Portents to the World at Large

Signs of Christ’s Birth

“And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.

Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.

And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.

And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven.” – Helaman 14:3-6

Signs of Christ’s Appearance to the Promised Land (the Americas)

“And it came to pass that I saw a mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise; and I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises; and I saw the earth and the rocks, that they rent; and I saw mountains tumbling into pieces; and I saw the plains of the earth, that they were broken up; and I saw many cities that they were sunk; and I saw many that they were burned with fire; and I saw many that did tumble to the earth, because of the quaking thereof.

And it came to pass after I saw these things, I saw the vapor of darkness, that it passed from off the face of the earth; and behold, I saw multitudes who had not fallen because of the great and terrible judgments of the Lord.

And I saw the heavens open, and the Lamb of God descending out of heaven; and he came down and showed himself unto them.” – 1 Nephi 12:4-6

Signs of Christ’s Second Coming

“And it shall come to pass that he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.

And they shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath.

And they shall behold blood, and fire, and vapors of smoke.

And before the day of the Lord shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood, and the stars fall from heaven.

And the remnant shall be gathered unto this place;

And then they shall look for me, and, behold, I will come; and they shall see me in the clouds of heaven, clothed with power and great glory; with all the holy angels; and he that watches not for me shall be cut off.” – Doctrine and Covenants 45:39-44

The scripture in Amos holds true. “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets,” (Amos 3:7). It should have been no surpise to the people when Christ came to the earth – as a baby in Jerusalem. Signs of His coming had been given. Even the people of the American Continent were apprised of His coming – through the signs given by Samuel the Lamanite.

It should have been no surprise to the people when Christ had been killed and the made an appearance to the Nephites. They had been warned of the signs and tumult that would accompany such event – six hundred years before it happened.

Today, we have the advantage of hindsight. We know the prophecies that were given of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and we know that they were fulfilled. Therefore, we, too, should be prepared when He comes again, as we have been given prophecies and signs of such events.

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To see the rest of the “If Handel had been a Mormon” scripture chain, click here.

Scripture Study Tips: Compare and Contrast

Recognizing comparisons and contrasts in the scriptures can be especially interesting and informative. There are many examples of these elements in the scriptures.

One example – is Nephi and Laman (and Lemuel). A quick refresher: Lehi is the father of Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi. They have left Jerusalem, headed for a promised land. One morning, Lehi tells his family of a dream he had – the vision of the Tree of Life. This dream is totally symbolic. Upon hearing the dream, Nephi’s reaction is as follows:

And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, … I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, …” – 1 Nephi 10:17.

Now let’s see the reaction of Nephi’s brothers, Laman and Lemuel:

And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them.

For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.” – 1 Nephi 15:2-3.

By comparing Laman and Lemuel with Nephi, we learn a great deal about obtaining revelation. If we want to understand the mysteries, of God, then we need to display faith and humility by going to the Lord in prayer. Otherwise, we will be like Laman and Lemuel – angry and confused by the saving principles of the gospel.

There are sooooo many other great examples of comparison and contrast in the scriptures. Personally, I find them really interesting. They are also useful in helping us apply the scriptures to our lives.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any practical way of marking comparison/contrast in my scriptures. Usually, I just write a quick note in the margin of my scriptures. If you have any advice, please feel free to comment.

Questions for today’s “Anti-Christs”

It seems like there has been a lot of talk lately about religion vs. secularism. It all seemed to come to a head when Elder Oaks gave his talk on Religious Freedom. – or at least, that’s when I started really thinking about protecting religion. Yesterday, I read an article over at Mormon Times, and then today, I read an article by Michael Otterson here.

Religious Freedom has been on my mind.

I’ve also noticed how, at times, I think about the ideas of atheism. I do not tend to close my life off from opposing viewpoints. I listen to NPR. I read Russian Literature. I’m not shrouding myself under the cover of Glenn Beck and other zealots. I’m trying to be well-rounded, and religious.

But sometimes it’s hard to feel strong…And that’s why I LOVE the scriptures.

In Jacob 7, we are introduced to Sherem. He is the first “Anti-Christ” mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Sherem was preaching to the people – declaring that there would be no Christ. He was flattering them with the sole purpose of overthrowing their doctrine. (see Jacob 7:1-2).

Currently, we deal with similar pressure. Secularism is the latest religious fad. In the quest to justify and prove secularism, we find that secularists feel that they must simultaneously debunk religion – and especially Christianity. And the worst part is, I find myself wavering a little in the middle of this “debunking.” I often find myself wondering how I REALLY know that Jesus is the Christ. I find myself questioning if my faith and testimony is true, or if it is just something I decide to believe as a defense mechanism.

I don’t like it when I begin doubting because I have received testimony. I know that such doubts display only ingratitude and an unwillingness to remember the ways that the Lord has blessed me. Additionally, doubt is really me allowing myself to blind myself to the current testimonies that I have in my life – that all witness of Christ’s love for me and all of His children. I realize that the doubts I face aren’t doubts as much as they are concerns on how I address my faith and the right to protect it to those who do not share it.(*)

Well, while I was reading the scripture in Jacob, I found that it referenced to the following:

“And it came to pass that the high priest said unto him [Korihor]: Why do ye go about perverting the ways of the Lord? Why do ye teach this people that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings? Why do ye speak against all the prophecies of the holy prophets?” – (Alma 30:22).

These questions, asked by the high priest of the land of Gideon to Korihor, ought to be asked now.

  1. Why pervert the ways of the Lord?
    • Great question. What purpose is there in perverting the ways of the Lord? Why should we think that adopting wickedness of any type will lead to any kind of happiness or progress? The Lord’s ways are good. They work. Family is good. Kindness is good. Service is good. Charity, faith, and hope are all good. These qualities, or ways of the Lord, do nothing to reduce our society. In fact, they build it up. So why on earth should we pervert the ways of the Lord? We know that His ways work! We have thousands of years of history to back it up, too. Regardless of whether civilizations believed in God, when they were righteous, they were blessed. When they allowed their societies to be consumed in wickedness, their societies failed. So the question stands: Why pervert the ways of the Lord?
  2. Why teach the people that there is no Christ and interrupt their rejoicing?
    • This question really gets me. Why would we interrupt the happiness and joy people are experiencing because of the message of the True and Living Christ? Christ offers us hope and happiness. When we truly grasp His gospel, our hearts are full of charity and gratitude. We rejoice. Why would we interrupt this GREAT thing?! And what is offered instead? Doubt, Discouragement, and, ultimately, Misery. I see no purpose in this. It makes no sense. Based on the outcomes of faith, I’d have to say that the advantage is with Christianity.

      I know that there are many people who might site examples where religion was the cause of terrible injustices. I know that there were infractions caused in the name of Christianity. I would have to say, however, that they were not backed by Christ. Think of a modern-day parallel. There are current terrorists who commit horrible crimes in the name of “Allah,” yet many Muslims emphatically explain that such perpetrators are extremists. These jihadists do NOT represent the religion of Islam which actually preaches peace. It is the same with Christianity. We cannot control the actions of all believers, but we can trust the core message. Christ preaches Love. He preaches meekness, kindness, patience, charity, and peace. He teaches that we love our enemies and turn the other cheek. And in return, he offers us happiness and hope.

      So the question remains…Why interrupt these rejoicings and preach that there is no Christ? It makes no sense.

  3. Why speak against the prophecies of the Prophets?
    • Another great question? Why speak against the prophecies of the Prophets? Often it is asked, what evidence does a believer have to prove that these prophecies are true? We could also ask, what evidence is there that the prophecies are not true? The fact is: in order to understand things of a spiritual nature, we need to have the Spirit. The Spirit bears witness when a prophecy is true. Likewise, he will NOT bear witness to false prophets. Everyone does not need to believe in the gospel – our faith is a personal choice. But the attacks on faith are spiritual; therefore, they need to be based on Spiritual experiences. Otherwise, the argument is ridiculous. . Oh…and besides that, there are grave consequences for the mistreatment of the servants of God.

We, the people of faith, can believe, and can stand strong in our beliefs. We will have to continue to nurture our faith as those around us will question what we believe. And it’s okay. We are all free to choose as we like. I’m not the kind of person to make a “call of action.” I don’t think that it is worthwhile to fight with others. I don’t think that we need to be offensive. I believe we should be Christ-like. We must resolve to understand what it is that we believe, and then continually show that we understand the laws of the gospel by loving Christ and by loving all of His Children (our spiritual siblings).

oh…and I have to say, I rarely meet people who put me down for my religion. Thankfully, most people I meet are friendly, kind, and loving. Additionally, most people I meet are not secularists or atheists. They seem to have some kind of spirituality – even if they don’t regularly attend church. So, is all of this religion talk mostly political? I’m not sure, but I do think that it always helps to know where we stand.

*(Content added 11-24-2009) I really want it to be understood that these questions do not answer why I believe in Christ. Instead, I guess it is more or less questions on, “Why not believe?” They were questions given to Korihor when he was trying to specifically destroy the church and the faith of its followers.

I remember listening to an interview on Fresh Air with Bill Mahr. He had just made his anti religion movie. A big part of it was to convince people that they were basically idiots for believing in any kind of religion. While listening, I kind of wondered how I would have responded to him if I had been one of the random people interviewed on this movie. Obviously, there’s no way I’d convince Him of my testimony. It would be impossible as testimony is only conveyed through the spirit. And that is why I love these questions – because instead of trying to convert, they are simply defending religion.

Sharing the Gospel

Recently, the missionaries asked us to participate in a ward Missionary effort. I love missionary work. I want to go on a mission. I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contains the fullness of Christ’s gospel, yet, I still get a little scared to share it.

Regardless of my fear, our family accepted the missionary’s challenge last night.

And then, I came across the following scripture: “And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts,” (D&C 29:7).

I do not need to worry about my fears of offending others or being ridiculed. Of course I need to follow the Spirit when sharing the gospel, but I also need to remember that the Lord’s elect will hear His voice. However, I do not know exactly who the Lord’s elect are. This is why I must share the gospel liberally. As I share the gospel with others, if they are ready to hear the Lord’s voice, they will recognize the message, they will not harden their hearts, and they will accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And another thing: the Book of Mormon.

– some background…I love all of the scriptures. Sometimes I think that, as Mormons, we do not know enough of the Bible. We seem well versed in the Book of Mormon, but we forget to study the Old Testament – with its prophecies, poetry, and law. We forget to study the New Testament – and it’s account of Christ as he lived on this earth. Because of these feelings, I often think that we need to try to share the gospel with others in a way they will understand – through the Bible.

And while the Bible is good, I realize that I must NOT be afraid to share the Book of Mormon! I need to remember that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to persuade those who read it that Jesus is the Christ. Mormon teaches that the Book of Mormon is, “…to the convincing of Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations…” (Title Page of Book of Mormon). There is no other way to share the gospel. Of course the Bible is a big part of sharing the gospel. The Bible and Book of Mormon bear witness of one another, but I need not feel fear or the temptation to shy away from the Book of Mormon. Although many do not accept it as true scripture, it is probably because they haven’t read it. However, those who are elect, will recognize in its words, the very voice of the Lord.

I can share the gospel!

How about you? How do you overcome fear? Have you Do you have experiences to share – either your own conversion, or sharing the gospel with others?

He First Loved Us

I know that I’m getting to this a little late.  Conference was over a week and a half ago.  However, we’ve been in the middle of a cross-country move.  While we were moving, we all ended up getting the flu (my theory: it was the swine flu).  So, I feel like I’m finally starting to get into the swing of things, and I wanted to make sure that while I started “swinging” I didn’t forget to mention something I really liked about Conference.

Obviously, I loved all of the conference talks.  I love hearing from the Prophet.  I love listening to the apostles.  I also love hearing from other General Authorities and auxiliary leaders.  This seems kind of redundant to state, but I just want to preface this blog entry with that fact.  I, like so many other Mormons, love General Conference.  I always feel refreshed and edified. All of that being said, I want to bring up one little topic that seemed to stand out in this most recent General Conference:

Heavenly Father Loves Us.

I felt impressed to jot this fact down, specifically during Robert D. Hales’ talk.  I’m not sure that it was specifically because of His talk.  Elder Hales did spend plenty of time talking about Heavenly Father.  However, throughout General Conference, I felt that one predominate message was that God Loves us.  It really came to me during Elder Hales’ talk, and, almost instantly after jotting down, “We can know God and We can know that he Loves us,” I wrote down the following:

Unwavering Childlike Faith.”

As I was watching conference, I was sitting with my three little children.  They are snuggly and loving, and I felt like I knew that they knew I loved them.  I thought of how Heavenly Father, a perfect parent, must love us so much, and how I ought to be like my own children: confident in the Love that my Father in Heaven has for me.  Heavenly Father has created this beautiful earth – for our sustenance and enjoyment.  He has given us families and relationships.  He has given us bodies and minds that, for the most part, work.  He has given us laws and commandments so we could learn to be happy. He has given us the gift of His Only Begotten Son, so we could return to Him.  He has given us His Spirit.  He has given us Agency.

And, after this last General Conference, I hope to use my agency to show Him that I recognize His love.  I do Love my Heavenly Father.  I know he loves me.  As John declared:  “We love Him, because He first loved us.”  (1 John 4:19).  I’m grateful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us, and I’m so grateful that this message came across so strong in General Conference.

Bearing Good Fruit – The Need for Jesus Christ

As I’ve been studying Jacob 5, I’ve been learning the importance of bearing good fruit.  The Allegory is so much more than a story about the tribes of Israel.  It is instruction to us – that we are expected to bear good fruit.

The first obvious question is: What it good fruit?  Alma explains that it is the works of righteousness. (See Alma 5:36).  He also teaches, in order to abound in good works (which is also good fruit), then we must, “be humble, and submissive, and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.  And see that ye have faith, hope and charity, and then ye will abound in good works.” (Alma 5:23-24). The necessity of good fruit is apparent, and what good fruit actually is does not need much discussion. (So I won’t anymore…You can if you’d like – because I do like discussing this kind of stuff!)

The second, perhaps less obvious question is, How do we bear good fruit? I suppose that there are a few way to answer this – through dedication; hard work; discipline, etc. However, I feel that at the core of producing good fruit is our need to be completely connected to Christ. In the New Testament the Savior teaches:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit…
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
“If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:1-6).

Christ explains that in order to be fruitful, the branch must reside in the vine. When we think of plants, we know this to be true. A branch, in and of itself, cannot be fruitful. It must be rooted to the vine. We, as branches, cannot independently produce good fruit; we must\ be rooted to the true vine: Jesus Christ.

There are many good things that people do – they may or may not be Christian. I don’t want to distract from that fact, but in order to produce good fruit, the kind of fruit that will keep us from being “hewn down and cast into the fire,” then we need to be rooted to Jesus Christ – through baptism and constant renewal of gospel covenants. Without our connection to the Savior, we slowly lose the nourishment we need, and, eventually, we wither away – becoming dead and fruitless. We need the Savior, and He has freely offered himself to us.

Bearing (fruit)

Spring Tree by Catania Larson

As I’ve been studying Jacob 5, a theme that keeps striking me is that of bearing good fruit.

First of all, I think that it is very obvious that we are to bear goodfruit. This concept seems to be simple to get. When we don’t bear good fruit, then we are hewn into the fire. (see Jacob 5:42; Matthew 3:10; 7:19-20.)

However, today, during my scripture study, I came across the following parable:

“A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
Then he said unto the dresser of the vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
And he answering said unto him, Lord let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
And if bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” (Luke 13:6-9).

We must bear good fruit. It is not enough to not bear bad fruit. We must be fruitful and productive. I guess this is like the difference between sins of omission and commission. It is obvious that those who commit sins will be judged. But how about when we omitkeeping certain commandments? I find this concept interesting – especially as I battle being productive (and not spending so much time doing worthless things like sitting around on facebook).

This concept brings to mind: “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; Fior the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.” (D&C 58:27-28). I’ve heard this scripture so many times, and I think that I’ve always thought, If I’m engaged in a good cause, then I will not choose the wrong – I’ll be too busy doing something good ~~a la ~~ idle hands are the devil’s workshop. And while that’s true, there is so much more. I suppose it is possible for us to do nothing – as in we don’t have to be doing something good – or wicked. We could just be lazy. But when we do nothing, then we are not fruitful. We do not fulfill the measure of our creation, and the Lord looks at us, and wonders, “why am I cumbering the ground with this?”

I’m now resolving to do more – to serve, love, work, pray, study, and be the kind of woman who bears good fruit.