#BOMTC Bonus: Standard Works 365!

#BOMTC Bonus, 365 Day Challenge (2).jpg

Those who have finished The Book of Mormon Translation Challenge have most likely developed what I like to call a “HOLY HABIT” of daily scripture study. You have not just been “tasting” the Good Word of God every now and then, but rather “feasting” upon it on a regular basis. What will you do to make sure that you don’t lose this “holy habit” in your life?

Some of you are ready for a slower, closer study of the scriptures now that you have taken a quicker, broader view. Do it! And start now!

Others have taken President Eyring’s advice to, “go back to the Book of Mormon and drink deeply and often.” You are excited to take a closer look at some of those new verses that you have discovered during the #BOMTC. Drink up! Do it today!

Some of you have expressed a desire to have a “new challenge”–something that can help you keep your “holy habit” of daily scripture study alive and active.  You have seen themes and messages that you have never found before, and you are eager to continue to study the scriptures in a similar fashion. Well, I have a surprise for you!

After reading many comments requesting some type of “new challenge”, I have decided to share with you something that I have done in the past. However, this challenge will be much more “challenging” for a couple of reasons. One reason is that it is about one page more of scripture than you have been studying with the #BOMTC. Another reason is that I will not be reminding you with daily posts and reminders. But, I will be providing you with some materials to help you get started.

My new challenge for those of you who are looking for something similar in pace to the #BOMTC is to study the entire Standard Works in just 365 days!

#BOMTC Bonus, 365 Days (1)

I have created a VERY BASIC outline for you to follow. It is not pretty, but it is organized. And it will help you to track your progress as you STUDY THE ENTIRE STANDARD WORKS IN 365 DAYS :)

I have included a PDF version and a Microsoft Word version of my 365 day study-schedule. The PDF version can be easily downloaded to your electronic devices for daily reference.

#BOMTC Bonus, 365 Day Challenge Pacing PDF Large

Click on the graphic to download the PDF version of Bro Simon Says’ Standard Works in 365 days

The Word version is intended to allow you to customize your scripture study.

#BOMTC Bonus, 365 Day Challenge Pacing Word Doc Large

Click on the graphic to download the Microsoft Word version of Bro Simon Says’ Standard Works in 365 Days

The current versions that I am providing you begins with the Doctrine and Covenants, then moves to the Pearl of Great Price, followed by the Old and New Testaments, and finishes with the Book of Mormon. However you choose to organize your study, I invite you to place the Book of Mormon at the end of your 365 days so that you will be part of the #BOMTC next year! You will begin the Book of Mormon a little bit after the traditional #BOMTC, but you will still finish by June 30.

One of our fellow readers was kind enough to create a Google Calendar for this 365 day challenge and share the link with us (CLICK HERE). If you click on the “+GoogleCalendar” button on the bottom-right corner of the calendar, then you can add it to your digital calendars and it will show you what you need to read each day. I have used it and it has been very helpful.

CLICK ON THE “+GoogleCalendar” button in the lower-right corner of the calendar above to add it to your digital calendar.

If you are wondering why I will not be posting reminders and commentary on my blog, it is simply an issue of time–not desire.  My family pays a heavy price so that I can help others study the Book of Mormon. But because they understand the importance of the Book of Mormon, they are willing to make the needed sacrifice. However, at the end of the #BOMTC they are ready to have their dad back for a couple more hours each day, and I am ready to give it to them. So I will be taking an online sabbatical, and pass the torch on to other capable and willing scripture study hosts out there. But I want to thank you again for allowing me to become a part of your most recent study of the Book of Mormon. I LOVE THE BOOK OF MORMON!!!

DECLARE YOUR 365-DAY CHALLENGE! Are you are going to study the Standard Works FOR 365 days, or study the Standard Works IN 365 days? It’s a matter of personal preference. One is not better than the other. My only concern is that you continue your “holy habit” of daily scripture study 365 days this year (or however many days it is if it is a leap year…). THAT IS THE REAL CHALLENGE that I present for you today: STUDY THE STANDARD WORKS EACH OF THE 365 DAYS THIS YEAR!

#BOMTC Bonus, 365 Day Challenge

So, on with the challenge! What will your 365 days look like? A slow, careful study of the scriptures for 365 days? More drinking deeply from the Book of Mormon for 365 days? The Standard Works in 365 days? Whatever your preference is, DON’T STOP the “holy habit” that has blessed your life in the last 85 days. Find YOUR reason to study each day! Keep the Word of the Lord alive in your daily life! You know how much it has blessed you and helped you. Take time to thank your Heavenly Father for the precious gift of the scriptures, and then ask Him to help you to determine the best way for you to continue your “holy habit”. He will motivate you much more than I ever can!

God be with you till we meet again… NEXT YEAR :)

With Much Love and Appreciation,

Russell Simon (Bro Simon Says)

P.S. July 1st is a significant scripture date in Church History for several reasons. Here are a couple to consider:


  • July 1, 1828, Manchester, New York. Joseph Smith arrived at his father’s farm and learned from Martin Harris that the 116 manuscript pages of the book of Lehi had been lost.
  • July 1, 1829, Fayette, New York. On or before this date, Joseph Smith completed the translation of the Book of Mormon.
  • July 1, 1832, Kirtland, Ohio. Joseph Smith completed his work on the inspired translation of the New Testament.
  • July 1, 1835, Kirtland, Ohio. Joseph Smith Joseph Smith “was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.”

#BOMTC Day 85, June 30~Moroni 10 or Pages 530-531: “I Would Exhort You”

#BOMTC Day 85, June 30~Moroni 10 or Pages 530-531, I Would Exhort You

I don’t like to take much of your time on the last day of the #BOMTC because I know many of you are trying to finish the Book of Mormon.

A Marvelous Work and a Wonder

Isaiah prophesies of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon

Moroni 10 contains the prophet Moroni’s final words before he sealed up the record to be brought forth by the gift and power of God.

#BOMTC Day 85, June 30~Moroni 10 or Pages 530-531, Moroni buries the plates (5)

About 1,400 years before Joseph Smith received the gold plates, Moroni concluded his father’s record by writing some final exhortations to those who would receive the Book of Mormon in the last days (see Moroni 10:1–2). The word exhort means to urge, advise, caution earnestly, admonish urgently. Moroni used the word nine times in the final chapter of the Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon Testimonies

Prophets and Apostles discuss the importance of gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon. (3:46)

Moroni’s first exhortation can be found in Moroni 10:1–2, and “I would exhort you” to look for the remaining exhortations that Moroni felt inspired to include in this final chapter and consider which one applies to you and your current situation in life.

#BOMTC Day 85, June 30~Moroni 10 or Pages 530-531, Moroni 10~4 (1)

Perhaps the most well know exhortations extended by Moroni are those found in Moroni 10:3-5. These verses have always meant a lot to me. I am a living witness of the veracity of the Book of Mormon.

#BOMTC Day 85, June 30~Moroni 10 or Pages 530-531, Moroni buries the plates (2)

As a young man I experimented with Moroni’s exhortations in relation to the Book of Mormon and I found the book to be true. As a father I have also exhorted my children to do the same. On one occasion my oldest son was finishing the Book of Mormon for the first time. He had made a goal for himself to read the entire Book of Mormon before he was baptized. He started on his 7th birthday and read 15 verses a day to finish by his 8th birthday. My wife or I would read each night with him, alternating verses. When we arrived at this second exhortation, relating to the Book of Mormon, I was reading with him. I asked him if he was going to accept Moroni’s challenge and pray to know for himself that the Book of Mormon is true. He casually responded that he was not going to do so. Surprised by his response, and a bit worried, I asked him why he wasn’t going to do it. With all of the innocence and sincerity of a seven-year-old, but with the wisdom of a sage, he responded with words along these lines:

“I don’t need to pray to know that the Book of Mormon is true. I already feel the Holy Ghost tell me that it is true every time I am reading it.”

#BOMTC Day 85, June 30~Moroni 10 or Pages 530-531, Moroni buries the plates (4)

Well, what can I say to that? That was one of the most exciting moments as a parent that I had experienced up to that point. He is now 13 and has read the Book of Mormon almost every day (on his own) since he first finished it. He has completed it several times since then and continues to affirm its truthfulness and helpfulness in his life (He is currently studying the Old Testament). His sister followed his example and also read the Book of Mormon in the year preceding her baptism and continues to read it personally on a daily basis. She is completed it for the third time on her own as part of The Book of Mormon Translation Challenge 2014.

Mission Accomplished! Finished Reading the Book of Mormon on 8/17/14

Mission Accomplished! 3rd kiddo to finish reading the Book of Mormon (8/17/14)

My next oldest (our third child) also finished reading the Book of Mormon to prepare for his baptism last September. He read at least 15 verses a day in an effort to finish his study by then. I have three other young children that I pray will follow the example of their older siblings.

#BOMTC Day 85, June 30~Moroni 10 or Pages 530-531, Moroni buries the plates (1)

And that brings us to my personal exhortation for you with this final blog posting. When my oldest son finished the Book of Mormon that first time I asked him, “What will you read tomorrow?” and his response was, “I will start at the beginning of the Book of Mormon again.” YAAAAY!!!

I will use the words of Moroni and President Henry B. Eyring to extend this extra exhortation to you:

And now my beloved blog-buddies, “I would exhort you” that when you have finished studying the Book of Mormon as part of the Book of Mormon Translation Challenge, that you would “go back to the Book of Mormon and drink deeply and often” because, “great faith has a short shelf life” (“Spiritual Preparedness: Start Early and Be Steady“, Ensign, Nov. 2005).

And to those of you who may not have finished reading the Book of Mormon by June 30, “I would exhort you” to remember that it is the direction that you are headed and not the speed that is important on this journey to study the Book of Mormon. DON’T STOP STUDYING!

#BOMTC Day 85, June 30~Moroni 10 or Pages 530-531, Moroni 10~32 (1)

Finally, THANK YOU!

  • Thank you for accepting the challenge to read the Book of Mormon in the time that it took Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to translate it.
  • Thank you for making time in your busy schedules to study this holy book–Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
  • Thank you for sharing your comments on this blog and on our Facebook Page/Group.
  • Thank you for inviting me into your life to share my thoughts and excitement for the Book of Mormon with you.

#BOMTC Day 85, June 30~Moroni 10 or Pages 530-531, Moroni 10~32

PLEASE leave a comment at the bottom of this post (or our Facebook Page or Facebook Group) letting me know that you FINISHED studying the Book of Mormon. I would like to add your names to the list on this blog of those who completed the Book of Mormon Translation Challenge.

A Book with a Promise

The Book of Mormon is a book with a promise. Although its history is compelling by itself, it is a book of scriptural significance that should be received and read under the influence of the Holy Ghost.

Please leave your thoughts about a special verse, teaching, etc. that you enjoyed at one of the following:

REPLY at the bottom of each post at: bookofmormontranslationchallenge.wordpress.com
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#BOMTC Day 84, June 29~Moroni 8-9 or Pages 525-529: “Labor Diligently”

#BOMTC Day 84, June 29~Moroni 8-9 or Pages 525-529, Hard Work Ahead Labor Diligently

Click on the graphic to study Moroni 8-9

Moroni 8 is an epistle Mormon wrote to his son Moroni about why little children do not need baptism. In the epistle, Mormon also taught about how we can prepare to dwell with God. He concluded by expressing concern for the wickedness and impending destruction of the Nephites.

Moroni 9 contains Mormon’s final recorded epistle to his son. He expressed sorrow for the wicked state of the Nephites and urged Moroni to labor diligently to help the Nephites repent. Notwithstanding the corrupt situation of his people, he encouraged his son to be faithful in Christ and to let the promise of eternal life rest on his mind forever.

It is interesting to note that with both of the difficulties addressed in Moroni 8 & 9 (doctrinal and moral issues), the solution that Mormon shared with Moroni was the same: “LABOR DILIGENTLY” (see Moroni 8:6 & 9:6).

What great advice! It seems like the call to “labor diligently” is the solution for not just addressing doctrinal and moral issues, but just about any issue that we will face in life. So many times we let worry and stress rob us of our strength. Why don’t we just “labor diligently” and address the issues head on?

With each passing day we draw nearer and nearer to the Second Coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. And even if we don’t have any doctrinal, or moral, or persaonl issues we are facing right now, if we “labor diligently” we will be blessed to meet Him some day.

Recently the Church has faced some serious scrutiny in the media for it’s stance on certain doctrinal and moral issues. As I have read the information coming from both the media and the church, I have reflected on two scriptures from Doctrine and Covenants section 1 (which is the Lord’s own “preface” to this modern book of scripture). I invite you to consider how they relate to each of the epistles that Moroni included from his father, and how they relate to the current events.

#BOMTC Day 84, June 29~Moroni 8-9 or Pages 525-529, DC 1~14

#BOMTC Day 84, June 29~Moroni 8-9 or Pages 525-529, DC 1~38 Whether by Mine Own Voice or the Voice of My Servants It Is the Same
Just this week, Church leadership shared the following “epistle”. You may have already seen this being distributed through social media. Whether you have read it or not, I invite you to study it closely and consider the message that our Loving Heavenly Father and our Redeemer Jesus Christ are sending to us. I know that if we “labor diligently” to apply D&C 1:38 that we will never fall victim to D&C 1:14 (as the people did in the closing chapters of the Book of Mormon).


Supreme Court Decision Will Not Alter Doctrine on Marriage

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church issued the following statement Friday:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acknowledges that following today’s ruling by the Supreme Court, same-sex marriages are now legal in the United States. The Court’s decision does not alter the Lord’s doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God. While showing respect for those who think differently, the Church will continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman as a central part of our doctrine and practice.”

#BOMTC Day 84, June 29~Moroni 8-9 or Pages 525-529, first-presidency-and-twelve-apostles

I am so grateful that the Lord blesses us with living prophets to guide us in our day. I know that they are called of God and are seeking to do His will!

The Divine Institution of Marriage


In 1995, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which declares the following truths about marriage:

We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. . . .

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.[1]

Since the publication of that statement, there have been many challenges to the institution of marriage. Prominent among these challenges has been the recognition by several national governments and some states and provinces that same-sex marriage—formal unions between two individuals of the same gender—are the equivalent of traditional marriage. Yet God’s purposes for establishing marriage have not changed. One purpose of this document is to reaffirm the Church’s declaration that marriage is the lawful union of a man and a woman.

Another purpose is to reaffirm that the Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are acceptable to God only between a husband and a wife who are united in the bonds of matrimony.

A third purpose is to set forth the Church’s reasons for defending marriage between a man and a woman as an issue of moral imperative. The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage derives from its doctrine and teachings, as well as from its concern about the consequences of same-sex marriage on religious freedom, society, families, and children.

A fourth purpose of this document is to reaffirm that Church members should address the issue of same-sex marriage with respect and civility and should treat all people with love and humanity.

The Vital Importance of Marriage

Marriage is sacred and was ordained of God from before the foundation of the world. Jesus Christ affirmed the divine origins of marriage: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?”[2]

From the beginning, the sacred nature of marriage was closely linked to the power of procreation. After creating Adam and Eve, God commanded them to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,”[3] and they brought forth children, forming the first family. Only a man and a woman together have the natural biological capacity to conceive children. This power of procreation—to create life and bring God’s spirit children into the world—is divinely given. Misuse of this power undermines the institution of the family.[4]

For millennia, strong families have served as the fundamental institution for transmitting to future generations the moral strengths, traditions, and values that sustain civilization. In 1948, the world’s nations issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, affirming that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society.”[5]

Marriage is far more than a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations. Rather, marriage is a vital institution for rearing children and teaching them to become responsible adults. Throughout the ages, governments of all types have recognized marriage as essential in preserving social stability and perpetuating life. Regardless of whether marriages were performed as a religious rite or a civil ceremony, in almost every culture marriage has been protected and endorsed by governments primarily to preserve and foster the institution most central to rearing children and teaching them the moral values that undergird civilization.

It is true that some couples who marry will not have children, either by choice or because of infertility. The special status granted marriage is nevertheless closely linked to the inherent powers and responsibilities of procreation and to the innate differences between the genders. By contrast, same-sex marriage is an institution no longer linked to gender—to the biological realities and complementary natures of male and female. Its effect is to decouple marriage from its central role in creating life, nurturing time-honored values, and fostering family bonds across generations.

In recent decades, high rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births have resulted in an exceptionally large number of single parents. Many of these single parents have raised exemplary children. Extensive studies have shown, however, that a husband and wife who are united in a loving, committed marriage generally provide the ideal environment for protecting, nurturing, and raising children.[6] This is in part because of the differing qualities and strengths that husbands and wives bring to the task by virtue of their gender. As an eminent academic on family life has written:

The burden of social science evidence supports the idea that gender differentiated parenting is important for human development and that the contribution of fathers to child rearing is unique and irreplaceable. . . . The complementarity of male and female parenting styles is striking and of enormous importance to a child’s overall development.[7]

In view of the close links that have long existed between marriage, procreation, gender, and parenting, same-sex marriage cannot be regarded simply as the granting of a new “right.” It is a far-reaching redefinition of the very nature of marriage itself. It marks a fundamental change in the institution of marriage in ways that are contrary to God’s purposes for His children and detrimental to the long-term interests of society.

Threats to Marriage and Family

Our modern era has seen traditional marriage and family—defined as a husband and wife with children in an intact marriage—come increasingly under assault, with deleterious consequences. In 2012, 40% of all births in the United States were to unwed mothers.[8] More than 50% of births to mothers under age 30 were out of wedlock. Further, the marriage rate has been declining since the 1980s. These trends do not bode well for the development of the rising generation.

A wide range of social ills has contributed to this weakening of marriage and family. These include divorce, cohabitation, non-marital childbearing, pornography, the erosion of fidelity in marriage, abortion, the strains of unemployment and poverty, and many other social phenomena. The Church has a long history of speaking out on these issues and seeking to minister to our members with regard to them. The focus of this document on same-sex marriage is not intended to minimize these long-standing issues.

More recently, the movement to promote same-sex marriage as an inherent or constitutional right has gained notable ground in recent years. Court rulings, legislative actions, and referenda have legalized same-sex marriage in a number of nations, states, and jurisdictions. In response, societal and religious leaders of many persuasions and faiths have made the case that redefining marriage in this way will further weaken the institution over time, resulting in negative consequences for both adults and children.[9]

A large number of people around the world recognize the crucial role that traditional marriage has played and must continue to play if children and families are to be protected and moral values propagated. Because the issue of same-sex marriage strikes at the very heart of the family and has the potential for great impact upon the welfare of children, the Church unequivocally affirms that marriage should remain the lawful union of a man and a woman.

Unchanging Standards of Morality

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that God has established clear standards of morality for His children, who are accountable before Him for their behavior. Such standards cannot be changed by the reasoning, emotions, personal interests, or opinions of mortal beings.[10]Without the higher authority of God, as revealed in scripture and by His prophets, secular society will flounder and drift.

Many advocates of same-sex marriage argue that traditional standards of sexual morality have changed and that “tolerance” requires that these new standards be recognized and codified in law. If tolerance is defined as showing kindness for others and respect for differing viewpoints, it is an important value in all democratic societies. But as Elder Dallin H. Oaks has observed, “Tolerance does not require abandoning one’s standards or one’s opinions on political or public policy choices. Tolerance is a way of reacting to diversity, not a command to insulate it from examination.”[11]

The Savior taught that we should love the sinner without condoning the sin. In the case of the woman taken in adultery, He treated her kindly but exhorted her to “sin no more.”[12] His example manifested the highest love possible.

In addition to using the argument of tolerance to advocate redefining marriage, proponents have advanced the argument of “equality before the law.” No mortal law, however, can override or nullify the moral standards established by God. Nor can the laws of men change the natural, innate differences between the genders or deny the close biological and social link between procreation and marriage.

How Would Same-Sex Marriage Affect Religious Freedom?

As governments have legalized same-sex marriage as a civil right, they have also enforced a wide variety of other policies to ensure there is no discrimination against same-sex couples. These policies have placed serious burdens on individual conscience and on religious organizations.[13]

Same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws have already spawned legal collisions with the rights of free speech and of action based on religious beliefs. For example, advocates and government officials in certain states have challenged the long-held right of religious adoption agencies to follow their religious beliefs and place children only in homes with both a mother and a father. As a result, Catholic Charities in several states was forced to give up its adoption services rather than be forced to place children with same-sex couples.[14]

In the United States, the First Amendment right of free exercise of religion is coming under pressure from proponents of same-sex marriage. Some of these proponents advocate that tax exemptions and benefits should be withdrawn from any religious organization that does not accept such marriages.[15] The First Amendment may protect clergy from being forced to perform same-sex marriages, but other people of faith have faced and likely will continue to face legal pressures and sanctions. The same will happen with religiously affiliated institutions and educational systems. For example, a Georgia counselor contracted by the Centers for Disease Control was fired after an investigation into her decision to refer someone in a same-sex relationship to another counselor. In New Jersey, a ministry lost its tax-exempt status for denying a lesbian couple the use of its pavilion for their wedding. New Mexico’s Human Rights Commission prosecuted a commercial photographer for refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. When public schools in Massachusetts began teaching students about same-sex civil marriage, a Court of Appeals ruled that parents had no right to exempt their students.[16]

Similar limitations on religious freedom have already become the social and legal reality in several European nations, and the European Parliament has recommended that laws protecting the status of same-sex couples be made uniform across the European Union.[17] Where same-sex marriage becomes a recognized civil right, it inevitably conflicts with the rights of believers, and religious freedom is diminished.

How Would Same-Sex Marriage Affect Society?

The possible diminishing of religious freedom is not the only societal implication of legalizing same-sex marriage. Perhaps the most common argument that proponents of same-sex marriage make is that it is essentially harmless and will not affect the institution of traditional heterosexual marriage in any way. “It won’t affect your marriage, so why should you care?” is the common refrain. While it may be true that allowing same-sex marriage will not immediately and directly affect existing marriages, the real question is how it will affect society as a whole over time, including the rising generation and future generations.

In addition to undermining and diluting the sacred nature of marriage, legalizing same-sex marriage brings many practical implications in the sphere of public policy that will be of concern to parents and society.[18] When a government legalizes same-sex marriage as a civil right, it will almost certainly enforce a wide variety of other policies to enforce this. The implications of these policies are critical to understanding the seriousness of condoning same-sex marriage.

The all-important question of public policy must be: what environment is best for the child and for the rising generation? While some same-sex couples will obtain guardianship over children, traditional marriage provides the most solid and well-established social identity for children.[19] It increases the likelihood that they will be able to form a clear gender identity, with sexuality closely linked to both love and procreation. By contrast, the legal recognition of same-sex marriage may, over time, erode the social identity, gender development, and moral character of children. No dialogue on this issue can be complete without taking into account the long-term consequences for children.

As one example of how children will be adversely affected, the establishment of same-sex marriage as a civil right will inevitably entail changes in school curricula. When the state says that same-sex marriages are equivalent to heterosexual marriages, public school administrators will feel obligated to support this claim.[20] This has already happened in many jurisdictions, where from elementary school through high school, children are taught that marriage can be defined as a legal union between two adults of any gender, that the definition of family is fluid, and in some cases that consensual sexual relations are morally neutral.[21] In addition, in many areas, schools are not required to notify parents of this curriculum or to give families the opportunity to opt out.[22]These developments are already causing clashes between the agenda of secular school systems and the right of parents to teach their children deeply held standards of morality.

Throughout history, the family has served as an essential bulwark of individual liberty. The walls of a home provide a defense against detrimental social influences and the sometimes overreaching powers of government. In the absence of abuse or neglect, government does not have the right to intervene in the rearing and moral education of children in the home. Strong, independent families are vital for political and religious freedom.

Civility and Kindness

The Church acknowledges that same-sex marriage and the issues surrounding it can be divisive and hurtful. As Church members strive to protect marriage between a man and a woman, they should show respect, civility, and kindness toward others who have different points of view.

The Church has advocated for legal protection for same-sex couples regarding “hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.”[23] In Salt Lake City, for example, the Church supported ordinances to protect gay residents from discrimination in housing and employment.[24]

The Church’s affirmation of marriage as being between a man and a woman “neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians.”[25] Church members are to treat all people with love and humanity. They may express genuine love and kindness toward a gay or lesbian family member, friend, or other person without condoning any redefinition of marriage.


Strong, stable families, headed by a father and mother, are the anchor of society. When marriage is undermined by gender confusion and by distortions of its God-given meaning, the rising generation of children and youth will find it increasingly difficult to develop their natural identities as men or women. Some will find it more difficult to engage in wholesome courtships, form stable marriages, and raise another generation imbued with moral strength and purpose.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with many other churches, organizations, and individuals, will continue to defend the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, because it is a compelling moral issue of profound importance to our religion and to the future of society.

The final words in the Church’s proclamation on the family are an admonition to the world from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “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.”[26]

[1] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.
[2] Matthew 19:4–5.
[3] Genesis 1:28.
[4] See M. Russell Ballard, “What Matters Most Is What Lasts Longest,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 41–44.
[5] United Nations, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III), Dec. 10, 1948.
[6] David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem (New York: Basic Books, 1995); Maggie Gallagher and Joshua K. Baker, “Do Moms and Dads Matter? Evidence from the Social Sciences on Family Structure and the Best Interests of the Child,” Margins Law Journal 4:161 (2004); Mark Regnerus, “How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study,” Social Science Research 41:4 (July 2012): 752–70; Regnerus, “Parental Same-Sex Relationships, Family Instability, and Subsequent Life Outcomes for Adult Children: Answering the Critics of the New Family Structures Study with Additional Analyses,” Social Science Research 41:6 (Nov. 2012): 1367–77; W. B. Wilcox, J. R. Anderson, W. Doherty, et al., Why Marriage Matters, Third Edition: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences (New York: Institute for American Values and National Marriage Project, 2011); M. E. Scott, L. F. DeRose, L. H. Lippman, and E. Cook, Two, One, or No Parents? Children’s Living Arrangements and Educational Outcomes around the World(Washington, D.C.: Child Trends, 2013; worldfamilymap.org/2013/articles/essay/two-one-or-no-parents); Andrew J. Cherlin, The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009).
[7] David Popenoe, Life Without Father (New York: The Free Press, 1996), 146.
[8] See J. A. Martin, B. E. Hamilton, M. J. K. Osterman, et al. Births: Final Data for 2012. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol. 62, no. 9 (Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2013).
[9] See Sherif Girgis, “Check Your Blind Spot: What Is Marriage?” Marriage, Feb. 15, 2013; thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/02/7942/; Lynn Wardle, “The Attack on Marriage as the Union of a Man and a Woman,” North Dakota Law Review, vol. 83 (June 2008): 1364–92; David Blankenhorn,The Future of Marriage (2007); Lynn Wardle, ed., What’s the Harm? Does Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Really Harm Individuals, Families, or Society? (2008); R.R. Reno, “The Future of Marriage,” First Things, Jan. 2013, 3–4; Richard Neuhaus, “Disingenuousness and Clarity,” On the Square, May 30, 2008; firstthings.com/onthesquare/2008/05/disingenuousness-and-clarity.
[10] See Dallin H. Oaks, “No Other Gods,” Ensign, Nov. 2013, 72–75.
[11] Dallin H. Oaks, “Weightier Matters,” Ensign, Jan. 2001, 17.
[12] John 8:11.
[13] See Douglas Laycock, Anthony R. Picarello Jr., and Robin F. Wilson, eds., Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty, Emerging Conflicts (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008).
[14] See usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/upload/Catholic-Adoption-Services.pdf
[15] See Jonathan Turley, “An Unholy Union: Same-Sex Marriage and the Use of Governmental Programs to Penalize Religious Groups with Unpopular Practices,” in Laycock, Picarello, and Wilson, eds., Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts, 59–76.
[16] Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (New York and London: Encounter Books, 2012), 62–64.
[17] See Roger Trigg, Equality, Freedom, and Religion (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe,Report 2012 (Vienna, Austria, 2013); “European Parliament Resolution on Homophobia in Europe,” adopted Jan. 18, 2006.
[18] See Girgis, Anderson, and George, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.
[19] See endnote 6.
[20] Charles Russo, “Same-Sex Marriage and Public School Curricula: Preserving Parental Rights to Direct the Education of Their Children,” University of Dayton Law Review, vol. 32 (Spring 2007): 361–84.
[21] Gerry Shih, “Clashes Pit Parents vs. Gay-Friendly Curriculums in Schools,” The New York Times, Mar. 3, 2011, page A21A; John Smoot, “Children Need Our Marriage Tradition,” Public Discourse, June 13, 2013; thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/06/10344/; Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: A K-12 Curriculum Resource Guide, Toronto District School Board (2011).
[22] Parker v. Hurley, 514 F. 3d 87 (1st Cir. 2008); Fields v. Palmdale School District, 427 F.3d 1197 (9th Cir. 2005).
[23] mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-responds-to-same-sex-marriage-votes.
[24] See mormonnewsroom.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/statement-given-to-salt-lake-city-council-on-nondiscrimination-ordinances.
[25] mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-responds-to-same-sex-marriage-votes.
[26] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” 102.

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#BOMTC Day 83, June 28~Moroni 1-7 or Pages 519-524: Moroni’s Handbook of Instructions

#BOMTC Day 83, June 28~Moroni 1-7 or Pages 519-524, Moroni's Handbook of Instructions

I really wish that this post on Moroni 1-7 were something that we could just sit down together and discuss, with our scriptures open, ready to learn from each other.

From what I have observed, some people don’t really seem to appreciate these chapters of the Book of Mormon. So, I want to take a moment and look back at the chapter headings and consider what a “gold mine” we have in these small chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Moroni writes for the benefit of the Lamanites—The Nephites who will not deny Christ are put to death.
  • Chapter 2: Jesus gave the twelve Nephite disciples power to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  • Chapter 3: Elders ordain priests and teachers by the laying on of hands.
  • Chapter 4: How elders and priests administer the sacramental bread is explained.
  • Chapter 5: The mode of administering the sacramental wine is set forth.
  • Chapter 6: Repentant persons are baptized and fellowshipped—Church members who repent are forgiven—Meetings are conducted by the power of the Holy Ghost.
  • Chapter 7: An invitation is given to enter into the rest of the Lord—Pray with real intent—The Spirit of Christ enables men to know good from evil—Satan persuades men to deny Christ and do evil—The prophets manifest the coming of Christ—By faith, miracles are wrought and angels minister—Men should hope for eternal life and cleave unto charity. About A.D. 401–421.

Do you see what I mean? That is not “milk” of the gospel type stuff; that is serious “meat and potatoes” gospel stuff. Sure, it may seem common place to us, BUT that is only because Moroni put it there in the first place and many of us have known it most of our lives!

Sometimes we don’t realize the value of what we have because we have always had it. But what we are really looking at in these chapters is what Moroni knew was essential, and he knew that these essentials were not yet found in the Book of Mormon. Indeed they are just as Moroni had hoped–they have been, and are, of great “worth” (Moroni 1:4).

Let’s see how these seemingly common-place teachings helped to bring about the marvelous restoration of Christ’s church in the latter days.

As I wrote in the title of this blog post, I like to refer to these chapters as, “Moroni’s Handbook of Instructions”. This handbook has both ecclesiastical and personal application. Let’s first take a look at the ecclesiastical aspect of it.

In Doctrine and Covenants 18:1-5 we find a “commandment” that was given to Oliver Cowdery. See if you can discover what that commandment was by taking a good look at those verses.

Now, behold, because of the thing which you, my servant Oliver Cowdery, have desired to know of me, I give unto you these words:

Behold, I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the things which you have written are true; wherefore you know that they are true.

And if you know that they are true, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written;

For in them are all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock.

Wherefore, if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

Alright, so what was the “commandment” that Oliver was given? Yes, you can see the word “commandment” in verse 3. But you need to use verses 4-5 to really understand why he needed to “rely upon the things which are written“. Let me review those verses with you again with a little added detail:

Now, behold, because of the thing which you, my servant Oliver Cowdery, have desired to know of me, I give unto you these words:

Behold, I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the things which you have written [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have chronologically preceded D&C 18] are true; wherefore you know that they [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have chronologically preceded D&C 18] are true.

And if you know that they are true, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have chronologically preceded D&C 18];

For in them [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have chronologically preceded D&C 18] are all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock.

Wherefore, if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have preceded D&C 18], the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

The verse summary of D&C 18 also gives us a clue to the commandment given to Oliver:

1–5, Scriptures show how to build up the Church

Was that helpful? Are you starting to see the commandment that Oliver was given? In the article, “How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Received and Compiled” we learn that:

Most of the Christian churches located in New York at the time Joseph Smith received his first revelations had “confessions,” “creeds,” “platforms,” or “articles of faith.” These documents contained brief statements of basic beliefs, doctrine, duties of members, and other information useful to investigators and members. Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants (which was known as the Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ during the first decade of the Church) has many parallels to the confessions of the Christian churches of the day and appears to have been written for the same purpose. It is composed of short statements about basic doctrines, ordinances, duties of members and priesthood bearers, and the baptismal and sacrament prayers.

What appears to be an early draft of the Articles and Covenants (in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting and dated in 1829) is in the Archives of the Historical Department of the Church. It is titled: “A True Copy of the articles of the Church of Christ.” Oliver Cowdery wrote at the beginning of this document that he composed it by commandment. If the procedure was the same then as now, such a commandment would have come through the Prophet [D&C 18:3]. This document contains quotations from the Book of Mormon and from earlier revelations [D&C 18:4-5]. Most of the Book of Mormon quotations are retained in the current form of section 20.

The existence of this document helps solve two matters concerning the text of section 20. First, when a comparison is made between the current text and various earlier printings of section 20, it is clear that this section has had numerous additions and deletions. For example, section 22 was included as part of this section when it was first published in the Evening and Morning Star. Similarly, verses 14–15, 41, 50–52, and 61–67 are either additions to the text or are verses that were completely revised over the years.

The second matter involves a letter that Oliver Cowdery wrote to Joseph Smith in July or August of 1830, asking that a part of verse 37 which he considered to be in error be taken out of the revelation. A portion of this early document is similar to verse 37 in section 20, but does not contain that part of the verse Oliver Cowdery wanted removed. The portion questioned by Oliver was later reinserted by the Prophet.

Thus, section 20 is an example of the principles taught in sections 67 and 68 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In section 67, we are informed that the revelations were given in the language of the Prophet Joseph Smith with all the normal imperfections of human communication. In section 68, we are told that when a servant of the Lord is moved upon by the Holy Ghost, what he says is the mind and the will of the Lord, and is scripture. The historical background of section 20, therefore, appears to be centered in an effort to put into words the basic beliefs and tenets of the Church. The document was drawn from earlier revealed sources and was thus inspired by the Spirit over a period of time; it is, therefore, scripture.

On 9 June 1830, the first conference of the Church was held as directed in the Articles and Covenants of the Church (section 20). The complete Articles and Covenants were read in this conference by Joseph Smith as one of the first items of business. This document was then received by the “unanimous voice of the whole congregation.” Thus, section 20 became the first revelation of this dispensation canonized by the Church. It was also the first revelation of this dispensation to be printed in the first edition, and was printed on the first page of the first newspaper of the Church, the Evening and Morning Star (vol. 1, no. 1, June 1832). From that point on, basic practices of the Church have been conducted in accordance with this section. In succeeding conferences, the Articles and Covenants were read in order that the Latter-day Saints might be reminded of the policies and procedures they were to follow.

So, here is what happened… In D&C 18:1-5, Oliver was commanded to take an active roll in creating the Articles and Covenants of the Church (D&C 20) by “rely[ing] upon the things which are written” in the Book of Mormon and the revelations that chronologically preceded D&C 18.

Now what parts of the Book of Mormon match up best with D&C 20? In the true spirit of discovery and seeking learning by faith, you may want to take a break from this post and study Moroni 2-6 as if you were Oliver Cowdery and had been commanded by the Lord to “rely upon the things which are written” to figure out how to organize Christ’s Church. As you do so, I would recommend that you mark anything that stands out to you.

Once you have completed your study, go to D&C 20 and look for the elements that you discovered in Moroni 2-6. I would encourage you to write the Book of Mormon references that you discovered with their companion scriptures in D&C 20. After my first read I found eight references in Moroni 2-6 that are directly correlated to companion scriptures in D&C 20. I am sure that there are more. See what you can discover for yourself!

These chapters from Moroni seem to have been inserted and intended to be of “worth” for the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days. However, as I mentioned before, we can also see these chapters as a Personal Handbook of Instructions.

To me, these chapters can serve as a handbook from Moroni on “How to Never Be Alone”. This man knows what it is like to be alone! He has been alone for a loooong time (it appears to be about 20 years). During that time long time alone he has protected the plates and added to them.

Now I know that Moroni’s intent in writing these chapters is not to be a handbook for how to never be alone. All I am doing is “likening” what is found in these chapters to things that the Lord has given us to help us never feel alone… even when we are.

Once again, in the spirit of discovery and seeking learning by faith, I invite you to study what is found in Moroni 1-7 and find what can help you to understand that you never have to feel alone when you live the gospel. This time you really will have to be like Oliver Cowdery, because there will be no supporting document to show you the right answers. You can do it! “Rely upon the things which are written,” and find what the Lord has given you in these chapters so that you never have to feel alone.

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#BOMTC Day 82, June 27~Ether 13-15 or Pages 513-518: New Jerusalem–ZION as a Pattern for LIFE

Click graphic to read Ether 13-15

Click graphic to read Ether 13-15

There is a lot of bad stuff that happens in Ether 13-15, and most of it is not very fun to read about. The prophet Ether told the Jaredite king, Coriantumr, that his people would be destroyed because of their wickedness, and he admonished Coriantumr and his people to repent. When they refused to repent, war and wickedness escalated for many years until the entire Jaredite nation was destroyed. Only Ether and Coriantumr survived to witness the fulfillment of Ether’s prophecy.

#BOMTC Day 82, June 27~Ether 13-15 or Pages 513-518, Coriantumr Kills Shiz

The Last of the Jaredites: Coriantumr and Shiz

CAUTION: This short film would probably be rated PG-13

IF you watch this film about the last battle of Coriantumr and Shiz, you will notice a scriptural content error at the end. Understandably, it was most likely an intentional artistic edit to increase the drama of the already dramatic battle.


The prophet Ether’s record of the Jaredite civilization serves as a witness that those who reject the Lord and His prophets will not prosper. These chapters are also a fulfillment of God’s decree that “whatsoever nation shall possess [the land of promise] shall serve God, or they shall be swept off” (Ether 2:9).

However, what I would like to focus on in these chapters is great to learn about–NEW JERUSALEM (Ether 13:1-12). I love to learn and teach about New Jerusalem!

The Guide to the Scriptures, one of the study helps of the LDS scriptures, teaches the following about New Jerusalem:

The place where the Saints will gather and Christ will personally reign with them during the Millennium. Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent, and the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory (A of F 1:10). It also refers to a holy city that will come down out of heaven at the beginning of the Millennium.

#BOMTC Day 82, June 27~Ether 13-15 or Pages 513-518, New Jerusalem

New Jerusalem is mentioned in each of the books of scripture used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. In order to get a good understanding of New Jerusalem it is important to see what each book teaches about this holy city.

Where I find real relevance and immediate personal application for New Jerusalem–the City of Zion–is in the plat that was created by Joseph Smith for the organization of the holy city (History of the Church, Vol. 1 Chapter 26 [June 1833- July 1833]).

Plat of Zion with 24 temples at the center of New Jerusalem

This plat became the model for the early Saints as they built their early settlements. At the center of the plat of Zion for New Jerusalem there are 24 temples! Everything in the city is built around and focused on the temple. To help understand the relevance of this in one’s life it is important to remember that the temple is a symbol of the Savior. So if I am patterning my life after the plat of Zion, I am not just creating a temple-centered life, but rather a temple-centered life is a Christ-centered life.

I live in Salt Lake County, Utah. Salt Lake was surveyed and laid out according to the Zion plat pattern. The base and meridian points are found at Temple Square. When I give people my home address I am actually telling them how far my home is from the Salt Lake City Temple. For those who are not familiar with Salt Lake City, I will use the words of a visiting tourist who posted the following on his website:

#BOMTC Day 82, June 27~Ether 13-15 or Pages 513-518, salt lake city base and meridian

The Great Salt Lake Base and Meridian

When the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley after their epic journey across the continent, and Brigham Young proclaimed that, “Here we will build a temple to our God,” in 1847, it was at this exact spot [Base & Meridian stone]. A stake was placed into the ground immediately and it became the anchor for the LDS headquarters and all of their activities thereafter.

Great Salt Lake Base and Meridian Marker Photo, Click for full size

This same method also allows me to find my way to the temple by simply reversing the cardinal directions of most local addresses. If I am at Rice-Eccles Stadium (451 S 1400 E, Salt Lake City), then I just need to travel four-and-a-half blocks North and then 14 blocks West and I will arrive at the Salt Lake temple.

temple square mormon

Have you ever noticed what is on the cover of each of the booklets prepared for latter-day youth? The temple is on the cover of the For the Strength of Youth, Personal Progress, and Duty to God booklets. Again, remember that the temple is a symbol of the Savior.

ZION, the City of New Jerusalem, not only “sets forth an orderly pattern intended as an earthly reflection of the ideal religious community” (Far West Plat Reflects Inspired City Plan) but also a pattern for a Christ-centered lifestyle.

THE SAVIOR IS AT THE CENTER! Those who will build their lives around the temple will find that they have centered their lives on the Savior. They will become citizens of New Jerusalem before it is even built, and they will receive the wages of the “laborer in Zion“.

There is a simple symbol that is found in the Kirtland Temple that uses a similar theme to convey this same lesson of Savior-centered living.

DC 94, Kirtland Temple Concentric Squares

The concentric squares that are found on the interior decor of the arched windows of the Kirtland Temple are a simple and significant symbol that are said to represent sacred space with increasing zones of holiness.

DC 94, Kirtland Temple Concentric Squares

The squares represent the temple as a sanctuary from the world with areas in the temple being holier and holier, similar to the ancient temple’s outer court, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies. The following diagram of the layout of the Tabernacle of the Congregation is a good illustration of this.

Diagram of the Tabernacle of the Congregation with commentary notes

Diagram of the Tabernacle of the Congregation with commentary notes

The Tabernacle (Exodus 25-30)

A video explaining the Tabernacle and its importance.

Even the order of the Camp of Israel in the wilderness is an illustration of this symbol of sacred space with it’s increasing zones of holiness. The Tabernacle was at the center of the camp and was surrounded by the priesthood-bearing Levites, and the Levites were surrounded by the other Tribes of Israel.

Organization of the Camp of Israel (Numbers 1-10)

Organization of the Camp of Israel (Numbers 1-10)

These simple squares that symbolize sacred space should also represent our lives and serve as a pattern of priorities for this life. I invite you to discover how this symbol of concentric squares can help you to improve your life by placing Christ at the center. Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk entitled, “Good, Better, Best“. I also invite you to consider how each of the 3 concentric squares can represent those things in your life that are, “good, better, best” and ponder how to prioritized the the many aspect of your life using this pattern of the plat of Zion. If New Jerusalem is a pattern for you, then what do you need to do to become “NEW”?

Good, Better, Best

Most of us have more things expected of us than we can possibly do. As breadwinners, as parents, as Church workers and members, we face many choices on what we will do with our time and other resources.

We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.

Jesus taught this principle in the home of Martha. While she was “cumbered about much serving” (Luke 10:40), her sister, Mary, “sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word” (v. 39). When Martha complained that her sister had left her to serve alone, Jesus commended Martha for what she was doing (v. 41) but taught her that “one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (v. 42). It was praiseworthy for Martha to be “careful and troubled about many things” (v. 41), but learning the gospel from the Master Teacher was more “needful.” The scriptures contain other teachings that some things are more blessed than others (see Acts 20:35; Alma 32:14–15).

A childhood experience introduced me to the idea that some choices are good but others are better. I lived for two years on a farm. We rarely went to town. Our Christmas shopping was done in the Sears, Roebuck catalog. I spent hours poring over its pages. For the rural families of that day, catalog pages were like the shopping mall or the Internet of our time.

Something about some displays of merchandise in the catalog fixed itself in my mind. There were three degrees of quality: good, better, and best. For example, some men’s shoes were labeled good ($1.84), some better ($2.98), and some best ($3.45).1

As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.

Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best. When the Lord told us to seek learning, He said, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom” (D&C 88:118; emphasis added).

Some of our most important choices concern family activities. Many breadwinners worry that their occupations leave too little time for their families. There is no easy formula for that contest of priorities. However, I have never known of a man who looked back on his working life and said, “I just didn’t spend enough time with my job.”

In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best. A friend took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most. The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. “The thing I liked best this summer,” the boy replied, “was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.” Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent.

The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.

Family experts have warned against what they call “the overscheduling of children.” In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together. Among many measures of this disturbing trend are the reports that structured sports time has doubled, but children’s free time has declined by 12 hours per week, and unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50 percent.2

The number of those who report that their “whole family usually eats dinner together” has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together “eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children’s academic achievement and psychological adjustment.”3 Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs.4 There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: what your children really want for dinner is you.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has pleaded that we “work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it.”

He continued: “I ask you men, particularly, to pause and take stock of yourselves as husbands and fathers and heads of households. Pray for guidance, for help, for direction, and then follow the whisperings of the Spirit to guide you in the most serious of all responsibilities, for the consequences of your leadership in your home will be eternal and everlasting.”5

The First Presidency has called on parents “to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles. … The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place … in … this God-given responsibility.” The First Presidency has declared that “however worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform.”6

Church leaders should be aware that Church meetings and activities can become too complex and burdensome if a ward or a stake tries to have the membership do everything that is good and possible in our numerous Church programs. Priorities are needed there also.

Members of the Quorum of the Twelve have stressed the importance of exercising inspired judgment in Church programs and activities. Elder L. Tom Perry taught this principle in our first worldwide leadership training meeting in 2003. Counseling the same leaders in 2004, Elder Richard G. Scott said: “Adjust your activities to be consistent with your local conditions and resources. … Make sure that the essential needs are met, but do not go overboard in creating so many good things to do that the essential ones are not accomplished. … Remember, don’t magnify the work to be done—simplify it.”7

In general conference last year, Elder M. Russell Ballard warned against the deterioration of family relationships that can result when we spend excess time on ineffective activities that yield little spiritual sustenance. He cautioned against complicating our Church service “with needless frills and embellishments that occupy too much time, cost too much money, and sap too much energy. … The instruction to magnify our callings is not a command to embellish and complicate them. To innovate does not necessarily mean to expand; very often it means to simplify. … What is most important in our Church responsibilities,” he said, “is not the statistics that are reported or the meetings that are held but whether or not individual people—ministered to one at a time just as the Savior did—have been lifted and encouraged and ultimately changed.”8

Stake presidencies and bishoprics need to exercise their authority to weed out the excessive and ineffective busyness that is sometimes required of the members of their stakes or wards. Church programs should focus on what is best (most effective) in achieving their assigned purposes without unduly infringing on the time families need for their “divinely appointed duties.”

But here is a caution for families. Suppose Church leaders reduce the time required by Church meetings and activities in order to increase the time available for families to be together. This will not achieve its intended purpose unless individual family members—especially parents—vigorously act to increase family togetherness and one-on-one time. Team sports and technology toys like video games and the Internet are already winning away the time of our children and youth. Surfing the Internet is not better than serving the Lord or strengthening the family. Some young men and women are skipping Church youth activities or cutting family time in order to participate in soccer leagues or to pursue various entertainments. Some young people are amusing themselves to death—spiritual death.

Some uses of individual and family time are better, and others are best. We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.

Here are some other illustrations of good, better, and best:

It is good to belong to our Father in Heaven’s true Church and to keep all of His commandments and fulfill all of our duties. But if this is to qualify as “best,” it should be done with love and without arrogance. We should, as we sing in a great hymn, “crown [our] good with brotherhood,”9 showing love and concern for all whom our lives affect.

To our hundreds of thousands of home teachers and visiting teachers, I suggest that it is good to visit our assigned families; it is better to have a brief visit in which we teach doctrine and principle; and it is best of all to make a difference in the lives of some of those we visit. That same challenge applies to the many meetings we hold—good to hold a meeting, better to teach a principle, but best to actually improve lives as a result of the meeting.

As we approach 2008 and a new course of study in our Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Societies, I renew our caution about how we use the Teachings of Presidents of the Church manuals. Many years of inspired work have produced our 2008 volume of the teachings of Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of this dispensation. This is a landmark among Church books. In the past, some teachers have given a chapter of the Teachings manuals no more than a brief mention and then substituted a lesson of their own choice. It may have been a good lesson, but this is not an acceptable practice. A gospel teacher is called to teach the subject specified from the inspired materials provided. The best thing a teacher can do with Teachings: Joseph Smith is to select and quote from the words of the Prophet on principles specially suited to the needs of class members and then direct a class discussion on how to apply those principles in the circumstances of their lives.

I testify of our Heavenly Father, whose children we are and whose plan is designed to qualify us for “eternal life … the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7; see also D&C 76:51–59). I testify of Jesus Christ, whose Atonement makes it possible. And I testify that we are led by prophets, our President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog, Fall and Winter 1944–45, 316E.
2. See Jared R. Anderson and William J. Doherty, “Democratic Community Initiatives: The Case of Overscheduled Children,” Family Relations, vol. 54 (Dec. 2005): 655.
3. Anderson and Doherty, Family Relations, 54:655.
4. See Nancy Gibbs, “The Magic of the Family Meal,” Time, June 12, 2006, 51–52; see also Sarah Jane Weaver, “Family Dinner,” Church News, Sept. 8, 2007, 5.
5. “Each a Better Person,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2002, 100.
6. First Presidency letter, Feb. 11, 1999; printed in Church News, Feb. 27, 1999, 3.
7. “The Doctrinal Foundation of the Auxiliaries,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 10, 2004, 5, 7–8; see also Ensign, Aug. 2005, 62, 67.
8. “O Be Wise,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2006, 18–20.
9. “America the Beautiful,” Hymns, no. 338.

If what I have written has either confused your or left you wanting to learn more, then I would encourage you to review the following sites. They are some of my favorites (just a few of my favorites on this that have not been mentioned yet). Please feel free to leave a link to one of your favorites, or one that you feel is informative on this topic, in the comments section.

ON THIS DAY IN 1844: 171 years ago today, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and his faithful and beloved brother, Hyrum Smith, were martyred at Carthage Jail. May we honor their lives by living our lives the BEST we can today! PRAISE TO THE MAN!

#BOMTC Day 82, June 27~Ether 13-15 or Pages 513-518, Joseph and Hyrum Statue at Carthage

Please leave your thoughts about a special verse, teaching, etc. that you enjoyed at one of the following:

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#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512: How to Have AWEsome Faith

#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512, Helix of AWEsome Faith.jpg

It is somewhat surprising and interesting that the book of Ether does not introduce the prophet Ether until chapter 12 (of 15). It is only after recounting many years of Jaredite history that Moroni introduces the ministry of the prophet Ether.

#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512, Ether 12~4

After just a few verses (Ether 12:1-5) Moroni then pauses in his historical account and records some of the blessings that come to those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ (Ether 12:6-22).

#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512, Ether 12~6In humble prayer, Moroni expresses a concern. He worries about the weakness he perceived in his writing and in the writing of other Book of Mormon prophets. The Lord promised Moroni that He strengthens the weaknesses of all those who humble themselves before Him and have faith (Ether 12:27).

#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512, Ether 12~27

Ether 12 is one of those chapters that I feel I can never quite do justice to. Its almost better to just say, “Well, you have read it. You felt the Spirit. You should have learned something from it. Now go and do it!”

BUT, I can’t let you off the hook that easily–especially when we only have a couple more days left in the Challenge!

So here are some insights on FAITH from Elder David A. Bednar. If you have never seen the graphic below, it is one that you are going to want to dedicate to memory or save it digitally. It is simple, and yet mind-blowing once Elder Bednar explains and expounds upon it.

Are you interested? Then read on and see how it augments your study of Ether 12!

#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512, Helix of Faith

“Seek Learning by Faith”

Elder David A. Bednar

Address to CES Religious Educators • February 3, 2006

I express my love to and for you—and the gratitude of the Brethren for the righteous influence you have upon the youth of the Church throughout the world. Thank you for blessing and strengthening the rising generation.

I pray that the Holy Ghost will bless and edify us as we share this special time together.

Companion Principles: Preaching by the Spirit and Learning by Faith

We are admonished repeatedly in the scriptures to preach the truths of the gospel by the power of the Spirit (see D&C 50:14). I believe the vast majority of us as parents and teachers in the Church are aware of this principle and generally strive appropriately to apply it. As important as this principle is, however, it is only one element of a much larger spiritual pattern. We also frequently are taught to seek learning by faith (see D&C 88:118). Preaching by the spirit and learning by faith are companion principles that we should strive to understand and apply concurrently and consistently.

I suspect we emphasize and know much more about a teacher teaching by the Spirit than we do about a learner learning by faith. Clearly, the principles and processes of both teaching and learning are spiritually essential. However, as we look to the future and anticipate the ever more confused and turbulent world in which we will live, I believe it will be essential for all of us to increase our capacity to seek learning by faith. In our personal lives, in our families, and in the Church, we can and will receive the blessings of spiritual strength, direction, and protection as we seek by faith to obtain and apply spiritual knowledge.

Nephi teaches us, “When a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth [the message] unto the hearts of the children of men” (2 Nephi 33:1). Please notice how the power of the Spirit carries the message unto but not necessarily into the heart. A teacher can explain, demonstrate, persuade, and testify, and do so with great spiritual power and effectiveness. Ultimately, however, the content of a message and the witness of the Holy Ghost penetrate into the heart only if a receiver allows them to enter.

Brothers and sisters, learning by faith opens the pathway into the heart. Tonight we will focus upon the individual responsibility each of us has to seek learning by faith. We also will consider the implications of this principle for us as teachers.

The Principle of Action: Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

The Apostle Paul defined faith as “the substance of things hoped for, [and] the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Alma declared that faith is not a perfect knowledge; rather, if we have faith, we “hope for things which are not seen, [but] are true” (Alma 32:21). Additionally, we learn in the Lectures on Faith that faith is “the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness” and that it is also “the principle of action in all intelligent beings” (Joseph Smith, comp., Lectures on Faith [1985], 1).

These teachings of Paul and of Alma and from the Lectures on Faith highlight three basic elements of faith: (1) faith as the assurance of things hoped for which are true, (2) faith as the evidence of things not seen, and (3) faith as the principle of action in all intelligent beings. I describe these three components of faith in the Savior as simultaneously facing the future, looking to the past, and initiating action in the present.

Faith as the assurance of things hoped for looks to the future. This assurance is founded upon a correct understanding about and trust in God and enables us to “press forward” (2 Nephi 31:20) into uncertain and often challenging situations in the service of the Savior.

For example, Nephi relied upon precisely this type of future-facing spiritual assurance as he returned to Jerusalem to obtain the plates of brass—“not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do. Nevertheless [he] went forth” (1 Nephi 4:6–7).

Faith in Christ is inextricably tied to and results in hope in Christ for our redemption and exaltation. And assurance and hope make it possible for us to walk to the edge of the light and take a few steps into the darkness—expecting and trusting the light to move and illuminate the way (see Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 54). The combination of assurance and hope initiates action in the present.

Faith as the evidence of things not seen looks to the past and confirms our trust in God and our confidence in the truthfulness of things not seen. We stepped into the darkness with assurance and hope, and we received evidence and confirmation as the light in fact moved and provided the illumination we needed. The witness we obtained after the trial of our faith (see Ether 12:6) is evidence that enlarges and strengthens our assurance.

#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512, Helix of Faith

Assurance, action, and evidence influence each other in an ongoing process. This helix is like a coil, and as it spirals upward it expands and grows wider. These three elements of faith—assurance, action, and evidence—are not separate and discrete; rather, they are interrelated and continuous and cycle upward. And the faith that fuels this ongoing process develops and evolves and changes. As we again turn and face forward toward an uncertain future, assurance leads to action and produces evidence, which further increases assurance. Our confidence waxes stronger, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.

BRO SIMON SAYS SIDEBAR: When I teach this, instead of using the word “Action” I replace it with the word “Work”. Then the pattern creates the acronym: “A.W.E.” (Assurance, Work, Evidence), and I call it a lesson about How to Have “A.W.E.some Faith”!

We find a powerful example of the interaction among assurance, action, and evidence as the children of Israel transported the ark of the covenant under the leadership of Joshua (see Joshua 3:7–17). Recall how the Israelites came to the river Jordan and were promised the waters would part, or “stand upon an heap” (Joshua 3:13), and they would be able to cross over on dry ground. Interestingly, the waters did not part as the children of Israel stood on the banks of the river waiting for something to happen; rather, the soles of their feet were wet before the water parted. The faith of the Israelites was manifested in the fact that they walked into the water before it parted. They walked into the river Jordan with a future-facing assurance of things hoped for. As the Israelites moved forward, the water parted, and as they crossed over on dry land, they looked back and beheld the evidence of things not seen. In this episode, faith as assurance led to action and produced the evidence of things not seen which were true.

True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to action. Faith as the principle of action is highlighted in many scriptures with which we are all familiar:

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26; italics added).

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22; italics added).

“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith” (Alma 32:27; italics added).

And it is faith as the principle of action that is so central to the process of learning and applying spiritual truth.

Learning by Faith: To Act and Not to Be Acted Upon

How is faith as the principle of action in all intelligent beings related to gospel learning? And what does it mean to seek learning by faith?

In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of agency—the capacity and power of independent action. Endowed with agency, we are agents, and we primarily are to act and not only to be acted upon— especially as we seek to obtain and apply spiritual knowledge.

Learning by faith and from experience are two of the central features of the Father’s plan of happiness. The Savior preserved moral agency through the Atonement and made it possible for us to act and to learn by faith. Lucifer’s rebellion against the plan sought to destroy the agency of man, and his intent was that we as learners would only be acted upon.

Consider the question posed by Heavenly Father to Adam in the Garden of Eden, “Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9). Obviously the Father knew where Adam was hiding, but He, nonetheless, asked the question. Why? A wise and loving Father enabled His child to act in the learning process and not merely be acted upon. There was no one-way lecture to a disobedient child, as perhaps many of us might be inclined to deliver. Rather, the Father helped Adam as a learner to act as an agent and appropriately exercise his agency.

Recall how Nephi desired to know about the things his father, Lehi, had seen in the vision of the tree of life. Interestingly, the Spirit of the Lord begins the tutorial with Nephi by asking the following question, “Behold, what desirest thou?” (1 Nephi 11:2). Clearly the Spirit knew what Nephi desired. So why ask the question? The Holy Ghost was helping Nephi to act in the learning process and not simply be acted upon. (I encourage you at a later time to study chapters 11–14 in 1 Nephi and notice how the Spirit both asked questions and encouraged Nephi to “look” as active elements in the learning process.)

From these examples we recognize that as learners, you and I are to act and be doers of the word and not simply hearers who are only acted upon. Are you and I agents who act and seek learning by faith, or are we waiting to be taught and acted upon? Are the students we serve acting and seeking to learn by faith, or are they waiting to be taught and acted upon? Are you and I encouraging and helping those whom we serve to seek learning by faith? You and I and our students are to be anxiously engaged in asking, seeking, and knocking (see 3 Nephi 14:7).

A learner exercising agency by acting in accordance with correct principles opens his or her heart to the Holy Ghost—and invites His teaching, testifying power, and confirming witness. Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion and not just passive reception. It is in the sincerity and consistency of our faith-inspired action that we indicate to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, our willingness to learn and receive instruction from the Holy Ghost. Thus, learning by faith involves the exercise of moral agency to act upon the assurance of things hoped for and invites the evidence of things not seen from the only true teacher, the Spirit of the Lord.

Consider how missionaries help investigators to learn by faith. Making and keeping spiritual commitments, such as studying and praying about the Book of Mormon, attending Church meetings, and keeping the commandments, require an investigator to exercise faith and to act. One of the fundamental roles of a missionary is to help an investigator make and honor commitments—to act and learn by faith. Teaching, exhorting, and explaining, as important as they are, can never convey to an investigator a witness of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. Only as an investigator’s faith initiates action and opens the pathway to the heart can the Holy Ghost deliver a confirming witness. Missionaries obviously must learn to teach by the power of the Spirit. Of equal importance, however, is the responsibility missionaries have to help investigators learn by faith.

The learning I am describing reaches far beyond mere cognitive comprehension and the retaining and recalling of information. The type of learning about which I am speaking causes us to put off the natural man (see Mosiah 3:19), to change our hearts (see Mosiah 5:2), and to be converted unto the Lord and to never fall away (see Alma 23:6). Learning by faith requires both “the heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34). Learning by faith is the result of the Holy Ghost carrying the power of the word of God both unto and into the heart. Learning by faith cannot be transferred from an instructor to a student through a lecture, a demonstration, or an experiential exercise; rather, a student must exercise faith and act in order to obtain the knowledge for himself or herself.

The young boy Joseph Smith instinctively understood what it meant to seek learning by faith. One of the most well-known episodes in the life of Joseph Smith was his reading of verses about prayer and faith in the book of James in the New Testament (see James 1:5–6). This text inspired Joseph to retire to a grove of trees near his home to pray and to seek for spiritual knowledge. Please note the questions Joseph had formulated in his mind and felt in his heart—and which he took into the grove. He clearly had prepared himself to “ask in faith” (James 1:6) and to act.

“In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it? . . .

“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right . . . and which I should join” (Joseph Smith—History 1:10, 18).

Notice that Joseph’s questions focused not just on what he needed to know but also on what he needed to do. And his very first question centered on action and what was to be done! His prayer was not simply which church is right. His question was which church should he join. Joseph went to the grove to learn by faith. He was determined to act.

Ultimately, the responsibility to learn by faith and apply spiritual truth rests upon each of us individually. This is an increasingly serious and important responsibility in the world in which we do now and will yet live. What, how, and when we learn is supported by— but is not dependent upon—an instructor, a method of presentation, or a specific topic or lesson format.

Truly, one of the great challenges of mortality is to seek learning by faith. The Prophet Joseph Smith best summarizes the learning process and outcomes I am attempting to describe. In response to a request by the Twelve Apostles for instruction, Joseph taught, “The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching” (History of the Church, 4:425).

And on another occasion, the Prophet Joseph explained that “reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God” (History of the Church, 6:50).

Implications for Us as Teachers

The truths about learning by faith we have discussed thus far have profound implications for us as teachers. Let us now consider together three of these implications.

Implication 1. The Holy Ghost is the only true teacher.

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead, and He is the teacher and witness of all truth. Elder James E. Talmage explained: “The office of the Holy Ghost in His ministrations among men is described in scripture. He is a teacher sent from the Father; and unto those who are entitled to His tuition He will reveal all things necessary for the soul’s advancement” (The Articles of Faith, 12th ed. [1924], 162).

We should always remember that the Holy Ghost is the teacher who, through proper invitation, can enter into a learner’s heart. Indeed, you and I have the responsibility to preach the gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter, as a prerequisite for the learning by faith that can be achieved only by and through the Holy Ghost (see D&C 50:14). In this regard, you and I are much like the long, thin strands of glass used to create the fiber-optic cables through which light signals are transmitted over very long distances. Just as the glass in these cables must be pure to conduct the light efficiently and effectively, so we should become and remain worthy conduits through whom the Spirit of the Lord can operate.

But brothers and sisters, we must be careful to remember in our service that we are conduits and channels; we are not the light. “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:20). It is never about me and it is never about you. In fact, anything you or I do as an instructor that knowingly and intentionally draws attention to self—in the messages we present, in the methods we use, or in our personal demeanor—is a form of priestcraft that inhibits the teaching effectiveness of the Holy Ghost. “Doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God” (D&C 50:17–18).

Implication 2. We are most effective as instructors when we encourage and facilitate learning by faith.

We are all familiar with the adage that giving a man a fish feeds him for one meal. Teaching the man to fish, on the other hand, feeds him for a lifetime. As gospel instructors, you and I are not in the business of distributing fish; rather, our work is to help individuals learn to “fish” and to become spiritually self-reliant. This important objective is best accomplished as we encourage and facilitate learners acting in accordance with correct principles—as we help them to learn by doing. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God” (John 7:17).

Please notice this implication in practice in the counsel given to Junius F. Wells by Brigham Young as Brother Wells was called in 1875 to organize the young men of the Church:

“At your meetings you should begin at the top of the roll and call upon as many members as there is time for to bear their testimonies and at the next meeting begin where you left off and call upon others, so that all shall take part and get into the practice of standing up and saying something. Many may think they haven’t any testimony to bear, but get them to stand up and they will find the Lord will give them utterance to many truths they had not thought of before. More people have obtained a testimony while standing up trying to bear it than down on their knees praying for it” (in Junius F. Wells, “Historic Sketch of the YMMIA,” Improvement Era, June 1925, 715).

President Boyd K. Packer has given similar counsel in our day:

“Oh, if I could teach you this one principle. A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it! Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that ‘leap of faith,’ as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two. ‘The spirit of man, ‘ as the scripture says, indeed ‘is the candle of the Lord.’ (Proverbs 20:27)

“It is one thing to receive a witness from what you have read or what another has said; and that is a necessary beginning. It is quite another to have the Spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what youhave testified is true. Can you not see that it will be supplied as you share it? As you give that which you have, there is a replacement, with increase!” (Ensign, Jan. 1983, 54–55).

I have observed a common characteristic among the instructors who have had the greatest influence in my life. They have helped me to seek learning by faith. They refused to give me easy answers to hard questions. In fact, they did not give me any answers at all. Rather, they pointed the way and helped me take the steps to find my own answers. I certainly did not always appreciate this approach, but experience has enabled me to understand that an answer given by another person usually is not remembered for very long, if remembered at all. But an answer we discover or obtain through the exercise of faith, typically, is retained for a lifetime. The most important learnings of life are caught—not taught.

The spiritual understanding you and I have been blessed to receive, and which has been confirmed as true in our hearts, simply cannot be given to another person. The tuition of diligence and learning by faith must be paid to obtain and personally “own” such knowledge. Only in this way can what is known in the mind be transformed into what is felt in the heart. Only in this way can a person move beyond relying upon the spiritual knowledge and experience of others and claim those blessings for himself or herself. Only in this way can we be spiritually prepared for what is coming. We are to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).

Implication 3. An instructor’s faith is strengthened as he or she helps others seek learning by faith.

The Holy Ghost, who can “teach [us] all things, and bring all things to [our] remembrance” (John 14:26), is eager to help us learn as we act and exercise faith in Jesus Christ. Interestingly, this divine learning assistance is perhaps never more apparent than when we are teaching, either at home or in Church assignments. As Paul made clear to the Romans, “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?” (Romans 2:21).

Please notice in the following verses from the Doctrine and Covenants how teaching diligently invites heavenly grace and instruction:

“And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

“Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand” (D&C 88:77–78; italics added).

Consider that the blessings described in these scriptures are intended specifically for the teacher: “Teach . . . diligently and my grace shall attend you”—that you, the teacher, may be instructed!

The same principle is evident in verse 122 from the same section of the Doctrine and Covenants:

“Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege” (D&C 88:122; italics added).

As all speak and as all listen in a dignified and orderly way, all are edified. The individual and collective exercise of faith in the Savior invites instruction and strength from the Spirit of the Lord.

Seek Learning by Faith: A Recent Example

All of us were blessed by the challenge from the First Presidency last August to read the Book of Mormon by the end of 2005. In extending the challenge, President Gordon B. Hinckley promised that faithfully observing this simple reading program would bring into our lives and into our homes “an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God” (“A Testimony Vibrant and True,” Ensign, Aug. 2005, 6).

Please note how this inspired challenge is a classic example of learning by faith. First, you and I were not commanded, coerced, or required to read. Rather, we were invited to exercise our agency as agents and act in accordance with correct principles. President Hinckley, as an inspired teacher, encouraged us to act and not just be acted upon. Each of us, ultimately, had to decide if and how we would respond to the challenge—and if we would endure to the end of the task.

Second, in proffering the invitation to read and to act, President Hinckley was encouraging each of us to seek learning by faith. No new study materials were distributed to members of the Church, and no additional lessons, classes, or programs were created by the Church. Each of us had our copy of the Book of Mormon—and a pathway into our heart opened wider through the exercise of our faith in the Savior as we responded to the First Presidency challenge. Thus, we were prepared to receive instruction from the only true teacher, the Holy Ghost.

In recent weeks I have been greatly impressed by the testimonies of so many members concerning their recent experiences reading the Book of Mormon. Important and timely spiritual lessons have been learned, lives have been changed for the better, and the promised blessings have been received. The Book of Mormon, a willing heart, and the Holy Ghost—it really is that simple. My faith and the faith of the other Brethren have been strengthened as we have responded to President Hinckley’s invitation and as we have observed so many of you acting and learning by faith.

As I stated earlier, the responsibility to seek learning by faith rests upon each of us individually, and this obligation will become increasingly important as the world in which we live grows more confused and troubled. Learning by faith is essential to our personal spiritual development and for the growth of the Church in these latter days. May each of us truly hunger and thirst after righteousness and be filled with the Holy Ghost (see 3 Nephi 12:6)—that we might seek learning by faith.

I witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father. He is our Savior and Redeemer. I testify that as we learn of Him, listen to His words, and walk in the meekness of His Spirit (see D&C 19:23), we will be blessed with spiritual strength, protection, and peace.

As a servant of the Lord, I invoke this blessing upon each of you: even that your desire and capacity to seek learning by faith—and to appropriately help others to seek learning by faith—will increase and improve. This blessing will be a source of great treasures of spiritual knowledge in your personal life, for your family, and to those whom you instruct and serve. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

(See also, Seek Learning by Faith, Ensign, Sept. 2007)

BONUS: For an added bonus you can check out this blog post from my friend Brother Day: “Acts 12: Assurance, Action, Evidence

ON THIS DAY IN 1829: Palmyra, New York. Egbert B. Grandin published the title page of the Book of Mormon as a “curiosity” in the Wayne Sentinel.

#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512, the title page of the Book of Mormon as a CURIOSITY in the Wayne Sentinel

Please leave your thoughts about a special verse, teaching, etc. that you enjoyed at one of the following:

REPLY at the bottom of each post at: bookofmormontranslationchallenge.wordpress.com
LIKE our Facebook page and post at: facebook.com/BookOfMormonTranslationChallenge
JOIN our Facebook group and share at: facebook.com/groups/BookOfMormonTranslationChallenge
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#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506: Your “Stance” Determines Your Liberty or Captivity

#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506, Your STANCE Determines Your Liberty or Captivity

The Brother of Jared was saddened by his people’s request to be led by a king. He said, “Surely this thing leadeth to captivity” (Ether 6:23). Though the Brother of Jared prophesied that establishing a Jaredite king would lead to captivity, his words were not immediately fulfilled. The first Jaredite king, Orihah, ruled in righteousness. However, a man named Jared became king two generations later by forming a secret combination. During the reigns of their kings, the Jaredites went through several cycles of hearkening to the prophets and living in righteousness, and rejecting the prophets and living in wickedness.

Two VERY important lessons we can learn from these chapters are:

  • Rejecting the words of prophets leads to captivity.
  • As we follow the counsel of prophets and remember the Lord, we prosper.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught:

“It was the ultimate sacrilege that Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, was rejected and even put to death. And it continues. In many parts of the world today we see a growing rejection of the Son of God. His divinity is questioned. His gospel is deemed irrelevant. In day-to-day life, His teachings are ignored. Those who legitimately speak in His name find little respect in secular society.

If we ignore the Lord and His servants, we may just as well be atheists—the end result is practically the same. It is what Mormon described as typical after extended periods of peace and prosperity: “Then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One” (Helaman 12:2). And so we should ask ourselves, do we reverence the Holy One and those He has sent?” (A Sense of the Sacred, emphasis added.)

Perhaps a better title for today’s post would have been: “The STATURE of Liberty: It’s All About Your STANCE.”

Here’s why: I liken what happens with the people these chapters to an analogy that a popular news commentator once made using the Colossus of Rhodes and the Statue of Liberty. I have made a few edits to help it flow.

#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506, Colossus of Rhodes

This is a painting of the Colossus of Rhodes. They didn’t have cameras in 280 B.C. So, this is an artist’s rendering of what it may have been like. This was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It took 12 years to build. It stood about 107 feet high. (The Statue of Liberty is 151 ft. from the base to the torch.) You can get a sense of how huge this thing was. We’re not sure but we think that it was in somewhat of a slouched or relaxed position. Rhodes had become an important economic port in the ancient world and the people felt invincible. It’s interesting to note that the Colossus of Rhodes stood for less than 50 years. The torch, the crown — look familiar? Fifty years this stood and then it was knocked down by an earthquake. And then it laid there in rubble for 800 years as people came from all over the known world to see its great fall. Got it?

#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506, Statue of Liberty (2)

Now, contrast this with the Statue of Liberty. Here’s the Statue of Liberty. The difference in its stance speaks volumes and it was meant to. First of all, you’ll notice that the Colossus of Rhodes is holding arrows and a bow, right? What is she holding? She’s holding the tablet of law. If you notice also her feet, she’s standing like she’s almost on the balls of her feet. And she’s moving forward. Her arm and torch is outstretched to the world. She’s going this way while she’s holding the tablets that signify the law, the Constitution that enables her to move forward and to break free of the chains that the European system had put in place. She’s able to move forward. I want to ask you a question: Is this still our stance?

#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506, Statue of Liberty (3)

This is similar to the contrast that we find as we study the Jaredite kings and people. In just a few pages of scripture we flip-flop through more than 24 kings that take either a “stance” of the Colossus of Rhodes or that of the Statue of Liberty. And unfortunately the people tend to follow suit in their “stance”.

#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506, Statue of Liberty

In the end the Jaredites fell, just like the Colossus of Rhodes did. And just as people came to see the ruin of the Colossus of Rhodes, the people of the Book of Mormon found the Jaredite ruins (Mosiah 8:8).

We need to take a moment and consider our “stance”. Which of these two figures represents my “stance” when it comes to living the gospel? It seems that for the Jaredites, their liberty or captivity always came down to their “stance”.

Sometimes there are “hot topics” that show up in the news that relate to the gospel. Or sometimes there are social changes that relate to the gospel. Many times we may be tempted to compare our “stance” with someone else’s “stance” on these hot topics and changes. But what we really need to consider is, “What is the Lord’s ‘stance’ on this?” Once we have identified His “stance”, it seems to me that the only question left to answer is, “Am I willing to take His ‘stance’ or not?” If we are not willing to take His “stance” then the prophetic words of the Brother of Jared will be fulfilled again in our lives: “Surely this thing leadeth to captivity” (Ether 6:23)

We must be different from the Jaredites!  We cannot afford to flip-flop when it comes to our “stance” on the gospel. We must decide to be a “Stature” of Liberty and take a “stance” which will allow us to hold up the Light (3 Nephi 18:24), continually holding firm to the Word of God (1 Nephi 8:301 Nephi 11:25; 15:23-25) and move forward with faith (2 Nephi 31:20Doctrine and Covenants 128:22).

#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506, Statue-Of-Liberty-3

I believe that the following letter from Clayton Christensen to correct a misunderstanding/mis-representation of his beliefs by a reporter is a great illustration of the principles taught in Ether 8-10. Pay close attention to his STATURE and STANCE on the gospel…

June 21, 2014

Dear Friends:

I am writing about an article by Michael Fitzgerald, titled “How the Mormons Conquered America: The success of the Mormon religion is a study in social adaptation.” It appeared a couple of days ago in a journal, Nautilus.  I am misquoted in the piece.  Fitzgerald interviewed me several months ago relative to this article. He wrote notes as we talked; he did not record our conversation.

In the article, Fitzgerald reviews the history of how the church has changed several practices, such as polygamy and ordaining blacks to the priesthood. He then refers to same-sex marriage; and in that same paragraph quoted me as saying, “… I think I’m farther along than the church is on this one.” It implies that I support same-sex marriage, and that I expect that the leaders of the church in the future will agree with that position.

This is not true. I did not say this. I support wholeheartedly every phrase in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” And I sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who penned that document.

I am grateful that I belong to a church in which we do not attempt to convince God or our leaders that certain opinions in our society are correct, and God’s are not. Society changes its mind quite frequently. I do not believe that God changes his mind, however. When society is telling me something new, even when it has assembled powerful reasons and powerful people on its side, I do not ask society whether it is correct. I ask God.

I understand that this mis-representation of my beliefs by Mr. Fitzgerald is being widely circulated through the church. I would be very grateful if you could forward this letter to anyone who you believe ought to see this – and by the fastest and most effective ways possible.  Thanks for your help!

Clayton Christensen

Belmont, MA

I love the STANCE of Brother Christensen, because he has adopted the Lord’s STANCE!

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, the Young Women General President, gave an amazing talk in the Women’s Session of the April 2015 General Conference of the Church. In her talk she issued a challenge for everyone to, “build the kingdom of God by STANDING up boldly and being defenders of marriage, parenthood, and the home.”

Defenders of the Family Proclamation
By Bonnie L. Oscarson

What a privilege and joy to be a part of this marvelous assembly of girls and women. How blessed we are as women to be joined together this evening in unity and in love.

I recently read the story of Marie Madeline Cardon, who, with her family, received the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ from the first missionaries called to serve in Italy in 1850. She was a young woman of 17 or 18 years of age when they were baptized. One Sunday, while the family was holding a worship service in their home high in the Alps of northern Italy, an angry mob of men, including some of the local ministers, gathered around the house and began shouting, yelling, and calling for the missionaries to be brought outside. I don’t think they were anxious to be taught the gospel—they intended bodily harm. It was young Marie who marched out of the house to confront the mob.

They continued their vicious yells and demands for the missionaries to be brought out. Marie raised her Bible up in her hand and commanded them to depart. She told them that the elders were under her protection and that they could not harm one hair of their heads. Listen to her own words: “All stood aghast. … God was with me. He placed those words in my mouth, or I could not have spoken them. All was calm, instantly. That strong ferocious body of men stood helpless before a weak, trembling, yet fearless girl.” The ministers asked the mob to leave, which they did quietly in shame, fear, and remorse. The small flock completed their meeting in peace.1

Can’t you just picture that brave young woman, the same age as many of you, standing up to a mob and defending her newly found beliefs with courage and conviction?

Sisters, few of us will ever have to face an angry mob, but there is a war going on in this world in which our most cherished and basic doctrines are under attack. I am speaking specifically of the doctrine of the family. The sanctity of the home and the essential purposes of the family are being questioned, criticized, and assaulted on every front.

When President Gordon B. Hinckley first read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” 20 years ago this year, we were grateful for and valued the clarity, simplicity, and truth of this revelatory document. Little did we realize then how very desperately we would need these basic declarations in today’s world as the criteria by which we could judge each new wind of worldly dogma coming at us from the media, the Internet, scholars, TV and films, and even legislators. The proclamation on the family has become our benchmark for judging the philosophies of the world, and I testify that the principles set forth within this statement are as true today as they were when they were given to us by a prophet of God nearly 20 years ago.

May I point out something obvious? Life rarely goes exactly according to plan for anyone, and we are very aware that not all women are experiencing what the proclamation describes. It is still important to understand and teach the Lord’s pattern and strive for the realization of that pattern the best we can.

Each of us has a part to play in the plan, and each of us is equally valued in the eyes of the Lord. We should remember that a loving Heavenly Father is aware of our righteous desires and will honor His promises that nothing will be withheld from those who faithfully keep their covenants. Heavenly Father has a mission and plan for each of us, but He also has His own timetable. One of the hardest challenges in this life is to have faith in the Lord’s timing. It’s a good idea to have an alternative plan in mind, which helps us to be covenant-keeping, charitable, and righteous women who build the kingdom of God no matter which way our lives go. We need to teach our daughters to aim for the ideal but plan for contingencies.

Defenders of the Family Proclamation, Bonnie L. Oscarson

I would like to issue a challenge for all of us as women of the Church to be defenders of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

During this 20th anniversary year of the family proclamation, I would like to issue a challenge for all of us as women of the Church to be defenders of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Just as Marie Madeline Cardon courageously defended the missionaries and her newly found beliefs, we need to boldly defend the Lord’s revealed doctrines describing marriage, families, the divine roles of men and women, and the importance of homes as sacred places—even when the world is shouting in our ears that these principles are outdated, limiting, or no longer relevant. Everyone, no matter what their marital circumstance or number of children, can be defenders of the Lord’s plan described in the family proclamation. If it is the Lord’s plan, it should also be our plan!

If it is the Lord’s plan, it should also be our plan!

“If it is the Lord’s plan, it should also be our plan!” Bonnie L. Oscarson

There are three principles taught in the proclamation which I think are especially in need of steadfast defenders. The first is marriage between a man and a woman. We are taught in the scriptures, “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”2 For anyone to attain the fulness of priesthood blessings, there must be a husband and a wife sealed in the house of the Lord, working together in righteousness and remaining faithful to their covenants. This is the Lord’s plan for His children, and no amount of public discourse or criticism will change what the Lord has declared. We need to continue to model righteous marriages, seek for that blessing in our lives, and have faith if it is slow in coming. Let us be defenders of marriage as the Lord has ordained it while continuing to show love and compassion for those with differing views.

The next principle which calls for our defending voices is elevating the divine roles of mothers and fathers. We eagerly teach our children to aim high in this life. We want to make sure that our daughters know that they have the potential to achieve and be whatever they can imagine. We hope they will love learning, be educated, talented, and maybe even become the next Marie Curie or Eliza R. Snow.

Do we also teach our sons and daughters there is no greater honor, no more elevated title, and no more important role in this life than that of mother or father? I would hope that as we encourage our children to reach for the very best in this life that we also teach them to honor and exalt the roles that mothers and fathers play in Heavenly Father’s plan.

Our youngest daughter, Abby, saw a unique opportunity to stand as a defender of the role of mother. One day she got a notice from her children’s school that they were having Career Day presentations at the school. Parents were invited to send in an application if they wanted to come to school to teach the children about their jobs, and Abby felt impressed to apply to come and speak about motherhood. She didn’t hear back from the school, and when Career Day was getting close, she finally called the school, thinking they may have lost her application. The organizers scrambled around and found two teachers who agreed to have Abby come talk to their classes at the end of Career Day.

In her very fun presentation to the children, Abby taught them, among other things, that as a mother she needed to be somewhat of an expert in medicine, psychology, religion, teaching, music, literature, art, finance, decorating, hair styling, chauffeuring, sports, culinary arts, and so much more. The children were impressed. She finished by having the children remember their mothers by writing thank-you notes expressing gratitude for the many loving acts of service they received daily. Abby felt that the children saw their mothers in a whole new light and that being a mother or father was something of great worth. She applied to share again this year at Career Day and was invited to present to six classes.

Abby has said of her experience: “I feel like it could be easy in this world for a child to get the sense that being a parent is a secondary job or even sometimes a necessary inconvenience. I want every child to feel like they are the most important priority to their parent, and maybe telling them how important being a parent is to me will help them realize all that their parents do for them and why.”

Our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, is a wonderful example of honoring women and motherhood, especially his own mother. In reference to our earthly mothers, he has said: “May each of us treasure this truth; one cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and [our earthly] mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.”3

The last principle we need to stand and defend is the sanctity of the home. We need to take a term which is sometimes spoken of with derision and elevate it. It is the term homemaker. All of us—women, men, youth, and children, single or married—can work at being homemakers. We should “make our homes” places of order, refuge, holiness, and safety. Our homes should be places where the Spirit of the Lord is felt in rich abundance and where the scriptures and the gospel are studied, taught, and lived. What a difference it would make in the world if all people would see themselves as makers of righteous homes. Let us defend the home as a place which is second only to the temple in holiness.

Sisters, I am grateful to be a woman in these latter days. We have opportunities and possibilities which no other generation of women has had in the world. Let us help build the kingdom of God by standing up boldly and being defenders of marriage, parenthood, and the home. The Lord needs us to be brave, steadfast, and immovable warriors who will defend His plan and teach the upcoming generations His truths.

I bear witness that Heavenly Father lives and loves each of us. His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer. I leave this testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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