“Beautiful words of love – Coming from God above, How sweet, how dear the words we hear! They’re beautiful words of love”- Hymn 271
Once again I am filled with gratitude for a loving Father in Heaven who knows our individual needs and answers our prayers. Tonight, I received an answer to my many recent prayers. I found a commencement speech just given on December 15, 2007 by Elder M. Russell Ballard, one of the 12 Apostles of our church. He was addressing the graduating class at BYU Hawaii about the “power of words” and the “New Media” that is shaping our world through the Internet – which has now opened up a “worldwide conversation”.
“New Media consists of tools on the Internet that make it possible for nearly anyone to publish or broadcast to either a large or a niche audience.”
Elder Ballard states that the conversation we most need to be involved in is our faith in Christ, and His restored gospel. His talk reminded us that there are many ways in which we can bear testimony of our Savior, and stand for truth and righteousness.
“The combined effort is certainly worth the outcome if but a few are influenced by your words of faith and love of God and His son Jesus Christ.”
This talk was a direct answer that I should not be discouraged, and that if I can bring some happiness and beauty and light to one little corner of the internet universe, I believe my effort is worthwhile. I see a clearer vision for my little blog.
In four short days I will begin my “musical mission” with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Most of the time, I will be sharing my love of Jesus and His gospel by singing music. But other times, I will be able to tell people with my own words about what I believe. This is one of the things that brings me great joy, to share my testimony of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To those of you who may stumble into this site, and also to all those who regularly take the time to drop by, I would like to share some of my basic beliefs.
In the year 1820 a young farmer boy living in rural New York state wanted to know which church he should join. There was a religious revival going on in his area. He was attending all of the different congregations and listening to their ministers and realized that each of them could read the same Bible scripture and yet interpreted it completely different. Who was right and who was wrong? He turned to the Bible for guidance. He read:
“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.” James 1:5
The boy went into a grove of trees near his home and knelt down to offer up a prayer to God. He had simple faith that God would somehow answer his prayer and let him have the wisdom that he needed. Here is what happened in his own words:
”I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me…When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—’This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!’
God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the boy Joseph! They answered all of his questions including his original prayer of which church to join by telling him not to join any of them at that time. The heavens were open! God had actually spoken once more to a chosen witness, just as in ancient times! The world could never be the same again. I personally believe this story. My soul is filled with joy to hear it.
I know God is real. I have had too many experiences in my life with feeling His presence to not know that. I believe that He is a real, glorified, and deified man. He is our Father in Heaven and we are His children. We are literally created in His image. We lived with Him before we were born, and we can return to live with Him after this life ends. He loves us individually. He knows us personally. He wants us to succeed. Even when things seem hopeless and we want to quit, He will not abandon us. I know this is true.
Joseph Smith had many angels and heavenly beings appear to him to teach him; persons who had lived on earth before and are now glorified, such as ancient prophets, John the Baptist, Peter, James and John, and other apostles. Joseph Smith was chosen to be the first prophet of modern times (what we call the “latter-days”).
Joseph was entrusted to translate an ancient record of scripture that is called the “Book of Mormon” written by prophets who lived on the American Continent from 600 BC to 400 AD. This was not a replacement of the Bible, but rather a new book of scripture which became a second witness of biblical truth.
Joseph accomplished many great and miraculous things working as the servant of God on the earth. This enabled a restoration of the same church that Jesus had established. It was named “The Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints”.
The prophet Joseph was persecuted all of his short life for telling the story of his vision, and for declaring to be God’s prophet. Members of our church do not worship Joseph Smith, for he was just a man who served God – but we love him and honor what he and his family sacrificed. Eventually he and his brother were murdered by a violent mob. That mob had been fueled with hate and lies. They thought that when they killed Joseph, they would also kill the church he helped establish. However, they were very wrong. It was not a man’s church. It belonged to Jesus Christ, and He was in charge. Jesus had promised to never let the truth fall from the earth again. Jesus Christ’s church and His message is now spread throughout the earth bringing joy and peace and continuing miracles everywhere it goes.
I have shared a few core reasons why I am a member of the church, and why I want to dedicate hours of my time and years of my life as an unpaid member of its Choir. Our invitation as Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) is simple: come and join us! You should bring all the truth and goodness and joy that you already have, and let us add some more.
First, learn about us straight from the source. There are many ways you can. You can start by reading about us at an official website.
Come to Sunday church service in your local area – all are welcome! You can attend with a Mormon friend or just walk in the door by yourself. Someone will be there to greet you. You can find out what time the meeting begins by doing a search online. You can request a free copy of the Book of Mormon, and set aside some time to read it – you will finally find out what is behind that odd nickname for our church of “Mormon” – and I promise it will be the most important book you can ever read.
Say hello to those nice young Mormon missionaries with the suits and nametags next time you see them. Find out their names and where they are from. You will make their whole day to talk to someone friendly. Ask them why they wanted to give up two years of their young lives, at their own expense, to allow people to treat them with rudeness every day (and chased by a lot of dogs!). You can invite those missionaries to teach you about the church.
Talk to the Mormons that you know. Don’t be afraid to ask all your questions. Learn all you can about us straight from the source. Then you can do what the boy Joseph Smith did. Go to a favorite quiet place, and pray. Ask your Heavenly Father sincerely if what we are sharing is the truth. You have that right, and your Heavenly Father wants you to do that. While you are there, you can spend some time talking to Him. Thank Him for your blessings and for loving you, share your fears, and your questions and your concerns…tell Him everything. I know that He always hears our prayers, and He will always answer yours. Now, not many of us are going to have a vision in answer to our prayers! Sometimes the answers come to me as a thought in my mind, or a very peaceful warm feeling, or a desire to do something. And sometimes, things are a little quiet. We have to wait awhile before we hear the answer. Maybe Heavenly Father wants to know that we are truly sincere and willing to keep coming to Him, or maybe there is something else that needs to happen first. So, continue to pray on a regular basis. If we are listening, and if we keep ourselves ready to hear, the answer will always come.
I have experienced that all of my life. Chances are you have already, too. Tonight I actually got to hear Him speak to me through Elder Ballard! This was probably my favorite quote of his talk:
“In many cases, it is with words that you will accomplish the great things that you will now set out to do…Make sure that the choices you make in the use of new media are choices that expand your mind, increase your opportunities, and feed your soul.”
Creating this blog has truly expanded my mind and all my boundaries! I have had the opportunity to “meet” new friends and strengthen my existing ties. Best of all, writing here feeds my soul. There is no better way to describe it. Hearing from you, my cyber friends, is always a wonderful gift! I don’t always have time to answer back, but I will try. I do hope you will write your thoughts and feelings, ‘join the conversation’. I hope you will also feel a little braver, like I do, from Elder Ballard’s encouraging words:
“You too can tell your story”