The job of a Mormon apostle

An apostle testifies of Jesus Christ. That was the purpose of the apostles in ancient times after Jesus died as well as today. There are typically 15 men set apart or given the priesthood authority and office to be apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: a quorum of twelve and three members of the First Presidency. They are given assignments for leadership around the world and often speak at worldwide and smaller group conferences. They are not perfect men, but they are committed to living the gospel of Jesus Christ, testifying of the reality of Jesus Christ, and teaching the people of the world today what they need to know to return to live with our Heavenly Father. Just like each of us, the apostles have different personalities and while we are not supposed to have favorites as we don’t have favorite children, I do feel a closeness to some more than others because of the way they present their messages. One of those I feel a connection with is Elder Richard G. Scott. He spoke at a devotional at Ricks College when I was a student there. I bought a tape of his talk and listened to it over and over. He had a deep understanding of suffering and his slow, quiet tone and message soothed my heart and mind.

 

Elder Scott died today. He was 86 years old. I’m sure he and his wife are rejoicing in heaven as they are reunited.

 

Now we have only 12 apostles. Since our last general conference, a worldwide meeting held twice a year, three apostles have died: Elder L. Tom Perry, Elder Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Richard G. Scott. As a church we anticipate the calling of three new apostles during our October conference. These men will join with the twelve still in place to testify of Jesus Christ. I am looking forward to their personalities coming through in their talks and being inspired by the leaders the Lord has chosen now to represent Him.

What if the church isn’t true?

Last week I was playing the “What if?” game with some friends. Each person writes a “What if?” question on a piece of paper and puts it in the center of the table. Then you pull one of those questions and write an answer to the question on a separate piece of paper. Put the question back in the middle and everyone draws a different question and reads aloud the question and the answer which don’t go together. It’s a silly game. One of the questions was “What if the church wasn’t true?” Of course although the question was serious, the answer that was read with it was nonsense. And because we were playing a fun game and not having a doctrinal debate, we didn’t discuss the real answers to that question.

 

What does it mean for something to be true? The definition of true is “in accordance with fact or reality” and “accurate or exact.” I think when we give our testimonies and say, “I know the church is true,” we are saying that we know that it’s right, good, the way to life with Heavenly Father, and the only church on the earth that has all the teachings and ordinances that God wants us to have to return to Him. Yes. That’s our claim. That ours is the only true church. The only one that is in accordance with fact or reality and is accurate and exact. But what if it’s not?

 

Many years ago as I pondered this question, I came to the conclusion that if the church wasn’t true and I believed in something that wasn’t real, at least I was living a good lie. Look at the goodness of what we believe. We believe that if we keep the commandments and endure to the end, we will be able to live with God and be creators of our own worlds. We believe that family relationships are important and can last beyond this life. We believe that we should love and serve others. We believe that we can find lasting happiness and peace and mercy because of the Son of God who came to earth and took upon himself a mortal body, suffered for our sins and pains, died for us, and overcame death so we can be resurrected.

 

Now I don’t just hope that the church is true. I’ve had spiritual experiences that have secured my belief and knowledge in the truth of the gospel which is found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The other night as I prayed and pondered this question, I was filled with a warmth and love from my Heavenly Father. I am continually blessed to witness miracles, mercies, and the growth and goodness that come from living the gospel.

 

Another way to know if something is good or true is to look at the fruit it produces. In Matthew 7:17-20, Jesus taught, “Ye shall know them by their fruits…Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit…Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” While Mormons are not perfect and there are some standards that we possess that many don’t agree with, once people get to know us and look past the bizarre rumors they’ve heard, we’re good people, trying to do good.

 

There are also many good people, trying to do good that are members of different churches or of no church. How does our claim apply to all that aren’t members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Just like in the past when people didn’t believe the earth was round, it still was. I’m not saying I think everyone needs to join our church, but if you want to know if our claim is correct, accurate, or exact, then study our religion and pray to God to know.  Read The Bible, read The Book of Mormon, take the missionary discussions, live the teachings, and ask God. The last prophet in The Book of Mormon wrote, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know he truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4-5).

 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true and each person has the ability to know personally just as I know.

Countdown to a child leaving on a Mormon mission

My daughter is leaving on her mission in twenty-two days. I’ve experienced many things as a mom, but never this before. I’m excited for her but scared. For 18 months she will be preaching the gospel and serving. During that time she can e-mail us weekly, write letters, and call or video-call on Christmas and Mother’s Day. She hasn’t lived away from home before so I’m concerned about her being on her own. She will be in the MTC or Missionary Training Center for ten days and then on to her mission. While in the MTC she will practice teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. She will make friends and she will learn to rely on her Savior. In her mission she will have a loving mission president and his wife to watch over her. Also, there are often couples who work at the mission home who support the missionaries. My in-laws are doing that right now in New Hampshire. I’m grateful to learn over the past year what they do to love and support the missionaries. My daughter will not have to find herself a place to live, work at a job, or decide her schedule for the day. Missionaries are always with a companion and follow a strict routine of being up by 6:30 am, exercising, studying, meeting with and teaching people, serving, and being in bed by 10:30 pm. While many things are decided for her like where she will live, the standards she will follow, the types of clothes she will wear, and the outline of her schedule, she will need to figure out how to work when she’s homesick, tired, or physically ill, how to get along with her companion, how to talk to people she doesn’t know, and how to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ with the Spirit. I am worried about her figuring those things out and the struggle she will have, but I know that if she submits her will to her Heavenly Father and learns for herself that the Savior Jesus Christ’s atonement is for her and all people, she will be successful and will grow more than she could if she stayed at home.

A mom’s battle to keep her children safe: Censoring the internet

At church we discussed strategies for protecting our children from pornography. While non-Mormons may think that we are strict, have many rules, and don’t allow our children to make choices, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a strong belief in agency or the ability to make choices. In trying to protect our children from pornography are we taking away their choice? A woman in our meeting gave a great analogy. She said that some people live on quiet streets and neighborhoods with very little car traffic and it’s safe to let their children play outside. But in other neighborhoods, cars drive by fast and often and parents don’t allow their children to play on the street. They set up restrictions and rules to keep their children safe. The internet is a place where we and our children work and play that has lots of traffic, much of which is unsafe and can cause harm.  I’ve come to believe that protecting our children from pornography is a constant battle with three stages or lines of defense.

 

Set up fortresses. These are tools to protect us and our children from exposure to pornography. Get an internet filter. I don’t have one to recommend, but there are many. Limit the access your child has on the internet through settings on their phones, tablets, or Ipods. On Android devices this is done through profiles and on Apple devices this is done through the settings with a password. We recently blocked Safari from our daughter’s Itouch. She can text, receive e-mails, and use apps we’ve approved that have access to the internet, but she can’t go to the internet to search or look up information. Limit the times and places your family uses the internet. We’ve had our computer in the kitchen for years now, but using the internet in the open needs to apply to our personal devices too. Have a basket in the kitchen where every member of the family puts their devices. Use them in the main area of the home. Have a time at night where there is no access so you can spend time together as a family and work on homework without being distracting. Then have a time when everyone is done with the internet for the evening. My parents used to say that I didn’t need to be out after midnight because nothing good happened after twelve. I would say that applies at an even earlier hour with the internet. You can either set a time with your router to have the internet shut off or you can have all the devices in a box or basket that is put away next to Mom’s bed at night. No child or adult should be using their personal internet connected devices in their rooms at night.

 

Keep those fortresses maintained. Teach your children very plainly about the effects of pornography. Teach them the importance of keeping their bodies clean and safe. Teach them that relationships should be long lasting and built on trust and real love. Teach them to recognize the conflict with pornography—-that it feels bad and good at the same time. Help them develop an internal filter because no matter how much you filter, set rules, and monitor, we each have to have develop our own defenses and the ability to walk away from viewing pornography. Then teach and talk to them some more. And not just about pornography. If you have a loving relationship with your children, they can come to you when they need help.

 

Repair damaged fortresses. I’ve heard this for years and didn’t believe it until recently. It’s not a matter of if but when our children will view and perhaps engage in long term pornography use. The Savior’s atonement can help overcome pornography use and addiction. But only when the pornography user is willing to change, willing to be humble and repent. Parents, other family members, and respected adults can help in this process.

 

The other day I was sweeping my kitchen floor and lamenting in my mind that Satan has an unfair advantage. I can’t compete with the draw of entertainment and pornography and the craftiness of those who seek to entrap us and our children. But then I went to the temple and was reminded in the initiatory ordinance of the power I have through keeping covenants. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are worthy can make covenants or promises in the temple between themselves and God. We promise to keep His commandments and dedicate our lives to Him, and He promises to help us overcome the evils of this world. Overcoming is not just something that will happen after we die. There are many resources and supports to help us. I will list some I’ve found at the end of this blog.

 

Mothers, be strong. Be the defenders of your home. Keep fighting. You are worth it. Your husband is worth, it and your children are worth it.

 

Good Pictures Bad Pictures: this is a book to read with children of all ages.
Four FHE lessons for families from lds.org about pornography.
Arm Your Kids for the Battle: an article from BYU magazine.
To Young Men Only by President Boyd K. Packer: a pamphlet about masturbation and thoughts.
A Parent’s Guide: a book published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of age appropriate teachings about sexuality.
Mormon Channel: For the Youth–lots of great episodes about thoughts, agency, sexual morality, and more.
Fight the New Drug:  a website which teaches about the harmful effects of pornography.