Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Testimony of the Book of Mormon


The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. That title leaves so many people wondering what it could possibly be. Many people have heard about it and thought that it was just the Mormon Bible, while others have thought “What is it? What does it say? Where did it come from? What does it say about Jesus Christ?” The Book of Mormon is a book of scripture telling us of a group of God’s people, who were a branch of the House of Israel, that had traveled to the American Continents. There, in the western hemisphere, they grew spiritually, made a mighty civilization, and flourished under the blessings of the Gospel. There, they also grew wicked, dwindled in unbelief, fought wars, conspired one with another for the sake of getting gain, murdered, and eventually were destroyed. The most important thing, however, is that they testified of the coming of Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah, of his Atonement, and his teachings. The book tells us of Christ’s coming to America to visit the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Christ even told those at Jerusalem that he would visit them. He said, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). The Book of Mormon teaches us about Jesus Christ in a way that is unique among books. No other book tells us more about him. It tells us more about his attributes. It tells us more about his mission. It even mentions him more than any other book on Earth, with the count coming in at 3,925 times using all his 101 names and titles used in the book. If each verse only mentioned him once, then over half of the 6,607 verses in the book would mention him. The Book of Mormon surely teaches of his Pre-mortal, Mortal, and Post-Mortal mission. I could continue on spouting off facts about the book for pages, and then you would get bored, but this isn’t the point of this post. I wish to bear my testimony of this book. When I was just a ninth grade seminary student, we were studying the Book of Mormon. I had gone the majority of the school year, only having read a chapter here and there, never sitting down to read the book. I had taken it for granted. I was raised with the book around. My parents had always used the book to teach us. I heard about it each week in church. I had had various personal copies of my own to use, and part were marked here or there. Yet, I had never taken the time to read the book from cover to cover. Then, one day while attending seminary, my teacher decided that he was going to do a special lesson about Jesus Christ. He showed us the video The Lamb of God, and then continued to explain to us that the Book of Mormon taught more about him than any other book. I had never had this explained to me before. I knew it talked about him, but I didn’t think it talked that much about him. This being around Easter time, I felt that I needed to know more about Jesus Christ. I was also feeling guilty that I hadn’t yet really started to read it and the school year was almost over. I wanted to finish the Book of Mormon before summer came so I could say that I had read it while we studied it in seminary. So, every day after school, I would go down to my room, unbeknownst to my parents, and I would sit and read the Book of Mormon. At times, I would listen along to the audio cd’s my dad had of it, other times I would read it on my own. I thought it was amazing, but I, like so many others, faltered when I reached the Isaiah chapters. I forgot about my goal for about two weeks. Then, one day I remembered that summer was coming, and I had made my goal to finish the book. As I continued reading, and I finally made it through the Isaiah chapters, I began to love the book more and more. I spent hours alone in my room reading it. I had finally reached the Book of Alma, with about two weeks of school left, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep my goal. Then, somehow, I was blessed with a miracle. As I was reading one Friday night, I was unable to put the book down. I became enthralled in the stories being unfolded before my face. I was amazed that these things could have even happened, and most importantly, I was beginning to understand what my teacher had said about it teaching more about Christ than any other book. That night, as I sat there reading, I expected to receive some sort of sudden testimony of the book, yet it did not come in one massive wave. I continued to read, and my love for the book grew with each passing moment. I managed to read the remaining portions of the book in one night, from Alma to Moroni. I did not receive a testimony of the book per se, but rather, I received a greater testimony in Jesus Christ. I knew that he loved me. I knew that he had atoned for my sins, and that he had come to visit all his people, in Jerusalem, in America, and everywhere there were people that he had called his. I didn’t know it, but my testimony in the book grew just as much as my testimony in Christ had. I loved both very dearly. The next day, I finally told my parents that I had been reading it, and they were happy to hear it. They were amazed that I had read so much in one night, and though I was unable that day to tell them I had a testimony that it was true, I know that they knew that I had received one. I have since read the book various times, now in two languages, English and Spanish, and I now clearly say, I know that the Book of Mormon is a true book of Scripture. It will help a person come closer to God and Jesus Christ than any other book, and that it does contain the fullness of the Everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through my testimony in that book, I know that Joseph Smith was called of God to be a prophet, and that he restored by the power of God the very Church of Jesus Christ, known today in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Book of Mormon has helped me through many of the troubles I have gone through in my life, and will continue to do so, hopefully for my whole life. I know it is true, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Susan Easton Black, Finding Christ through the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987); Susan Ward Easton [Black], "Names of Christ in the Book of Mormon," Ensign, July 1978, 60-61.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009


This is a video produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is from the Church's official Youtube channel, Mormon Messages. It discusses the reasons why we, as Latter-day Saints, build and use temples.

I will speak today on Temples and family history work. Why do we build temples, why do we go to Temples, and why do we do family history work in our Temples? Today, I would like to answer these questions. Many of you will know that while I was away on my mission, both my grandmother and my father passed away. Both of these experiences were trying times for me. Here I was thousands of miles away from home. My family was on the other side of the planet, and we were all suffering, and I was unable to be with them to comfort them, or to be comforted. When my grandmother died, it was very hard for me. Some time before my mother was born, my grandmother left the church, and had become very bitter against the church. Because of this, she did not raise my mother in the church. She had lost the blessings of the temple in her life, and in due course, so had my mother. I realized that with my grandmother’s death, she had gone her whole life holding feelings of bitterness, which prevented her from returning to the church, of having the blessings of the Temple in her home.
Well, happily, when my mom met my dad, she had already become a member, and my dad had converted to the church some years before. After about a nine month courtship, my parents were married. After some time of trying to have children, with no success, they chose to go to the Temple and be sealed together. Almost as if the Lord were withholding children till they were sealed, my mother became pregnant with my older sister soon after their Temple sealing, and the children just kept on coming.
When my grandmother had died, I felt very different emotions than that of when my dad had died. You might think that it would be natural for that to be so, my grandmother having lived a full life, and my father dying with children still at home, with me not there to help. But these were not the factors as to my pain. When my grandmother died, I was not grieving over her death, but rather over the fact that she had gone so much of her life without the Gospel to bless her. I was unable to cope with that pain that I felt, that someone that I loved dearly might be lost forever because of her pride, and was unable to do my missionary duties for the remainder of that day.
Now, when my dad died, the pain was different. I was grieving over the pain in the choice that now faced me. Whether or not to return home. I didn’t know what to do. I only had five weeks remaining for me to complete my two years as a missionary, and I really wanted to be there for my family, but I also had read in Luke 9:59-60,62, which reads “And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” And in verse sixty-two, “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” I was in conflict. I didn’t know what to do. My mission president had said that if I wanted to go home, that would be perfectly acceptible, but then I thought of what the Lord had said, and of the promise that I had made to him by sending in my letter of acceptance to the first presidency upon my mission call, which said that I would serve two years. And on top of all that, my dad, a few days before I left for my mission, probably having spiritual insight, had told me that if he were to die before I came home from my mission, he wanted me to stay and finish. I had promised him that I would do so.
It became hard for me to decide what to do. I was told by some that it would probably be okay for me to come home only five weeks early, and that the Lord and my dad would find my promises kept. After all five weeks is a very small time when compared to two years, and it wouldn’t be as if I had come home dishonorably. But, I eventually felt that I needed to stay. The next few days became very hard. I had even called my mission president back to tell him that I had decided to return home, thinking that I couldn’t do it, but changed my mind in the last minute. I had received my answer, and knew that I needed to stay.
I was blessed for doing what I knew the Lord, and my dad, had wanted me to do, and my serious grieving period, the period in which my effectiveness as a missionary was effected, lasted only for three days. I soon bacame happy again, and until my mission president announced to the mission that my dad had died, about two weeks before I went home, only my zone leaders, my district leader and my companion had known what happened, because I didn’t show it emotionally. I was just as happy as before.
Why was I able to handle my grief so well? It was because of the Temple. First, I knew that my parents had been sealed together for time and all eternity, and that I was sealed to them, so I would see him again. Then secondly, I had been strengthened. I had been endowed with power from on high. We may read in Doctrine and Covenants 43:15-16, “Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my spirit; and ye are to be taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves and ye shal be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken.” I had received the strength promised to me. In my time of need, I was reminded of what was is taught in the Temple: eternal family, covenants, and most important of all, the actuality of and purpose for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It was also during this time that I overcame the grief of my grandmother’s death. I knew then that because of the Atonement, everything would be okay for my dad and grandmother, as well as for myself and my family at home. I could then teach what I had learned to my investigators. The last five weeks of my mission are the most precious to me, because I served to teach people of the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that had the power to ease my pain.
The Temple is a place, set apart from the world, in which we may go to receive inspiration, and guidance. It is also where we go to receive the full blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is there that we make covenants which allow us to become eternal families, and to gain strength to overcome our trials. This is why it was so important for the pioneers to finish the Nauvoo Temple before going west. The covenants they made there gave them the strength to carry on, to leave loved ones who had passed on behind, and those blessings are even extending into our day as we learn from our ancestor’s faithfulness and endurance.
Many people look for the answers to life’s questions, and seek for the way out of the stresses of life. What we learn in the Temple will answer our questions, and although it won’t rid us of our stress, it will give us the strenght to endure it. How many people would give up the opportunity to rid their life of stress and to gain answers to their most difficult questions. I don’t know many who would do so, if they knew really where to find it. And how many of us would desire those same blessings upon those that we care about? This is why we build Temples. This is why we go to the Temple. And this is why we perform temple ordinances for our ancestors, so that they who made it possible for us to receive these great blessings may also receive them. I urge all those who have the ability to go to the Temple to go. I urge all those who may not think that they have that ability to go. Did you know that you can even attend a session in the Temple if you are on a hospital stretcher. The people in the Temple will compensate for your needs. If you are in a wheelchair, a temple worker will aid you in the temple with your clothing, and other needs. I see no reason why anyone who is worthy to go to the Temple couldn’t go. I would like to bear my testimony that through the Temple, we may be blessed in ways that we would never imagine. We will learn that there are many good things to come, and that everything is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Temple points to Christ. It teaches us of him, and helps us learn who he is. For it is by learning who he is that we come to know God, and that is Eternal Life. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” I testify of the importance of Temple and Family History work, for it will bless ours and the lives of our ancestors and posterity for eternity. I say this in the holy name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Overcoming Our Modern-day Secret Combinations

In the Book of Mormon, in chapters two through four of third Nephi, we read of the struggle that the Nephites had with the Gadianton Robbers. In 3 Nephi 2:8 we read, “…that it was the object of all those who belonged to his [Kishkumen’s] band to murder, and to rob, and to gain power, (and this was their secret plan and their combination)…” Today, we too have similar bands to deal with. Gangs can be found in diverse places around the world, and they too can be described as having the objective to murder, and to rob, and to gain power. Most recently we have had to deal with the aftermath of such gang activity right here in our own neighborhoods. On January 21, near Kearns High School, 16 year old Esteban Saidi was shot in the abdomen, by fellow Kearns student Ricky Angilau. Saidi died later that night. The police have confirmed that the shooting was gang related, and that the gang situation all over the state has escalated. We are now facing a situation very similar to that of the Nephites, that we have modern-day secret combinations among us that pose a threat to the lives of our friends, neighbors, and family.
On Monday night, February 2, I had the opportunity to attend a town meeting that was held in the Kearns High Auditorium to address the gang problem. Many representatives of the Kearns and Salt Lake County communities were there to speak to us on how to heal our community. One of the speakers, a representative from an organization of Latino and Pacific Islanders against gang violence said, "This incident has the broken the silence in our community, the silence of us pretending that nothing's wrong." Many of us around our community have sat on the sidelines of an ever growing gang problem, and like the ancient Israelites, have said that there was no problem. Well, like those ancient Israelites who said that Jerusalem would not be destroyed, many of our community have been wrong, and have chosen not to see that the gang problem is destroying our communities here. It is time for us to no longer ignore what is going on around us, and we must take action in eliminating these modern –day secret combinations.
In Monday night’s meeting, Sheriff Jim Winder said, "We as human beings must take control of our individual circumstances." I have great pride of being a member of the Kearns community. In the past, I have had the opportunity to tell people where I was from. Many people, upon hearing that I was from Kearns, commented on the gang issues that we have had here. They asked what it was like to attend Kearns High School, with all the gangs. I was glad to tell them that a lot of what they had heard concerning gang activity at Kearns High was untrue. It remained true until this past January 21. Before, I would describe a place with a great cultural diversity. Here in Kearns, we have people of many different walks of life. We have people from South and Central America and Mexico. We have people from Samoa, Tonga, and other Pacific Islands. We have Asians, and we have Caucasians. I was able to tell them that Kearns High was a school that was able to take in all these many varied cultures, and blend them together peacefully.
I enjoyed my time there at Kearns High, and I never had fear that I would be caught in the crossfire of rivaling gangs. Since the time that I left Kearns High, I have had two younger brothers walk its halls. One of them was able to finish his time there without incident, but my youngest brother became so scared of the conditions there that he left the school to continue his education at home. Monday night was the first time that he returned to the school since leaving, and when the meeting was over, he ran from the building, trying to escape the bad memories that he had there. I wonder how a school and a community can change in such a short period of time. It only took two years for the conditions to deteriorate to what they are now.
How might we as members of the community of Kearns, of Salt Lake County, and of the State of Utah fix these problems that have become so rampant among us? How might we rid us of the fear to walk our neighborhood streets at night, and how might we make our schools safe again? If we search the scriptures, we will find the answers to such questions. Continuing the story in 3 Nephi, we find out that the Nephites, when facing the bands of robbers, grouped together. First, they formed alliances with the righteous Lamanites. There are many good people in our community. Many people who desire the same safety for themselves and their families as we do for ours. There are many people whose ideals have not sunk into the depths of depravity. We must join together with these people. We must put past us the boundary lines of religion or culture. Many people feel intimidated when they approach a Latin American store, or when they enter another religion’s meeting house. I can say that there are many good people from South America. I know that with personal experience. Don’t let the language be a barrier. Many of them know English, and would gladly talk with you. They don’t only because they feel alienated by those who don’t talk to them. I also can say by personal experience that there are good people who belong to the LDS Church, or the Catholic Church, or the Lutheran Church, or the Baptist Church, or the Methodist Church, or those who belong to no church at all. We must not let the fact that a person is not like us make it impossible for us to be friends. I fear that here in Utah, many people judge too soon, and lose out on opportunities of making good friends, just because someone doesn’t go to their church or speaks another language.
Another way that the Nephites fought against the robbers is that they gathered together their provisions and came together in one place, a stronghold, to withstand the robber’s onslaught. We may pull together all our resources and become a community that is active in the lives of its neighbors. There are many activities and organizations that will provide an alternative to our youth to joining a gang. There are they after school programs that involve such things as sports, or band, or dance, or other academic pursuits. There are also non-academic activities that can be an alternative to gang activity. Youth today can join the Boy Scout and Girl Scout programs, enjoy many activities that are held at the local libraries, and can read books or go the local theater to watch a movie. There are many fun activities, but none should replace the role of the parent. The role of a parent is vital in any community. The family is the basic building block of any community, and parents lie at the head of a family. In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, we read such things as “The family is ordained of God.” and “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” If a parent or parents were to fail in their duty to teach their children how to live good lives, abiding by the law, and to fail in spending time with their children, it would prove to be the downfall of our civilization. If a parent does not teach to his or her children what he or she wants taught to them, they must expect that they children may learn something else from the world. In today’s world, no parent can take such a risk if they want their children to grow up to be good, law-abiding citizens. It can be as simple as a talk on the way to school or at the dinner table. Just don’t sit around and hope that they are good people. Help them to be good people. Help them with their homework. Take them on a family vacation, or sit down with them to talk. Most importantly, be a friend to them. If a child calls a parent their friend, it is unlikely that they will head down the wrong path.
Finally, in order to block out the influence of gangs and violence in our community, we need to figuratively come together in one place to keep out those who would do us harm. We do not need to literally build up walls to keep out evil from us, but if we can eliminate from us such evils as racism, pride, conceitedness, and greed, we can stop much of what there is. We must replace these things with love, brotherhood, service and humbleness. Most of all, we need to be aware of what is going on around us, and not sit idly by and watch our community fail. Stand up and make a difference. Take a step towards a brighter future and become involved in the community you care about. We cannot say that we don’t have time to do something when we spend three or more hours in front of the television a day. Many of us have the time to act, and we must act. As for the Nephites, doing such things eventually ended the danger that the robbers posed to them. They destroyed the Gadianton Robbers from among them. We read in 3 Nephi 4:33, “And their hearts were swollen with joy, unto the gushing out of many tears, because of the great goodness of God in delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; and they knew it was because of their repentance and their humility that they had been delivered from an everlasting destruction.” I know that we can overcome our modern-day Gadianton Band, and that we can have peace among us, but we must come together. I pray that we can. God bless you all.