My Preparation for the Temple: Are you kind to your family?

At times I questioned myself if I can answer those temple recommend interview questions with no issues.  I remember the last time I went for a temporary temple recommend interview back in March for Baptisms for the Dead.  I caught myself being harsh when asked questions.  I attribute it to judging ourselves and we are our own worse judge.  My Bishop agreed.

I often find myself self-interviewing on one particular question:

Are you kind to your family members?

Am I?  What does that mean?  It means, do I treat them as Christ would during the good times and the bad times?  Do I display patience with my family at all times?  Am I a good Father and Husband?

For a while, I was in a cycle of confusion and this is how it went:

  1. Despair

    I feel like I am in a deep hole, looking upwards at the sky and that I can’t make it out.I feel that my family deserves better than I have given in the past.  I have only been at it for over 18 months and I thought I was changing.  I’m not sure sometimes.  At times I feel like I really have changed.I am not always patient or soft spoken in stressful situations.  I seem to let the worst come out of me only in front of my spouse and children.   In my early twenties, I picked up the bad habbit of swearing.  My language has cleaned up over the past 18 months but I have those moments of relapse.

    I expect so much from my family (from expecting the same strictness that I had to follow when I was younger) at times that it only leads me to anger and fits of yelling when things aren’t going well.

    I’ve been taught that true conversion happens over time.  Am I converted?  Am I converted enough?

    Could I stand tall with my fellow brethren who are temple recommend holders?

  2. Hope

    Every Sunday, I feel energized and I believe that I can climb my way out of this deep hole.I realize to myself that I cannot be perfect and Christ-like at all times.  That is why we have the atonement.I am thankful for the atonement and the fact that Jesus Christ took upon himself my sins, my sadness and my pain.  I am thankful for the ordinance of Sacrament where I can renew my baptismal covenants and be forgiven for my short comings.   During Sacrament, I feel true sorrow and pain.  I then feel forgiven and my burdens lifted away.

    I love the feeling of being clean and renewed for another week.

    I pray for long suffering, patience, being a good example for my children and to be a better Father and Husband.

    I love feeling I can start over with myself and my family.

  3. Confusion

    I feel like the moment that I slip, no matter how high I have made it I fall to the bottom of that deep hole and I have to start over.  Maybe I’ve raised my voice to my kids or handle a stressful situation very poorly.  When growing up, my parents were very strict and always yelled.  I see myself doing that sometimes.  I see my oldest son yelling at his brothers sometimes and I see myself in him and I become deeply saddened.With the atonement comes repentance.  I truly feel sorry for the mistakes and actions that make me feel like I am not kind enough to my family.  But true repentance means taking steps to not do it again and then, not do it!

    But when I falter I feel like I have failed at repentance.  I take my prior transgressions from the week before and add it on to this week as well.  That deep hole is getting even deeper.

    What if it has been months that I feel I’ve been doing a good job and then I mess up by losing my temper and swear up a storm and scream and yell?

    When do I become better?  How long do I go without slipping before I can answer “Yes” to the question “Are you kind to your family members?”   It can’t be one week.  A Month?  Two Months?

    How can I live higher laws if I cannot live these lower laws?

    Am I ever going to make it to the Temple?

    Go to back to Despair

I feel like I have finally broken out of this confusing cycle by realizing that during this journey of life every day we build ourselves up to be much more righteous and when we falter we have the atonement and repentance to lift ourselves up and try again.  As long as we are on the upward climb we are doing well.

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times that by doing in faith the following: Daily prayer, scripture reading, and keeping our minds constantly on the Savior Jesus Christ and the Savior make a very, very large difference.

A Humbling Fathers Day 2008

I woke up and found that my wife was sick and that she wasn’t going to make it to Church. I wanted to roll over and not go to Church either after being up late the night before. Despite my better judgment, I almost did just that – until my youngest son walked in the room and I looked at him in his sweet, big, round eyes.

At that moment I realized how important Church was and even if I didn’t want to go that moment, that it would benefit my children if I took them and if I tagged along. I felt humbled and shameful for even thinking that I should just sleep in. My priorities were jumbled. Then the verse “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalms 127:3) came to my mind.

As President Gordon B. Hinckley read in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, he says:

“Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

I have that duty to:

  • Rear my children in righteousness.
  • Provide for their Spiritual Needs
  • Teach them to observe the commandments of God

In this case, I should observe the Sabbath day and take my children to church. I should teach my children by living a life as an example and going to Church every Sunday. These children, are not only mine, but of the Lord. And I have been given stewardship over them.

I can remember taking my children to church by myself at least one other time back in December. It is these times I appreciate my wife herding the children in the chapel and lobby. I feel lucky that both times the kids generally behaved and didn’t give me too much of a hard time.

Picking up my boys after class had its own rewards. The happiness and smiles from their faces after being in Sunday School made it more than worth it.

The 178th Annual General Conference: Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ Talk

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Besides President Monson’s talks from 178th Annual General Conference weekend, Elder Dallin H. Oaks who is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is the one that has stuck with me the most.

One of the first things he said that has been ringing in my head ever since was what he said on bearing testimony, which was actually quoted from Spencer W. Kimball:

The minute we begin preaching to others, our testimony has ended.

That took me a few moments of pondering, but it makes absolute sense! Preaching is not bearing our testimonies.

The Truth

During a testimony, what do we mean when we testify and say that we know the gospel is true? When we say “I know this church is true,” what does that mean?

Elder Oaks compares it by two examples:

  1. Scientific- “I know it is cold outside.”
  2. Personal and Subjective – “I know I love my wife.”

Scientific knowledge is based on actual facts. We know it is cold because we can measure the temperature and our bodies react the freezing cold. We can prove this to others easily.

Personal and Subjective knowledge is something that others must trust you on. Knowing you love your wife is only something you could really know. While not capable of scientific proof, it is still important. You can’t say that all important knowledge is based on scientific evidence.

Scientific methods will not yield spiritual truths. To gain knowledge – you must desire it, then you ask for it.

  • If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal (D&C 42:61)
  • Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit (Alma 5:46)

Testimonies

  • Testimonies are gained bearing them rather than on your knees asking for it.
  • We need to partake of the Sacrament every week to qualify to have his spirit to always be with us. That spirit gives us testimonies.
  • Children should hear us bear our testimonies frequently. Let them define themselves by bearing their own testimonies and building.
  • When we have a testimony of the restored gospel we also have a duty to share it.  We have a duty to clarify doctrine for others, rather than let others misrepresent. We should speak in mildness and meekness, never be overbearing, shrill or reviling. We should speak the truth in love.
  • Anyone can disagree with our personal testimony but no one can refute it.

Obedience and Knowledge

  • Members who have a testimony and act upon it under direction of church leaders are accused of blind obedience.  Our obedience is not blind but comes from the knowledge we gain through our testimonies.
  • When it comes to learning and knowing the truth of the gospel, our personal testimonies, we all have a personal witness of the Jesus Christ and God through the power of the Holy Ghost.
  • We can be united in following our leaders and independent for knowing for ourselves.

Two Channels to God

  1. Through our Leaders and Prophets. This channel has to deal with doctrine, ordinances and commandments. This results in obedience.
  2. Personal Testimony. The existence of God, our relationship to him and the truth of the restored gospel.
  • These two channels are mutually reinforcing.
  • Knowledge encourages obedience and obedience enhances knowledge,
  • Obedience is not blind when done in knowledge.
  • Choice to follow teachings is not blind obedience.

I began writing this post write after this session but never got around to finishing it until now. Since then, the actual transcript of Elder Oaks’ talk can now be found on lds.org by clicking here.

The 178th Annual General Conference

The First PresidencyThis weekend was the 178th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I could remember it like it was only yesterday that it was General Conference in October and it was all new to me.  This time around it felt like old hat.  I actually woke up at 9am to watch the conferences.  I enjoyed all the messages that were given and I have found a new appreciation for our first presidency.  I really didn’t know anything about the first presidency a year ago and I didn’t know Gordon B. Hinckley.

I’m glad I got to know Hinckley during the last conference before he passed.  I’ve come to appreciate all that he’s done for the Church.

It was the first time I’ve seen the calling and sustaining of a Prophet and his First Presidency.  I felt the Spirit as Utchdorf read off the names of our new leaders.  Even though I was at home, watching in my bedroom at 9am in the morning in my t-shirt and shorts, I was engaged enough to stand and sustained each and everyone of them by raising my right hand.  It was a wonder to me knowing that members around the world must be standing as well raising their right hand to sustain as well.

I am so impressed with the new First Presidency!  I never really knew Thomas S. Monson before this general conference.  He had also surprised me with his humor and his stories.  I remember Henry B. Eyring from before and loved hearing what he had to say.  And Dieter F. Uchtdorf is so likable and has such a friendy and welcoming characteristic about himself.

I’ve felt my testimony strengthened watching this conference and seeing the leadership of this Church.  These men are absolutely called of God.  Their words are divinely inspired without a doubt.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is absolutely the church of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is his Church.

Going to the Temple

I can’t remember the last time I felt the spirit so strongly.

I am so excited. My ward has been planning a trip to the temple to do baptisms for the youth and new converts. When I first heard about this, I was kind of leary about going yet. There are so many things that made me want to wait and I thought I was going to do just that. I even planned on working on the Saturday that was planned.

I believe that the hand of the Lord was influencing things today as I attended Church today. We made it just as church was beginning today. We were able to sit through and take sacrament together as a family. It was ward conference and there were sustainings and a message from our bishop.

The Bishop had a message about how we are not perfect, but if we are willing we can improve every day and also the importance of us sharing the gospel with everyone.

The new stake president (the man who asked me to speak in another ward last summer) also delivered an influencing message. How we should stop concentrating on the temporal things such as having that large home or car or watching TV and focus on our spiritual needs and how to put our Heavenly Father first.

We had a combined meeting for 2nd hour – and one of the stake councilors spoke about the importance of family and the plan of happiness / plan of salvation.

The third hour we had a combined priesthood meeting and we spoke about the needs of our significant others.

Before third hour, the brother that had baptized me approached me about going to the temple next Saturday. I thought I had already made up my mind and kindly told him I wasn’t going to. But then a feeling came over me that I should go anyway. After talking with him shortly I decided it was something I should do. Everything fell into place from here.

I was found by the Bishop’s secretary and had an appointment for after church for the temple recommend interview. I was beaming with joy at this point.

The whole day so far made me realize many things:

  • How much I love my wife and children and how I want to be with them forever.
  • The joy that comes from coming to church every week.
  • This church has brought nothing but goodness to my life.
  • This church is ABSOLUTELY the Church of Jesus Christ.

After third hour, I met up with my lovely family and asked them to wait while I talked to the Bishop.

It was a wonderful meeting, full of the spirit, I was bursting at the seams with joy. My interview went well, with the usual questions which are similar if not exactly what we are asked for our baptism interview or priesthood interviews.

There is one question that is different that came up and I was waiting for it. The Bishop asked me “Are you worthy to go to the temple?” This seems like a simple question but it is not. I realize that no unclean thing can be before the Lord, let alone enter his house. I had the feeling I should have just said yes, but with trying to be honest to myself and the Lord I said “…pretty much, 95% sure.” And why did I answer this way? Because I am not a perfect person. However, the Bishop again started to explain that part of being worthy is to be willing (note the keyword willing) to be obedient to the Lord. And I do believe I am.

“We are our own worst judge.” I said, and then I said that I am indeed worthy to enter the temple.

The Bishop also mentioned that he has noticed a change in my countenance and I was glad to hear that. I felt a change in the past few weeks. I felt a change because I’ve been doing what they always say:

  • Keep the commandments.
  • Study the scriptures daily.
  • Have family home evening.
  • Pray together as a family.
  • Pray while alone.

I testify that these things make an absolute difference. I’ve tried to follow the advice before.

Trying was bringing change and happiness in my life.

Doing, however, has brought immense joy and peace.

Even though I said I was going to work on a Saturday, I have to say that I am not. To make up for it, I will work late on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday, I will rest and prepare to enter the temple and on the coming weekend I will dedicate it completely to spiritual things, which absolutely take importance above all temporal issues.

I am anticipating being dunk again. The feeling of being baptized is like none other. I was thinking since I was an Elder I could help by doing the baptisms, but I there is a policy that I have to be a member for a year and have a full temple recommend as well as being an Elder to do so. I am fine with that, I just want to help anyway that I can.

I am excited to enter the House of the Lord.

Gordon B. Hinckley

hinckley_medium.jpgIs it weird that I am not saddened?

The President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley has died at the age of 97.

Being less than a year into this, I can’t say that I’m too affected by it. I have only really heard him speak once during the Semi-Annual General Conference. I enjoyed what he had to say in October and was looking forward to him this April.

I realize the progress this Prophet made for the church during his presidency and admire his works. The world went from 56 to 224 temples? Amazing!

So is it weird that I am not saddened by his passing?

No. I am happy for him!  Happy because of the plan of Salvation.

I found out last night when my friend Mike gave me a call.  I said a prayer for his family to have peace and comfort.  I wasn’t saddened really, just  a little surprised.  I thought he was kidding around when he said he was hoping to make it to April’s General Conference.

He had lived a great life. I know where he has gone. He is with our Father in Heaven, his wife and his other family. And he will get his reward:

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Matthew 25:21)

How much can the Bishop Help?

Alot.

Last night, my Bishop made extra time for me and met with me at 9:30pm at night.  We talked for a good hour and a half about the things that were bothering me.

I feel spiritually recharged and like I can take anything on.   Things are falling into place as if the Lord has prepared a way for me out of my situation.

It was past 11:00pm when I left church.

I felt relieved, with a new energy and my testimony strengthened even more.

I really appreciate my Bishop and the hard work and dedication he has to the ward.

Faith, Home Teaching, Obedience and Meekness Really Do Work

Things seem to be very difficult in my life right now with one thing after another going wrong. I’ve been depressed and stressed out. I admit, I did not want to go to Church on Sunday. The night before, I only had two hours of sleep and it was already 8:15am when I woke up. Sacrament started at 9:00am.

I almost rolled over and went back to bed, but didn’t. I felt I had to be strong, if not for myself than for my children. After an agonizing wait to get everyone ready and loaded into the minivan, we arrived at church. It was 9:30am when we arrived.

It’s a bad feeling when I miss sacrament. Something I used to view lightly when I was growing up in Catholic Church now meant so much to me. It meant that I can start over and wash away anything less than righteous from the week before. I sat in the lobby feeling empty and didn’t even try to enter the chapel.

There I sat for about ten minutes until the thought came in my head: “You can leave church, you missed sacrament anyway.” No, I couldn’t do it – I was already there and I remembered that I DO actually get something out of the other Sunday School and Priesthood Meetings. Besides, the children would learn something new and enjoy their Sabbath day. The last twenty minutes went by easier.

The Sunday School Gospel Essentials lesson was a review on the Second Coming of Christ: The signs of the second coming, the gathering of the house of Israel (the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the Millennium. And there was one more thing – integrity. Then our teacher started touching points of his experiences at his caucus the day before.

Priesthood Meeting was good. We sang “I am a Child of God” as the opening song and then everyone shared their missionary stories and the bishop talked to us about fulfilling our home teaching. Both ways – meaning that if you had not been contacted by your home teacher, seek them out and get it rolling!

Afterwards, I spotted my home teaching companion and my assigned member and we scheduled an appointment. I had a home teaching appointment with my companion and family at 3:30pm.

After Priesthood Meeting, we went to Elders Quorum where we had an abbreviated lesson on God the Eternal Father and the true nature of the Godhead.

I left for home feeling like I didn’t really get anything out of Church and that my Sabbath day was wasting away.

I napped from 12:30pm until about 1:30pm and then I could not get back to sleep. I searched for and pulled out my unopened January issue of Ensign and began to read the First Presidency message to see what I would teach my family. I read it and thought I was ready to go.

My home teaching companion finally came and he met me at my house. We walked down the street to the family’s home and walked in. He saw that I had my Ensign and he was excited and he left his in the car. After some small talk, we began our lesson with my giving the invocation prayer. My companion offered me the lead and I refused. He kindly took the lead and delivered it like a professional.

After he had done his part and gone through the lesson about how Jesus Christ built bridges, I finally added in my two cent about how Obedience, Service and Prayer has helped me in the past year. There was some more small talk and then my companion gave the benediction prayer and we left. I felt enlightened and really took something away from my time at their home.

My companion and I was walking back to his car when he asked what seemed to be a routine question.

What can I do for you?

Usually I am prideful or embarrassed so I give the routine response back, “Oh nothing, we’re doing fine.” Not this time, something came over me and I humbled myself and told him.

I told him about my problems and he counseled me.

My first problem was about my expensive plumbing issues with my house. It turned out he has ownership in a plumbing company so he said he would help me.

“That’s nothing” he said, “piece of cake, if I can I’ll do the work for you and eat the cost.” He then asked again, “What else?” I hesitated for a second and then I humbled myself and continued.”

My second issue was about my mortgage situation. My ARM adjusting for the 3rd time and my payment going ridiculously high. How high? So high I could be living in a house three times the size of the one I have now.

He told me I should talk to the Bishop, if the plans that I have to fix things do not go through, perhaps it can be arranged that someone who is a mortgage expert in the stake can help me. He told me to make an appointment with the bishop.

“This is easy” he said.

“Everyone in our ward is here when you need us, this can be taken care of.”

He then looked at me again and asked me again, “What else?” My heart lightened and then continued again about another issue that has been weighing on me.

My third issue we discussed as well and he again gave me some advice and suggested that I talk to the bishop about it.

My meekness was now obvious and then he asked me again. “What else?” I replied “Nothing else.” He smiled and we talked for a while more. We then were going to part ways and instead of a shake he gives me a hug. It was just what I needed.

I really appreciate him and I hope I can somehow convey that fact and help him one day.

What else good can come from doing home teaching?

Having a home teacher!

At 6:00pm we had a dinner and family home evening scheduled at my new home teacher’s house. I am glad that we went and that they took time out to visit with us. It was very fun and we got along very well since were all pretty similar in age. It also helped that they have very loud boys as well and we felt right at home.

I really appreciate my home teacher as well, with everything he has done for us. We were on the subject of large families and I cannot forget what he said to me.

He said:

“Family is the only thing you can take with you.”

When dinner was over (it was a very good one) and it was time for Family Home Evening, he began and showed me how it was done. All the boys in the room lasted less than five minutes and then the lesson was done. I actually relieved to see it doesn’t last long for him either.
After about three very fun hours at their house we left and went back home.

When we got home I realized that I only had a total of three hours of sleep.

I quickly fell asleep feeling satisfied, content and at peace.

I can say that not giving up faith, being obedient, service, prayer and being meek do have its rewards.

Thank you, Heavenly Father.

There Is No Death: The Extraordinary True Experience

After my friend Mike came back from his mission, we ended up working at the same company and he would share bits and pieces of the LDS Church beliefs with me. I remember sitting in my office over three years ago when my friend Mike started talking about a book that he borrowed and read.

Before he even started speaking I began to have what I described at the time as just cold chills, now that I look back it was more like the spirit talking to me. I was extremely excited to hear about the book he had just read and I knew I just HAD to read it.

The name of the book is called There Is No Death: The Extraordinary True Experience by Sarah Lanelle Menet.

thereisnodeath.jpg

I believe I read all 128 pages TWICE in one weekend, both times in one sitting. I usually don’t do that, but this book has something to it.

This is a story about a women that had a sad and abusive childhood. After attempting to commit suicide due, she leaves her body and enters the spirit world learning much about the beauty and peace that follow this life for those that have lived good lives. She then visits ‘hell’ where her abusive father resided. She learns about forgiveness and the importance of it in our lives. She returns to her body and tells her story after keeping it to herself for several years.

Menet answers many questions in her writings, such as:

  • Why we are here on earth?
  • What Deja Vu is?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Where we lived before being born?
  • What happens to us when we die and the degrees of heaven?
  • Who are guardian angels?
  • What is the basis of people claiming reincarnation?

The book does a few dark topics such as events that have happened (and haven’t happened) which will lead up to Armageddon and the return of Jesus Christ to Earth. However, the the positives in her book greatly outweigh the negatives.

One more note that I’d like to add – At the time of reading the book, I did not know she was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until the very end. Also, she was not a member when she had her experiences as well. She later found that the teachings of the Church matched what she had saw during her experience.

This book definitely had an impact on my life. I recommend this book to everyone, whether you are: an Investigator, a recent convert or a long-time member.

Video Explains Myths vs. Reality

The Official Church Newsroom released the following press release a few days ago: Video Challenges Public Misperceptions, Explains Myths vs. Reality

The Church had produced a ten minute video originally for  journalists visiting Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics.  It was reposted in the Church Newsroom as well as YouTube today to help counter the constant myths about the Church.

Mormon Celebrities: Former NFL quarterback Steve Young and former Miss America Sharlene Hawkes, talk about three major misperceptions the public has about the Church:

  1. Polygamy
  2. Church Openness
  3. Whether Church Members are Christian

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=EfOyGTLDqjM]