Agency: God’s Great Gift to Us

Imagine a life in which we had no control over what happened to us, what we did, or even what we thought about. This is the sort of life Satan envisioned for us, but it is exactly the opposite of what God planned for us.

Through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we will live again.Agency is the right to make choices for our own lives, and it is one of God’s most important gifts to us. It allows us control over our eternal lives and evens out a life that might, on the surface, seem unfair. We are the result of the choices we make.

We were given our agency from the moment God created us. He created us first as spirits and allowed us to live with Him for a time before our births. During this time, we used our agency to decide what sort of people we wanted to be, how we wanted to behave, and whether or not God’s plans for us mattered to us. We become, to some extent, ourselves, although of course, the choices we would make on earth would also influence who we are. Continue reading

Mormon Doctrine: Created In the Image of God

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mormon-churchMormons, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believe that God literally created us as spirit children. We are born of Heavenly parents, and were begotten in an earlier realm. We didn’t pop into existence ex nihilo.  Our intelligence and pre-dispositions hail from an earlier part of our lives, a spiritual home and existence, that we sense as we are open to those impressions, and know as we study modern revelation where these truths about life and life before life have been revealed, Biblically and extra-Biblically.

Douglas Kelley who has written on this subject with great insight says,

There is no doubt that the biblical vision of man as God’s creature whom He made in His own image has had the most powerful effect on human dignity, on liberty, on the expansion of the rights of the individual, on political systems, on the development of medicine, on every other area of culture. How different from the humanistic viewpoint of man as merely an evolved creature, not made in God’s image because there is no God. Such a premise has enabled the Marxist Totalitarian States conveniently to liquidate millions of their citizens because of the assumption that there is no transcendent person in whose image those citizens are created, no being to give those citizens a dignity and a right to exist beyond what the state determines.”

We have two options. Either we accept that we progressed from slush or vapor or unidentified scum, and so are nothing besides matter, or we have been created by God and made in His image in a heavenly pattern. We are either literal sons and daughters of God and part of a divine family with personal interest and purpose and spiritual roots and destinies, or we all isolated organized particles of matter with no real connectedness.

This discussion matters. It impacts how we see ourselves, our identity, our purpose, our accountability to moral law, our understanding of the universe, outcomes in our lives, resources, and our ultimate destinies. Evolution sets on fire all that spiritually matters in understanding the questions of the soul. MacArthur, an Evangelical preacher, states it remarkably well:

You see, these are the questions that evolution was invented to avoid. Evolution was invented to kill the God of the Bible not because evolutionists and materialists and naturalists didn’t like God as creator, but because they didn’t want God as judge. Evolution was invented in order to kill the God of the Bible, to eliminate the lawgiver, to eliminate the inviolability of His law, the binding standard for human thought and conduct. Evolution was invented to do away from universal morality and universal guilt and universal accountability. Evolution was invented to eliminate the judge and leave people free to do whatever they want without guilt and without consequences.

Francis Schaeffer the apologist said, ‘If he had an hour to spend with a person on an airplane, a person who didn’t know the Lord, he would spend the first 55 minutes talking about man being created in the image of God. And the last five minutes on the presentation of the gospel of salvation that could restore man to that original intended image.’

Understanding this Christian doctrine, this Mormon doctrine (doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) that created us as spirit children of His, and this earth whereon we dwell for a specific purpose, to nurture our faith and develop our agency in a way that would make us free, and through the atonement, able to live with Him again–is no small thing. It matters. We matter.  And while matter itself was “organized” by Him, and may have existed for eons, He fashioned it and used the natural forces and laws to work His plan to create the world, and to give our spirits an earthly home, temporarily.

For more on the purpose of life, click here.

 

 

Do Mormons Believe You Can Repent?

The word repent, in various forms, is found in the Bible 72 times. In the Book of Mormon, it is found 360 times. Repentance, and its accompanying theme of forgiveness, is a major theme in the Book of Mormon.

Jesus took our sins on Himself. Jesus praying in Gethsemane.In a talk given by Russell M. Nelson, a Mormon apostle, we learn that to repent means, in essence, to change. God gives us commandments and requires us to keep them. He knows we will fall short, so He included in His plan for us the ability to repent. Repentance is possible only because of the atoning sacrifice of the Savior.

Read Russell M. Nelson’s talk, Repentance and Conversion, given April 2007

Elder Nelson advises us to make sure repentance is accompanied by prayer at each step, for it is a multi-step process. Prayer allows us the companionship of the Holy Ghost as we go through the steps so we have help succeeding in our efforts.

There can be no repentance until there is recognition of the sin—we have know we did wrong and we have to care that we did wrong. Our hearts need to be filled with true sorrow at having fallen short of what God expects of us, for those we’ve harmed, and for the harm we’ve done to ourselves.

We also have to confess our sins. We confess to God, of course, but we also need to confess to anyone we’ve hurt in the process or anyone who has a right to know, such as the parent of a teenager who has sinned. Mormons are taught that serious sins that can affect church membership or rights must be confessed to a church leader as well, so he can help them through the repentance process. Other sins can be worked through on our own.

We can’t just apologize and move on. We also have to try to make restitution. This means to try to fix whatever damage we caused if we can. If we lied about someone, we would need to try to get the truth out to those who heard the lie. If we took something, we must return it. Whatever it is, we do our best to undo the damage.

The next step is, perhaps, the hardest. We must forsake the sin, which means we must try not to repeat it. Repeating the sin means we need to start again. When we complete the repentance process and completely stop the sin, we are forgiven through the atonement of Jesus Christ. He suffered for each of our sins so we would not have to—if we repent. If we don’t repent, we must pay the price ourselves.

Elder Nelson said:

“To repent fully is to convert completely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His holy work. Alma taught that concept when he posed these questions: “I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” 33 That change comes when we are “born again,” converted and focused upon our journey to the kingdom of God.

Mormon Health Code: Word of Wisdom

Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) have a fairly well-known health code. This code is mostly famous for its don’ts, but it actually has far more things to do.

Read the Word of Wisdom.

The Word of Wisdom is a common-sense health code. Mother and daughter preparing food.Let’s get the “do not’s” out of the way first. Mormons do not drink alcohol, smoke, have coffee or tea, or use illegal substances. It is reasonably easy to see the benefits of these rules. Alcoholism, which can be an inherited trait, can have no impact on a person who does not drink. A Mormon need never discover he has lost control of his ability to drink wisely. Tobacco, coffee, and tea have addictive properties and can take control of the user, who often cannot function without them and who must go through withdrawals when not able to use them. It is not true, however, that the Word of Wisdom prohibits caffeine, although many Mormons do avoid it for health reasons. The revelation specifically says we may not have “hot drinks” and that term, in the 1800s, meant only coffee and tea.

There are also guidelines for what we should eat. While today these guidelines appear to be common sense, they were very radical for the time in which the revelation was given. Over the centuries, doctors have learned what God taught the Mormons in the 1800s. In the 1800s, many people ate a large amount of meat because they could hunt. Tobacco was not yet known to cause cancer and drinking was common among men.

The Word of Wisdom counseled them to eat meat sparingly, although it does not call for a vegetarian diet, since animals were given by good to serve as food. Instead of large quantities of meat, Mormons are advised to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, and whole grains.

In exchange for eating this way, which we know today is a wise way to eat, God promised:

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

The revelation states that this commandment was given not only for good health but because even the weakest church member could learn to obey it. Once the addictions are gone, eating this way becomes a matter of habit.

Studies have shown that highly active Mormons who keep the Word of Wisdom enjoy better health and fewer serious diseases than the average population.

Does the World Need Prophets and Apostles Today?

The Bible shows us God has always been interested in communicating with his children. From the moment He walked with Adam and Eve to the days when He communicated in other ways, He has been a part of our lives. Most often, he communicates with individuals about their personal lives through prayer and the Holy Ghost. However, when He has a message for the entire church—all the people of the world, in fact—He sends that message through prophets.

7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets ( Amos 3:7).

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:19-20).

Thomas S. Monson Mormon ProphetSometimes the messages are doctrinal and reveal eternal truths, such as when He gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Other times, they are procedural, such as when He instituted the priesthood of Aaron and explained how everything was to be done and who could hold the priesthood. Other times the revelations addressed immediate needs, as when He told Noah to build an ark.

One purpose of prophets, then, is to tell us the will of God and to bring us eternal truths. God did not give us the entire gospel all at once. Over the years, He has revealed portions, line upon line, building on each step as we are ready. For this reason, Jesus explained that He was bringing a higher law than the Law of Moses.

Another is to provide safety or to meet immediate needs. Noah was told to build an ark, but Moses was told to take the people into the wilderness. Each time period has specific needs. It would be of no value for a prophet to today to tell us to prepare for the fall of Jerusalem, which is long over, but it was an essential teaching for the people of that time period. All the messages God has for us could not be delivered at once and so the Bible has more than just the teachings revealed when Adam was the prophet.

Every now and then, the people rejected the prophets and they were taken from the earth. Each time, however, God eventually called a new prophet and restored whatever was lost. After Jesus Christ died, the apostles took over communications with God. Apostles are also prophets:

And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. Acts 15:32

Many procedural changes occurred during this time, including the taking of the gospel to Gentiles and the end of circumcision. Truths were clarified and taught. The apostles testified of Jesus Christ, and this is another essential role of a prophet or apostle—to testify of Jesus Christ.

Eventually, the apostles died also and then the world fell into a period of apostasy. There was no longer the authority to act in God’s name or to speak for Him. Churches stopped having prophets to lead them because there were no prophets. During this time, many debates over doctrine erupted, but there was no one with the authority to settle them.

When the apostles were still alive, they debated the issue of circumcision rather heatedly, but then Peter, as head of the church, spoke up. He had received direct revelation from God on the subject, which, as the head of the church he was entitled to do. He explained what God wanted and that settled the question. Had there not been a prophet at that time, they would have had to continue to argue, put it to a vote, and hope for the best. Those who disagreed would probably have gone off and started their own churches, as they often do today.

This is exactly why prophets are essential to God’s church. There is only one way to know what is really true, and that is by listening to the word of a prophet. Individuals can pray to know if the prophet is telling the truth, but no one other than a prophet can receive revelation for the entire church. This avoids confusion and gives us a central place to turn for truth when there is confusion. The world today is changing rapidly and we must make moral decisions that were never even issues in the Biblical era. We can see that churches disagree strongly, even within related denominations, as to how to cope with those issues.

Meet the modern Mormon prophets and apostles.

Mormon Beliefs About the Bible

Sometimes you’ll hear people talk about the Mormon Bible. They are referring to the Book of Mormon, but the Book of Mormon is not the Mormon Bible. The Mormon Bible is the King James translation of the Holy Bible, the same one used by millions of English-speaking Christians. Mormons who speak other languages use a comparable Bible in their own language.

Mormon scripturesMormon is a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As Christians, they use both the Old and the New Testament. They do, of course, also use the Book of Mormon and two other books of scripture. These two books are the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of modern revelations, and the Pearl of Great Price, a collection of various scriptural and church documents. They do not include the Nicene Creed in their canon.

Mormons believe the Bible, as it was written by the original authors, was perfect and inspired. However, as we know, it has been copied many times and translated many times. The original documents no longer exist. Anytime a document is hand-copied, there is a possibility of error. Translations, of course, can never be word for word. Frequently a comparable word does not exist and often there are several possible ways to translate a passage or word. There are hundreds of translations, all translating the text in different ways, so they cannot be equally accurate. Mormons believe the Bible began perfect and is perfect today as far as it is translated correctly, but that is hardly controversial, given the number of translations available.

Mormons study the scriptures on a four-year rotation beginning at age eight. Younger children use a different rotation and cover the scriptures less in-depth. They focus more on the life of Christ than on other parts of the Bible. The Bible is studied for two of those years, the Book of Mormon for one, and the Doctrine and Covenants for one. The Pearl of Great Price is studied in pieces, wherever the specific document fits.

Mormon teens also do a different four-year rotation in a class held on school days. They study the Bible for two of those years very in-depth and at a higher, more academic level. College students take religion classes on or near their campuses and also study the Bible. Their studies are very in-depth and at a college level of academic approach mingled with a spiritual approach.

In addition to this, Mormons are taught to read the scriptures at home, both individually and as a family. The study manuals used by all classes are online at no cost, allowing individuals, even non-Mormons, to use them in their studies.

Read the college level manuals about the Bible.

Because of this, a recent Pew Foundation study on religious knowledge, Mormons scored among the highest religious people on religious knowledge, including questions on the Bible. Mormons had the highest average score on the Bible questions. Questions included the types of things people would know if they read the Bible often and are considered important to Biblical literacy. These questions included which books are considered the four gospels, where Jesus was born, who led the Israelites into the wilderness, and whether or not the Golden Rule was one of the Ten Commandments.

Mormon Beliefs About Baptism

One of the first things Jesus did when He was ready to begin His ministry was to go to where his cousin John was baptizing people. He requested baptism, a request which flustered his cousin. John knew that baptism is done for the remission of sins and he also knew the Savior had never sinned. He felt it would be more appropriate for Jesus to baptize him than the other way around. Jesus insisted, however, and John baptized the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mormon Jesus Christ was baptized.If the purpose of baptism is to cleanse us of our sins, why did Jesus insist on being baptized? The scriptures tell us we must be baptized by immersion for the remission of sins by someone with the proper authority. Although baptism does cleanse us of our sins, it also does more than that. It is the time when we take on ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and commit ourselves to the gospel. We make covenants with God to keep His commandments.

Jesus knew that baptism was required and that it was a time to commit ourselves to the gospel and to God. For this reason, He chose to be baptized. He also set an example for us, just as He did in every aspect of His life.

Mormons ( a nickname sometimes applied to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) are required to be baptized before becoming members of the church, even if they were previously baptized elsewhere. The baptism must be done by a person who holds the priesthood and has the proper authority to do so and it is always done by immersion because that is the method Jesus used.

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5).

Mormons do not baptize infants or young children. They believe the atonement of Jesus Christ covers the transgression of Adam and protects little children. People are responsible only for their own sins and young children can’t sin. A child who dies without baptism goes directly to God’s presence to stay forever, having died perfect.

Mormons baptize children at the age of eight. This is considered the age of accountability, when children are old enough to know right from wrong and to make a sincere effort to make good choices. By the time they are eight, if they have been raised in a Mormon home, have received extensive training in the gospel and have learned how to pray for a testimony.

Mormon children learn the gospel at home. Their parents have daily family prayer and scripture study, even for very young children. Once a week, they have a family-only meeting in which they teach the gospel and play games. Parents talk to their children regularly about their faith. At church, they begin attending classes at eighteen months. Toddlers go to a nursery which, while having a lot of free playtime, also includes a short age-appropriate lesson, religious songs, and a lesson-based coloring page or craft. Older children have longer lessons that are appropriate for their age.

Converts who want to join the church meet with missionaries for a series of lessons about the religion. While these are not in-depth and don’t cover everything, they teach the core doctrines and, more importantly, they teach the investigator how to pray. Each person who wants to become a Mormon, whether a child or adult, is instructed to pray to know whether or not the church is true. They are taught not to take anyone’s word for it but God’s. Once they have done this and received an answer, it does not matter that they don’t yet know everything. They are being baptized because God told them to, and that is reason enough.

Baptism is the first covenant a person makes in his or her life. It is the start of a path that can lead to great joy in life and in the eternities.

Apostasy and Restoration

The apostles had a powerful challenge on their hands after the Savior died. The small faith began spreading to wider areas, but as they moved further from the center, it was difficult to keep everyone on the right track. The church was so new there was much the people didn’t know and leaders of an area were often as new as those they led. Misconceptions and false teachings crept in. When people didn’t know something, they made up an answer. When they didn’t entirely understand a concept, they interpreted it the best they could. Often the apostles found themselves sending letters or teaching in efforts to straighten out the false doctrines that inevitably crept in. Sometimes these false doctrines led to apostasy and at one point, they noted sadly that they had lost all of Asia to apostasy.

Thomas S. Monson Mormon ProphetWhile the apostles still lived and ran the church, however, there was still hope. They, as prophets (see Acts 15:32) had the authority to consult God when there were questions about doctrine or practice. Peter received several revelations that led to changes in practice after Jesus died. Eventually, however, the apostles were gone and with them, the authority to speak for God disappeared. Now when there were disagreements, the people had to decide for themselves what the right answer was.

When the question of circumcision came up during Peter’s leadership of the church, the church leaders met in council to discuss the issue. There were apparently rather heated debates over the subject, but eventually Peter put a stop to it by explaining what the Lord had told him through revelation. This settled the problem and they chose to follow the revelation. Once Peter and the others were gone, that was no longer possible. Debate and a vote were the only ways to solve disagreements over doctrine and practice. As a result, many inaccuracies crept in. The prophesied apostasy had begun.

Eventually, a group of reformers set out to resolve the problems they saw in the church. The Protestant tradition arose from these efforts and their heroic work is celebrated by Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) today. However, they knew they were not prophets. They were simply honorable men doing the best they could to get things back on track. Without a prophet, however, it would be impossible to completely restore the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Although the Bible tells us there will be apostasy, it also promises the apostasy will end. Only God can end apostasy and he does everything important through prophets:

7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets ( Amos 3:7).

In the 1800s, God appeared to fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith, who wanted to know which church to join. He introduced Jesus Christ, who instructed the boy not to join any of them, because none were entirely correct. This follows a Biblical tradition of calling boys to the role of prophet at a young age, even if they may not entirely know that is what is happening right at first.

Later, God sent an angel named Moroni to train Joseph to become the first prophet of the restoration. This fulfills prophecy and allows the world to begin preparing for the second coming. Just as John the Baptist led the way in preparing people for the ministry of Jesus Christ, the modern prophets prepare the way for His return. God loves us enough to do this.

Sweet Hour of Prayer

The Christian hymn, “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” is a favorite among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Its peaceful words and melody beckon each of us to turn our hearts toward our Heavenly Father:

A mormon Woman PrayingSweet Hour of Prayer

Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer! That calls me from a world of care

And bids me at my Father’s throne Make all my wants and wishes known.

In seasons of distress and grief, My soul has often found relief

And oft escaped the tempter’s snare By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

And oft escaped the tempter’s snare By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

We are Children of a Loving Heavenly Father

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that every human being who has ever lived on earth is a spirit child of a loving Heavenly Father. We lived with Him before we were born. He was involved in the details of our pre-earth lives, providing guidance, support, and counsel as we grew. We listened carefully to Him, obeyed Him, and trusted Him.

A mormon Mother and BabyWe now live here on earth, separated for a time from God’s presence. But that does not mean He cares any less about the details of our lives. He still desires to provide us with guidance, support, and counsel, even more so now that we are faced every day with the temptations of the world. His greatest desire is that we return to live again with Him after this life is over. In order to do so, He needs us to listen even more carefully to Him, obey His commandments, and trust in Him.

Listening to God

Prayer is the means by which we communicate with our Heavenly Father while we are here on earth. It is also a central means by which, if we humble ourselves and pay careful attention, God can communicate with us. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are taught to humble themselves physically and spiritually in prayer, by kneeling, folding their arms, bowing their heads, and keeping their eyes closed. A posture of humility helps us to feel the humility necessary to hear God’s voice in our hearts, and to accept His will as He makes it known to us. Thus we become able also to feel His love for us, and receive His blessings. In the Bible Dictionary included with the LDS (Latter-day Saint) edition of the King James Bible, the following is recorded under the entry, “prayer:”

Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane mormonJesus Christ, Our Example

Jesus Christ is our greatest example of prayer. During the Lord’s prayer, as found in Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus repeatedly acknowledges our dependence upon our Heavenly Father, using phrases such as “Thy will be done,” “Give us this day our daily bread,” and “Deliver us from evil.” During His atonement, when the Savior prays in Gethsemane, it is recorded that He “knelt (Luke 22:41), fell on his face (Matt. 26:39), [and] fell on the ground (Mark 14:35)” (Bible Dictionary, “Prayer”). Even our Lord, Jesus Christ, set an example of utter humility when He prayed. In His greatest extremity, while suffering for the sins and pains of all mankind, He said

Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done (Luke 22:42).

Praying to the Father in the Name of Christ

Jesus taught us that we should pray to our Heavenly Father in Jesus’s name. In addition to the many New Testament scriptures about this, The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ teaches us to pray to the Father in the name of the Son. In the Book of Mormon, which is the religious history of an ancient people who inhabited the Americas long ago, Jesus visits His “other sheep” on the American continent after His resurrection. One of the very first things He teaches them is about prayer:

Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;

And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you (The Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 18:19-20).

The Book of Mormon also contains urgent counsel that we should pray often, indeed always, to protect us from evil:

A Mormon Family PrayingBehold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat (3 Nephi 18:18).

Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;

Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.

Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.

Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.

Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.

Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.

Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.

Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.

Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.

But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.

Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you (Alma 34:17-27).

Our Heavenly Father wants us to pray. But like all of God’s commandments, the commandment to pray is really an invitation to be blessed. When we obey Him, accept His will, and trust in Him, He can take away our burdens of sin and suffering through the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He will protect us from the ultimate sorrow of wandering away from His loving care. Truly, prayer is indeed sweet.

A Mormon WomanSweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer! Thy wings shall my petition bear

To Him whose truth and faithfulness Engage the waiting soul to bless.

And since He bids me seek His face, Believe His will, and trust His grace,

I’ll cast on Him my every care And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

I’ll cast on Him my every care And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Additional Resources:

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings, “Sweet Hour of Prayer”

Further Study: Prayer

Learning to Recognize Answers to Prayer

What is the Origin of the Universe and of Man?

Clouds of Glory mormonThe famous William Wordsworth poem, “Intimations of Immortality,” says the following in its fifth stanza:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory, do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (known to some by the nickname, the Mormon Church) has always taught that we each lived in heaven with God before we were born. Our life on earth is a short, but very important, step along the road of our eternal lives. So why are we here? Where did the universe we see around us come from?

Long before the earth was created, our Heavenly Father created our spiritual beings from eternal intelligences that had always existed. He gave us spiritual form, and we became His spirit children. In our pre-earth life we lived with Him, and we learned from Him all that we could. We desired to be as much like Him as possible.

But there were some things He had that He knew we could not obtain unless something changed. One important thing we were missing was a physical body, like the one our Heavenly Father possesses. Without a physical body, we could not manipulate physical matter like He could, and we could not experience physical emotions, including a fulness of joy. Another barrier to our becoming like our Father was that we could not really understand the difference between good and evil while we remained constantly in His presence. He is the ultimate Good, but we could not become good ourselves unless we had the chance to understand and choose between good and evil.

Baby Boy mormonSo our Heavenly Father presented to us a plan by which we could leave His presence, obtain physical bodies, learn to choose good over evil, and then return to live with Him again. Then we would be able to continue to grow to be more and more like Him, and experience a fulness of  joy. In Heavenly Father’s plan, we would leave His presence and be born upon the earth. There we would gain the physical body and experiences we needed.

Heavenly Father knew that while we were on earth, we would become subject to sin and death, thus barring us from returning from Him. Satan, who originally was another one of  our Father’s spirit children, rebelled against God and wanted to take away our ability to choose. He continues to fight against God and against us, hoping to lure us away from choosing good over evil. Rather than the joy our Heavenly Father wants us to experience, Satan wants us to be miserable like he is.

Mormon Jesus Christ, CreatorBecause He knew we would all sin while we were away from Him, Heavenly Father sent Jesus Christ to atone for our sins. Through Jesus Christ’s atonement, we can be forgiven for our sins and made clean, allowing us to once again live in God’s presence. Through Christ’s resurrection, the bands of death have been broken, and we will eventually be resurrected ourselves, to spend eternity in immortal physical bodies. When we fully understand and choose good over evil, and possess physical bodies like God’s, we can experience the fulness of joy that He experiences.

Jesus Christ, the eldest of our Heavenly Father’s spirit children, was therefore essential to His plan. Jesus, under the direction of God the Father, created the earth and the heavens. Then He created the first man, Adam, and placed his spirit within his mortal body. The entire universe is God’s creation; He says he has created “worlds without number.” Mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation. In The Pearl of Great Price, a book of scripture translated by Joseph Smith through revelation during the 19th century, there is an account written by Moses about his first experience with God. In Moses 1:39, God reveals why He created the earth, men’s spirits, and their physical bodies:

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

We are God’s greatest work. We are His glory. We are His children. Jesus Christ sacrificed His life, and suffered beyond anything we could imagine, to make it possible for us to return to live with God. God wants us to experience a fulness of joy. Every day of our lives, we should remember who we are, and what God has done for us.

Additional Resources:

Our Eternal Life

Scripture references: Premortal Life