July 21, 2008
Growing up in the Mormon church, I have been taught that the Lord often answers our prayers through others. Tonight, I was sharing a story with my children of a time I had the priviledge of listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and, by acting on them, was able to be of service to another person. In this case, it was my wife.
Shortly after my wife and I were married, we were gradually retrieving all of her belongings from my in-laws house. This meant that, while I was in classes, she was borrowing her parents van and shuttling her belongings across an hour’s worth of interstate highway to the house we were renting. One night I came home from school, and my wife hadn’t arrived yet. I waited and waited and waited. Gradually I sensed that something had gone wrong, and I felt the strong impression that I needed to go look for her.
In The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, there is a story of a young man, Nephi, who was given a very difficult task but didn’t know how he was going to accomplish it. He described his experiences as follows: “And I was aled by the Spirit, not bknowing beforehand the things which I should do.” That’s pretty much how I felt. I didn’t know where she was, but I felt I needed to go look for her. I began driving down the main road in the city we lived in toward the freeway. I had gone less than ten blocks, when I saw my in-laws’ van parked between the double-yellow lines in the middle of the roadway. She had crashed into the rear of a car in front of her. The police were still processing everything. It wasn’t a major accident, but the front of the van had completely crumpled, and my wife was quite shaken up.
I parked my car, walked over to the van, and entered through the passenger door. I was probably the last person she expected to see. Once the police were finished, and they towed the van away, I was able to drive my wife home. In reality, it was a little thing. But I firmly believe that a loving Father in Heaven knew she was there, and as one of his tender mercies, allowed me to find her and be there in a moment when she needed comfort and help getting home. I shudder to think what she might have gone through had I dismissed those feelings I had to go look for her. I am grateful to belong to a church that teaches the importance of continuing, ongoing revelation both to prophets as well as to individuals.
May 30, 2008
Last night, I was telling stories to my children to help them calm down and get ready for bed. I’m sure bedtime stories are not unique to the Mormon church. But, I had an experience last night that reminded me of another way the church’s teachings and practices have helped my family. After an engaging rendition of Little Red Riding Hood, and enthusiastic requests for more stories, my seven year old asked if I could share a family history story. Evidently, he had been quite enthralled as I had told him the story of how one of my ancestors, Enos Curtis, had been one of the missionaries who taught Brigham Young about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Happy to comply with his request, I shared some stories from the lives of some of my more immediate ancestors. Most of these were stories of the antics of young farm boys growing up in rural Utah–the kind involving gasoline and brush fires, severed fingers, and getting caught stealing water melons. I also enjoyed telling them about the various jobs their great grandparents used to have. My wife joined us and shared how her grandparents had been famers, homemakers, music shop owners, and teachers. The children listened in their beds, laughing, listening intently, and asking questions. It was a simple experience, but it was amazing at the same time. In this small act, I felt more connected with my children, and with my parents and our ancestors.
I am grateful to belong to a church that teaches that family relationships can be perpetuated beyond the grave through the blessings of living the gospel of Jesus Christ and participating in the ordinances of the temple. A fundamental teaching of the Mormon Church is that power has been restored to the earth to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:5-6). This is why we build temples and spend so much time and resources as a Church and as individual members performing genealogical research. Participating in temple and family history activities helps me get a sense of the love God feels for all of his children, and helps me connect with my children, my ancestors, and my other family members.
I invite you to take the time to gather stories from your family history and share them with your children frequently. I know that as you do, your faith in Jesus Christ will grow and your love for your children, and theirs for you and your family can increase as well.
May 29, 2008
I was reading a post and some thoughtful comments at Mormanity, and some questions came up about the fallibility of seemingly spiritual promptings and the role of rationalism in establishing one’s testimony. I’d like to respond to some of those comments here.
Requesting a basis for religious conviction that is grounded in a purely rationalist perspective suggests an unfounded confidence in the ability of the scientific method to establish absolute truth. I’ve learned two related principles in my PhD program: 1) there is no such thing as unbiased, purely objective research, and 2) the understanding of the world that we establish using the scientific method inevitably changes over time.
Admittedly, it is challenging at times to differentiate between personal revelation from God, one’s own thoughts and emotions, or inspiration from any other source. In my own life, I believe that difficulty often stems from failure to adequately work for the answer. I believe firmly that the Lord expects us to study things out in our minds, to use the powers of reason with which he has endowed us. I also believe there’s no substitute for learning the truth of a principle or doctrine except for living it. I’ve prayed to know whether The Book of Mormon is true and have felt the Spirit confirming a witness in my mind and in my heart.
The answer I received to a given prayer, however isn’t what keeps my testimony intact. It’s the results, the fruits, I see in my life and the life of my children that come from studying the scriptures daily and in understanding the doctrines established in The Book of Mormon. I go to Church every Sunday and take the sacrament and have repeatedly felt a sense of renewal, humility, forgiveness, love, and renewed commitment to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Just because I don’t have an overwhelming experience every Sunday doesn’t negate the reality of the experiences I’ve had. My training as a behavioral researcher has taught me that outside of strictly controlled environments (i.e., in daily life) confounding factors often lead to results we don’t expect. For example, my kids may be fidgety, or I may not have come to Church in a spirit of reverence and preparation. In such cases, my failure to have a spiritual experience during sacrament meeting does not bear on the reality of the Savior’s atonement nor of the divine authority held in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
If you want to know if The Book of Mormon is true, try it out. Don’t just read about it. Read it regularly, try to live by its teachings and see if you notice a difference in your life. It continues to bless my life and my family, and I know it can bless yours as well.
May 17, 2008
One of the reasons I love being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the holistic approach to salvation, the belief that the spiritual nature of God’s commandments affects both the spiritual and temporal aspects of our lives. As an example, my ward (cogregation) is holding a series of workshops to teach members gospel principles and day-to-day applications of industry, thrift and self-reliance. Such topics are particularly helpful in today’s times of economic uncertainty and the threat of recession.
One of the lessons from last Wednesday’s workshop involved two presentations: one on the importance of work and tips for increasing your marketability in the workforce, and the other focused on budgeting and differentiating between needs and wants. You can see the slides from the second presentation here.
For more information, please visit http://www.providentliving.org.
February 7, 2007
As I’ve written previously, my personal testimony stems from the witness of the Holy Ghost as I’ve studied the words of ancient prophets in The Bible and The Book of Mormon and as I’ve been taught by living prophets and apostles and participated in the ordinances and covenants that have been restored through them.
Recently, Elder David A. Bednar, one of the living apostles of Jesus Christ on the earth today, gave an address to college-aged adults over the Church’s satellite system. The topic of his message was the importance of studying the scriptures by 1) reading them chronologically, 2) studying by topic, and 3) searching for patterns and themes. He emphasized that understanding spiritual truths in the scriptures is a privilege of all of God’s children who are willing to diligently study and seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost. It’s a wonderful message for all Christians, descriptive of an activity that strengthens my hope in my Savior each day. The audio from the satellite broadcast can be streamed from the lds.org website here.
February 7, 2007
I found the following from the biography page Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen’s website. His personal essay “Why I Believe” mirrors many of the feelings I have about my testimony of Christ and my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
‘Professor Christensen was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Republic of Korea from 1971 to 1973 and speaks fluent Korean. He currently serves his church as an Area Authority Seventy, and recently published an essay about his beliefs, entitled “Why I Believe”.’
Pasted from <http://www.claytonchristensen.com/biography.html>
December 6, 2006
Last August, I was reading an article in the Ensign magazine written by a Sister’s experience in doing family history work as a busy young mother. I recall reading about this sister’s account of feeling overwhelmed with her life and yet she felt prompted that she needed to work on her family history and temple work. The article goes on to discuss the souls she blessed and how her own life was blessed through family history and temple work.
I don’t remember the details of what I skimmed through in that article as I sat at breakfast that morning, but I do remember feeling a strong impression that I too, despite the demands on my schedule as a young father and a PhD student in a demanding program, need to seek out my ancestors. As Sister Sorenson said in the article, this may not “be expected of everyone in my circumstances, [though] I felt sure the Lord wanted me to become involved in it.”
So I set out contacting my parents and grandparents. I had a distinct feeling I needed to look at my mother’s side of the family. I started looking at Census records available through my school library’s web site. Gradually, the pieces started coming together quite miraculously to bring an entire family to my attention whose information was not available in the 1970’s when my newly-converted mother worked so diligently on identifying her ancestors.
I found in the census records entries for my great-great grandparents, August Borgwardt and Margarete Williges and their children. As I saw their records, I felt a connection to these people as if they were reaching out to me, encouraging me to get to know them. I felt a sense of their making up an intrinsic part of who I am, and I felt gratitude for the sacrifices they made to lay the foundation for me to be born in the circumstances I’ve been blessed with.
The census information was vital, though incomplete. I found through a database of the San Francisco Call newspaper archives an index pointer to a marriage between August and Margerete that provided me with the year they were married.
With approximated birth years from the census and this marriage year from the San Fransisco Call, I had sufficient information to begin preparing their records for the temple. But I was troubled that my incomplete information might make it more difficult to find information on their parents as well as for those coming after me attempting to build on my work.
About one week before our ward (local congregation) was to take a trip to the temple in Louisville, KY, I received an email, almost out of the blue, from my grandfather, indicating he had written some one page biographies about each member of this family some years ago and he thought I might enjoy them. In the attached files, were exact dates and places for vital events for members of this family.
One by one, my parents, my brother Wil, my sweet wife Molly, and I have participated in and coordinated ordinance work for these members of my family. Each of us has felt strong spiritual impressions of the love and gratitude they feel toward us and that we feel toward them. As I have sensed their anticipation, I have gained a greater appreciation for the value of the atonement of Jesus Christ and the cleansing and renewal that comes from participating in sacred ordinances and covenants made with God.
And the story continues, the Spirit continues to impress on me the need to keep going. My great-grandmother Williges has a sister Louise, with whom she came to America and who, I also feel, is waiting anxiously for her temple ordinances to be completed so that she to may enjoy the blessings of membership in the kingdom. I found the ship records of her immigration to the United States. My mother dug up an old audio recording of an interview she made with Louise’s daughter, whom my mother remembers as Tana Louise. The tape is filled with rich genealogical information as well as illustrations from my ancestors lives.
This is one more reason why I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My love for the Savior, Jesus Christ, prompts me to reach out to my extended family members, both living and dead, so that they to may feel this love. Service in the temple helps be draw near to God while sacrificing my time to perform a work for others they cannot do for themselves. And I have come to understand more fully the words of the Savior to the prophet Joseph Smith in 1829:
14 Wherefore, you are called to acry repentance unto this people.
15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one asoul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
Pasted from <http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/18/15>
Note: the complete text of the Ensign article that prompted this journey can be found at the link below.
Kim Crenshaw Sorensen, “Blessings for My Ancestors, Blessings for Me,” Ensign, Aug. 2006, 34–35
Pasted from <http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/2006.htm/ensign%20august%202006.htm/blessings%20for%20my%20ancestors%20%20blessings%20for%20me.htm?f=templates$fn=document-frame.htm$3.0$q=$x=$nc=6677>
November 3, 2006
Last week our ward (local congregation) held a Halloween party in our meetinghouse. It’s an annual tradition hosted by the young women of the ward and their leaders. The kids had a ball, and enjoyed the games played in a safe, family friendly environment. My wife lead the cub scouts in a skit for everyone to enjoy. Afterwards, the kids were given the opportunity to go trick-or-treating at a number of the classrooms around the building where families like mine had volunteered to decorate a doorway and hand out candy.
After my oldest son (he’s six years old) finished making his rounds to get candy in his bucket, he came back to my door and asked if he could help hand out candy. It was a great, simple experience working with my son, handing out candy to 2-11 year olds. I can’t help but wonder about the impact it has on our children to see so many people serving and working together to carry out the Halloween party. And, from my son’s behavior, it looks like the example of serving others is rubbing off on him.
This is just one more reason why I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I recognize there are opportunities for service in a variety of organizations. But I’m grateful to be part of a church family in which values of work and service are instilled by lay leaders and dedicated members working together on an ongoing basis for and with our children.
September 1, 2006
I have many reasons for my testimony that The Book of Mormon is the word of God. Firstly, there is a promise contained in the book that I have applied multiple times: Moroni, the last prophet-historian to write his testimony of Jesus Christ in the book extends the following invitation to all who will receive this book:
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how amerciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and bponder it in your chearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would aask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not btrue; and if ye shall ask with a csincere heart, with dreal intent, having efaith in Christ, he will fmanifest the gtruth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
I have read the book multiple times. Each time, I’m increasingly aware of the glorious message of the infinite love and saving power of Christ that is contained in the book. And each time I have prayed to ask God if the book is true, I have felt the promptings of the Holy Ghost confirming its truthfulness to my heart and mind.
The witness of the Holy Ghost, which comes to me as feelings of peace, love, joy and as strokes of inspiration to my mind–a still small voice, also testifies of the truthfulness of the Book when I am reading it and trying to draw nearer to God through it.
Whenever I have encountered doubts, or questions have been proposed to me about my faith that I do not have answers to, I go back to reading the Book of Mormon, and I feel that same Spirit again and again and again, inviting me and enticing me to do good, and encouraging me to feast from the teachings of those ancient American prophets as well as the Biblical prophets and our modern-day prophets to come unto Christ and be perfected in him. I cannot deny or rationalize away what I feel and the power I get from reading the Book of Mormon. When I read the Book of Mormon, I feel stronger in overcoming my weaknesses and greater faith that in the strength of the Lord, I can do all things.
Another pillar of my testimony comes from the application of the words of Christ encountered in this book. These holy words give me greater appreciation and love for my Savior Jesus Christ and help me desire to serve him more fully. When I teach these things to my children and apply these teachings to our daily lives, I see the fruits of these teachings. I begin to understand the “blessed and happy of those that keep the commandments of God” (Mosiah 2:41). Applying the teachings found in this and other books of scripture blesses my life every day.
I am thankful for the blessing of the Book of Mormon in my life. I am grateful that I can read from its pages each day. Most importantly, I am thankful for the divine mission of my Savior whose life and teachings are clearly taught in this most precious book.