Sunday, January 10, 2016

Faith talk

When I was working as an Organizational Performance Consultant using various training and consulting methods to help Coast Guard offices and units plan and perform better, one of my focuses was training and finding ways to improve a unit's internal and external customer service. I discovered that training videos were great to get certain points across and I found a video about a fish market in Seattle simply titled FISH.

There are several points to the FISH philosophy but the main one is simply to have fun at work and as you do, customers will see that and have fun too, making the experience more beneficial to everyone involved.

The video talks about the importance of attitude and sends a pretty clear message that attitude is an individual’s choice. Shortly after seeing this video for the first time a new office mate moved in (a LCDR)  and he had a desk sign that indeed said “ATTITUDE IS A CHOICE”.  This wasn't a new concept to me but it was nice to see the sign and have the daily reminder.

Over the years, especially the last three or so, I’ve had many reasons and opportunities to study the subject of faith. We’re taught in the scriptures that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen but what does that really mean?

The church has gone to great lengths and devoted quit a bit to developing and maintaining technology resources for us to use in learning about and teaching about the gospel and I’m a big advocate for members to use those resources so in looking for information on the different meanings of what faith really is, I went to the site on the internet where there is a place for individuals to submit comments that are reviewed in Salt Lake before being posted for all to see. Here are a few of the comments

Don said
“Faith is taking action because of a hope in something"

Kempe quotes Elder Howard of the Seventy and says 
“It's another word for commitment.  When assessing one's own faithfulness, it may be easier to ask, "How committed are you?"

Cory says 
“The simplest way to define faith, I think, is this: Faith is trust. Faith is so difficult to have. It’s extremely hard to trust in something I cannot see, hear, or sometimes even feel. But it works! Faith is a power, a power that brings miracles and joy into one's life. The more I strengthen my Faith, the closer I feel to God and his Son. I begin to understand more, and to feel enlightened. I believe Faith is an eternal principle, and that we came to Earth to learn by it. It's how we come to know God and the laws he has set for the Universe. It is a tool for teaching, learning, and developing.”

Finally Aaron says 
“Faith to me is like knowing the sun will rise the next day. Faith to me is hope. In Alma 32:28 we learn that Faith is like a little seed. And the Articles of Faith clearly state that "We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: FIRST, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."

This next story is loosely based on a true one but may or may not be totally accurate.

Once there was a little boy named Sam. Sam had loving parents and three brothers. Sam really loved his parents and looked up to them, especially his Father, Sam listened to everything his father taught him and tried very hard to do everything that his father asked him to do. One day his father called the family together and told them that they had to move, not to just another neighborhood but all the way to the other side of the world and to a completely unknown area. The trip would require a very difficult journey through the wilderness, also an unknown. Sam’s father told them that none of them would quite know what to expect just that everything would work out.

At first even Sam’s mother questioned the decision, but it wasn’t too long before she said that she would support her husband. Two of Sam’s brothers, the two eldest, didn’t understand the reason for the move and were very opposed to leaving the security of their home, while his younger brother was also very supportive and didn’t question the decision at all. Sam didn’t know what to think because it seemed that his family was divided, his two oldest brothers were very vocal about their opposition to the move, but after thinking about how he had always listened to his father and tried to be obedient, Sam quickly expressed his support to his father’s decision to move. Sam did this partly because he trusted his father and believed that he'd never ask Sam to do something unless he really believed that it was for the best. The family moved and Sam and his younger brother, the one that was supportive from the start, had some great experiences including learning first hand why their father wanted the family to move in the first place. They even started to know and see and understand some of the special things that their father saw including learning more about Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

Sam’s habit of listening and learning from his earthly father helped him develop faith in him and acting on that faith gave him an opportunity to learn more about his Heavenly Father.

The gospel principles manual asks some questions about faith

Would we study and learn if we did not believe we could obtain wisdom and knowledge?

Would we work each day if we did not have hope that by doing so we could accomplish something?

Would a farmer plant if he did not expect to harvest?

Then the manual points out that each day we act upon things we hope for, when we cannot see the end result, and that THIS is faith.

In the book of Hebrews in the bible we read the story of Noah and how he built an ark and saved his family from the floods. It was by faith that he did this great thing but he had to BUILD the ark before he was able to see the positive results.

There is a story in the January 2015 Friend of a girl that had a lesson about faith in her primary class. The class was shown a mustard seed and read a scripture in Mathew that says “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed … nothing shall be impossible unto you”
the girl said to herself "well I certainly have that much faith!!

The girl went to school the next day with her new knowledge about faith. At one point during the day the math teacher told the class to open their books so that they could prepare for a quiz the next day. The girl was confident that she didn’t need to study because she had faith that she would always do well in school. The next day she met her friend at the bus stop who mentioned how late that she had  stayed up the previous night studying for the quiz and the girl said that she did not do any homework or study. When she got her test score back later in the day she was confused, it was an F. She had failed.

Still depressed and confused she sat down at the dinner table that evening when her dad sat down next to her and asked what was wrong. The girl told the whole story and I’ll quote the rest

"Then Dad taught me how faith really works. I learned that it’s not enough just to believe in something. I have to act too. That means I still have to do my part.

I went to bed that night with my pathetic math test on the floor next to me. I looked down at the big, fat, red F on top of the page. Dad was right. Expecting to do well without doing any work is like trying to grow a mustard plant without even planting the seed in the ground.

After that day, whenever there was a test, I still had faith. But this time I had faith that Heavenly Father could help me work hard and study and do my very best.

With this kind of faith, nothing really is impossible!"

My personal study of faith ties in with what was shown in the FISH video and my co-workers desk sign. Just like attitude, faith is a choice. Our attitude is also something that people around us notice before we do. Perhaps to some extent faith is as well.  Christ, Alma, and Nephi possibly others told followers on occasion that they had not seen such great faith in either Israel or among the Nephites. In a general conference talk from last October, Elder Neil Anderson of the quorum of the twelve, says “ Faith emits a spiritual light, and that light is discernible”

Let’s look back at Cory’s comment on where he say “The simplest way to define faith, I think, is this: Faith is trust.”

Is it possible that all those places in the scriptures and even statements by current prophets and general authorities saying that we should have “trust in God” are meaning that we should have faith in God?

One of our hymns reminds us that “God loved us so he sent his son”. Jesus Christ is our savior and Redeemer. He came to earth to experience mortality, set the ultimate example, and to atone for us so that we can return to our Father in Heaven. To take advantage of the atonement, all that is asked is that we have faith in Him. That’s all we need in order to receive His grace. But as we know having faith is not just about believing.

Sam trusted his father and his faith developed by learning and obeying him. Similarly our faith in Christ develops from learning about and obeying Him.

Like the girl with the math test learned, our faith should be in Heavenly Father helping us do our best. Doing our best in studying, praying and doing the things we are asked to do.

(I bore my testimony of the church and closed in the name of Jesus Christ)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter response

I've been asked about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints view on Easter, more specifically what my personal beliefs are. I can't speak as an official representative of the church but I can certainly convey the beliefs as I understand them and can definitely state my own. The Church has many, many special Easter messages and videos in the public domaign this time of year and the general belief is presented very well. Just go to the front page of I'm not sure anyone could do a better job of explaining the official position.

There are two main points I'd personaly like to make about Easter. First stems from what many see as an inconsistency, but is really a reflection of one of our, and other Christian faith's, dominant beliefs. Our church buildings don't display a cross, in fact the cross is not used as a symbol in the Church. The cross is really only depicted in pictures of the crucifixion. Yes we believe the crucifixion happened. We believe Christ suffered and died for us. We recognize the sacrifice Jesus made and more importantly, the sacrifice His Father made in allowing His Son to die for our sakes. The crucifixion is an important historical element in the earthly ministry and reign of Christ but it pales in comparison with the resurrection. 

Christ did die for us, but more importantly, He lives for us. This is the main reason that the cross is not a symbol to be dwelled on in the Church, we choose to think more of the living Christ and what He does for us every day. Christ said, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” Those blessings are available to us only because of the resurrection. As Christ rose from the tomb, he gave all who will accept it, a gift. Some call it being saved, others call it being born again, but no matter what it's called, it's a gift available to all through the power and actions of Jesus Christ to all who accept Him as our Savior. 

This leads me to my second point this Easter, which is really just an extension of the first. I've had the privilege of seeing many Easter presentations from many sources. While some more accurately represent the Christ depicted in the bible, all are wonderful and great reminders that are much needed during this Easter season. The bible is very clear about the resurrection and even some of the appearances and works of Christ after His resurrection. However, with few exceptions (most coming from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Easter stories tend to end at the crucifixion.

Christ rose on the third day and He lives and loves all of us now as much, or even more, then He ever has. He continues to influence our lives through His spirit. He continues to tech us through his called and set apart leaders. Christ was on this earth for roughly 30 years, this time period is known as His earthly ministry. The bible, His own words, other written scripture, and continuing revelation tell us that His earthly ministry was a very small fraction of His infinite ministry.

No the buildings belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not display crosses, but every structure from the smallest meetinghouse to the largest Temple has ornamentation that prompt the eye to look upward, upward to heaven, upward to Christ, upward to the eternity that is future.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Jeff's Talk on the Book of Mormon 23 June, 2013


Susan enjoyed meeting new people so when a friend from her ward asked her if she would be interested ongoing on a blind date with a guy named Brian, she agreed to meet him, along with some other friends, at a restaurant for dinner.

As the group conversation turned to books and literature, they discussed the latest mystery novel, they all agreed that it was a suspenseful story that was well written.

Brian was a newcomer to the group and Susan really wanted to learn as much about him as possible, so when he mentioned a new title, Susan really listened up. "

Anyone ever heard of the book titled The Trails of Mr. X?"

Everyone in the group said they had read the book, including Susan, and every in the group said they had really enjoyed it, except Susan. She said that she didn't think it was app very good story and not written well. Brian looked disappointed and was really glad when the subject of conversation changed.

Brian and Susan had fun getting to know each other that night, so much so that they started spending time together without the rest of their friends around.

They spent their time together having picnics at the park, mini-golfing, going to the movies and occasionally dinner at a restaurant.

It wasn’t long after that first group date that Susan asked Brian about his work and hobbies and Brian revealed that he had written and published a book.

A book titled “The Trails of Mr. X”.

The color ran out of her face as Susan remembered the first time that book was discussed as a group and she felt very bad about saying she didn’t think it was good.

Susan decided right then and there to re-read the book.

More time went by and the couple continued dating.

One night when Susan and Brian were at dinner, Susan announced that she had finished re-reading “The Trails of Mr. X”.

Brain asked what she thought, and Susan said that it almost seemed like a different book from the first time she read it, she really liked the story and the creative way that it was written.
She appreciated that it was thought provoking and prompted her to think about things in her own life.

What changed Susan’s opinion about the book?

What might have happened between the first time she read Brian’s book and the second time?

Susan now loved the author.

We’ve just heard my lovely wife talk about the prophet Joseph Smith. Now I’m going to talk about his legacy, The Book of Mormon.

As we know Joseph didn't write the Book of Mormon but translated it through the power and gift of God, bringing it to us so we can benefit from its teachings in these the latter days.

I just spent two weeks sleeping on my at my sister’s couch at her house in Maryland. I have a brother-in-law there that’s extremely smart. Not only is he one of the world’s foremost experts in DNA but he’s also a real scholar when it comes to the scriptures. He’s spoken at BYU education week sessions and even did some research that supported a small change in the introduction to the new edition of the Book of Mormon. When I asked him what he would identify as being the most important things about The Book of Mormon, he first directed me to a general conference talk by Elder Tadd Callister which made three really important points.

First is that the Book of Mormon is a second witness of Christ. In his talk, Elder Callister asks,

“Have you ever wondered why there are so many Christian churches in the world today when they obtain their doctrines from essentially the same Bible?

It is because they interpret the Bible differently. If they interpreted it the same, they would be the same church. This is not a condition the Lord desires, for the Apostle Paul declared that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). To help bring this oneness about, the Lord established a divine law of witnesses. Paul taught, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1).

There’s a visual picture that illustrates the importance of having two or more witnesses, I’ll try to describe it.

Imagine a single dot on a piece of paper, how many straight lines can you draw through it? Quite a few, all in different directions, creating a picture of something like, a starburst.

Those many different lines could be likened to interpretations of bible teachings or different churches. But now imagine two dots on the paper, how many lines can you draw that go through both?

Only one.  One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.

The Second point about the importance of the Book of Mormon is that the it testifies of true doctrine. The doctrine taught in The Book or Mormon was revealed through His prophets, translated by the Gift and Power of God, and maintained a spiritual "chain of custody" down through the ages even until now. At no time was the doctrine subject to interpretation and edit by one or more men as the bible was.

Alma 32:27 says But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than a desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

Experiments yield results, sometimes positive, sometimes not so positive but they always end up in some kind of result or as Christ called them “fruits”

Christ made the statement in Mathew “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:15–20.) In this specific example He was discussing the actions of men, but the principle also applies to teachings or doctrine. If there is a piece of doctrine in the Book of Mormon that you're not sure of,  or have questions about it, give it a try, experiment on those words and see what blessings come.

The third point I want to highlight is that The Book of Mormon proves very clearly that revelation has not ceased. There are many good Christians in the world that firmly believe that revelation and miracles ended shortly after the crucifixion of Christ.

Not only does the Book of Mormon show us evidence that God worked through His prophets in those times, but it teaches us about faith and personal revelation.

It is through that faith and personal revelation that we can also clearly see how The Lord continues to speak through His current prophet and apostles.

I believe we can all see examples of revelation from the prophet and general authorities, down through local leaders at all levels, to parents, spouses and in our own personal lives.

The Book of Mormon is not only a book of doctrine but it’s historical. When I asked my dear wife why that was important, she said some things that made me think of a quote.
I’m sure someone else said it but I remember it coming from Lt Warf on an episode of Star Trek.
He said “We learn more about ourselves by learning about our fathers”
We can learn from examples from the past and there are some real characters in The Book of Mormon that we can definitely learn from, some of their behaviors we want to exemplify in our out lives and other behaviors we want to stay away from. But learning about them prompts us to reflect on how we live and act, as well as the blessings that are in store.
Before the more familiar part of he promise at the end of The Book of Mormon, Moroni says, "Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
I know this is out of order but give you an idea of my prospective and really let you know my testimony of the church and of the importance of Book of Mormon, I need to tell you a little more about myself. After my mission to California many years ago, I started a career in Broadcasting. I took a few classes, got an FCC license and over the next 20 years went from radio announcing to directing and doing other behind the scenes stuff for TV, and then on to working at a state of the art satellite facility broadcasting to millions of people all over. In my broadcasting positions, I was always looking for better ways to do things. So when I got a chance about 10 years ago, I changed career paths and now focus on looking at organizations, how they do things and how to make them better. In my case right now I work for the Coast Guard and that focus is working with Coast Guard units and offices. We have moved to this area looking forward to using some of my training skills in a new position with the Coast Guard but for right now my job title is Organizational Performance Consultant.
Because I look at organizations and how they are run, I have a unique perspective on the church. The organization of the church is like no other. The Book of Mormon is one of the things that really stands out. The author or originator of The Book of Mormon is really the Lord Jesus Christ. As we saw with Susan, Brian and the story I told at the beginning of my talk, our appreciation of the Book of Mormon is highly influenced by our relationship with Him. As our love for Him grows, so will our love for the Book of Mormon.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Temple Video Discussion

The church has released a new video discussing the difference between meetinghouses and Temples. The video goes on to discuss and show pictures of the inside of a Temple. 
After viewing the video, all are encouraged to participate in a discussion here on this blog by posting your questions or comments.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Religion Matters? Is religion influencing your vote?

While the poll numbers are indicating that a majority of people are changing their minds, there are still individuals out there who say that they can't or won't vote for a Mormon. There has been some information circulated about why someone should vote for a Mormon, like this article from the
New Media Journal

There's a lack of information about why an individual wouldn't for for a Mormon. I'd like to understand and discuss some of these reasons. Please post your comments and stay tuned for an honest open discussion of the topics.