Friday, July 18, 2008

The purpose of bearing our testimony is to help fulfill our responsibility to share the gospel with others. We feel blessed to live in a place where we can get to know people with many diverse beliefs and backgrounds. The prophet Joseph Smith said, "after all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel." It is a blessing to be able to take part in this great work. The Lord has enlarged our vision and purpose as a family, to lengthen our stride in becoming better member missionaries. We hope you will join us in sharing the gospel with others.

Our Testimony

We are so grateful for our membership in The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is the center of our lives. We are especially grateful for the direction and guidance we receive through the church as it keeps us on the right path. We believe in God the Eternal Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ. We know that God lives. He is our Eternal Father in heaven. As the Father of our spirits He loves us and is concerned about our returning to live with Him someday. This is made possible only through the atonement of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. As part of the atonement Jesus overcame physical death through His resurrection. He broke the bands of death and having done so we will all now be resurrected someday as well. This is truly the single most important event in all human history. We will all now live again and receive immortal bodies! Also, as part of His atonement, Jesus Christ paid the price for the sins of the world. This enables each of us to be forgiven of our individual sins through the repentance process. Because Jesus has completed the atonement we will not have to pay for our own sins if we accept Him, repent, and follow His teachings. If we do not do these things then we will have to suffer even as He did. Which suffering caused even Jesus to bleed from every pore. What Jesus Christ has done for us through His atonement is all part of our Father’s great plan of happiness for us. We now have the opportunity to partake of immortality and eternal life. Without the atonement we could not have either of these priceless gifts. Our family would like to bear witness that we know these things are true.

When Christ was on the earth He set up His church. He appointed prophets and apostles to continue to lead the church. Though He was not here He still communicated with the prophet through divine revelation. In this way He continued to lead and guide His church. He also gave the prophet and apostles the priesthood authority to operate the church and to perform necessary ordinances. This authority is crucial. Without it the ordinances would be in vain. In addition, man would not be authorized to operate in the affairs of Christ’s church. The prophets were eventually all killed. Because of the wickedness of the people the Lord took the priesthood authority from the earth. This is the great apostasy or ‘falling away’ spoken of in the Bible. We also recognize this period of time in history as the dark ages. There was no longer a prophet for Him to communicate His will. The church of Jesus Christ was taken from the earth. For decades man searched for truth. Many other churches were formed, each with differing opinions of what was true. Without a prophet receiving revelation man was left to his own interpretation of the scriptures. The Bible was translated and re-translated over and over again by man without Gods authority. In the process many plain and precious truths were lost. This caused great confusion. However, the time eventually came when the earth was prepared to receive again the fullness of the gospel.

In the Spring of 1820 a young boy by the name of Joseph Smith was searching for truth. Confusion on the subject of religion lead him to read and ponder the Bible. He read in James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that given to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Never did any passage of scripture enter into the heart of man with more power than that did at that time to him. Joseph knew if anyone lacked wisdom it was him. He also had faith that God would surely answer his humble prayer. He decided to pray and ask God which of all the churches was true and which to join. He went to the woods and prayed. He describes his experience. “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 to me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other” – “This is my beloved Son. Hear Him!” Joseph was told he was to join none of the churches but that he had a great work to do. He would later be called of God as a prophet. The Lord restored His priesthood authority to the earth and set up His church once again. It is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is His church! All of the plain and precious truths have been restored. The Lord has continued to call prophets and apostles to lead and guide His church through divine revelation today. Just like when He originally set up His church while He was on the earth. Joseph was also commanded to bring forth another testament of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is a record of the ancient inhabitants of America which was originally engraved on gold plates. These people also had Gods priesthood authority and prophets to guide His church. The Book of Mormon had been protected during the apostasy as it was buried in the earth. Joseph was given power and authority to translate the record. We have it now today and it contains the plain and precious truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It stands before the world as another testament of Jesus Christ. We believe it to be the word of God and the most correct of any book on earth. We also believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.

We testify that the Book of Mormon is true. It does contain the fullness of the gospel. Everyone can know for themselves of these things. We invite all people everywhere to read and ponder its teachings. You can then pray and ask God if it is true. The Lord has promised that you can know of it’s truthfulness for yourself. In the last chapter of the book; Moroni 10:4 it reads, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true: and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

We would like to extend an invitation to all people to read the Book of Mormon. We offer to anyone who is interested a free copy. Just let us know that you would like one and we will send it to you. Thanks for visiting our blog and reading our testimony.

Love, The Butlers

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Nature and Deity of God

The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain
President Gordon B. Hinckley

The Lord is fulfilling His promise that His gospel shall be as the stone cut out of the mountain without hands.

Now, my brothers and sisters, we live with an interesting phenomenon. A soloist sings the same song again and again. An orchestra repeats the same music. But a speaker is expected to come up with something new every time he speaks. I am going to break that tradition this morning and repeat in a measure what I have said on another occasion.

The Church has become one large family scattered across the earth. There are now more than 13 million of us in 176 nations and territories. A marvelous and wonderful thing is coming to pass. The Lord is fulfilling His promise that His gospel shall be as the stone cut out of the mountain without hands which would roll forth and fill the whole earth, as Daniel saw in vision (see Daniel 2:31–45; D&C 65:2). A great miracle is taking place right before our eyes.

I take you back 184 years to the year 1823. The month was September—the night of September 21–22, to be exact.

The boy Joseph Smith had prayed that night before going to sleep. He asked the Lord for forgiveness of his light-mindedness. A miraculous thing then happened. He says:

“While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside. . . .

“He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God . . . and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people” (Joseph Smith—History 1:30, 33).

The boy must have been stunned by what he heard. In the eyes of those who knew him, he was simply a poor, unlearned farm boy. He had no wealth. His neighbors were in the same condition. His parents were struggling farmers. The area where they lived was rural and largely unknown. They were simply ordinary people trying to survive through hard work.

And yet an angel of God said that Joseph’s “name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues.” How could it be? That description fits the entire world.

Now, as we look back 177 years to the organization of the Church, we marvel at what has already happened. When the Church was organized in 1830 there were but six members, only a handful of believers, all residing in a largely unknown village. Today, we have become the fourth or fifth largest church in North America, with congregations in every city of any consequence. Stakes of Zion today flourish in every state of the United States, in every province of Canada, in every state of Mexico, in every nation of Central America and throughout South America.

Congregations are found throughout the British Isles and Europe, where thousands have joined the Church through the years. This work has reached out to the Baltic nations and on down through Bulgaria and Albania and other areas of that part of the world. It reaches across the vast area of Russia. It reaches up into Mongolia and all down through the nations of Asia into the islands of the Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand, and into India and Indonesia. It is flourishing in many of the nations of Africa.

Our general conferences are carried by satellite and other means in 92 different languages.

And this is only the beginning. This work will continue to grow and prosper and move across the earth. It must do so if Moroni’s promise to Joseph is to be fulfilled.

This work is unique and wonderful. It is fundamentally different from every other body of religious doctrine of which I know.

When Jesus walked the earth, He said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

Joseph, when he was 14 years of age, had an experience in that glorious First Vision that was different from any other recorded experience of any man. At no other time of which we have any record have God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the risen Lord, appeared on earth together.

At the time of the baptism of Jesus by John in the river Jordan, the voice of God was heard, but He was not seen. At the Mount of Transfiguration, again the voice of God was heard, but there is no record of His appearance. Stephen saw the Lord on the right hand of the Father, but They did not address or instruct him.

Following His Resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Nephites in the Western Hemisphere. The voice of the Almighty was heard three times, introducing the risen Christ, but there was no appearance of the Father.

How truly remarkable was that vision in the year 1820 when Joseph prayed in the woods and there appeared before him both the Father and the Son. One of these spoke to him, calling him by name and, pointing to the other, said, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17).

Nothing like it had ever happened before. One is led to wonder why it was so important that both the Father and the Son appear. I think it was because They were ushering in the dispensation of the fulness of times, the last and final dispensation of the gospel, when there would be gathered together in one the elements of all previous dispensations. This was to be the final chapter in the long chronicle of God’s dealing with men and women upon the earth.

Following the Savior’s death, the Church He had established drifted into apostasy. Fulfilled were the words of Isaiah, who said, “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5).

Realizing the importance of knowing the true nature of God, men had struggled to find a way to define Him. Learned clerics argued with one another. When Constantine became a Christian in the fourth century, he called together a great convocation of learned men with the hope that they could reach a conclusion of understanding concerning the true nature of Deity. All they reached was a compromise of various points of view. The result was the Nicene Creed of A.D. 325. This and subsequent creeds have become the declaration of doctrine concerning the nature of Deity for most of Christianity ever since.

I have read them all a number of times. I cannot understand them. I think others cannot understand them. I am sure that the Lord also knew that many would not understand them. And so in 1820, in that incomparable vision, the Father and the Son appeared to the boy Joseph. They spoke to him with words that were audible, and he spoke to Them. They could see. They could speak. They could hear. They were personal. They were of substance. They were not imaginary beings. They were beings tabernacled in flesh. And out of that experience has come our unique and true understanding of the nature of Deity.

No wonder that when Joseph in 1842 wrote the Articles of Faith he stated as number one, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” (Articles of Faith 1:1).

As all of you well know, there followed through the years a veritable “cloud of witnesses,” as Paul described prophetically (see Hebrews 12:1).

First came Moroni with the plates from which was translated the Book of Mormon. What a singular and remarkable thing this was. Joseph’s story of the gold plates was fantastic. It was hard to believe and easy to challenge. Could he have written it of his own capacity? It is here, my brothers and sisters, for everyone to see, to handle, to read. Every attempt to explain its origin, other than that which he gave, has fallen of its own weight. He was largely unschooled; and yet, in a very brief time, he brought forth the translation which in published form comes to more than 500 pages.

Paul declares that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1).

The Bible had stood for centuries. It is a precious and wonderful book. Now there was a second witness declaring the divinity of Christ. The Book of Mormon is the only book ever published, of which I know, that carries in it a promise that one who reads it prayerfully and asks concerning it in prayer will have revealed to him by the power of the Holy Ghost a knowledge that it is true (see Moroni 10:4).

Since its first publication in a rural print shop in Palmyra, New York, there have been more than 133 million copies produced. It has been translated into 105 languages. Not long ago it was named one of the 20 most influential books ever published in North America.

Recently a first edition sold for $105,000. But the cheapest paperback edition is as valuable to the reader who loves its language and message.

Through all of these years critics have tried to explain it. They have spoken against it. They have ridiculed it. But it has outlived them all, and its influence today is greater than at any time in its history.

In this series of events came next the restoration of the priesthood, bestowed by resurrected beings who held it when the Savior walked the earth. This occurred in 1829, when Joseph was only 23.

Following receipt of the priesthood, the Church was organized on the 6th of April, 1830, when Joseph was a young man not yet 25. Again, the organization is unique and different from that of traditional Christianity. It is largely operated by a lay ministry. Voluntary service is its genius. As it has grown and spread abroad, thousands upon thousands of faithful and able men have directed its efforts.

Today I stand in wonder at the marvelous things which God revealed to His appointed prophet while he was yet young and largely unknown. The very language of these revelations is beyond the capacity of even a man of great learning.

Scholars not of our faith, who will not accept our singular doctrines, are puzzled by the great unrolling of this work, which is touching the hearts of people across the earth. We owe it all to Joseph the Prophet, the seer and the revelator, the Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was foreordained to come forth in this generation as an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in restoring to the earth that which the Savior taught when He walked the roads of Palestine.

To you, this day, I affirm my witness of the calling of the Prophet Joseph, of his works, of the sealing of his testimony with his blood as a martyr to the eternal truth. Each of you can bear witness of the same thing. You and I are faced with the stark question of accepting the truth of the First Vision and that which followed it. On the question of its reality lies the very validity of this Church. If it is the truth, and I testify that it is, then the work in which we are engaged is the most important work on the earth.

I leave with you my testimony of the truth of these things, and I invoke the blessings of heaven upon you. May the windows of heaven be opened and blessings showered upon you as the Lord has promised. Never forget that this was His promise and that He has the power and the capacity to see that it is fulfilled. I so pray as I leave my blessing and love with you in the sacred name of our Redeemer, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

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