Teaching Family History in the Ward

My wife and I were recently called as Ward Missionaries and Family History Consultants. The purpose of this hybrid calling is to focus on Family History and use that as a tool to assist with Missionary Work. We are both really excited about this calling and the opportunity we will have to focus more on our own family history research and in finding our ancestors who need to have their temple work done and teaching others how they can be a part of this great work.

I will probably be posting more and more about family history research, sharing my experiences and what I am finding as I continue my family history. Here are my first few thoughts on Teaching Family History in the Ward.

What is Family History?

Elder Allan F.  Packer, Family History Is More Than Just Genealogy, RootsTech 2013

“Genealogy is an important subset of family history.  Family history includes genealogy but is much broader in scope and time. It is not limited to the past, but includes the present and the future. Family history is the history of a family past, present, and future.

Create your history as you live in the present, discover the past by learning of the stories of your ancestors, and shape the future by sharing your stories.”

Family History is, quite literally, a history of families.  We learn about our families: who they were, how they lived, what their relationships were.  The Church has in the last several years been pushing Family History as opposed to Genealogy.  We are not just looking for names and dates, we are looking for people, for family members.   And we want to know about their lives — who they were between the birth date and the death date.  We do not just ‘take names’ to the temple, we take people.  We perform sacred ordinances for our family members.  The names that we look for and find when doing family history research are our ancestors, they came before us and we have a responsibility to learn of them.

The doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is clear — “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.“ – The Family: A Proclamation to the World.  Families existed before we were born onto this earth and our families will exist eternally after our time here has ended.  Thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all will be resurrected and all will have the opportunity of accepting the Gospel of Christ and repenting of their sins and receiving a place in the Celestial Kingdom of our God.

Families can be sealed together through the restored priesthood of God, and our deceased ancestors can receive the same saving ordinances of baptism, confirmation, temple endowment and sealing of spouses and children.  This is why we do this work.  We help our families accept the gospel of Christ and accept the same redeeming ordinances that we enjoy.

“I hope to see us dissolve the artificial boundary line we so often place between missionary work and temple and genealogical work, because it is the same great redemptive work!”

President Spencer W. Kimball, “The Things of Eternity—Stand We in Jeopardy?” Ensign, Jan. 1977


I heard it explained once to someone who was not a member of our church that we are inviting our deceased ancestors to a great eternal family reunion.   They are not obligated to accept the invitation, but we have the responsibility of inviting them, of performing the saving temple ordinances so that we can all be sealed together as a family.

At RootsTech 2015 in February, Elder Quentin L. Cook introduced the Church’s new emphasis for Family History with the following motto — “Find, Take, Teach”



FIND: Use the FamilySearch website or the My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together booklet to find the names of one or more of your ancestors or their descendants.

TAKE: Take these names to the temple or share them with others so they can take them to the temple (when possible, do this as a family).

TEACH: Teach your family, and then teach others to do the same thing.


Find – Start with yourself. Add your parents and grandparents.  FamilySearch.org has a lot of information already on deceased ancestors, you should be able to fairly quickly connect to a deceased ancestor.   If you are missing information, ask family members or search historical records to find the information you need.

Take: From FamilySearch.org there is a Temple tab which will show those individuals in your family tree that need temple ordinances.   You can reserve these ordinances and print a sheet which you take to the temple, where the name cards will be printed.

Teach: Teach your family this process, and then teach your friends and neighbors.  There is a lot of interest in the world in family and family history.  We have amazing resources available to us that we can share with our friends and neighbors.


Family History research is sometimes daunting and overwhelming for many members of the Church.  Recent converts or those individuals from convert families may feel there is too much work to do and they don’t know where to start.  Those who come from families that have been members of the Church for several generations may feel that all of their family history work has already been done and they don’t know where to start.  Some members may be uncomfortable with computers and internet technology that seem to be taking over the world of family history research.  Others may well be familiar with computers, but do not know which of the many family history and genealogy software and sites to use. It can all certainly be overwhelming.

I start with counsel from October 2015 General Conference from Pres.  Uchtdorf

Start where you are.

“My second suggestion is: start where you are.

Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are not “more” of something—more spiritual, respected, intelligent, healthy, rich, friendly, or capable. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve. God created us to grow and progress. But remember, our weaknesses can help us to be humble and turn us to Christ, who will “make weak things become strong.” Satan, on the other hand, uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying.  I learned in my life that we don’t need to be “more” of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become.God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord. “ Pres.  Dieter F.  Uchtdorf, “It Works Wonderfully”, October 2015


We just need to start where we are, with what we have and move forward.   The Church has many great tools and resources designed to help everyone start and continue with their family history research.  BYU has a class on Family History and they outline the Five Step Research Process.

BYU Five-step Research Process 

Step 1.  Fill out a Pedigree Chart or log into FamilySearch.org and start setting up your tree. Fill in as much information as you currently know.  As you enter information, try to verify it with documents and records (such as birth, marriage, or death records) to prove the correct information.   Save these sources and cite them in your family tree.

Step 2.  Find the gaps in your information, determine what you want to know.  Fill out a research log to keep track of your research so that you do not need to duplicate your efforts.  Clearly write what you are looking for, where you are looking for it, and what you found.

Step 3.  Determine what records will get you the information you are looking for.

  1. Are you looking for a birth, marriage, death date or place? The name of sibling or parent? What records would have that information?
  2.  What is a primary record vs. a secondary record?
    1.  A primary record was created at the time and place of the event.  Ex.  A marriage certificate is a primary record for the marriage date and place. Consider who created the record and why and how they obtained the information contained in the record.
    2.  A secondary record is created at some later date.  Ex. A census is not a primary record, but can provide useful information in locating the correct primary record.  A death certificate is a primary record for the death date and place, but is a secondary record for the birth of that individual – it was entered after the fact and may not be accurate.

Step 4.  Obtain the records

  1.  Where is this record to be found? Online? Family History Library on microfilm? State, County, City Office?
  2.  Cost of obtaining record? Copies? Do you want the actual record or just the information from it? Maybe you record the information and cite the source now, and later decide to pay to have the actual record.  Always record where you found the information so you can find it later if needed and so others can duplicate your research.
  3.  How will you store the record? Is it digital or need to be scanned and uploaded? Do you have a box or file folder?

Step 5.  Use the information

  1.  Enter information into FamilySearch.org
  2.  Submit the information to the temple for the work to be done
  3.  Write your family history, share this information with your family and share the research process to help inspire them.

BYU 5-Step Research Process


  • Step 1: Identify What You Know About Your Family

This step includes filling out a pedigree chart and family group records with what you already know about your family, gathering additional information from home sources and relatives, and organizing your records for easy access.

  • Step 2: Decide What You Want to Learn About Your Family

This step involves selecting a specific ancestor about whom you would like to know more, determining what you would like to know about that ancestor, and preparing a research log (https://familyhistorylab.byu.edu/sites/familyhistorylab.byu.edu/files/researchlog.pdf).

  • Step 3: Select Records to Search

This step involves identifying the category of record you need to search in order to find out what you would like to know. This record category might be a compiled record, an original record, or a reference source. The step then involves identifying the specific record to be searched next, and describing it in your research log.

  • Step 4: Obtain and Search the Record

This step involves obtaining the record from the Family History Library, or another repository, searching it, and recording the results of the search on your log. You may also make an extract or photocopy of that information.

  • Step 5: Use the Information

This step includes submitting names for temple ordinances, submitting information to Pedigree Resource File, posting information on the Internet, writing family histories, and other uses of the information.



Thoughts on General Conference October 2015

These are just some thoughts I wrote after watching and enjoying the October 2015 General Conference.  It was a wonderful, spiritual experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the thoughts and impressions I had.  I look forward to having the text of these talks and studying them more in depth to glean even more from them. I encourage everyone to check out the Church’s website in the coming days for these amazing talks, sure to uplift and embolden the spirit.

There was a lot of emphasis on the basics of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, on reading and studying the scriptures and praying.  Pres. Uchtdorf reminded us to simplify and to rejoice in the simplicity that is in Christ.  There are so many things that we allow into our lives that are eternally unnecessary.  

Remember the testimony you have experienced and commit to move forward in the strength of that testimony.   Elder Holland taught beautifully of the power of motherly love.  I remember what my mother said to me in the celestial room of the Seattle temple that first time I went – “I have waited a long time to see you here” I believe that our Father in Heaven says the same thing when we attend his holy temple, and will say the same thing when we meet him after this life.
President Eyring during Priesthood session taught that the Lord will bless his priesthood holders when they faithfully fulfill their duties.  I need to reach out more, be kinder and friendlier, speak less harshly,  I need to make friends in the Elder’s Quorum and at work.  And then in the spirit of love and friendship I can bear honest and simple testimony and invite freely to come closer to Christ.

And President Monson again reminded us of the basics of the Gospel – Keep the commandments, in this there is safety and peace.   It really is that simple.  As we keep the commandments that the Lord has given us through his Prophets and Apostles we will be blessed with safety and peace.  We can know that the commandments are truly given us from our loving Father in Heaven as we read and study in the scriptures and pray and seek the Holy Spirit.  And we will gain the spiritual strength necessary to enable us to keep the commandments.

Repeated throughout the Conference was the counsel to observe the Sabbath Day, to increase our worship.  We were also asked to ‘ponderize’ a scripture a week.  This will certainly help us “always remember Him” which will guarantee us the promise of always having his spirit be with us.  That spirit will in turn help us gain more from our Sabbath worship and our scripture study, as well as help us resist the temptation that comes.  We remember that the Lord is at the head of this Church, he leads and guides the leaders of this Church whom he has called.   We may complain about them and what they say, but these are the men whom he has called and prepared.   They stand as witnesses of Christ and reach out to the entire world with his message of peace and love.  As we give heed to their counsel we will be blessed as we obey the commandments of God given us through these Prophets and Apostles.

For me, the take-away of General Conference is that I need to take a step back and begin again doing those basic things that help us develop a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I need daily prayer, sincere prayer and conversation with my Father in Heaven.  I need daily scripture study which is more than just reading a few words on a digital screen.  I need to truly “always remember him” so that I can claim the promised blessing of always having his spirit to be with me.   And with his spirit I can do all things.  I can find the spiritual strength and power to keep the commandments, to reach out with love to my brothers and sisters, in the Church and out of it, and fulfill those priesthood responsibilities that I have been assigned.   I do not like Home Teaching, not because I do not enjoy going into the homes of those my brethren in the Elder’s Quorum to share a Gospel message, but because I become anxious when talking to people I do not know in order to schedule an appointment.   I guess it is just the initial fear of contact, if I had an established monthly appointment, I would have no problem doing my Home Teaching each month, but I fear and stop when I am asked to talk to someone I do not know and do not have an established relationship with.   Seeking and maintaining the companionship of the Holy Ghost will help me overcome these misguided fears and allow me to reach out in love and in the true spirit of Home Teaching to care for my brethren in the quorum and their families.   

What did you enjoy about this General Conference? What thoughts impressed you? What do you plan to change because of what you heard and felt?

Love and Tolerance and Standing for Truth

With recent events in the United States and in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding same-sex marriage, I have been having an almost constant debate in my head.   I have read a lot of posts and articles written by people in and out of the Church with varying opinions and I agree with many of the things that I have read.

There seems to be two sides to this situation, with one side asking for love and tolerance and acceptance of individuals who are attracted to members of the same sex and the other side taking a moral stand for revealed truths and the commandments of God.   One side claims that God is love and we should be sharing that love with all of our brothers and sisters and the other side claims that God is order and that his laws do not change and we need to keep his commandments if we want to receive his blessings in our lives.

I do not believe either side is wrong with these statements.   God is love.   God does not change,

his commandments are eternal, and when human behavior needs to change, God will reveal new light and truth through his mouthpiece, the Prophet.

I, then, find myself asking the following question: How does the Christ-like individual react to the current situation?  How do we balance love and tolerance for all of God’s children with standing for truth and right and keeping God’s commandments?

I will not claim to have a perfect answer, I am writing this post partially to work through my thoughts on this subject. I want to invite all of you to join with me in studying the scriptures to find the answer to this dilemma. I will be reading in the Book of Mormon and in the New Testament and even the Doctrine and Covenants to find how men of God, including the Savior, dealt with similar situations.   How did Jesus and his appointed prophets teach true doctrine that went against accepted social norms of the time?  How did they stand firm in defending God’s eternal laws while still showing his love and compassion with an understanding that all men are children of God?

I think I will start with Jacob in the Book of Mormon, I seem to remember around chapter 4 or so, that he had some strong words to say against the people who were not keeping the commandments of God, but he still recognized that there were many who came to him, as a prophet, looking to “receive the pleasing word of God”.

And I will do a read through of the New Testament, at least the Four Gospels, and focus on how Jesus Christ taught.   He has some very strict things to say to the people as he taught them the higher law, and many things that he taught were not well received, yet he is generally accepted as being the Master Teacher, and the Embodiment of the Love of God.  Certainly we, as his disciples, can learn from him how best to lovingly teach the doctrines of the Father to a society that has chosen to disobey his commandments.

And I will also examine Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants.   Here, too, was a man that was certainly filled with the love of God for all his fellowmen and who certainly had to stand unashamed of the commandments of God.

That will be my scripture study for the next little while as I attempt to reconcile for myself how God wants me to act in the current political situation.   I return again, as I find I often do, to Nephi’s simple testimony, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things”.

I know that God loves his children, and I know that we are all children of God.   I know that he wants us to treat each other with love and respect, with patience and understanding.  Yet, I also know that “straight is the gate and narrow is the way” and that the Lord has said, “if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you” (Doctrine and Covenants 78:7), “for he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:22).

I now need to find out how God would have me act with regard to my brothers and sisters in the world, and what he would have me say and do.   And so I will delve into the scriptures and study the life of the Savior to find what he would do.  I invite all of you to follow along, read along with me and share your thoughts.   Together we can certainly find an acceptable answer.

Marriage, Equality, and Pride

By now the news has surely spread that the Supreme Court of the United States has announced that same-sex marriages must be allowed in all 50 states.   Gay marriage is now legal across the entire United States.   My Twitter feed has been a constant stream of posts about this subject, most of them in favor and celebrating this long-awaited decision.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the subject, and it mostly stems from the separation I see between legality and morality.   Personally, I believe that marriage is ordained of God and He has decreed that it is between one man and one woman and that it can and should, when sealed with the proper authority, be eternal.   That is God’s goal for all of His children – to be united in one eternal family and as individual families.   Family is the whole purpose of existence — we are born into families and grow up in families and seek to create families of our own when we reach an age.

Marriage between a man and a woman who have been married by the Priesthood authority of God and who are faithful in keeping the commandments of God will last beyond the grave.   There are certain laws that govern eternal marriage and eternal happiness.   Lasting happiness and joy only come when we are obedient to the commandments of God.   And there are no double standards with God — all of His children are asked and expected to keep the same commandments to the best of their ability.  But, knowing that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, the Atonement of Christ was provided to allow all of us to repent and return to live with our Father again.

This brings me to that word which has been so often used in the debates and discussions around same-sex marriage – Equality.   Many have claimed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is discriminatory and not being fair because of its stance on this issue.  But, the Church’s stance on marriage has been consistent.   Marriage is between a man and a woman, and any sexual relation outside of this marriage is sin.   True, this stance condemns any homosexual relationship, but it also does not condone any heterosexual relationship outside of marriage – no affairs, no premarital sex, nothing.   The commandment is the same for everybody – isn’t that equal?

And this weekend, in Seattle at least, is a massive LBGT event that has appropriated another word which I used to like – Pride.   It is one thing to have pride in what you do, in who you are, in where you come from, etc.  but it is another thing to declare, loudly and brazenly, that everyone who disagrees with you is wrong.  It seems that these Pride events are less about asking for acceptance of a lifestyle that is not the norm and more about getting in your face with over-the-top exhibitions of that lifestyle.   They seem to embrace all of the outlandish, extreme stereotypes and flaunt them – almost as if they are offending the religious conservative members of society simply because they can.

And in writing about this, I was reminded of something I was talking about in Sunday School last week, where I taught a lesson on Matthew 23 and how Jesus spoke of the scribes and Pharisees of his day and how we can avoid hypocrisy in our lives.   I referenced a General Conference address given by President Ezra Taft Benson in April of 1989 – Beware of Pride.  He said, “In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always considered a sin. Therefore, no matter how the world uses the term, we must understand how God uses the term so we can understand the language of holy writ and profit thereby.“

But toward the end of his address, President Benson also stated, “Our degree of pride determines how we treat our God and our brothers and sisters. Christ wants to lift us to where He is. Do we desire to do the same for others?”  That needs to be our guiding principle in life — What is our desire for those around us?  Even if they disagree with us, or with our closely-held religious beliefs, we can and should desire to accept them, love them and help them become the eternally happy children of God that they intrinsically are.

This is indeed an historic day, a major Supreme Court decision was handed down that will affect politics in this country for generations to come.   There will be both support and backlash among our family, friends, and acquaintances, but we need to remember civility in all of our communications.

The bottom line is — My dissent is not discrimination and my acceptance of your newly declared legal rights is not approval of your actions.

On School Discipline

There was an interesting tweet I read from The Seattle Times about an upcoming Education Lab event.   It read, “Suspending students does more harm than good. But what’s the alternative? Join the conversation on May 20” and linked to this registration page, where it states, “Study after study has confirmed what many parents, students and teachers already know: Traditional school discipline often doesn’t work. Students who are suspended have a higher risk of dropping out and their behavior typically doesn’t improve when they get back to class.

What would help discipline work better?

Join the Seattle Times Education Lab for a thoughtful discussion about the way our schools handle discipline. “


This is a very important topic to discuss as teachers, as parents, and as anyone who has interest in education.   What is the best way to discipline a student?

I never really understood suspension as a punishment, even when I was a student.  Those students who don’t want to be in school anyway are ‘punished’ by not being allowed to go to school.   It never made sense.

On the one hand I understand that when a student is misbehaving or disrupting the instruction in a classroom he/she needs to be removed from that classroom so that the rest of the students can continue to learn. And I guess a suspension that requires a student to stay at home is supposed to cause some inconvenience for the parents, who must find a way to care for the child while they are not in school. I suppose a parent having to take off work because their child was suspended from school is supposed to get the parent involved and working to discipline the child so that the behavior does not continue or repeat, but I have not often found that to be the case.

There needs to be a balance found in discipline between the needs of the individual student and the needs of the rest of the class.   And, to be honest, before we can begin talking about the best way to handle discipline we need to have a serious discussion about the purpose of discipline.   Is discipline intended to simply punish a student for wrong-doing or is it intended as correction, to help the student improve their behavior? It is the same argument for the prison system – is it intended to punish or to reform?  Is it a deterrent (avoid the punishment) or is it a social program (help people become better)?

Of course, discipline needs to be, at least partially, both.  Students who misbehave or break school rules need to be punished as a clear indicator that such behavior is not tolerated and cannot be repeated or duplicated by any other student.   But discipline should also work with the student to help correct inappropriate behaviors and ensure they can return to the classroom and continue their education.

I am more a proponent of In-School Suspension programs, then, because they do separate out the student who is causing a problem or disruption in the classroom, allowing the classmates to continue learning and the teacher to continue with the lesson plan, but it also provides something for the student to do.   Usually the student is given some schoolwork that they need to complete, not busy work to keep them occupied, but actual assignments from their classes that they need to work on.   In-School Suspension, in this case, works on the same principle as a Study Hall, giving the student an opportunity and the time needed to complete their school assignments.   This sends the message that while the student needed to be separated from the classroom for a time due to behavior issues, they are still expected to complete the required assignments and meet their educational objectives. School is still stressed as being important, unlike the situation when the student is sent home, where the message is “School is important, but it is more important for other students than it is for you.  You don’t need school right now, you just need to leave so others can do school properly. “

There also needs to be involvement from everyone affected — students, teachers, administrators, and parents.  All need to be on the same page with regard to the purposes and goals of discipline.  All need to work together so that individual students’ educational goals can be met as well as community educational goals and the educational objectives of the school as a whole.  This needs to be an ongoing discussion in our schools and in our homes. Everyone needs to understand the reasons behind different types of discipline and work together to ensure that everyone is able to learn and grow properly in school.

Mormon Monday: Nothing but Repentance

There is a phrase that appears several times in the scriptures, a few times in the Doctrine and Covenants and a few times in the Book of Mormon, that I have always found extremely interesting.   “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation” or in the Book of Mosiah, 18:20, “Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people. “

When I think about what we teach in the Church and how we, as members of the Church, talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I do not think that we follow these commandments from the Lord to “say nothing but repentance”, and because we do not I do not think we have a correct understanding of what repentance is and the role it should play in our daily lives.

I have been thinking about this for a while and have started writing this post, gathering my thoughts on this subject and a couple of things that were said at Church yesterday reminded me of this and furthered the discussion.

What does it mean to cry nothing by repentance?  How often do we talk about repentance in the Church?

Why is it when we talk about repentance or the Atonement it is usually about great sins, almost shaming people, filling them with guilt? I think part of it might be the language that we use — I have never liked the word repentance.   Etymologically it is derived from the Latin poena which means penalty and also gives us the words penance, penitence, and punish.   These are all very negative words focusing on the consequences of sin and not, as repentance should be, focused on returning to God and reconciling ourselves with him.   In the Hebrew Bible one of the words that is translated as repentance is שוב shuv  which means ‘to return’, which is similar in German where the word used is Umkehr, which quite literally means to turn around.   The idea is that we stop what we are doing, stop going down the path we are going down, turn around and return to God.

If we can lose the negative connotations of repentance and learn to embrace repentance as a returning to God, as a positive step towards becoming like our Father in Heaven, then I believe we can speak more openly and more often about repentance in our Church meetings without everybody feeling like they are being punished.   We need to change the way we speak about repentance to encourage everyone to be repenting daily, of everything that separates us from God.   We need to be constantly turning and returning to God, working our way back to him, becoming more like him on a daily basis.

The Atonement exists for everything, repentance exists for everything that stops us from being like God.   Moroni teaches us that we must “deny yourselves of all ungodliness” (Moroni 10:32), we need to remove all things that are not godly about our behavior and our conduct.   The beautiful thing about this process is that if we remove everything that is ungodly about ourselves, what remains is godliness.   That is how we become as God is, by simply ‘denying ourselves all ungodliness.’ Repentance is the process by which we become godly, the process by which we “lay aside every sin which doth so easily beset us” (Hebrews 12:1). It is not just for great sins and evil deeds, it is for the small, little actions that we take every day which remove us from the presence of the Lord.   It is for thoughts in our minds and our hearts that keep us from being perfectly godly.   It is for everything, and needs to be used and applied daily — multiple times a day.

A speaker in Sacrament meeting, in discussing the Atonement provided a great analogy.   He said that the Atonement is NOT like our food storage, which we dip into only in emergencies, but mostly ignored during our day-to-day.   We do not need the Atonement only during emergencies, only during great sins or misdeeds.   The Atonement needs to become part of our daily lives, a staple of our diet.

Which tied in rather nicely to the Sunday School lesson we had on John chapter 6 where Jesus feeds the multitude with a few loaves and fish and then teaches the spiritual principle that He is the bread of life and if we feast upon Him and his Atonement then we shall never be hungry again.   We had a great discussion during Sunday School about what it means to feast ung the bread of life, what is involved in the process of eating and the many different metaphors and analogies that use eating terminology.   We talked about tasting and chewing and swallowing as part of the eating process with the phrases that we use almost daily about having a taste as a metaphor for trying new things, chewing as in”chew on that” – to really ponder and mull it over, and swallow, as in “I could not swallow that idea” – to not be able to understand or accept.   All of these ideas are part of coming to Christ and partaking of his Atonement.

One brother, who likes to read several different versions and translations of the Bible and read different commentaries pointed out that the Greek word that is translated as “eat” when Christ asks his disciples to eat of his flesh has a habitual meaning to it, in the way we say that some animals eat nuts and berries — implying that they survive off those foods, that is how they live, it is not just something they eat once or twice, but that is what they eat consistently to survive. We need to eat of the bread of life, we need to partake of the Atonement of Christ in a habitual way, in an ongoing way, as part of our daily diet and not, as pointed out earlier, only as emergency food storage to be used when we absolutely need it.

I think part of our conversation problem in the Church is that we do put so much emphasis on the works part of the gospel, we rightly teach people of the things they need to be doing in their lives to keep the commandments of God, we speak so much about ordinances and performances that we overlook or relegate the idea of Grace and Mercy to the back burner.   We teach so much about the things we must be doing — reading and praying and going to Church and paying our tithing and doing our Home Teaching and . .  and . . .  and . . .  et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.   I think we forget that Lehi also teaches “Salvation is free” and that the Atonement of Christ applies to all.

What made yesterday all that much better was the lesson we had in Elder’s Quorum where we discussed the talk from October 2014 General Conference by Jörg Klebingat, “Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence”.  He said,

Because the Atonement of Jesus Christ is very practical, you should apply it generously 24/7, for it never runs out. Embrace the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance as things that are to be welcomed and applied daily according to the Great Physician’s orders.Establish an attitude of ongoing, happy, joyful repentance by making it your lifestyle of choice . . .  spiritual confidence increases when you voluntarily and joyfully repent of sins, both small and great, in real time by applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ.


The Atonement of Christ is real and it really applies to each and every one of us in countless ways every day.   I have said this before but I firmly believe that there is really only one commandment, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt.  5:48). All other commandments exist to help us achieve that commandment.   OR, in other words, as Moroni stated, “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness” (Moroni 10:32).  We can each of us be a little better today than we were yesterday, and be a little better tomorrow than we were today.   That is all the God asks of us.   That we are striving to approach him, and he has promised us, through his Son, Jesus Christ, that we can be better, that we can be perfect.   The Atonement, as part of our daily lives, will improve is in every aspect of our lives and our relationships with others.

We need to repent more often.  And we need to say nothing but repentance unto those of this generation.   Nothing else can reconcile us to the Father and allow us to enter into his presence and live with him again.   Repentance through the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the greatest gift given to man, and we need to exercise the faith necessary to repentance so that we may also approach the throne of God with confidence and know that He is our Father and that we have become like Him.

Mormon Monday: Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice

I was asked to speak in Church yesterday on the subject “Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice” and I though that others might be interested in my remarks so I am posting them here in preparation for General Conference in two weeks.

“Come listen to a prophet’s voice,  And hear the word of God. “


Do you believe that?  Do you believe that God does indeed speak? And that we can listen to Him? Do you believe that Prophets speak the word of God?


To start we need to  “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend”


In a previous ward I taught Sunbeam class – the three year-olds in their first class in Primary.   My wife at a different time taught in Nursery, with the children as young as 18 months, in their first institutionalized Church class.   Do you know what the first lesson in the Nursery manual is?  It is the same lesson in the Sunbeam manual.   The very first thing that we teach our youngest children in this Church, the very first thing that we want them to know and understand is:  I am a Child of God.


At a different time I taught the Gospel Principles class.  This is a class designed for investigators of the Church and recent converts to the Church.   It covers the basic principles of the Gospel in simple terms and helps introduce the Gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to those who are not yet members and those who have most recently joined this Church.   The very first lesson in that manual — the very first thing we want these individuals to know is:  Our Father in Heaven.   It talks about God and who He is and our relationship to him.


I left on my mission ten years ago in October.   I entered the MTC 4 days before Preach My Gospel was introduced.   I entered on a Wednesday and was given the old discussion materials, books and pamphlets and handouts and everything.   Then at the weekly Sunday night fireside Elder Ballard came and introduced Preach My Gospel and they handed us our copies the next morning, asking us to then recycle all of our old material.  The first principle in the first lesson that is taught as we introduce the Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is: God is our Loving Heavenly Father.
Or, I am a Child of God.


The very first thing that the Lord taught Moses, as recorded in the Book of Moses chapter 1, in verse 4, after introducing himself to Moses he says “And behold, thou art my son”  And he repeats that, “Moses, my son” two more times in that chapter.  But the very first thing that Satan did when he came tempting Moses after this incredible spiritual encounter was to cause Moses to forget or doubt what God had taught him.   He calls him, “Moses, son of man”

But Moses did not forget what he had been taught and what he had felt through the spirit, he responds, “Behold, I am a son of God”.


There is power and strength in that statement and in the knowledge that gives.   We are children of God, we are offspring of Deity, we are part of something eternal and grand, and he has chosen to call himself our Father.  OF all of the titles he could rightfully choose — Omnipotent, Omniscient, Almighty, Supreme Creator.   What has he chosen as his preferred title?  Father.

That must teach us great truths about the role of fatherhood.   That must teach us great truths about our true relationship with our God.


Once we know that there is a God and our relationship with him, what is the next logical thing to ask?

What do you want, Father?

What do you know that I should know?


I still call my father, my parents almost weekly to ask them how to do things or just to talk and hear their opinions and advice.   They’ve been here before!

And because our Father loves us he wants to share his opinions and advice with us.   He wants us to return to him.  But he knows that there are eternal laws governing Justice and Priesthood which even He must abide by or God would cease to be God.

He has a plan whereby we can return to him through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.   We can repent and be forgiven of our sins and become worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.   Despite any mistake or shortcoming or error on our part, if we come to Jesus Christ and accept his Atoning sacrifice, we can and will be forgiven of our sins, we can and will be washed clean, and we can and will be worthy and acceptable of a place in the Celestial Kingdom of our God.


And so, in the words of the prophet Lehi, “How great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth!” (2 Nephi 2:8)


Ever since Adam, the Lord has called prophets to teach his people of Jesus Christ and the Atonement and of the Plan of Salvation, the Plan of Redemption, the Plan of Happiness.  Every prophet has taught of the need for repentance.


Though the central message has not changed, each prophet is also given revelation and prophecies concerning the people and the time to whom he is called.

There is and there has to be continuing revelation.  God is a God of order and he changeth not.   If truly loves all his children why would he not send the same blessings to all of them in all ages of the earth?  That is one of the fundamental testimonies of the Book of Mormon to me.   It teaches us, both by what it says and by what it is, that God has not forgotten any of his children, that he loves them all in all ages and on all continents, and he will send angels and prophets and messengers to teach them all of Jesus Christ and his Atonement.


I have spoken to many people about the Gospel and told some that we have a prophet again on the earth, just as in days of the Old Testament.   And the first question they usually ask is  — What has he prophesied?


It is great that we can go to LDS.org or open the Gospel Library app on my smartphone and have access to General Conference talks going back to 1971!


But, what has President Thomas S.  Monson prophesied recently?

That is a hard question to answer, especially to those who are not familiar with the Church or modern prophets.   They often expect some great prophecy like prophets of old.   They expect a prophet to stand up and predict a great calamity or terrible destruction if the people do not repent.   Like Noah, or Isaiah, or Moses in the court of Pharaoh.

But, I do not remember President Monson preaching any calamitous flood or natural disaster.   I do not remember him warning of another nation’s imminent attack and taking our citizens away captive into a foreign land.   I do not remember him speaking to the President, forecasting mighty plagues against this country if certain we do not obey the commandments of God.

It is true that occasionally prophets are called upon to preach in such manner, but John the Revelator wrote, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10)


And certainly every latter-day prophet since Joseph Smith has testified of Jesus Christ, including Thomas S.  Monson.

In October he taught:

One woman, each time she related experiences she had during a visit to the Holy Land, would exclaim, “I walked where Jesus walked!”

She had been in the vicinity where Jesus lived and taught. Perhaps she stood on a rock on which He had once stood or looked at a mountain range He had once gazed upon. The experiences, in and of themselves, were thrilling to her; but physically walking where Jesus walked is less important than walking as He walked. Emulating His actions and following His example are far more important than trying to retrace the remnants of the trails He traversed in mortality.

When Jesus extended to a certain rich man the invitation, “Come, follow me,”7 He did not intend merely that the rich man follow Him up and down the hills and valleys of the countryside.

President Thomas S. Monson, Ponder the Path of Thy Feet, October 2014


It is less so that Prophets and Apostles preach some great new thing or raise a voice of warning, but they always remind us of the simple aspects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   The daily things we should and should not be doing in order to become more like our Father in Heaven.


General Conference is in two weeks and we will once again hear from our Prophet and his Counsellors and the other Apostles and other General Church leaders.   In opening October’s Conference, President Monson said,

They have sought heaven’s help concerning the messages which they will present, and they have felt inspiration regarding what will be said.

If they prepare so carefully to present to us the message that God wants us to hear, should we not prepare ourselves so that we can best receive it?


How do we prepare for General Conference?  Each family has their traditions and routines, but it must be centered in Jesus Christ – as is everything in our lives.

We need to have the spirit with us and in our homes when we listen to General Conference – For the Holy Ghost will teach us all things what we should do.   Nephi further taught,

“when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men”

If we want the Holy Ghost to carry the messages of Conference into our hearts, we need to have the spirit with us and be receptive to his teachings.


I like to reread addressed from last General Conference and go over my notes again about the thoughts and impressions I had while listening to Conference to remind me of what we were taught and admonished just six months ago.   And I have found, as I do this, that there is an amazing consistency in the messages of the Prophets and Apostles.

We are all familiar with the principle that in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.   That bears out in General Conference as well.   What one Apostle teaches in General Conference will always be repeated or taught again in a different way by another Apostle in the next Conference, and sometimes even in the same Conference.

They are united in the spirit of Christ and the spirit of prophecy and they teach us those things that our Father in Heaven wants us to know and understand and do.


There is essentially only one commandment — Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.   All of the other commandments that He has given us are to help us achieve this goal.

If you prepare yourselves in the next two weeks, invite the spirit of the Lord into your home and into your lives and you will feel the peace and comfort that comes when you know you are doing what the Lord will have you do.   And if you are not doing all that you should be doing, if there are areas of your life that need improvement to bring them into accordance with the principles of the Gospel, the spirit will whisper these things to you and give you the constant encouragement you need.


Take some time in the next few weeks to be with the spirit.   Take some time to converse with your Father in heaven.   Take some time to take a deep personal spiritual inventory and consider all of those things that you are grateful for and those things that you feel you still stand in need of.   Write some thoughts and impressions down and maybe a few questions that you would like the Lord to answer.  Then watch and listen to General Conference with the spirit and take notes of the thoughts that come into your mind and the feelings that enter your heart.   Listen with the spirit and you will find that your Father in heaven is speaking to you through his duly appointed Prophet and Apostles who hold the Priesthood keys for revelation and guidance of the Church as a whole.


Especially in these last few years when they have made the text of General Conference addresses available by the end of the week, I find that my note taking has evolved.   I find myself not transcribing what they are saying, I don’t necessarily write down quotes of what they exactly said, but more of the personal things that the spirit is speaking to me.   I can always go back and read what they said, and it will be much more accurate than my note taking.   But if I do not capture the impressions of the spirit when they happen, if I do not save those thoughts and personal revelation at the moment they occur, they will be lost.


Come listen to a Prophet’s voice, and hear the word of God.   Your God is preparing to speak to you through the mouths of his Prophet and Apostles and he has said that “my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. “ (D&C 1:38)