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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

401: SPRING EQUINOX 2017


Yesterday was the first day of spring. A time of birth, rebirth, a new beginning, and a new start. Darkness and Light are equal in the amount of sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere. After the equinox, light begins to overcome darkness.The days get longer.

Fitting that on this past weekend which marks a time of balance and "equality" The Church came out with a few new videos that celebrate EQUALITY. Below are a few screenshots from their social media video that can be seen only on Facebook. The video emphasizes that we are all different, and despite our diversity we should all be accepting, united and equal.


















From the above videos, it seems that the LDS Church is making huge media efforts to show we are an accepting and tolerant church. Quoting from the video, "We believe different, we act different, but we can be different and still be together. We don't have to be the same to be one."

Another LDS video that came out and just posted on lds.org is entitled Mormon and Gay. Below is the video and the link on LDS.org  https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/mormon-and-gay?lang=eng



One could conclude from the above videos that the Church is changing their stance on social issues and becoming more accepting of the LGTB community, as well as to the blacks, and other religious organizations specifically the Catholics. What is interesting is to see such a dramatic shift. It was not too long ago that the past prophets declared the following statements: 

 Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 78
“Homosexuality is an ugly sin, repugnant to those who find no temptation in it, as well as to many past offenders who are seeking a way out of its clutches. It is embarrassing and unpleasant as a subject for discussion but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved in it, it is discussed in this chapter.”
 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, v. 2, “Homosexuality,”  
“... it is clear that any sexual relationship other than that between a legally wedded heterosexual husband and wife is sinful. The divine mandate of marriage between man and woman puts in perspective why homosexual acts are offensive to God. They repudiate the gift and the Giver of eternal life.”

From the Apostle Bruce R McKonkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1958)
"It is also to the Book of Mormon to which we turn for the plainest description of the Catholic Church as the great and abominable church. Nephi saw this ‘church which is the most abominable above all other churches’ in vision. He ‘saw the devil that he was the foundation of it’ and also the murders, wealth, harlotry, persecutions, and evil desires that historically have been a part of this satanic organization.

Prophet Brigham Young, New York Herald, May 4, 1855, 
"You must not think, from what I say, that I am opposed to slavery. No! The negro is damned, and is to serve his master till God chooses to remove the curse of Ham.

So much has changed in such a short amount of time. I could be a black, gay Catholic and be welcomed with open arms to any LDS church. On the other hand, I could be a white, straight, faithful father and husband who believes in the Restoration, have a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon but struggles with leadership only to be shunned, threatened, cast out and even excommunicated. We live in crazy times.
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Sidenote:

Here are a few photos I took on a camping trip this past weekend down at the Parawon Gap.

Sunset looking West through the Gap

After a brief prayer from a 13 year boy named Lucas, the sky turned crimson red. Beautiful and Miraculous.

For those who don't know much about the Parawon Gap, here is an interesting descritption by Hugh Nibley that he wrote in the book, Promised Lands.

Hugh Nibley states, “By an interesting coincidence I had spent the previous week in Cedar City with President William Palmer, a patriarch as well as stake president, who taught anthropology in the college there. He had been initiated into the Paiute tribe, and took me out to their sacred place in the plain southwest of Parowan [Parowan Gap]. The building of the highway had put an end to the rites of initiation that once took place there, but President Palmer described the teachings and ordinances as far as was permitted. In particular he told the story of the descent of the Lord from heaven as if at that place, an event much like that described in 3 Nephi. Tobats was the God of all Creation; his son Shinob was the peacemaker full of love and eternally young. One day the Evil One Un-nu-pit killed Shinob. At once a great darkness fell upon “Tu-weap,” the whole earth. It was absolute blackness for three days. In this chaos and confusion everyone was groping around in howling and lamentation. Finally, a voice from the top of the mountain spoke; it was Tobats the Father. He told them to move about with outstretched arms, calling out to each other, and joining hands with whoever one touched. Thus they formed lines, and the lines were instructed to join with each other; people in the lines were to cry out for husbands and wives and children until all families had reformed. Then the noise ceased, and a voice told them to climb the mountain or mesa where Tobats was. They worked their way up the mountain, toiling in human chains and finally forming a huge circular formation on the top, with Tobats in the middle. Well, Tobats said he would shoot an arrow straight up (this is the well-known Indian and world-wide theme of the arrow chain to heaven [the fiery pillar of light?]). His arrow produced a tiny spark of light; but the second arrow brought light, which grew like an explosion until it flooded all the land. The blackbird and the flicker have been honored ever since because their feathers were used for the arrows—they are perpetual reminders of the great event.” (See Hugh Nibley, Promised Lands, in Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, FARMS-Deseret Book. See also William R. Palmer, Two Pahute Indian Legends: “Why the Grand Canyon Was Made” and “The Three Days of Darkness,” Cheney, WA: Citizen Journal Press, 1987, pps. 21—22.)

Photo of tree at the campsite where we pitched our tent. 


Sky on the morning of the Spring Equinox 2017 just before sunrise. 

Sunrise view on top of the North peak of the Parawon Gap


Leaving the Parawon Gap two hawks circled around over my head.  


Never have two hawks descended down towards in unison and making their screeching sounds and calls. 




400: RESTORING GODS WORD


"We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."
Ninth Article of Faith


I realize that this is old news to the few who read this blog, but I was asked to post this information on this blog. For the past couple of years, multiple people throughout the world have been independently working on putting together a set of scriptures that would contain all of the known revelations, translations and teachings of Joseph Smith including the return of The Lectures on Faith included in the Doctrine and Covenants. They recently joined together their efforts and a preview of this 3 volumns of work is now available on Amazon (as well as a free online download) to read and study. The compilers have asked for any feedback or needed corrections to be submitted to them.  While the full purpose of their project was initially unknown , this project has begun a best effort to "repent and remember the new covenant." Here is a link with additional information.

Sidenote:
This is the 400th post on this blog. The number 400 is significant.  In scriptures, the number 400 symbolizes a distinct time period. For example it is the time period from God fulfilling his pledge to Abraham in Isaac's birth to the children of Israel leaving Egyptian bondage.  "And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years." Genesis 15:13  Stephen, in his testimony before religious leaders just before his martyrdom mentioned this time period in Acts 7:6, Also, 400 is the number of years from David to the exile, as well as the exact number of men gathered around David during his escape. (1 Samuel 22:2)

In the Book of Mormon we also see the number 400. We read in Helaman 13:5 "And he said unto them: Behold, I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart; and behold he hath put it into my heart to say unto this people that the sword of justice hangeth over this people; and four hundred years pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people." A few more references to 400 can be found in Alma 45:10, and Mormon 8:6.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

399: "A SPACIOUS PALACE, AND A THRONE IN THE MIDST THEREOF"


UPDATE TO THE THOMAS S MONSON CENTER: 
including some interior photos



Above is a photo of the Thomas S. Monson Center which serves as an upscale exclusive community gathering place in downtown Salt Lake. I posted about the dedication and ribbon cutting event of this mansion HERE. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owned this historic mansion building and recently restored it to it's original splendor. It can be rented out for public events, weddings and corporate parties. While the details were not made public, the building was recently given to the U of U.



In the entry room of the mansion there is a large oil painting of Thomas S Monson, This portrait of the prophet hangs above the fireplace mantle with a plaque dedicating the building to his name.  If you go to the website you will see other locations on the property that are named after Monson. The Monson Center Lawn and the Monson Center Plaza. Both of these venues can be rented for social gatherings. On the website it states that the Monson Plaza is a "great space to set up a cocktail hour, a reception or host a fun party"...(bet that would be interesting to have cocktail hour on the Monson Center Plaza)

The rooms inside the mansion remind me of Versailles where the ruling classed lived in opulence. 

Sorenson Dining Room which seats 10 people.


These rooms in the mansion have specific names which read like the Who's Who of the Mormon Elite and Wealthy. Here is the list:
  • Ivory Ballroom (named after Ellis Ivory (CEO of Ivory Homes, Deseret News board member) 
  • Eccles Room (named after the Spencer Eccles, CEO of First Security the largest banking organization in the Mountain West before selling to Wells Fargo) 
  • Sorenson Parlor (James Sorenson, richest man in Utah with 4.5 billion at the time of death) 
  • Boyer Carriage House (largest real-estate development firms in the Western United States) 
  • Gail Miller Reception Hall (widow to Larry H Miller's who was a owner of the Utah Jazz and successful businessman)
The Ballroom.
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I find it so interesting that we spend billions on malls, theaters, office space and donate mansions to the universities but when it comes to building homeless shelters that are desperately needed in Salt Lake we will SELL property to the city instead of donating to the causeHERE was a recent article about the financial transation of the Church selling for a price (not donating) to the homeless center. From the article, "The city is purchasing the 131 E. 700 South South property (currently a Deseret Industries store) from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although a final price hasn't been settled on."

I think a Church that carries Jesus Christ's name would be able to retain their members if it did some of the following. 
  • Use tithing for the poor, instead of for spacious buildings.and six figure salaries. 
  • Receive no financial compensation for anything we do to serve. 
  • Be willing to sacrifice which alone proves the sincerity of our motives. 
  • Remind ourselves constantly that no one of us is greater in God's eyes than any other. 
  • Worship Christ only and not leadership. 
  • Avoid the ambitions, vanity and foolishness that has trapped others in the past. 
  • Know everything we have comes from God, and therefore all we can offer is our choice to freely return to Him anything He asks of us.

__________________________________

Three quick sidenotes without commentary: 

Sidenote 1:
A friend of mine sent me a passage from an LDS fiction books called Standing in Holy Places, Book Two – The Celestial City by Chad Daybell. I found this quote interesting:

“Following the meeting, the prophet invited each of the Saints to pass by and shake his hand. It was a long process, but Doug sensed what the prophet was doing. When the resurrected Savior appeared to the Nephites, he allowed each person to feel the wounds in his hands and in his side. In a similar manner, the prophet was allowing the Saints to have an experience that would stay with them throughout their lifetimes. Many people were weeping openly, and the Spirit was burning into their hearts the testimony of a living prophet.” From Chapter 28 (pp 163)

Sidenote 2:

In this month's Church magazine there is the following story entitled: "Seeing God’s Prophet" By Elder Kim B. Clark Of the Seventy. Instead of the bar being raised, it has been lowered. Interesting that we have become more enamored with seeing a man than seeking God.
Oh how I wish we could read articles entitled, 'Seeing God'... instead of 'Seeing God's Prophet'



Sidenote 3:
While on a business trip last week in Minnesota.  I went to the Cathedral of St.Paul on Ash Wednesday. It is a beautiful church. Inside there are larger than life marble statues of the early Saints. It has a shrines to Saint Therese, Saint Cyril, Saint Boniface, Saint Patrick, and Saint Anthony. I noticed many church patrons entering in the cathedral and lighting candles in front of these Saints and showing respect and/or praying to them. In the corner of the Cathedral there was a statue of Christ. Not one person was there. Everyone was kneeling before statues of deceased mortals that can not save.


 Unfortunately, we glorify and give honor to men. We trust them and don't believe they are capable of leading us astray. We rely on the arm of flesh. I am concerned that we don't talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, preach of Christ, prophesy of Christ, and write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. 2 Nephi 25:26. Instead, all of our eyes are on the prophet. We talk of the prophet, we rejoice in the prophet and we preach of the prophet and doing this it gives the impression to our children that they may look to the prophet to have him tell us what to do instead of seeking out the Lord since he is the ."keeper of the gate,... the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there...",

A large red seat for the local religious leader to sit and preside at  before he gives his sermon.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

398: COME MY SON


The song, "Solsbury Hill" was written by the English musician Peter Gabriel about a spiritual experience atop Solsbury Hill in Somerset, England. Gabriel wrote the song after his departure from the progressive rock band Genesis, of which he had been the lead singer since its inception. Phil Collins evidently took his place as the lead singer. Gabriel has said of the song's meaning, "It's about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get ... It's about letting go." Former bandmate Tony Banks acknowledges that the song reflects Gabriel's decision to break ties with Genesis, but it can be also applied in a broader sense.


Here are the lyrics and the music:

Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out of the night
He was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice
Standing, stretching every nerve
I had to listen had no choice
I did not believe the information
I just had to trust imagination
My heart going boom, boom, boom
Son, He said, grab your things I've come to take you home.

To keep in silence I resigned
My friends would think I was a nut
Turning water into wine
Open doors would soon be shut
So I went from day to day
Though my life was in a rut
Till I thought of what I'd say
And which connection I should cut
I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery
My heart going boom, boom, boom
Son, he said, grab your things I've come to take you home

When illusion spin her net
I'm never where I want to be
And liberty she pirouette
When I think that I am free
Watched by empty silhouettes
Close their eyes but still can see
No one taught them etiquette
So I will show another me
Today I don't need a replacement
I'll tell them what the smile on my face meant
My heart going boom, boom, boom
Hey, I said, you can keep my things they've come to take me home

Come back home
Come back home
Come back home

Monday, February 6, 2017

397: HOW MUCH DOES THE CHURCH SPEND ON WELFARE AND HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS?


Are we in alignment with God in how we spend our time, talents and money resources? or are we out of balance?

Last week I took this photo of an alignment of Venus and the Moon in complete vertical alignment in the heavens. I couldn't help but think on my own personal alignment with Heaven and if I am off even a slightest degree.





I just came across a older article in the world religion news that stated the LDS Church has spent 1.2 Billion on Humanitarian and Welfare Aid..The headline to the article was impressive...  :"LDS Church has spent 1.2 Billion on Welfare and Humanitarian Efforts" However, if you read the entire article, you will find out that the 1.2 Billion is the combined total over the past 30 YEARS.   Elder Dallin H Oaks in a lecture last month stated that the LDS Church  only spends "around" 40 million a year.

From the article, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is widely known for the humanitarian services that it provides worldwide. Last month, during a lecture given at the University of Oxford, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church said that the Church spends around $40 million on humanitarian, welfare, and other charity projects, worldwide, each year. It has been doing that for the past 30 years. Also, volunteers from the Church devote millions of hours of labor each year to assist in the projects"
Read more at World Religion News: "LDS Church has Spent 1.2 Billion on Welfare and Humanitarian Efforts" http://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=29124

......

It is estimated in this article that the Church brings in 7,000,000,000.00 a year in tithing. So if I am doing my math correctly... less than 1% of our tithing goes to help the less fortunate through welfare and humanitarian aid. (exact amount is .57%)

It is like earning ten bucks and then only spending a nickel to help someone in need.

Sidenote:  Someone might even want to compare the 40 million a year spent on humanitarian efforts with the estimated 4,000,000,000.00 that the church spent in a just a few years on building a mall in downtown Salt Lake. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

396: GOD'S TIMING


Today a new video called 'God's Timing' was uploaded. It is the 4th video in a series of videos being created for the 500th year Commemoration of the Protestant Reformation. It is now available to watch on the youtube channel.  There are more videos being created to complete this series about the Protestant Reformation. A new installment of videos will then be created focusing on the Restoration and then a final series about the future of Christianity. They will all be posted here on this website:

Here is link for Part 04: God's Timing








A friend of mine just sent me the new release that Chaplain Gavin Ashenden, a chaplain to the Queen of England just resigned from his high religious position. Just like Martin Luther and other men of courage, he stood up for the truth and his convictions. I admire such men of courage. Here is an excerpt from a news article that is very interesting.

Nine years ago I as appointed as a Chaplain to the Queen. Last week, as the press has reported, I resigned.I had expected to enjoy the honour of the office for another 8 years – until I was 70.I was sorry to give it up.I resigned in order to be able to speak out more freely about the struggle that Christianity is facing in our culture.When in the 1950’s Macmillan was supposedly asked what as Prime minister he most feared, he replied “events dear boy- events”.I had no idea that there were plans afoot by a Scottish Cathedral to ‘reach out to Muslims’ by scrapping a Bible reading from their worship on the Feast of the Epiphany, (when Christ’s Lordship is celebrated as the Light of the World greeted by Persian travelling mathematicians,) and replacing it with a part of the Koran that denied Jesus was the Son of God, Word made flesh. But when it did happen, it represented such a serious repudiation of allegiance to Christ and the Gospels, that it could not be left unchallenged.
...
We live in a period of serious ignorance about faith and religion. For the last forty years, teachers have been relentlessly teaching that everything is relative. It has been part of an assault on the Christian claims that there are moral absolutes. I was faced with the choice of either keeping my royal honour, and not creating ripples on the surface of the body politic by speaking out; or resigning the honour so that I could comment freely on issues of the day that I considered required a Christian voice. I’ve been speaking out for a while now, and stretching the comfort zone of the two roles to a place where one had to give way to the other.

As so often in life, as Jesus warns us, we have to choose which god we serve. During this last week, I found I had come to a moment when I had to make a choice. In the Christian life, there are times when one has to renounce once kind of honour in the hope of gaining a different kind of honour.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

395: THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION DISCUSSED IN THE 2017 PRIESTHOOD LESSON MANUAL

Below is the cover for the new priesthood lesson manual for 2017. This year's LDS curriculum will involve studying the life and teachings of President Gordon B. Hinckley. When I saw the cover of the manual I immediately noticed the large portrait on the wall looming behind President Hinckley. No, it is not portrait of Jesus Christ, nor even of Joseph Smith.. but it is a painting of Brigham Young. Anyway.. thought that was interesting, but I digress.



The first lesson in the manual is on "The Restoration of the Gospel—The Dawning of a Brighter Day". Ironically one of the main points in the lesson is about the Reformation. Here is an excerpt from the manual found on page 3 sections 2.



Section 2: 
The Renaissance and Reformation helped prepare the way for the restoration of the gospel.

Somehow, in that long season of darkness, a candle was lighted. The age of Renaissance brought with it a flowering of learning, art, and science. There came a movement of bold and courageous men and women who looked heavenward in acknowledgment of God and His divine Son. We speak of it as the Reformation.

Reformers worked to change the Christ church, notably such men as Luther, Hus, Zwingli, and Tyndale. These were men of great courage, some of whom suffered cruel deaths because of their beliefs. Protestantism was born with its cry for reformation. When that reformation was not realized, the reformers organized churches of their own. They did so without priesthood authority. Their one desire was to find a niche in which they might worship God as they felt He should be worshiped.

While this great ferment was stirring across the Christian world, political forces were also at work. Then came the American Revolutionary War, resulting in the birth of a nation whose Constitution declared that government should not reach its grasping hand into matters of religion. A new day had dawned, a glorious day. Here there was no longer a state church. No one faith was favored above another.

After centuries of darkness and pain and struggle, the time was ripe for the restoration of the gospel. Ancient prophets had spoken of this long-awaited day.

All of the history of the past had pointed to this season. The centuries with all of their suffering and all their hope had come and gone. The Almighty Judge of the nations, the Living God, determined that the times of which the prophets had spoken had arrived. Daniel had foreseen a stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands and which became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
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Most are not aware that this year is the 500th year commemoration of the Reformation. It was on October 31, 1517 that Martin Luther began the reformation after publishing his 95 Thesis. A new website was posted today with a wealth of information  about Martin Luther as well as all of the other key players in the Reformation. Here is the link to the website:


In addition to numerous essays, the website contains short videos vignettes. Below are links to the first installment of 3 videos commemorating the Protestant Reformation. Each video is about 4-5 minutes in length. More videos are underway to be posted on the youtube channel. Subscribers will be notified when new videos are uploaded.

Here are the three videos.





Friday, December 23, 2016

394: THE RETURN OF LIGHT

The longest night and shortest day occurred this week. The beginning of light returning, and lengthening daylight, is the Winter Solstice. It is one of the four astronomical events that are significant alignments with the sun and the earth. I think they are important to observe. I find when we make the effort however great or small the sacrifice, heaven takes notice. I am grateful for all of the experiences I have had in observing these dates.

It is just after the Winter Solstice that we celebrate the birth of Christ even though it is not the day he was born. The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336 AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine. It was Pope Julius I who officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th of December as few years later. Why December 25th?.  There is an early Christian tradition held that Mary was told that she would have give birth to the Son of God on March 25th - This belief of the Annunciation is still celebrated today on the 25th of March. That is one of the many reasons given as to why we observe Christmas on the 25th of December..since nine months after the 25th March is the 25th December. However, many feel that Christ was probably born in the spring or even possibly the fall.. but I'll write about that on other post.  

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. It is also the first night of Hanukah. It is not very often that these two sacred religious holidays line up on the same day. In the past 100 years, it has only happened 3 times.  I am looking forward to spending the time with my family with anticipation of celebrating Christmas on the Sabbath Day this year and partaking of the Sacrament. Many years ago I created a video expressing my simple testimony of Christ that I know to be true. Many of the photos in the video I took over in Israel. In the video, I superimposed them with classic paintings from the life of Jesus Christ. Here is the link to the video.
 



Sidenote:

Today is Joseph Smith's Birthday.  A friend of mine sent my the following quote from BH Roberts that I had not read before that I wanted to post.

"Not half--not one-hundredth part--not a thousandth part of that which Joseph Smith revealed to the church has yet been unfolded, either to the church or to the world. The work of the expounder has scarcely begun. The Prophet planted by teaching the germ-truths of the great dispensation of the fulness of times. The watering and weeding is going on, and God is giving the increase, and will give it more abundantly in the future as more intelligent discipleship shall obtain..” BH Roberts


In additional that quote I wanted to share some excerpts I found on another blog, I came across this post that was written 2 years ago that I think are important:

" The reference to the “light winning over darkness” on the Winter Solstice is based on natural ebb and flow of sunlight on this planet. The longest night and shortest day are the day before the Solstice. The beginning of light returning, and lengthening daylight, is the Solstice....
 
For Joseph, the mission was global and he wanted to have the entire human family reached by his ministry. Joseph rushed in to correct errors and preserve the group too quickly, and with too much centralized control. Had he allowed others to wander away, the restoration may have included fewer people, but they would have had a greater chance of achieving Zion.It is apparent, now in hindsight, that the world will never qualify to be gathered. Now the focus must be to find only the very few who, by their patience and heed can qualify to be true, faithful, patient, meek, humble and willing to allow the Lord’s timing and not their own control the events.

In the end, there will be only a few gathered. Those who qualify will have proven themselves true and faithful in all things and prepared to converse with the Lord through the veil.
 
------------------------------------------------------------------
 
In response to a question about God not presently having a house on earth, it should be clear this is not a reference to men as the temple of God. God does dwell with some now living.

Nor is it a reference to the various synagogues, cathedrals, chapels, temples and religious facilities constructed by all the various religions in which men practice their rites and devotions to God. Some of those are lovely, quiet and filled with reverence and beauty.

It is a reference to a House God will visit and accept as His. He will appear there, send His messengers (angels) to visit and open a fiery corridor between heaven and earth. Or, in other words, a place where a pillar of fire will dwell.

This was not a criticism of places of worship used by men today. It is an observation of present conditions and a description of what will need to be built and accepted prior to the Lord’s return. It will need to be constructed strictly, in accordance with the pattern God requires, and not something men presently construct as their places of worship."


Everything from the location to the details of the design must be according to God’s instructions. It will be proof on the earth for heaven to behold, showing to the Powers of Heaven that mankind (however few) are listening to Him and are now willing to do what He asks. God will control if and when it will be done, and who will be permitted to construct His House. This will not be a volunteer project. God alone will bring it to pass, using means determined by Him.

There must be a site prepared, and an invitation extended, before the Lord’s return. That place must be hallowed. It is a necessary precondition for His return. It is from that site the sanctification of the earth will proceed. Eventually the whole earth will be renewed.

Friday, December 16, 2016

393: WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT IF......

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and the City Council on Tuesday announced the eventual closure of the Road Home, a homeless shelter with over 1200 beds in downtown Salt Lake near the Gateway Mall. In place of the Road Home, four smaller shelters will be built around the valley that will only sleep 150 people each. Despite the homeless population growing each year, this new decision will put 600 homeless people out of a bed. The LDS Church owns the land that the City plans to build one of the homeless shelters.  The city has already spent $9.7 million for two of the locations. Instead of the Church donating their land, it was reported in the news that they would either do a land swap with the City or according to KSL's Paul Nelson, the LDS Church has given the city up to three years to buy the property.  DESERET NEWS ARTICLE

Why is it that we can donate millions of dollars to build theaters, malls, high rise office buildings and expensive condos and apartments, but we can't even donate land for the City to build a homeless center?

Wouldn't it be great if we GAVE to the poor and to the HOMELESS. 


Above is the property that the LDS Church plans to sell to the City. Instead of the Church donating the land, tax money will  used to purchase the land and for a small homeless shelter to be built. 



...............................

Sidenote: Coming in 2017 to be implemented in all the LDS Stakes and Wards.

The Church has a new program initiative for 2017. It is called the North American Self-Reliance Program.  A booklet has been developed, with videos and other resources "to assist priesthood leaders as they exercise their keys, implement these new tools, and help members help themselves toward self-reliance". 

Here is the link to access all the information, including the pdf  files and videos that will used by Church Leaders.  NORTH AMERICA SELF RELIANCE PROGRAM


Wouldn't it be great if the Church came out with a program that would help us be more Christ-Reliant instead of Self-Reliant?

......................

Friday, December 9, 2016

392: THE SIMPLE "GIFTS" IN OUR LIFE THAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED


Even though this video was created by a Christian Church on a really small budget unlike some Church Institutions that have the huge budgets to create their media initiatives, I think it has a great message.

May we put things into perspective and be grateful for the simple "gifts" in our life that we take for granted like our spouse, our children, clean water, electricity, food, jobs, transportation.. and yes (for some).. coffee. For me, just being alive is an amazing gift.



"I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants"

 Mosiah 2:21

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

391: THE SUPERMOON, THE SON OF MAN, and GOD'S STRANGE ACT

A took a photo a few days ago of the "supermoon" from my backyard as it was rising above the Wasatch Mountains. A supermoon occurs when the moon becomes full on the same day as its perigee which is the point in the moon's orbit when it is closest to Earth. During this time, the moon generally appears to be 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full moons. However, this past weekend the moon was called an "extra-super moon" because the moon appeared larger and brighter than at any point in the last 68 years, We won't see another supermoon like this until 2034. 




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Sidenotes:

As a way to show my support for two of my friends, I post the following. This is not related in any way to the Supermoon but I post it now because I wanted to keep my word to them that I would mention something on this blog.

Many years ago I became friends with  Kenneth Cope. I remember listening to his music back when I was a missionary. Probably the most impactful songs that I remember listening to are "Come to Jesus" and "Face to Face."  

Seventeen years ago, Kenneth began working on the dramatic musical for the stage about the life of Jesus Christ, titled: Son of Man.   



While the music as all been written and is at last complete, the recording is far from it. As far as costs go, to record a project this large in length and with this vast arsenal of musicians is almost like recording four solo albums…nearly 2 hours and 40 minutes of music, with full orchestra, a large 100+ voice choir, group vocals (curious townspeople, courageous apostles, contentious Pharisees, believing multitudes, hostile crowds, etc.), along with some ethnic wind instruments indigenous to the Middle East region, and more than thirty vocal soloists. It is a massive undertaking! 

Funding for the project is needed, and Kenneth has asked me to post this on my blog in case there are some who might like to help him raise the necessary funds to finish the production and the recording.  Here is the link: KICKSTARTER website 

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Last but not least, I want to bring to attention two books that my friends John and Jennifer Orton have written. One has been recently released: Strange Things Among Us and the other will be released shortly entitled "Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ"



This is the back cover for Strange Things Among Us: 

The Lord revealed that in the last days He would “proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work” among men. What is His strange work and strange act? How does it differ from His work and His act? And can both coexist? A thorough and careful examination of scripture demonstrates that the great deceptions and trials of our time are purposed as a test—and a gift—from God “that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked” (D&C 101:95).   Beginning with the “strange” great and spacious building Lehi saw in dream, this introductory volume explores the many intricate workings that offer us a choice between good and evil, righteousness and wickedness, truth and error, and God’s way versus the cunning, careful, and deceptive ways of evil. Examining doctrines, rituals, politics, attitudes, beliefs, and traditions in light of what is “strange” paints a shocking picture that hopefully will awaken us to reality and increase our spiritual discernment.    In a surprising and at times difficult irony, we find that men’s workings are strange to God, and God’s workings are strange to men. In His wisdom, mortality provides us the opportunity to choose whether to be a stranger to the world and a friend to God, or to remain estranged from Him.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon:
Strange Things Among Us by John and Jennifer Orten

Monday, November 7, 2016

390: MOURNING FOR MY COUNTRY

"Blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted". 

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While I am going to the polls tomorrow to vote, I think it is going to feel more like going to a funeral. The deceased loved one isn't a friend or relative, but it is my country. I believe our country has been terminally sick for a long time, but tomorrow the decision will be made which in my opinion is similiar to decide on whether or not to pull the plug on the life support on someone you love. 

The country is divided between choosing one who is the epitome of building babylon for gain or the conglomerate mess of everything corrupt and evil. While there are only two candidates that have the potential to win tomorrow, it is important to consider your vote in light of who would pick the next best Supreme Court judge.  

That being said, President Ezra Taft Benson once said,  “Men who are wise, good, and honest, who will uphold the Constitution of the United States in the tradition of the Founding Fathers, must be sought for diligently.  This is our hope to restore government to its rightful role." 

I think it is still possible to vote for good men. Good and honest men who will take the oath of office seriously, to protect, defend and preserve the Constitution. Men who are married and have raised a family. In his acceptance speech, Darrell Castle said the following, 

"The Constitution is the charter of liberty for the American Republic. It is much more than just a piece of paper or just a legal document. It is evidence of the grand design the founders left us and it secures the rights that God granted to us. In the Declaration of Independence Mr. Jefferson told us that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights and to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men. That is the purpose of government and the reason why the Constitution was and is necessary. Adherence to the Constitution brings liberty and ignoring and denigrating it brings tyranny. That’s why my political party is the Constitution Party. It is not perfect but it is the best there is.
“Today I want to speak to you in defense of liberty and against tyranny. I speak for the republic and against the fascism that seems to be enveloping us. The general government was created by the sovereign states for a specific purpose; that purpose was to protect our God-given rights. Anything that runs afoul of that purpose is therefore illegal and unconstitutional. And since virtually everything this government does runs afoul of that purpose, virtually everything it does is illegal and unconstitutional.”(Darrell Castle, Acceptance Speech, Salt Lake City, 16 April 2016)

Everyone needs to vote their conscience. I think we all believe that there is truly only one that will be able to mend our country. My prayers are that He comes soon.

With that said, I end this blogpost with a video that a friend asked me to help him create many years ago. I don't think I have posted it on this blog yet. I think on the eve of the Presidential Election that it might be the best time to do so.   





May we all continue in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, have hope for a better world .. 
and pray for charity. 

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Monday, October 31, 2016

389: "I THINK I'LL DEDICATE THAT ONE. IT"S GOOD FISHING UP THERE"

In October 2011, President Thomas S Monson in the opening session of the 182nd annual General Conference announced the new temples to be built. He said,

"I am pleased to announce new temples in the following locations: Barranquilla, Colombia; Durban, South Africa; Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Star Valley, Wyoming... I think I’ll dedicate that one. It’s good fishing up there." 

Well, President Monson was not able to take his fishing trip up to Wyoming this weekend to dedicate the now complete Star Valley Temple. Instead, Elder Bednar dedicated the Temple in all three sessions. Here is his photo outside the temple that was published in the Deseret News. 




While most might not notice, it is now becoming commonplace to no longer have an East facing Angel Moroni on top of the Temple.. Last month, I wrote a blog post "Does the direction we face matter"about the new Meridian Temple where I pointed out that the iconic statue faces South. The decision was made to align Angel Moroni to those entering into the Temple instead of the symbolic facing east symbolically heralding in the Lord's Return. The Angel Moroni on this newly dedicated temple in Wyoming does not face East either. It actually faces directly West. With this new orientation, Angel Moroni will always have his back to the rising sun (see the photo below.) I am not sure why the departure from the symbolic East direction.  Having Angel Moroni facing the complete opposite direction seems odd to me.








Thursday, October 27, 2016

388: LDS CHURCH DONATES MILLIONS TO NEW DOWNTOWN SLC THEATER

It appears that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has donated millions to the new theater in downtown Salt Lake which is part of the City Creek Downtown Rising Project. The new theater is an extension to the LDS Church's high end office building called 111 Main. The 100 million plus theater is interconnected and actually shares the same lobby as the Church's latest addition to City Creek building portfolio. I wrote about 111 Main Office Tower here.


Below is a photo of the ribbon cutting gala event that took place last week.

 

 In the photo below, is the cutting the ribbon. The Eccles family were the highest donors to the building which the theater is now named after. The family representatives are the ones holdind the giant scissors. Elder M Russell Ballard is also part of the ribbon cutting ceremony and can been seen just to the left of the Eccles. The LDS Church is the listed as the third highest donor. Hard to know for sure if the listing is in order of donation magnitude, but if it is, that would put the church’s donation somewhere between $6,000,000.00 and $2,000,000.00 million dollars.  I wasn't in attendance, but I wonder if instead of  shouting "Let's Go Shopping" the said in unison "Let's Go the Show". 

 Here is the list  of the Top Five Listed Donors:

First Listed Donor (building named after)
George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation = $15,000,000.00

2nd Listed Donor
Delta Air Lines = $6,000,000.00
3rd Listed Donor
The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints Foundation and 
City Creek Reserve, Inc.

4th Listed Donor
O.C. Tanner Company

5th Listed Donor
Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation = $2,000,000.00 million

As part of the three-day Grand Opening Celebration, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcasted  their weekly "Music and the Spoken Word" from this new theater last Sunday on Oct. 23, 2016. The MoTab's radio and TV broadcast was the first time in its 88-year history that the program originated from a Salt Lake venue other than the Salt Lake Tabernacle or LDS Conference Center.


Ironically, the 2016-2017 Season tickets for the Eccles Theater are now on sale.  Some of the shows include: Dirty Dancing, Kinky Boots and the less then flattering Broadway show, The Book of Mormon: the musical.  So interesting that that the Church would donated tithing money to a venue that would play such shows instead of building homeless shelters and food kitchens. One day I hope to get an explanation on why the Church spends the widows mite on such things. 
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Sidenote:
I was in Cedar City this past weekend and drove by the new LDS Temple that is being built. (See below on the left).  The Church does a great job in finding the most exclusive areas and high end residential areas to build their Temples.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

387: TEACHING GOD'S COMMANDMENTS IN THE HOME: A Sacrament Talk

Last Sunday, a friend of mine gave this talk in his LDS ward during Sacrament Meeting. His assigned topic was Teaching God's Commandments in the Home. I asked him for permission to post his talk in this blog post. Here is a link to the pdf file. I know many are struggling with attending their traditional Church meetings. Maybe if more talks were given like this in Sacrament, more would continue to attend. 

Teaching God’s Commandments in the Home
Sacrament Talk given by Bob Sonntag on 10.16.2016


If the scriptures are adamant about one point, it is that all of us must come unto Christ and be saved. If they say a second thing, it is that there is only one very specific path back to Christ’s presence.
Romans 10 says that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” as preached by a messenger sent by God. If someone is not sent by God, or if they deviate from God’s word, their message cannot produce faith, no matter how zealously it is believed.
In Mosiah 4 we find that the miraculous response to the repentance of King Benjamin’s people came “because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which King Benjamin had spoken unto them.”
Saving faith could only come “according to the words” given by God. Christ said of his commandments given in the Sermon on the Mount:
Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so to  do, he shall in no wise be saved in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach these commandments… the same shall be called great, and shall be saved in the kingdom of heaven. (JST Matthew 5:21)
A study of that sermon suggests why Christ is so particular: the commandments of God exalt you in the act of keeping them. They reveal God’s nature by causing you to emulate his mercy, integrity, and loving kindness.
It sounds simple enough. What goes wrong? A third core message of the scriptures is that we will be presented with “commandments of men” as a counterfeit of the commandments of God. Since most people are actually trying to be good, the best way to lead them astray is to give them a false standard of goodness.
These counterfeits are created when well-meaning teachers think they can improve on God’s commandments by addition, subtraction, or modification (3 Nephi 11:40; D&C 10:68).
In 3 Nephi 18:3, Christ says

But whoso among you shall do more or less than [my commandments] are not built upon my  rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.
Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you.
He then warns us to be watchful and prayerful to make sure we are not led astray by falsehoods.

When we attempt to teach the gospel disconnected from the words God has caused to be written then the difference between God’s commandments and the commandments of men is obscured. The spirit cannot override our neglect of the scriptures and force truth out of our mouths (D&C 11:21-22; Mosiah 1:3-5). The less we ground our teachings in a careful and correct reading of the scriptures, the more our teaching will consist of stock phrases, trite platitudes, sentimental stories, clichés, and folk traditions. Worse yet, we will develop guidelines; standards of dress, speech and behavior; and invented commandments that spring from those traditions rather than from God’s word. At best those things  simply distract us, waste our time, and turn the beautiful simple gospel of Christ into a soul crushing exercise in behavior control. At their worst they actually cause us to break true commandments. Just as  we come to know God through his true commandments, we gain a false and distorted view of him when those commandments are added to or diminished. Since eternal life means to know God, a false understanding of him will thwart our salvation until we abandon it for truth (John 17:3).
D&C 93 contrasts the commandments of God with the traditions of men:

36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one.
27 And no man receiveth a fulness [of truth] unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things…
39…that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.
The most damaging false traditions are those which come to be seen as fundamental, indispensable, essential features of a religion, causing people to disobey God while thinking they are righteous.
[Paragraphs in red cut for time] Orthodox Jews at the time of Jesus were taught that the teachings of their leaders were more important than past prophets, including the head of their dispensation. They were taught that only the rabbis could provide authoritative interpretation of scripture. They were taught that they were to treat the teachings of the rabbis as if God had spoken it, and follow them and be blessed or reject them and suffer. The inevitable result of those beliefs was that they taught for doctrines the commandments of men, developing an invented set of laws they treated as though it were the Torah (Matthew 15:1-9). One such faux-commandment involved a ceremonial washing of the hands before a meal, wherein they recited the following prayer:
“Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Thy commandments and has commanded us concerning the washing of the hands.”
They knew that we are sanctified by keeping God’s commandments, but, as God’s people almost always do, they invented commandments which could not sanctify. They claimed God commanded them to wash their hands; ask them where God commanded that and they could only point to their traditions.
Latter-day Saint history provides us with numerous examples. I’ve chosen one from the 19th century, because if I chose one from the 21st  century we’re uncomfortably close to some steep gullies that are

perfect for an angry mob to throw a heretic into. This example will help us focus on the role of parents in teaching their children truth.
Here is an excerpt from a letter shared with me by a friend, from her ancestor Gilbert Belnap to his wife Adaline Knight, dated February 25,1856
"Instruct the children in the ways of the Lord and be not too severe in your chastisement of them. Kiss them all for me and teach the little boys to avenge the Blood of the Prophet."
I’m not the most careful reader, but even I noticed that this advice took a left turn somewhere in the middle. Where did Gilbert get this idea to teach his sons vengeance? Shortly after the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, it was thought to be appropriate to cause the saints to enter into a covenant to
promise that [they would] pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that [they would] teach the same to [their] children and to [their] children's children unto the third and fourth generation.1
This covenant was thought so important that it was administered in the Saints’ most sacred places, as part of their most sacred ceremonies.
While the wording of the covenant remained the same for 90 years, the saints’ understanding of it evolved, as traditions do. In the decade-or-so between Joseph’s death and Gilbert’s letter the saints came to believe that the covenant didn’t simply mean to pray for God to take vengeance on the nation, but that the saints themselves were responsible for taking vengeance. Gilbert was simply repeating to his sons the version of the gospel that was current among the saints. It was orthodox. It was a fundamental and essential feature of what Gilbert thought Mormonism was. So what could he have done differently?
When he heard over the pulpit that the saints were themselves responsible for vengeance could he have thought back to the wording of the covenant he had made and realize he was now hearing a misinterpretation of those words?
Going back further, when Gilbert was asked to covenant to pray for divine vengeance to rain down upon his enemies, could he have asked himself whether that was the right thing to do?
If he studied his scriptures, he might have read D&C 84, where God informs the saints that they are under condemnation for “treating lightly” the Book of Mormon and failing to do what it taught. Maybe that would have led him to read the book very carefully, where he would read of Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, and others praying with all their hearts for the salvation of people who wanted them dead. He would read in 3 Nephi 12:
behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven
“Pray for”. Not pray against. And certainly don’t seek vengeance (3 Nephi 12:39).


Gilbert would be faced with hard choices. Should he remain orthodox, and prize the words of his leaders over Christ’s own words, and keep the covenant he had made? Or should he instead follow Christ’s instructions, that he might be a Child of his Father in Heaven? Had the saints chosen that second path, D&C 84 says they would have brought forth fruit meet for the kingdom of God (vs. 58). Instead, the violent rhetoric about vengeance and bloodshed only grew more intense and elaborate in the months following Gilbert’s letter. Words were soon tragically matched by action in eruptions of violence so horrific we still haven’t fully processed them as a Church.2 As Gilbert should have examined his most precious beliefs before passing them on to his children, so we should ours.
We must not expect God to conform to our traditions, no matter how precious they are to us, how  popular, or how orthodox. If our obedience is to the commandments of men, we will only experience a tedious oppressive version of the gospel. Truly seeking God, and leading our children to him, will require setting aside our creeds and seeking truth as little children. As Joseph Smith said:
To all those who are disposed…to set up stakes for the almighty—[you] will come short of the glory of god. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the son [a man] must put away all his traditions. (Smith Diary, August 27, 1843)



Bob Sonntag 10.16.2016