Sunday, December 25, 2011

Temples a Place of Thanksgiving, of Learning and of God

Gilbert Arizona Mormon Temple
Gilbert Arizona Temple
Through all gospel dispensations, God has commanded men to build temples. From the mobile tabernacle of Moses' time to Solomon's gold-furnished temple to the temples of ancient America and the dozens of temples on the earth today, this commandment has been consistent throughout all of time.

In our own dispensation, the Lord has accompanied the command to build with an explanation of why we build temples and how we will be rewarded building and frequenting these sacred structures.

Speaking of why we have temples, the Lord teaches they are built:

For a place of thanksgiving for all saints, and for a place of instruction... That [we] may be perfected in the understanding of [our] ministry, in theory, in principle, and in doctrine, in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God on the earth. ~D&C 97:13-14

The Lord gives two reasons for temples: first, as a place of thanksgiving; and second, for a place of instruction. How often do you visit the temple to give thanks for an experience, something you have learned or a blessing you have been given? Do you seek to learn more about your life's mission, about gospel doctrine or about the Lord's earthly kingdom while participating in temple ordinances?

If we build temples in the name of the Lord and keep it holy, the Lord promises:

My glory shall rest upon it; Yea, and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God. ~D&C 97:15-16

The spirit of God is present in the temple. We progress toward exaltation, toward returning to the presence of God, as we participate in temple ordinances. As we attend the temple with pure hearts, we will also see God in temple; we will recognize the spirit, the divinity and the authority where a proud or impure heart may find only religious rituals of debatable value.

The Lord has commanded the Saint of His Church to build temples around the world. In so doing, the Lord extends an opportunity to express gratitute, to understand His plan for us, to feel of His spirit and to see God. If we are worthy, we should take advantage of the opportunity extended to us by attending the temple. If unworthy, we should strive to become worthy. As we strive to do what is asked of us, we will be accepted of Him:

Verily I say unto you, all amoung [you] who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice--yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command--they are accepted of me. ~D&C 97:8

No sacrifice is so great that it isn't worth trading for the blessings the Lord has in store for us. Those blessings, including exaltation, await as we worthily attend the Lord's temple.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Case for Santa Claus

It's Christmas time and Santa Claus is everywhere you look. He is at whatever mall we happen to be visiting at precisely the same time as we are. He was at our church Christmas party. I've seen him selling Chevys, Mercedes and Coca-Cola on TV. At my work Christmas party, he flew in on a helicopter.

One can only imagine what had the reindeer tied up.

The point is that Santa has become a major figure-- some would argue the major figure-- of the Christmas season. And for some conservative Christians, this poses a problem.

Commercialism is undoubtedly a significant player in the evolution of ol' Saint Nick. His image and popularity has received significant contributions from the likes of Harper's Weekly, Norman Rockwell and Coca-Cola. Advertisers have snuck brand labels on his apparel and filled his bags with expensive toys, excuses for growing credit card debt and most every kind of worldly indulgence.

With so much business invading Christmas, I've heard some wonder if we have lost the 'Christ' in Christmas. They'll be relieved to know that we have not. At least not entirely. We have Santa, after all.

Santa Claus, also known as St. Nicholas, is much more than a symbol of Christmas commercialism. He is also a symbol of the reason we celebrate Christmas, which is Christ. Santa is the deliverer of the Christmas spirit that makes all of us better, more cheerful people. He is the ultimate giver of gifts and a figure whose coming rapidly motivates children young and old to repent and walk the strait and narrow.

Unproven by science and in the face of impossible odds, Santa Claus allows us all to admit that true belief can transcend physical evidence; that belief in something unseen can be more convincing and more real than if it were right before our eyes. At Christmas time we celebrate the faith of our children and remind the adults that we, too, must learn to have the faith of a child.

Wrapped in his red suit with each of our names printed neatly on his list, Santa Claus can help us remember the Savior that remembers us. Though materialism may increase in the world, the symbol of Santa Claus stands ready to turn the believing soul to Christ, the true author of Christmas.

In the legend of St. Nicholas, if not the man as well, we also find a prime example of what we ought to be as Christians. Through his kindness and giving, millions of people over nearly two thousand years have learned about faith, about serving others, and about the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ.

The world should see Christ in the way we live our lives, too. While Santa is all around us each Christmas, we can evaluate our willingness to believe in what is good by asking ourselves one simple question: Do you believe in Santa Claus?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New Lessons from Ancient Scripture

Elder Richard G. Scott spoke in the most recent General Conference about scripture study. It's a topic most of us have heard about on a number of occasions. Some of those familiar lessons were woven into Elder Scott's remarks. At the same time, Elder Scott also brought up a number of insights about the scriptures that are not as commonly shared and/or understood, at least in the wards where I have attended. Several principles, familiar or otherwise, are worth repeating. Here's a short list.

1. The scriptures are a record of 'solutions to life's most perplexing problems'. Notice the omission here-- not life's most perplexing spiritual problems, but the scriptures contain solutions to work problems, societal problems, family problems, confidence problems, health problems... life's problems.

2. The scriptures function as 'a type of handbook for those of His children who have faith in His plan of happiness and in His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ'. Faith is necessary to unlock the power of scripture.

3. 'Because scriptures are generated from inspired communication through the Holy Ghost, they are pure truth.'

4. The scriptures, 'can become the key to open the channel to communion with our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ'. The primary goal of scripture study is to commune with God. Remembering that the scriptural definition of enduring to the end is to study the scriptures, hearken to the spirit, pray and keep our covenants, it becomes increasingly clear that the way to endure is to communicate frequently with our Father in Heaven.

5. 'Great power can come from memorizing scriptures. Memorizing scriptures can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort, and be a source of motivation for needed change.'

6. 'Pondering a passage of scripture can be a key to unlock revelation and guidance and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Scriptures can calm an agitated soul, giving peace, hope, and a restoration of confidence in one's ability to overcome the challenges of life. They have potent power to heal emotional challenges when there is faith in the Savior, They can accelerate physical healing.'

7. 'Scriptures can communicate different meanings at different times in our life, according to our needs.'

8. 'Those who consistently read the Book of Mormon are blessed with an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a greater resolve to obey His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the divinity of the Son of God.'

Whether these insights are familiar or new to us, each of us can experience the power of the scriptures in our lives as we have faith in Christ and seek to commune with our Heavenly Father. There we can find the answers to the questions of our souls, strength that can motivate emotional or physical healing, the will to change, and a clear view of reality and truth amid a world swirling with the philosophies of men.

Each of us seeking answers, strength, happiness, peace, communion or clarity will find what we seek as we accept Elder Scott's invitation to study, memorize, and ponder the scriptures.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Saved by Chastening

All of us experience the chastisement of God in our lives. Sometimes it may be that we are given a particular trial; at other times, we hear His voice in the words of scriptures or the living prophets admonishing us to do better; still other times, the Spirit of the Lord withdraws and we feel hollow or "in a funk". This is exactly as it should be.

In August of 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith was traveling in canoes with ten elders down the Missouri River when they experienced many dangers. For at least two of the elders, these experiences were necessary before leaving on their missions. The Lord explained:

I would not suffer that ye should part until you were chastened for all your sins, that you might be one, that you might not perish in wickedness; (D&C 61:8).