 5:48; Romans 8: 16–17; Doctrine and Covenants 84:36–38). And He wanted us to receive the fulness of joy that He had. So Father called a council and outlined a Plan, the Plan of Salvation, through which we could become like Him. We would come to Earth for a body and to be given agency—the power to choose (see 2 Nephi 2:27; Helaman 14:30)—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 paradisiacal 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, one of our spirit brothers who was in authority among the hosts of heaven (D&C 76:25), 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 (Revelation 12:7-12).
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]. . . ."
Many feel that those who chose to follow Lucifer did so because they doubted their ability to follow the Plan to become like our Heavenly Father. Certainly, Lucifer must have cited our weakness to discourage us, but I do not believe that it was his most potent weapon. We need to remember that without the Atonement, the "corruption [of mortality brought on by the future fall] could not put on incorruption . . . [and our] flesh must [lie] down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more. . . . And we [would] become devils, . . . to be shut out from the presence of our God, . . . in misery, . . ." (2 Nephi 9:7-9).
If the Savior failed, all would be lost, and Lucifer did everything he could to destroy faith in Jesus Christ. Ultimately, those who had faith in Christ followed God’s Plan, and those who did not were cast out of heaven (Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:7-10).
I know that we lived with our Father in Heaven before we came to Earth, and I know that we accepted His Plan for us, including the appointment of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our Life on Earth
Because all of us accepted our Heavenly Father’s plan for us, we are here on the Earth. This life is a probationary state, a time to be tested (Abraham 3:24–26). It is also the time for us to prepare to meet God (Alma 34:32).

To help us return home to Him, Heavenly Father has called prophets, apostles, and even His Son to teach us what we must do to live with Him some day. They have taught us that Jesus Christ has fulfilled the mission He was sent to do on the Earth. He has paid for our sins, but our ability to receive the benefit of His sacrifice depends on whether we do all He has asked us to do.
First, we must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, we must repent of our sins. Third, we must be baptized by one who possesses the authority of the Priesthood, which was restored to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Baptism is a covenant, a two-way promise, in which we promise to keep the commandments and God promises to give us eternal life. Fourth, we must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Articles of Faith 1:4). These first principles and ordinances of the gospel place us on the straight and narrow path which leads to our Heavenly Home, but they are not our final destination (2 Nephi 31:19). To make it Home, we must "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ," keeping the commandments of God contained in the scriptures and delivered to us by modern prophets and apostles (2 Nephi 31:20).
None of these works pay for our sins. Jesus did, and it is only by His grace that we are saved. Good works are the means by which we submit our wills to the will of the Father until we are ultimately born again by the grace of Jesus Christ and are worthy to return Home.
Additionally, to become like our Heavenly Father, He has commanded that we make more covenants within Temples. And if we are true and faithful to these covenants, God has promised to give us all He has (Revelation 21:7; D&C 84:36–38).
During our lives on Earth, we are free to choose whether we will follow God’s plan for us or not (2 Nephi 2:27). And we are also free to believe what we want to believe. But we will be held accountable for all our actions (Mosiah 4:30).
The Spirit World
When we die, we will be judged according to what we did with the light and knowledge which we received on the Earth. If we were righteous, we will go to Paradise (Alma 40:11–12). If we were not, we will go to Spirit Prison (1 Peter 3:19). These assignments are temporary and last only until our bodies and spirits reunite in the resurrection. Additionally, spirits assigned to Spirit Prison will have the opportunity to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ; if they receive it, then they will be released from Prison and enter Paradise (D&C 138:26–35).

Moreover, through modern prophets and apostles, the Lord has revealed that baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and temple ordinances are available to those who did not have the opportunity to receive them while they lived on the Earth. Those of us who are still living can receive these blessings on their behalf within temples as we perform vicarious work for the dead.
Final Judgement
After we are resurrected, we will all stand before the throne of God to be judged (2 Nephi 2:15–22; Helaman 14:17–18). As is common among many religions, there are many Latter-day Saints who feel that God is looking for any excuse to thrust them to Hell. But the opposite is true. Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want to give us everything They possibly can for our final rewards. J. Reuben Clark, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and member of the First Presidency said:

You know, I believe that the Lord will help us. I believe if we go to him, he will give us wisdom, if we are living righteously. I believe he will answer our prayers. I believe that our Heavenly Father wants to save every one of his children. I do not think he intends to shut any of us off because of some slight transgression, some slight failure to observe some rule or regulation. There are the great elementals that we must observe, but he is not going to be captious about the lesser things.
I believe that his juridical concept of his dealings with his children could be expressed in this way: I believe that in his justice and mercy, he will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that he can give, and in the reverse, I believe that he will impose upon us the minimum penalty which it is possible for him to impose.
I often think that one of the most beautiful things in the Christ’s life was his words on the cross, when, suffering under the agony of a death that is said to have been the most painful that the ancients could devise, death on the cross, after he had been unjustly, illegally, contrary to all the rules of mercy, condemned and then crucified, when he had been nailed to the cross and was about to give up his life, he said to his Father in heaven, as those who were within hearing testify: ‘… Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
(Quoted by Thomas S. Monson, "Mercy—The Divine Gift," Ensign, May 1995).
The Degrees of Glory
Once we are judged, Jesus will assign us to one of three degrees of glory: The Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, or the Telestial Kingdom. (Consider 1 Corinthians 15:40–41; 2 Corinthians 2:12). And all of them are Heaven, the glory and beauty of each excelling that of the Earth. But there is a fourth option: Outer Darkness, or Hell.

The knowledge of these kingdoms was restored in our day to the prophet Joseph Smith. In 1832, while studying and clarifying certain passages of the Bible, Joseph and his companions read John 5:29. The power of the Holy Ghost descended upon them, and a vision opened before Joseph and his scribe, Sidney Rigdon. The other men in the room did not see the vision but felt the power of God filling the room. Occasionally, Joseph would say, "What do I see?" and then he would describe what he was seeing. Sidney would then reply, "I see it, too." Occasionally, Sidney would say, "What do I see?" and then he would describe what he was seeing. Joseph would then reply, "I see it, too."

After the vision closed, Joseph and Sidney wrote down the vision as best they could, and we have it today as section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
The Celestial Kingdom (D&C 76:50–70).
The Celestial Kingdom is the highest degree of glory and the habitation of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. All those who attain this kingdom receive all that Heavenly Father promised He would give us. If we are worthy of the Celestial Kingdom, we will become like our Heavenly Father: perfect, possessing a fulness of joy. And by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, our families during our lives on Earth will be with us eternally; husbands, wives, and children will be united forever!

Those who attain this Kingdom will also experience eternal progression. That is, they will have no end as they participate in the salvation of souls for all eternity.
To attain this Kingdom, we must accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, have faith in Him, repent of our sins, be baptized by one having the proper authority of the Priesthood, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and keep the commandments so that Jesus Christ can save us from our sins (see Alma 42:13; Helaman 5:11). Mercifully, those who did not receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ while living on the Earth but who would have received it with all their hearts had they had the opportunity will also be saved in the Celestial Kingdom. For this purpose, Latter-day Saints build temples and perform ordinances for those who have passed away who did not receive the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
And all those who were not accountable for their actions—children who died before they reached the age of accountability and those who are like children—will also receive a place in the Celestial Kingdom (Mosiah 3:16). But because they were never accountable for their sins, they do not need to receive the ordinance of baptism (Moroni 8:10–12).
Terrestrial Kingdom (D&C 76:71–80)
The Terrestrial Kingdom is the second highest Kingdom of Heaven. Those who attain this Kingdom will not live in the presence of Heavenly Father, but Jesus Christ and other who attain the Celestial Kingdom will administer to them throughout eternity. This glory of this Kingdom differs from the glory of the Celestial Kingdom as the glory of the moon differs from the glory of the sun.

Those who attain this Kingdom are the just men and women of the Earth who would not receive the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because all religions contain Truth, all those who lived according to the Truth they received will not be thrust down to Hell. Thus, men and women who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will not suffer eternal damnation. Rather, they will rejoice with their Savior through all eternity if they live according to their religions while upon the Earth.
The Telestial Kingdom (D&C 76:81–86)
The lowest Kingdom of Heaven is the Telestial Kingdom. Those who attain this Kingdom will be blessed with the visitation of the Holy Ghost. The glory of this Kingdom differs from the glory of the Terrestrial Kingdom as glory of the stars differs from the glory of the moon. This Kingdom’s beauty, although the lowest Kingdom of Heaven, far exceeds the beauty of the Earth. It is a place of rest and peace.
This Kingdom, unlike the Celestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms, is reserved for those who must pay for their own sins because they would not let Jesus pay for them. These are robbers, murderers, thieves, rapists, kidnappers, and all the wicked men and women who lived upon the face of the Earth. Because of their wickedness, they are thrust to Hell (Outer Darkness) prior to being resurrected. While in Hell, they must suffer even as Jesus suffered (D&C 19:4–20). But after their debt is paid, they will be resurrected and will inherit salvation in the Telestial Kingdom.
Outer Darkness/Hell (D&C 76:30–49)
Outer Darkness is the Mormon term for Hell. The torment of those in Hell is "as a lake of fire and brimstone whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever. . . ." (Mosiah 3:27). These are they who are cut off from the presence of God. But not all those who go to Hell will remain there forever. Once their debt is paid, they will be released.
But there are those whose debt can never be repaid. These are the devil and his angels and the sons of perdition. To become a son of perdition, a man must first be exceptionally good then turn against Christ "[h]aving denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame" (D&C 76:35). Although there may be more, the scriptures identify only two sons of perdition: Cain and Judas Iscariot.
But even though their debt cannot be repaid, even the sons of perdition will be resurrected. Thus, is the mercy of our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Thoughts for the Upcoming Election

As citizens of the United States of America and our respective States, we have the privilege and duty to vote this Tuesday. I'm not going to campaign for a particular candidate or tell you how to vote. But I feel increasingly that our Constitution is in danger. I pray that we will choose leaders who do not believe that the Constitution is outmoded or that we should escape its restraints, but I fear we will not.
I would also suggest that you read these two talks by Ezra Taft Benson, Thirteenth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Secretary of the Department of Agriculture under President Eisenhower, "The Constitution---A Glorious Standard" and "Our Divine Constitution". Excerpts from both have been copied below.
May God preserve the Constituion of the United States of America and may He preserve our nation!
Here are the quotes:

And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.

And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.

I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.

Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.

Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.

Doctrine and Covenants 98:4-10 (emphasis added).

According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;

That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.

Doctrine and Covenants 101:77-94 (emphasis added).

And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges.

Alma 10:27.

I repeat, righteousness is an indispensable ingredient to liberty. Virtuous people elect wise and good representatives. Good representatives make good laws and then wisely administer them. This tends to preserve righteousness. An unvirtuous citizenry tend to elect representatives who will pander to their covetous lustings. The burden of self-government is a great responsibility. It calls for restraint, righteousness, responsibility, and reliance upon God. It is a truism from the Lord that “when the wicked rule the people mourn.” (D&C 98:9.)

As presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention, George Washington appealed to the delegates in these words: “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.” Wise and honorable men raised that glorious standard for this nation. It will also take wise and honorable men to perpetuate what was so nobly established.

A citizen of this republic cannot do his duty and be an idle spectator. How appropriate and vital it is at the time of our nation’s 200th birthday to remember this counsel from the Lord:

“Honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold.” (D&C 98:10.)

Goodness, wisdom, and honesty are the three qualities of statesmanship, qualities this country needs more than ever before. May we be wise—prayerfully wise—in the electing of those who would lead us. May we select only those who understand and will adhere to Constitutional principles.

Ezra Taft Benson, "The Constitution---A Glorious Standard," Ensign, May 1976 (emphasis added).

How then can we best befriend the Constitution in this critical hour and secure the blessings of liberty and ensure the protection and guidance of our Father in Heaven?

First and foremost, we must be righteous.

John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (The Works of John Adams, ed. C. F. Adams, Boston: Little, Brown Co., 1851, 4:31). If the Constitution is to have continuance, this American nation, and especially the Latter-day Saints, must be virtuous.

The Book of Mormon warns us relative to our living in this free land: “Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever” (2 Ne. 1:7).

“And now,” warned Moroni, “we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity” (Ether2:9).

Two great American Christian civilizations—the Jaredites and the Nephites—were swept off this land because they did not “serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether2:12). What will become of our civilization?

Second, we must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.

Have we read The Federalist papers? Are we reading the Constitution and pondering it? Are we aware of its principles? Are we abiding by these principles and teaching them to others? Could we defend the Constitution? Can we recognize when a law is constitutionally unsound? Do we know what the prophets have said about the Constitution and the threats to it?

As Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be” (Letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, 6 Jan. 1816).

Third, we must become involved in civic affairs to see that we are properly represented.

The Lord said that “he holds men accountable for their acts in relation” to governments “both in making laws and administering them” (D&C 134:1). We must follow this counsel from the Lord: “Honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil” (D&C

Note the qualities that the Lord demands of those who are to represent us. They must be good, wise, and honest.

Fourth, we must make our influence felt by our vote, our letters, our teaching, and our advice.

We must become accurately informed and then let others know how we feel. The Prophet Joseph
Smith said: “It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound. ‘Tis right, politically, for a man who has influence to use it. … From henceforth I will maintain all the influence I can get” (History of the Church, 5:286).

I have faith that the Constitution will be saved as prophesied by Joseph Smith. It will be saved by the righteous citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom. It will be saved by enlightened members of this Church—among others—men and women who understand and abide the principles of the Constitution.

I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed His stamp of approval upon it. I testify that the God of heaven sent some of His choicest spirits to lay the foundation of this government, and He has now sent other choice spirits to help preserve it.

We, the blessed beneficiaries of the Constitution, face difficult days in America, “a land which is choice above all other lands” (Ether2:10).

May God give us the faith and the courage exhibited by those patriots who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

Ezra Taft Benson, "Our Divine Constitution," Ensign, November 1987.