Posts

Atonement of Christ

The Atonement of Jesus ChristYour purpose as a missionary is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them accept the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. If missionaries are to help other people take advantage of the Atonement of Christ, they first need to understand it themselves.

What is the Atonement of Jesus Christ?

I like this definition of the Atonement which is found in the Come Follow Me youth curriculum: “The Atonement is the sacrifice Jesus Christ made to help us overcome sin, adversity, and death. Jesus’s atoning sacrifice took place in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary. He paid the price for our sins, took upon Himself death, and was resurrected. The Atonement is the supreme expression of the love of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”

To atone means for one person to suffer the penalty of sin for another person, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner. The Atonement allows men and women to be reconciled to God, and only Jesus Christ was capable of carrying out the Atonement. Because of Christ’s Atonement, all people will be resurrected and live forever, and those who obey His gospel will receive the greatest of all gifts, eternal life with God.

The Guide to the Scriptures entry on Atonement adds that Jesus’ Atonement was not complete until he was resurrected from the grave. “His atonement included his suffering for the sins of mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, the shedding of his blood, and his death and subsequent resurrection from the grave (Isa. 53:3–12; Mosiah 3:5–11; Alma 7:10–13).”

The Atonement: the least understood of all our revealed truths

The Atonement is the most important event in the history of mankind, yet perhaps also the most difficult to comprehend. True understanding of the Atonement will only come after much study, meditation, and prayer. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:

“The atonement of Christ is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and it is the least understood of all our revealed truths. Many of us have a superficial knowledge and rely upon the Lord and his goodness to see us through the trials and perils of life. But if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived. May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement” (The Purifying Power of Gethsemane).

The Infinite Atonement

One of the reasons why the Atonement is difficult to be understood is that we are motal beings with finite thinking, yet the Atonment is infinite. Amulek, the missionary companion of the prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon, said: “there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.” (Alma 34:12) The prophet Jacob, the brother of Nephi, in the Book of Mormon also spoke of the infinite atonement:

“For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord. Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption.” (2 Nephi 9:6-7)

What is the Gospel? The Good News of the Atonement

The full-time missionary guide is called Preach My Gospel which begs the question, what is the gospel of Jesus Christ? The LDS Bible Dictionary says that the word “gospel” means good news and the good news, specifically, is “that Jesus Christ has made a perfect atonement.”

3 Nephi 27: 13-14 gives a similar definition of the gospel: “And this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father.”

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ died for us and atoned for our sins and has made it possible that we can repent and return to live with our Father in Heaven.

How the Atonement relates to missionary work

Atonement and Missionary Work Quotes from Hunter and NelsonElder Russell M. Nelson explained the relationship between understanding the Atonement and having a desire to serve a mission. “That is why we have missionaries; that is why we have temples—to bring the fullest blessings of the Atonement to faithful children of God. That is why we respond to our own calls from the Lord. When we comprehend His voluntary Atonement, any sense of sacrifice on our part becomes completely overshadowed by a profound sense of gratitude for the privilege of serving Him.” (The Atonement, Oct. 1996)

As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase. You will feel, as Lehi did, the “great . . . importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth” (2 Nephi 2:8). Here are some examples of the natural desire to do missionary work growing as people come to understand the significance and blessings of the Atonement.

  • The Sons of Mosiah:  They desired to “go up to the land of Nephi that they might preach the things which they had heard, and that they might impart the word of God to their brethren, the Lamanites—That perhaps they might bring them to the knowledge of the Lord their God,…that they might also be brought to rejoice in the Lord their God, …Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish.” (Mosiah 28: 1-3)
  • Lehi in his vision of the Tree of Life: “And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen. And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also.” (1 Nephi 8:11-12)
  • President Howard W. Hunter: “What does the Atonement have to do with missionary work? Any time we experience the blessings of the Atonement in our lives, we cannot help but have a concern for the welfare of others. . . . A great indicator of one’s personal conversion is the desire to share the gospel with others.” (“The Atonement and Missionary Work,” seminar for new mission presidents, 21 June 1994)

Greater love hath no man

Heavenly Father and Jesus showed their love for all of mankind through the mission and atonement of Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Charity is defined in the scriptures as the pure love of Christ. How was that loved manifested? The pure love of Christ is seen through the Savior’s willingness to pay the ultimate price and to make a selfless sacrifice to fulfill the Atonement.

I testify that the Christ lived on this earth and performed the great atoning sacrifice. I know that through faith in him and by following his ways, we can be cleansed of our sins. This is the greatest miracle of all of God’s miracles. That through faith, repentance, baptism, and the other ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we can be made whole, worthy, and able to return to our Heavenly father’s presence and partake of the greatest gifts, exaltation and eternal life. I pray that all the young people reading this will study and pray and gain a testimony of the Atonement of Christ, and then show your love  and gratitude for the Lord by being a missionary and bringing souls unto Him.

The “Why” of Keeping the Law of Chastity

Summary: Understanding why keeping the law of chastity is important will help young people see the divine purpose behind this commandment and inspire them to live it.

In the April 2012 General Conference, in a talk called The Why of Priesthood Service, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said “Understanding the why of the gospel and the why of the priesthood will help us to see the divine purpose of all of this. It will give us motivation and strength to do the right things, even when they are hard… [The what] teaches us what to do. The why inspires our souls. The what informs, but the why transforms.”

Keeping the Law of Chastity

Why is the law of chastity so important?

In his April 2013 General Conference talk titled, We Believe in Being Chaste, Elder David A. Bednar posed the question: “Why is the law of chastity so important?” His answer had several components:

  • It is part of Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness. “The eternal importance of chastity can only be understood within the overarching context of our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness for His children…The Father’s plan enables His spirit sons and daughters to obtain physical bodies, to gain mortal experience, and to progress toward exaltation.”
  • Physical limitations prepare us for eternity. “Our relationships with other people, our capacity to recognize and act in accordance with truth, and our ability to obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are amplified through our physical bodies…Simply stated, there are lessons we must learn and experiences we must have, as the scriptures describe, “according to the flesh” (1 Nephi 19:6Alma 7:12–13).
  • The power of procreation is divine. “Marriage between a man and a woman is the authorized channel through which premortal spirits enter mortality. Complete sexual abstinence before marriage and total fidelity within marriage protect the sanctity of this sacred channel…Specific guidelines for the proper use of the ability to create life are vital elements in the Father’s plan. How we feel about and use that supernal power will determine in large measure our happiness in mortality and our destiny in eternity.”
  • We are on earth to be tested. “The precise nature of the test of mortality, then, can be summarized in the following question: Will I respond to the inclinations of the natural man, or will I yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord (see Mosiah 3:19)? That is the test. Every appetite, desire, propensity, and impulse of the natural man may be overcome by and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
  • Being chaste brings blessings. “Alma counseled his son Shiblon to “bridle all [of his] passions, that [he] may be filled with love” (Alma 38:12). Significantly, disciplining the natural man in each of us makes possible a richer, a deeper, and a more enduring love of God and of His children. Love increases through righteous restraint and decreases through impulsive indulgence…Obedience to the law of chastity will increase our happiness in mortality and make possible our progress in eternity…Chastity and virtue are now, always have been, and always will be “most dear and precious above all things” (Moroni 9:9).

Discussing “the why” of keeping the law of chastity is a topic Elder Bednar has also spoke about in years past. In his June 1998 Education Week talk titled Teach Them to UnderstandElder Bednar spoke about the importance of understanding “the why” of gospel commandments.

“In the times in which we live, only the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has the answers to the why questions that matter the most…It concerns me as I see young people in our Church who know all the correct things they should do and do not have a clue as to why. They have a check-list mentality. “Say my prayers morning and night. Read the scriptures.” Why do they do these things? “Because I am supposed to. Because the prophet said. Because my mom and dad will jump my case if I don’t.” …[But] do we understand why? If we do not understand the why, then the power available to us through the doctrine of Christ will not be evident in our lives.”

“This is particularly true with young people pertaining to the law of chastity. They know they shouldn’t, but do they know why they shouldn’t?…I do not know a young person who truly understands the doctrine related to “the seed of Abraham” who would violate the law of chastity. We were foreordained in the premortal existence to the blessings associated with birth through a particular lineage, even the chosen lineage of Abraham–not because we are better, not because we are more special, but because we have particular responsibilities that we covenanted we would fulfill. Therefore we came to the earth through a lineage with the birthright blessing of the priesthood. Every man who holds the priesthood was foreordained to that very responsibility in the premortal existence. Does a young man who understands that doctrine have a choice to go on a mission? He made that choice before he was ever born.”

“…As I have opportunities to visit with young people, I like to talk about what it means to be the “seed of Abraham.” Hoping that the Spirit of the Lord will touch their hearts, I highlight the story of Jacob and Esau. Esau gave up his birthright blessing for a bowl of red bean soup. Now a question directed to the young people: Would you really want to forfeit your birthright as the seed of Abraham–foreordained in the premortal existence, living on the earth at this particular time to bless the families of the earth, the most glorious spiritually destiny you could ever hope for? Do you really want to give up those blessings and opportunities for a few minutes of messing around? If we understand the doctrine of who we are and why we are here, then that understanding changes the way we do things.”

I pray that all future missionaries will study, ponder, and prayer about why this commandment is so important and the ways in which keeping the law of chastity will bless their lives. Understanding these things will give them added strength in fighting the many temptations that bombard our youth today.

Mission Prep Webinar Series Announced

After much consideration, I have decided to hold a series of Mission Prep webinars starting in January 2013. The webinars will basically be online classes, firesides, or devotionals. My hope is that the webinars will be informative and practical for mission prep, and also spiritual and motivating to help young people have a desire to serve.

Each webinar will be about an hour and we will cover a variety of Mormon missionary preparation topics both temporal and spiritual. There will also be time in each webinar to ask questions and get answers. The series will consist of three webinars: Preparing to Serve a Mission, Receiving the Call to Serve a Mission, and Gearing Up to Serve a Mission.

  • Gaining a Desire to Serve a Mission: In this webinar, we will discuss getting Young Men motivated to serve, the worth of souls in the sight of God, why the Church needs many more missionaries, and the blessings of missionary service.
  • Preparing to Serve a Mission: This webinar will discuss requirements to serve a mission, worthiness, the mission cost, and other items around temporal and spiritual preparation.
  • Receiving the Call to Serve a Mission: In this webinar we will discuss the mission call process, paperwork, the revelatory process for missionaries to be called by God, and other related topics.
  • Gearing Up to Serve a Mission: In this webinar we will discuss missionary clothing and other supplies you’ll need, reading lists, the MTC, teaching by the Spirit, and your purpose as a missionary.

Several factors have prompted me to start up these online classes, not the least of which is the new lower age requirement for missionaries. Since that announcement, there has been a great demand for mission prep classes. The Church has an official Mission Prep class offered through LDS Institutes. Many stakes and wards teach the class too. But many young people aren’t able to take this 14 lesson course, or their stake or ward doesn’t offer it.

I highly recommend that all future missionaries, if you are able, to take the full mission prep class from the Church. While my mission prep webinars do not take the place of the Church class, they will be very helpful to those who are unable to take it. And even for those who have taken or will take the Church mission prep course, I hope you join us for the webinars as well. I think everyone considering a mission will benefit from them.

The plan is to do one webinar per week. In order to hold the webinar at the best time for most people, I ask that you respond to the survey above. In late December or early January I’ll be sending out more information on dates, times, and how to sign up for the webinars. Thank you.

Acceptance Letter

Woman Writing a LetterReading your mission call letter that your receive from the prophet assigning you to your field of labor is always nerve raking and exciting. Most people will pause, celebrate, cry, or all of the above after reading the line that says “you are assigned to labor in the ________ mission.”

When you read to the end of the letter, though, you will notice that the prophet asks you to “please send your written acceptance promptly.” I’m not aware of any specific deadline for writing this letter. I assume promptly means within days or a week at most. I also presume if you don’t send that acceptance letter within a couple of weeks, you or your stake president will be getting a call from the Church’s Missionary Department.

When I received my mission call, way back  in the 1990s, acceptance letters were sent through the mail (snail mail, that is). Nowadays, acceptance letters are sent through the same missionary online recommendation system you used to send in your original application. You’ll log in and sending in your acceptance letter will be as easy as sending an email.

Now, with regard to what should be included in your acceptance letter, Elder David B. Haight, formerly of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, once spoke about the mission call acceptance letter. You may want to read his words as you consider what to say in your letter.

Included in the packet is a page that may go unnoticed at first. It is a form, the Missionary Call Acceptance. This is a personal letter in which the missionary, addressing the First Presidency, formally accepts his or her missionary call. The form contains 15 lines on which the missionary expresses feelings about the singular opportunity of serving the Lord. The letters are usually handwritten, brief, and direct. Yet these few words speak volumes and convey deep meaning. Behind each one is a faith-promoting story.

“My Savior has blessed me more than I ever imagined. He gave His life for me. The least I can do is give Him two years of my life.”

…In accepting a call to serve, the missionary is expressing sufficient faith to act on his or her beliefs. Blessings will inevitably follow, as so many returned missionaries can testify. Faith in the Savior becomes an anchor to the soul.

“I can’t express the happiness and joy I feel as I accept this call to serve. I am ready and willing to commit two years of my life to preaching the gospel.”

In the acceptance letter, many missionaries state, “I gratefully accept my call to serve.” But I wonder how many missionaries realize the implications of the word accept. It means to receive willingly something given or offered; to respond favorably to; consider right and proper. It also means to be admitted into a group or community. In a gospel sense, it implies submission to the will of the Lord and willingness to follow the prophet, who extends the call. The mission “call” is to serve the Lord with all one’s heart, might, mind, and strength. The mission “assignment” is to serve in the assigned field of labor. The acceptance letter implies willingness to accept both the call and the assignment as the Lord’s will.

“Preparing for my mission has been a long struggle. After deciding to serve a mission, it took almost one and one-half years to overcome problems in my conduct.”

…“Deciding to go on a mission wasn’t easy. Having a strong passion for the game of baseball made it hard.”

Numerous acceptance letters speak of sacrifice. The young man quoted above was well on his way to fulfilling a life-long dream to play baseball in college, and then perhaps enjoy a career in professional baseball. After ponderous and prayerful thought, however, the answer was certain: he was to serve the Lord. Once the decision was made, his priorities in life became clear.

…Prospective missionaries write about giving up a prized car, a girlfriend, music, a lucrative job, and many other things. Too many allow such worldly treasures to blind them to spiritual opportunity and divert them from their foreordained mission. On the other hand, we are continually amazed and gratified by those who forsake all to serve the Lord.

“Just two short years ago, I did not have any purpose in life. When I walked the streets, I was scared that people would ask, ‘How are you?’ Finally, two missionaries helped me find the love of Christ. I will find people who have the same feelings I had and show them the purpose of life.”

Mormon wrote, “Perfect love casteth out all fear” (Moro. 8:16). When prospective missionaries learn of life’s purpose and of the Lord’s love, they gain the courage to act in spite of fears. In doing so, they learn the fears were an illusion, a creation of their minds. The Lord repeatedly assures missionaries that He will give them strength to succeed in the face of obstacles. “He that trembleth under my power shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom” (D&C 52:17). President Harold B. Lee often stated, “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”

…Missionary Call Acceptance letters reveal a wealth of spirituality and faith. My own faith is continually strengthened by those who accept calls to serve God, who allow their love for the Lord to overshadow their fears, and who submit willingly to the call of our living prophet. I pray always that every eligible young man, and also every young woman who so desires, may experience the wondrous adventure of a mission.

A Spiritual Adventure, David B. Haight, New Era, June 2000.

A Mission Prepares You for Temple Marriage

Last year, when I wrote about Mission Companions, I mentioned that learning to get along with your mission companion is excellent practice for learning to get along with your eternal companion, your wife. Today I’d like to elaborate more on how a mission prepares you for temple marriage.

mormon-temple-marriage The Importance of Temple Marriage

Those who are sealed in the temple have the assurance that their marriage will continue forever if they obey their covenants. They know that nothing, not even death, can permanently separate them.

Our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, said, “Make certain that the marriage in your future is a temple marriage. There is no scene so sweet, no time so sacred as that very special day of your marriage. Then and there you glimpse celestial joy. Be alert; do not permit temptation to rob you of this blessing.” (From Whom Shall I Marry?, New Era, Oct. 2004)

Heber J. Grant, 7th president of the Church, emphasized the importance of every young man and woman starting their life together with a temple marriage.

I believe that no worthy young Latter-day Saint man or woman should spare any reasonable effort to come to a house of the Lord to begin life together. …The blessings and promises that come from beginning life together, for time and eternity, in a temple of the Lord, cannot be obtained in any other way and worthy young Latter-day Saint men and women who so begin life together find that their eternal partnership under the everlasting covenant becomes the foundation upon which are built peace, happiness, virtue, love, and all of the other eternal verities of life, here and hereafter (Heber J. Grant, “Beginning Life Together,”Improvement Era, Apr. 1936, pp. 198–99).

Jacob’s Efforts to Marry in the Covenant

rachel_meets_jacob The story of Jacob marrying Rachel has always seemed to me as a good example of the making every possible effort for a temple marriage.  When Jacob was ready to get married, his father, Isaac, instructed him not to marry any of the daughters of Canaan because they were not of their faith. Rather, Isaac instructed Jacob to go to his uncle Laban’s home and seek a wife there, among people of their same faith (see Genesis 27 & 28).

So great was Jacob’s desire to marry someone of his faith that he traveled a great distance to meet Rachel, the daughter of Laban. They met at a well, feel in love, and Laban promised they could get married if Jacob would complete seven years of service. Genesis 29: 20 says, “And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.”

A Mission Prepares You for Temple Marriage

Elder Richard G. Scott said that mission “experiences will develop a foundation for the later blessing of your being a strong husband and father.”

Now may I speak from my heart of what an honorable full-time mission has meant to me personally…I fell in love with an exceptional young woman. At a critical point in our courtship, she made it very clear that she would only be married in the temple to a returned missionary. Duly motivated, I served a mission in Uruguay. It was not easy. The Lord gave me many challenges that became stepping-stones to personal growth. There I gained my testimony that God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, did in fact visit Joseph Smith to begin a restoration of truth, priesthood authority, and the true Church on earth…At the same time, my future eternal companion, Jeanene, was being molded to become an exceptional wife and mother by her own mission. Most important, all that I now hold dear in life began to mature in the mission field. Had I not been encouraged to be a missionary, I would not have the eternal companion or precious family I dearly love. (From Now Is the Time to Serve a Mission! Elder Richard G. Scott, Ensign May 2006)

Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy also explained how a mission prepares you for temple marriage:

May the Lord bless you to go forward humbly, prayerfully, and worthily to the mission field and serve as instruments in bringing many souls to him. Know clearly that there are hundreds of thousands who have done so, who have served and are serving faithfully and worthily in the work of the Lord. While you are young, set a pattern of worthiness and faithful service. Do so with all of your heart, and the Lord will greatly bless you, not only in the mission field, but through the rest of your life, your temple marriage, and right into the eternities. (From Worthy to Serve by Elder Gene R. Cook, New Era May 1994)

jimmy-heather-temple-marriage My Temple Marriage

I know that my faithful missionary service helped prepare me for a temple marriage. It helped me learn to get along with others, to work together for common goals, and it helped me grow spiritually and provide a sound foundation for a Christ-centered life along with my wife. I love my wife with all my heart, and I am eternally grateful that we started off our marriage the right way, being sealed by priesthood authority with a temple marriage. I know that as you strive to do your duty as a missionary, the Lord will bless you with a stronger marriage, and a happier life on earth and in heaven.

The following is a great little video with Elder Packer and Elder Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, talking about the blessing of a temple marriage.

Temple Is Important Part of Mission Preparation

I received my temple endowment in 1995, in the Washington, DC Temple just prior to leaving for my mission to Rosario, Argentina.  It was a sweet experience as I was surrounded by my parents and other extended family.  All Mormon missionaries receive their temple endowment prior to embarking in missionary service.  Receiving the Mormon temple endowment is an important part of mission preparation because it gives individuals spiritual knowledge and power that will help them better serve the Lord.  The demands of missionary service require spiritual strength, and the temple blessings bring power to worthy missionaries. This power comes through the greater understanding of Heavenly Father’s plan, and the sacred covenants and blessings obtained only in the temple.

Here some statement by current and past prophets and apostles regarding the importance of missionaries receiving their temple endowment.

  • President Howard W. Hunter taught, “Let us prepare every missionary to go to the temple worthily and to make that experience an even greater highlight than receiving the mission call” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88).
  • “Going to the temple for your own endowment… [is] an integral part of your mission preparation…You cannot do this work alone. We have to have heaven’s help, we have to have the ‘gifts’ of God…This work is so serious and the adversary’s opposition to it so great that we need every divine power to enhance our effort and move the Church
    steadily forward” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Apr. 25, 1997).
  • “Missionaries …are not fully qualified to go forth, preach the gospel, and build up the kingdom, unless they have the gift of the Holy Ghost and also are endowed with power from on high…[that is] given only in the Lord’s Temple” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary)
  • The Lord “called all the missionaries to Kirtland in the early day of the Church to receive endowments in the temple erected there. He said this was so that they could go out with greater power from on high and with greater protection” (Doctrines of Salvation, Bruce R. McConkie).
  • Elder David B. Haight,”The temple endowment gives knowledge that, when acted upon, provides strength and conviction of truth.” (A Light unto the World [1997], 49).
[colored_box color=”green”]Read a related article on how the temple is and integral part of mission work for missionaries and new converts.[/colored_box]

Here is a great video produced by the Church on why Mormons build temples.

Go to the Mormon Missionary Preparation YouTube Channel.