The 177th Semiannual General Conference

This weekend was the The 177th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But this was my first General Conference.

It reminded me of when I was younger and my father used to watch Robert Schuller on TV. I could barely stand being in the same room with this program on. I really thought I wouldn’t be able to watch television for two hours at a time and hear men preach, but this was different. I found it really enjoyable and have taken away a lot from it.

I was also worried about not going to church for the first time since I began attending. It turned out to be just as fulfilling.

Things that stuck out to me this weekend:

  • The way Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin began to shake half way through his powerful message.
  • The general priesthood meeting that I attended at my Stake Center with my friend Joey.
  • Sunday’s session with Gordon B. Hinckley speaking about the church as a large family scattered across the Earth with more than 13,000,000 members in 176 nations and territories.
  • The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
  • They sang “I am a Child of God.” (One of my favorites!)
  • Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve speaking about personal revelation.
  • Elder Daniel K. Judd, First Counselor of the Sunday School General Presidency speaking about how it is possible to “feed a horse without nourishing him”…”Grain is more nourishing than hay, and hay more nourishing than straw.” And how vital it is to focus on the fundamental doctrines in our gospel.
  • Elder Octaviano Tenorio of the Seventy and his experiences, knowledge and faith about the Plan of Salvation when speaking about his children and his later father.  And, the comfort he receives from the Plan of Salvation.

While I was invited by my Bishop to actually go to Salt Lake City for the General Conference, I could not go due to financial reasons. Something that I am regretting. I am hoping to have the same opportunity to go to Salt Lake City next April – I am going to go no matter what.

It is amazing to see again and again how organized this great church is. I can clearly see how this church is true by the fruit it bears.

Fortify Yourselves with Daily Gems

Every morning when I arrive at work, I cannot wait to see what is in my email box. Over a month ago, my ward mission leader forwarded me a “daily gem” and suggested that I sign up for it. I did and I am glad. They offer inspiration and help me increase my gospel knowledge on a variety of subjects.

I find that the small emails I receive (Daily Gems, Family Gems, Church History Gems) remind me of the greater picture of life. Of course I should concentrate on my work during the day, but I try to take what I find in the daily gems and be mindful to apply it in my life from that point on.

A daily gem I received on Friday really helped me:

The Great and Wonderful Love

“If you have any thoughts and feelings [of inadequacy and guilt], I invite you to become as a little child and feel again ‘the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son in the coming of the Redeemer into the world’ (D&C 138:3). Childlike faith in the perfect love of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will ‘divide asunder’ (Helaman 3:29) Satan’s snares of inadequacy, imperfection, and guilt.”

My recent feelings of inadequacy and short-comings all went away. It let me realize that I am not a perfect being. It let me realize that at times, I will come up short, but as long as I keep trying it is OK. The point is to keep trying and to grow bit by bit everyday. It let me realize what a gift the atonement is.

 

You can sign up for Daily Gems Here: http://www.lds.org/listservices

A Convert’s Survival Guide: What to Expect at your Baptism

A little over two months ago, I was Baptized. While I knew I was making the right decision, I really didn’t know what to expect. If you are getting baptized, here are things you can expect and some tips that might help you.

In total, I have been to three baptisms: One that I watched, One where I was baptized, and One where I was baptizing (my wife).

If I am incorrect about anything, please let me know.

I was baptized in what they call a baptismal font. Basically a large bath tub that is deep enough to “dunk” you. You can request the temperature of the water.

Usually they will have a lot of white jumpsuits you can choose from, or you can wear your own white clothes.

No pictures during the baptismal ordinance.

The ward mission leader, other members and the missionaries will assist in organizing everything. They will ask you who you want to do what.

Things to decide on:

  • Who I wanted to baptize me.
  • Who I wanted to speak on baptism.
  • Who I wanted to speak on the Holy Ghost.
  • Who I wanted to do the opening prayer.
  • Who I wanted to do the closing prayer.
  • What three hymns I wanted to be sung.

Everything else was handled by others.

Things to bring:

  • A broken heart and contrite spirit. (D&C 20:37)
  • Arrive in Sunday dress.
  • Wear white under clothing.
  • A change of white under clothing.
  • A trash bag to put your wet under clothing in.
  • A towel.
  • An extra pair of socks (just in case you get them wet while changing).

People to bring:

  • A Priest with the Aaronic Priesthood to baptize you. (D&C 20:46)
  • Two Elders as witnesses to make sure you are completely submerged.
  • Someone to conduct (emcee) the Baptism.
  • A member of the Bishopric to preside over the baptism.
  • A Chorister to direct and someone to play the accompaniment for the hymns.
  • Friends and Family.
  • Your new friends from your ward.
  • You!

My baptismal program was as follows in this order:

  • An Opening Song.
  • An Opening Prayer.
  • A Talk on Baptism (Someone you usually ask to speak before hand).
  • Baptism performed by the priesthood holder of your choice.
  • A brief interlude (it could be people sharing their testimony, singing or watching a short video while you are changing clothes).
  • Another Song.
  • A Talk on the Holy Ghost.
  • The member of the Bishopric welcoming you to the ward.
  • A Closing Song.
  • Closing Prayer.
  • Refreshments After.

The Actual Baptism Ordinance:

You and the person doing the baptism enter the font. You stand in the center of the font and face the side wall. The priest doing the baptism will face the audience. Your right hand with your palm facing upwards will be ready to plug your nose when you are submerged. With his left hand he will grab your right wrist. With your left hand (palm down) you hold on to the priest’s left forearm. With his right hand he will hold it up square at the elbow.

Next, the priest calls you by your full name and says:

Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. (D&C 20:73-74)

After that is said, plug your nose with your right hand and he will lower you backwards into the water. His right hand will go behind your back to help ease you in. Bend your knees at first and then lift your feet off the floor and straighten out your legs so you laying flat in the water.

The priest may push you to the floor to make sure you are fully submerged. If you are not fully submerged (if your big toe is sticking out of the water), the ordinance will have to be done again. There should be two Elders that are on either side of the font to make sure you are fully submerged.

That is basically it. The entire experience is very spiritual and just felt right for me when I was the one being baptized and when I was the one doing the baptism.

The second part of your baptism will be your confirmation. That can be done right after your baptism or it is usually done during the Sacrament meeting the following Sunday.

I hope this helps someone wondering what to expect at their baptism. 🙂

The Family Likened To a Car – Jesus Christ is the Master Mechanic

This Sunday, there was a combined Relief Society / Priesthood Meeting. Our Bishop began to relay a message to us holding examples of real-life tires (worn evenly, worn unevenly, a blown out tire that has lost its thread and then a shredded tire.

The message took about an hour, but let me summarize the main ideas of what he said:

The road is like the straight and narrow path in life.

We can be likened to a tire. A tire that is aligned with the gospel wears evenly and last a while. A tire that isn’t aligned (to the gospel) properly will wear out faster and unevenly. A tire that has too much pressure or too little pressure and overloaded can blow out when traveling on the road. A shredded tire is a total catastrophic failure from all factors: not being aligned, not pressured correctly, overloaded, adverse road conditions.

The front tires would be the parents of a family: both mother and father. They turn together and guide the entire car and back wheels.

The back wheels would be the children. They follow where the parents go. They follow our examples.

The suspension that connects the tire to the car is likened to the gospel and scriptures that we have: The Bible (Old Testament, New Testament), the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and modern revelation. They absorb the roughness in the road and keep the front tires tracking straight.

The steering column is likened to the Prophet on Earth that we have today, Gordon B. Hinckley. Input from the steering wheel is transferred to the steering column, which turns the suspension and finally the front tires.

Heavenly Father would be the steering wheel and person behind it. Giving revelation to the Prophet, which is the steering column.
The family would be the entire car, made up of all the previous components connected together going down the road of life.

Jesus Christ is the master mechanic. He can fix anything on the car. Normally when you have an unevenly worn tire, blown out or shredded tire you would just buy a new one. Not Jesus Christ. He can repair any tire.

Being a car freak and total nerd, I completely enjoyed and appreciated the message that he brought forth. It is a very good analogy and puts everything in perspective in an automotive point of view.

Latter-day Saints. They’re everwhere!

My wife went shopping Saturday night and mentioned to me that she ran into one of our former missionaries. (He was assigned to a neighboring ward after teaching us our second lesson.) He was accompanied by the Mission Leader of his ward and the missionary’s companion. She walked up to him as he was saying “hi” to another family. He immediately started to point out about five or six families left and right that were also LDS.

I find humor in this, but also peace and wonder. Peace for knowing that, if needed, we would “bear each other’s burdens.” (Mosiah 18:8) And wonder – seeing how many people are members in our church and how fast it is growing.

This, obviously, is the sign of a true church by the fruit it is bears.

A missionary at a moment’s notice

Yesterday, my companion asked me to speak on my experiences of how I was lead to the church. The message the spirit prompted me to give was the importance of every member to be a missionary by leading in example.

My companion spoke afterwards and got a different message about what I spoke about. He pointed out that as I had my friend Mike to make me feel comfortable with the missionaries, his brother had a similar opportunity by passing a young married couple talking to missionaries in a department store parking lot. As he walked by he overheard the unsureness of the young married couple.

He joined the conversation by introducing himself to the young married couple as a member of the church and shortly speaking about how the gospel has helped him raise a large family. He gave his name and number to everyone and let them know that his family was at their disposal if they should need anything.

A few days later, the missionaries called thanking him for taking a minute to help. The missionaries had been out all day and that young married couple had been the first people to agree to hearing more about the gospel.

It just goes to show how mindful we have to be at all times about the fact that there are people waiting to hear the gospel, but don’t know where to start or do not feel comfortable without a little help.

Our duties to the Church: Home Teaching

As an investigator attending Elder’s Quorum. I often heard about assignments called “Home Teaching.” It seemed a bit different and I did not quite understand what it was about. I began looking into what is entailed in home teaching and I came across an article: Confessions of a Halfhearted Home Teacher

As a new member and Aaronic Priesthood holder in the Church, I have found Doctrine and Covenants, Chapter 20 (D&C:20) to be very useful in instilling an enthusiastic urge in performing the duties that I have. Two verses that really stick out me are:

The priests duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament, And visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties. (D&C 20:46-47)

Another two verses that jump out at me are:

And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking; And see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty. (D&C 20:54-55)

I have been blessed with being able to perform most of my duties in my short time that I’ve been a member. Specifically: baptize, administer the sacrament (passing and preparing – I am privileged to bless sacrament in two weeks!), and home teaching. Taking part in these ordinances gives me a tremendous feeling of joy!

This evening, I had the opportunity to meet with the family I was assigned to “home teach” with my new companion. It was a wonderful experience. I was a bit anxious to go to my first home teaching but it went great. I got to meet and learn about a new family that just moved in to my ward and more about my home teaching companion. I had the chance to teach a gospel principal and hopefully leave an impression on the family for the month.

As we were walking to the house of the family we were to home teach, I let my companion know that I have never done it before. He explained to me how the purpose of home teaching is to get to know the family, letting the family get to know you and get them comfortable for asking for any type of help when needed. This reminded me of the scripture in the Book of Mormon that greatly impressed me when I was investigating the church. This verse is about Alma preaching to people in the wilderness:

And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light (Mosiah 18:8)

“…willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” What a powerful concept that I observe in this church every day.

As I saw for myself, home teaching is an important component to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It teaches something to the families and also teaches the teacher. It lets us get to know each other, it allows us strengthen each other and it allows us to “watch over the church” just as this verse in Doctrine and Covenants says:

The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them. (D&C 20:53)

I cannot wait to do it again.

I Am a Child of God and He has a Plan for Me

I remember attending my first Priesthood Meeting the first time I went to the LDS Church. The opening hymn that was sung was “I Am a Child of God.” (Song 301 in the Hymn Book) It was amazing to hear an entire room singing this. The words to the song ran true in my soul.

I have since discovered that this song, one of my most favorite songs, could be categorized as a song for Children. Which just makes me laugh. It makes me laugh at the fact that even though I have been on this earth long enough to not be considered one, I indeed am. We all are, young or old, a child of God.

This brings me to the topic of the Plan of Salvation. The Plan of Salvation is a great plan prepared by our Father in Heaven. For he loved us so much, he wanted to give us everything that he had. As his Spirit Children he gave us the choice to come to earth, receive mortal bodies as he did, and return to live with Him and our families in the life to come. It is amazing to think of how our own father on earth loves us. Then, to think of how our Heavenly Father, a perfect being, can love us beyond our comprehension.

I am also grateful for the atonement of Jesus Christ, which is the center to the plan of salvation. Through the atonement of Jesus Christ, I can be forgiven for my sins. I admit, I am a child that needs much work and makes mistakes. Even so, I am unconditionally loved. And my sins, forgiven when I repent.

It was amazing to learn about the Plan of Salvation. Learning about it answers the common questions that everyone has:

  • Where did we come from?
  • What is the purpose of life?
  • Where do we go when we die?

Knowing about the Plan of Salvation has brought me happiness and peace like I never knew it before.

How I received the answers to my questions

The foundation of my newly found faith lies in receiving answers to three critical questions that we are encouraged to ask when investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  1. Is the Book of Mormon true?
  2. Was Joseph Smith a true prophet of God?
  3. Is this church the right and true church?

Very simple questions that yield very powerful results. In my opinion, answers can come in many ways:

  1. Feeling the Spirit.
  2. A thought that just clicks and makes sense in your mind.
  3. An event that happens and triggers a sense that you just received your answer.
  4. A faint whisper in your ear.
  5. It could be anything, actually.

It could be very obvious. It could very subtle.

The best way to receive an answer is to prepare yourselves to be more attentive.

  1. Pray often and throughout the day.
  2. Study. Read the Bible and Book of Mormon often. At least once a day. Before studying, pray to Heavenly Father that you may understand the things you will read. After reading the Bible and Book of Mormon, pray again to know if the things you have read is true. Specifically ask if the Book of Mormon is true. Specifically ask if Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. Specifically ask if the church you are investigating is true. Wait, listen.
  3. Attend Church.
  4. Ask any question that comes to your mind to your missionaries or Mormon friends. (ALL questions are welcomed and there is an answer for EVERYTHING!)
  5. Fast and Pray.
  6. Begin obeying the Words of Wisdom.

In the New Testament of the King James Bible, the book of James, Chapter 1, Verses 5 through 7 state:

“If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” (James 1:5-7)

What the above verses mean is that if you ask Heavenly Father with absolute faith, believing you will absolutely receive an answer, and that you sincerely intend to act after receiving an answer then you will receive one. It seems easy enough but it was difficult for me. Only through prayer, sincere study, and honestly wanting to know the truth; was my answer received.

In the Book of Mormon, the Book of Moroni, Chapter 10, Verses 3 through 5 state:

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:3-5)

These wise words changed my life.

I admit, I tried a few years prior, but maybe for a few days and I also had my doubts as well. The next time I tried, I studied, I prayed and I had patience to kept at it.

One night after studying what the missionaries have given me, my wife and I got on our knees and I prayed. I prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true. I prayed to know if Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. I prayed to know if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the true church and the right one to join. After the prayer, I waited. About five seconds later I had the chills, a feeling of overwhelming happiness and I began to cry.

Without a doubt, the Holy Ghost just gave witness to me of the things I asked.

This testimony is the foundation of my faith. All other things are built upon the fact that I asked and received an answer.

The Importance of Missionary Work

Not a day goes by when I am forever thankful for the work that missionaries do. As young adults that are just beginning their lives, they put their lives on hold to spread truth and answers. It is admirable how missionaries put Heavenly Father first before everything else. They truly “seekfirst the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33; 3 Nephi 13:33) If it were not for them, I don’t believe I would be where I am today with my faith. It was with the help of LDS Families and the missionaries unselfishly spending time with my wife and I, that we were able to find the truth in things ourselves.

After our first lesson, we were asked to attend church. As a timid investigator, I was weary about attending a new church with tons of strangers. I asked my friend Mike to accompany me to church the first time so I could “hide behind him.” Visiting church for the first time was like coming home for the first time. Everyone was happy to see me. Everyone greeted me and made me feel welcomed. The friendliness and helpfulness of everyone actually made an impact and everlasting impression. The chapel was humble in the way it was decorated. The way they conducted Sacrament meeting was simple. It was amazing and very different than how I remembered things in a Catholic church. Things just felt right: the place, the people and the things they were doing.

It makes me realize the important role every member of the Church carries: being a missionary. I believe that there are so many people in our lives that are waiting for the gospel and I am thankful for my friends, the families and the missionaries for setting the example for myself. The power of pure example is amazing. Besides speaking about gospel, with the countenance and way you present yourself can speak a million words. I only hope that I can set a similar example in which I have observed. I can only hope for the many opportunities to help other people learn more about the full gospel of Jesus Christ as I have.