Friday, January 16, 2015

# 59: The Case for Christ

You should stay LDS so you can more completely follow and worship the one true God, Jesus Christ.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a Christian Church.  I view Joseph Smith as an imaginative Protestant minister with a lot of neat ideas.  Regardless of the Book of Mormon's historicity, it does its job of bringing people to Jesus Christ, just as the fictional parables that Jesus made up impart correct principles.

One thing that I've seen first hand with people who lose their testimony of the LDS Church is that they lose faith in Christ altogether.  It's very sad.

Thankfully, throughout my faith crisis, I've been able to maintain my faith in Christ.  How?  Well, I've read books by C.S. Lewis, "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom, various articles in Guideposts magazine, and I've learned about the Shroud of Turin.  I've also read the New Testament and pondered it carefully.

I also recently found a video that is very convincing, and it helps me maintain my faith in Christ.

It's a presentation called "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel.  Mr. Strobel used to be an atheist, (with a law and a journalism degree, by the way) but he investigated Christianity and he ended up converting.  I think he makes a convincing argument.

Here's the presentation:

If you're struggling with your testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ, please take the time to watch this presentation.  If you know anybody who is doubting the Bible or the claims of Christianity, please send this video to them.  Remember, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ is one of the most important things you can do in your life.  You really can change people's lives for the better.  You really can aid in the salvation of your spirit brothers and sisters.  Be a missionary!

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

# 58 Mormons Respond Well to Criticism

I was listening to Hugh Hewitt on the radio the other day, and he was talking about the big story of the recent terror attacks in Paris.

Have you heard that news?  On January 7th, 2015, three radical Muslims went into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper, and started shooting people.  Twelve people ended up dead.  Why did they pick Hebdo as a target?  Because Hebdo had run items in its publications that were offensive to Muslims.  They made fun of the founder of Islam, Muhammed.

Hugh Hewitt had Mark Steyn on as a guest, and they had some interesting things to say about how two different cultures, radical Muslims and Mormons, react to criticism.  I've put some of that transcript here, and I put my favorite part in bold:

Mark Steyn: It’s one thing to say oh, we should be sensitive about this, and we should be sensitive about that. But when lunatics are actually killing people over a drawing, you’ve got to be on the side of the people who do the drawings...

Hugh Hewitt: Yeah, unequivocally, 100%, not you know, I wish they hadn’t insulted the Prophet, but unequivocally, 100% on their side.
Mark Steyn: Yes, absolutely. And I say that, you know, and the thing about, Islam is a very peculiar religion. It’s an insecure religion in that sense. And Bill Donohue is fortunate in that he represents, or purports to represent a religion [Catholicism] that is actually more secure, and can shrug off insulting provocations. And one of the disturbing things about this is the way so many people who matter, starting with the President and the senior figures of this administration, are willing to put freedom of speech up for trade. The professions of regret at what happened yesterday from the administration are in contrast, for example, to their criticism of Charlie Hebdo three years ago. They didn’t think, they agreed with Donohue that Charlie Hebdo shouldn’t have done those cartoons. Yet funnily enough, Hillary Clinton is sitting in the Book of Mormon, the big hit Broadway musical, laughing her head off and giving a standing ovation to the most obscene provocations against Mormonism. What’s the difference? 
Hugh Hewitt: Let me ask you as well, on Sunday last…
Mark Steyn: Yeah, the only difference is that Mitt Romney isn’t going to kick your door down and open up an AK-47 on you. 
Hugh Hewitt: Yeah, the Mormons will bring you a strudel. The Mormons will simply drop off some baked goods and smile at you. That’s the difference.

You should stay LDS because, collectively and individually, Mormons respond well to criticism. 

And Mormons get criticized a lot.  Anybody who has served a mission knows what frequent rejection is like.  Over and over, when the missionaries knock on their door, people say, “No thanks,” or,  “I’m not interested,” or "Get the beep off of my beepin' porch before I get my beepin' dogs to beepin' bite you, you good for nothing beepity-beeps!" My personal favorite rejection was, “If ya’ll are out soul-winning, you can keep moving along. I’ve already been won.”

And how do missionaries respond to this rejection?  They just smile and wave and say, “OK, see you later.”  And then they move on to the next house.

The Mormon Church as a whole does the same thing.  When the Church gets mocked on Broadway in the Book of Mormon musical, the Church responded with this classy one-sentence press release: 

"The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but The Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ."

When I hear about the way in which the Mormon church behaves in the public square, I'm proud.  We are a mature, healthy, Christ-centered religion, and we get along well with everyone around us.  We're a good group to be a part of, and it's my pleasure to remain a part of this group.  I hope you'll stick around, too.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

# 57: The Story of MisterFake372, Part Two

Recently I wrote about MisterFake372, a man who resigned from the Church because of historical and doctrinal issues in 2010, but who had recently undergone a change of heart and desired to return to the religion of his youth.  Here’s the link to that blog post.

Now that over a month has gone by since that blog post, I’m happy to report that MisterFake372 has been readmitted into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He has been baptized.  I was fortunate enough to be able to attend his baptism last Sunday evening.

I left my wife and kids at home, and I drove for half an hour to get to the baptism.  I have to admit, I wondered if the baptism was really going to be worth the drive.  My life can be busy, and I like having my own free time to spend with my family and to pursue hobbies. But this baptism felt important to me, so I made a small sacrifice of time and attended it.  

During the drive, I listened to Catholic radio, which I do often.  The talk-show hosts were talking about how Catholic Saints are canonized.  Somebody called into the radio show and asked if a righteous non-Catholic could be canonized, someone like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example.  The talk-show hosts said no, a non-Catholic cannot be a Catholic Saint, but they also clarified that non-Catholics can still go to Heaven.  I thought that was interesting.

I got to the church building. I was unfamiliar with it because I had never been to that meetinghouse before.  When I walked through the doors, the beautiful sound of piano music greeted me.  I followed the sound, hoping it would guide me to the right place.  The music got louder and louder until at last I found the right room.  I walked into the room, and I felt the Spirit.  

There were a lot of people there.  I’d say over fifty.  It was nice to see such a great attendance.    

I sat on a cushy folding chair in the front row, and in a minute Misterfake372 emerged through a doorway, all dressed in white.  He said hello to me and shook my hand.  He was very emotional.  I could tell he had been crying.  He cried a lot that night. 

The opening song was, “I Feel My Savior’s Love.”  I knew all the words by heart, and I sang them loudly.  I don’t sing well.  I’m pretty sure I’m tone deaf, and I can’t read music, but I sing with gusto.  I hope the people sitting next to me don't mind my off-key singing.  Even if they do mind, I'll sing with gusto anyway.  :)

As I sang along with all the other people gathered there, I felt the Spirit.  I thought how peculiar it was, and how beautiful and how wonderful it was, that such a group was gathered together on a Sunday evening for such an occasion.  Here we were, over fifty family members and friends of MisterFake372, coming together to celebrate his public commitment to God, singing a song together, a song about feeling the love of God, and wanting to give that divine love to others.  What could be better?

After the opening prayer, one of MisterFake372’s long-time friends gave a talk on the Holy Ghost.  I don’t know his name, and even if I did, I wouldn’t share it on the Internet, so I’ll just call him Sam.  

Sam told an interesting story from his mission.  He said that shortly before he got his mission call, he had a dream that he was a missionary, talking to a family in Spanish.  Then he got his mission call to serve in an English-speaking mission in Florida.  When he got the call, he was confused, because he thought his dream was telling him he would be serving a Spanish-speaking mission.

Well, one day on his mission, Sam was knocking on doors with his companion, who happened to be a Brazilian fluent in Portuguese.  They were trying to decide which area to go in.  They were planning on going to one area, but then Sam got a really dark feeling.  They decided to go to a different area, and when they did, Sam got a good feeling.  This good feeling was the Holy Ghost, Sam said. They got to one house, where nobody spoke English.  But Sam’s Brazilian companion spoke enough Spanish to hold a conversation.  I guess Portuguese and Spanish are similar.  So, Sam’s companion and a Spanish-speaking lady talked for a long time about the gospel.  At that moment, Sam realized that his dream had been fulfilled.

In his talk, Sam also commented that he overheard a child at the baptism ask, “Why is MisterFake372 crying?”  Then Sam said that someone answered, “Because he’s feeling the love of his Heavenly Father.”

After the talk, MisterFake372 was baptized.  Many of the kids got right up next to the font so they could get a better view.   He was fully immersed in the water on the first and only attempt.  MisterFake372 hugged the man who baptized him. 

Next, the piano player played more church hymns, while people chatted.  

Once MisterFake372 and the man who baptized him were back, there was a special musical number.  It was a lady singing, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  For me, this performance was the highlight of the night.  Even though I can't sing well myself, I can certainly appreciate good music.  The lady sang extraordinarily well.  She sang all three verses of the song, and she had the song memorized.  Part of the song was sang a cappella, and to me that was the most moving part of the performance.  Well, the entire song was moving, but during the a cappella part, I became immediately aware of the silence between the words she was singing, the quiet in the room.  No children were making any noises, no cell phones went off.  The performance was the definition of intimate.  It was so honest and real.  It was the type of performance that cannot be recreated.  Even if I would have filmed it and posted the video of the performance here, it just wouldn't be the same.  Watching a video on a computer screen can't compare with the experience of dressing up, going to a church, sitting next to people, and seeing and hearing live music.

Then MisterFake372's brother gave a great talk, and then the ordinance of confirmation took place.

MisterFake372 then bore his testimony, which mostly consisted of him thanking people and crying.  During much of the talk, he held his five year old daughter in his arms, and said that she was a big reason that he was returning to Church.

We sang a closing song, which was, "The Family is of God," a relatively new Primary song, and then someone gave a closing prayer.

Overall, it was a wonderful evening.  Attending the baptism strengthened my resolve to stay LDS.  I hope the best for MisterFake372 and his continued spiritual journey.  I believe he is where God wants him to be: back in the LDS Church, living the LDS lifestyle.  Some of his beliefs may still be a bit unorthodox, but that's okay.  He is currently a member of the Church in good standing.  But more importantly, I believe that he's in good standing with God.

On my way out the door, I helped myself to a cookie.  

As I drove home, I left my car radio off, and drove in silence.  I wanted to be alone with my thoughts.  I didn’t want the magic of that night to end.

If what I've written on this blog has helped you, or entertained you, or if you're just feeling generous, please consider making a donation through the PayPal link below.  Any amount is greatly appreciated.  Thank you.