My Life in Zion

The life and views of a Latter-day Saint in the 21st Century…

Archive for the tag “Christian”

Hey Christians, You’re Doing It Wrong

Hey Christians, you’re doing it wrong.

Seriously. Reallllly wrong.

I went to Target four times this week (my wife LOVES Target). And guess what. I wasn’t accosted by any trans people. No one assaulted Anna Melissa in the bathroom. And no official in a red polo shirt standing at the front door handed me this month’s copy of “The Homosexual Agenda”.

Flocking to Facebook and calling for boycotts of Target is about as useful as using cotton swabs as nails. You’re just wasting your time.

I’m a staunch conservative. I go to church every Sunday. My wife and I (try to) read from the scriptures each day. We’re teaching our son to say his prayers, and we try to serve our neighbors in-between work, family, and the hurry of every day life. But at the end of the day we are just simple Christians, and because of that, videos like this really bother me.

Jesus was loving. Yeah yeah, I get it. I hear it all the time. Even Jesus threw over tables in the temple and whatnot. But you know what else Jesus did? He ate dinner with harlots, tax collectors, and people even worse. He went into their houses. He was kind. He was cordial, and He respected their individual practices and places. The only time we have any evidence of Jesus getting all “Old Testament Kinda Angry” is during the incident in the temple, which was in His Father’s house.

Dear fellow Christians, Target is not your house. So don’t go stomping through it, tossing over tables so to speak, and causing some holier than thou ruckus. If you have a terrible fear that a transgender person might hurt you or your children in the bathroom, then don’t go into the bathroom. Simple as that. Go next door. Or hold it. It’s that simple.

I’m not transgender. Obviously. And I cannot imagine the true challenges that come from truly identifying as someone who is. I only personally know a handful of people who are. But the people I know who are transgender are – wait for it – REALLY decent people. They’re kind, smart, and the kind of people I would never hesitate introducing my children to. I may not agree with every political/religious/philosophical point my transgender friends and family espouse. But, y’know what? I don’t have to. Because part of being a rational adult is recognizing that not everyone agrees with your political/religious/philosophical points either.

“But what about the children?” you may be asking. Well, y’know, I never knew of a pedophile rapist who was too keen on following proper public bathroom policies in the first place. So if you’re afraid this will invite some new class of weirdos in, please refer to my “Hold It” counsel I previously gave.

As Christians we need to recognize that the world is changing. It doesn’t mean we need to change our doctrines, but it does mean we need to, more than ever, actually live like Christ lived. We need to be loving. We need to respect others. And we need to show compassion in difficult situations.

So next time you’re in Target if you see some whackadoo such as this, please refrain from saying unkind things to her. She’s just a Christian who is struggling applying the teachings of Christ. She deserves the well wishes and prayers of all.

Read more…

Waste Not Want Not

Last night I got only about four hours of sleep. This has been a common occurrence lately in my life due to various reasons. So today when I got home after work and after attending a funeral, I felt that a deserved a good nap. I wasn’t overly tired, but decided I needed the rest so as to “not get behind” on my sleep. I took a four hour nap and woke up feeling more tired than before, and like I had wasted away my day.

“There are so many productive things I could have been doing,” I thought to myself as I stumbled to find a bottle of water to wet my dry mouth when I woke up. And then I categorically went through the list of things to do, people I need to call, and visits I should schedule with our full-time missionaries. After a couple of moments of inventorying my time I thought, “Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Everyone deserves a nap now and then.” But my mind went back to our beloved former stake president who was released just a couple of months ago. In our final priesthood leadership training meeting with him, and then again in the Saturday evening session of his final stake conference with us, he admonished us to “serve through the tiredness”. He then shared multiple stories of being tired beyond physical explanation, but being guided by the Holy Spirit to help others.

As I pondered those words I said a silent prayer to be a stronger person physically to be able to accomplish all that is set before me each day.

A few moments ago as I sat down in my chair to study my scriptures I was cross referencing and searching for something I am currently working on when the Lord mercifully brought these words to my view:

“Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes,and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.”

– Proverbs 20:19

The Lord, in His loving kindness and gentle way, essentially said to me, “Stan, I’ve got a lot for you to do buddy, and you’re not going to accomplish it with your eyes shut.”

It was a reminder to me of just how intimately aware the Lord is of our daily lives, our actions, and even our simple silent prayers.

I needn’t waste my time on things that don’t matter, because obviously the Lord has some “bread” for me if I’ll just open my eyes and keep serving.

So here’s to skipping a nap the next time you’re feeling a little sleepy, there’s a lot you could be doing to bless other people’s lives.

Stan

Russia to Kick Mormons Out?

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Moscow in March of this year. – Photo from the RIA Novosti news agency.

Mormons have a history of being misunderstood.

Case in point would be this past week when the youth wing of the ruling United Russia party held a protest on Thursday 1 Nov. calling for a ban on Mormon missionaries in Russia, and  charging that full-time missionaries are potential American spies. The Young Guard defended the move on its website, describing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is based here in the United States, as a “totalitarian sect” whose missionaries seek to gather Russian intelligence and genealogical records.

“This is an American sect,” said Ekaterina Stenyakina, co-chair of Young Guard’s coordinating committee. The RIA Novosti news agency further reported Stenyakina as saying, “They are funded by the United States of America, and it’s been proven that many young Mormons return to the U.S. to work for the CIA and FBI.”

Full-time missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ministering in Russia.

Mitt Romney, perhaps currently the most prominent member of the Church in the world, has made numerous comments about Russia in the past few months leading up to this weeks’ presidential election, including calling Russia our “number one geopolitical foe”. That comment, made in a recent debate with President Barack Obama, caused many liberal pundits to make joking references to Mr. Romney thinking we were still living during the Cold War era.  Two days ago Matt Romney, a son of the Republican presidential nominee, traveled to Moscow seeking Russian investors for his California-based real estate firm, Excel Trust,  just days before his father is to wrap up a campaign in which he has vowed to take a tougher stance with the Kremlin with “more backbone”. The Romney campaign has described the visit as “friendly”.

While we may not be in a nuclear arms race any longer, Romney’s off-the-cuff and frequent remarks may cause more friction in Russia’s relations with his church than with his country.

On 26 October Russian President Vladimir Putin made an official state visit to the small Province of Samara in west central Russia. While there he attended a meeting with Nikolai Merkushkin, acting President of the Samara Province, and representatives of the local community. During the meeting a local employee of the Samara Regional In-Service Teacher Training Institute, Elena Belchikova, asked Mr. Putin if the government could do more to help regulate and control “totalitarian sects”. Specifically, Mrs. Belchikova was complaining about various religious sects in the region. According to her, many of the foreign religions in the area promote their ideas and sectarian views using educational programs that mask their true intent to win over converts. She said that as a school administrator it is easy for her as an adult to see “what is behind” such programs, but that often the young people in her community do not know what they are getting into.

Mrs. Belchikova’s remarks could have easily been prompted by remarks made earlier in the week by Alexei Grishin, president of the information and analytical center “Religion and Society”. As the Russian version of a religious think-tank, Religion and Society’s purpose is to study the influence of different religious groups, especially foreign, and the effects they have upon Russian society. Earlier in the week Mr. Grishin had made the recommendation to create a central government database which could “more fully track” movements made my members of certain religious sects. Recently Russia has been plagued by a string of radical Muslims attacking more moderate followers of Islam, leading to numerous deaths. And while these are the kinds of groups which are obviously in need of being tracked for society’s safety, other sects were not dismissed. According to Grishin, who is also a member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, an effective fight against totalitarian sects would need a general method of initial detection. Such totalitarian sects include any group which requires extreme sacrifice or adherence to an “unorthodox set of beliefs”.

Belchikova’s direct request during the meeting in Samara provides a clear view of how many Russians still feel towards outsiders in their country. A nation with 142 Million residents, Russia is still a country saddling between an old Soviet world view and a capitalistic future which may be more godless than communism. Asking President Putin for the federal government to improve resistance to totalitarian sects, the educator further expressed the need to create a data bank of totalitarian sects with brief information about them, which would be accessible to regional education ministries and schools.

In response to the request, Vladimir Putin noted that Russia has four traditional religions, but stressed that representatives of other movements and faiths should feel free. “As for the totalitarian trends that are a threat to society, their hunting is not only for souls, but they are also hunting for property,” said the President. He noted that often during his visits to the region he hears about problems with the activities of totalitarian sects. He then said, “As the mushrooms grow, and the cabin, where all sorts of  secret rituals are held, and where it is not clear what is happening, and where our people are being driven into the ground, this is a problem.”  While no specific commentary was given as to what particular group or rituals the president was referring to, he then said directly to Mrs. Belchikova’s requests, “I agree with you.”  However, the head of state then noted that it is a very sensitive issue because Russia must respect freedom of religion. “We have no restrictions,” he said in reference to religious practices among citizens.

Although Mr. Putin’s remarks in regards to totalitarian sects seemed to end on a positive note for all, his reference to religious freedoms obviously did not strike tune with the Young Guard of United Russia, the highly organized youth wing of the United Russia Party. As a group which claims to have over 160,000 members in their late teens and early twenties, the Young Guard of United Russia is the political action group of youth in Russia. – Picture University Republicans on steroids, only more organized and more popular. – The Young Guard are known for their ability in assisting young Russians in registering to vote and becoming involved in the political process for the first time. The Young Guards’ use of the internet, social media, and the media at large has also been impressive in the past few Russian elections, and their theatrical rallies and organized protests are known to create passion in young Russians.

It was this past Wednesday, 31 October, as the youth of Russia logged onto the Young Guard of United Russia’s webpage they saw a headline which read:

Young Guards Open Campaign Against the Presence of the Mormon Sect in Russia

The call to to campaign by Russian youth was then set forth on the web site by planning the above mentioned protests for the next day throughout Russia, and then giving a brief outline of the history of the Church. It was in this posting that the Young Guard claimed that Mormon missionaries have direct contact with the U.S. military while  also ominously pointing out that a certain proportion of young Mormons returning to the United States after missionary work enter the service of the CIA and FBI.

A screenshot of the Young Guards statement on their website as it appeared Wednesday 31 October 2012.

To make certain they conveyed how evil Mormons’ foreign influence is, the Young Guards also warned that polygamy and pedophilia were a “widespread practice” in the Church, and linked their webpage to a story about Warren Jeffs, leader of a fundamentalist sect of polygamists who are no way associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The group also mentioned that Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and accused him of holding anti-Russian beliefs which are common among church members.

As groups of protesters gathered outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Russian headquarters in Moscow and hoisted signs reading “No, to foreign agents!” and “Foo, CIA!”, there were similar protests occurring across Russia at each of the Church’s mission offices in the country the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

In Moscow some Young Guard members held up a makeshift one-way plane ticket reading “back to Washington” for Mormon missionaries.

The protests in St. Petersburg, Samara, Novosibirsk, and Vladivostok were also well covered by local and national media outlets such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The protests have came in the wake of President Putin’s recent remarks in Samara, and other remarks from Mr. Putin condemning alleged foreign influence in domestic affairs and calling for an end to the presence of non-governmental organizations with foreign links that promote democracy and civil society within Russia.

On Wednesday, the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house, passed a bill that broadens the definition of treason to potentially include foreigners that provide “consulting services” for foreign governments or organizations. Under this new law, missionaries could be prosecuted for treason merely by their presence within the country fulfilling their proselyting duties.

Last month, the Kremlin ordered the United States Agency for International Development to end all operations in Russia. The organization had funded many Russian civil society organizations for two decades.

The statement on the website of the Youth Guard also noted that Putin has called for the need “to confront totalitarian sects operating in the territory of Russia.”

“In this regard, the Young Guard as a social organization intends to attract the attention of questionable activities of totalitarian sects operating in Russia, in particular, the sect of the Mormons,” the statement said.

Stenyakina, the same young woman who made allegations about a link between Mormons and the CIA, warned Russia’s youth that they could be easily wooed by the free English lessons and community service that the Mormon missionaries provide in their communities.

Young Guard members hold up a makeshift one-way plane ticket “back to Washington” for Mormon missionaries.

According to the RIA Novosti news agency, Elena Nechiporova, director for the Church’s East Europe Area’s public affairs department, stated emphatically that the allegations that Mormon missionaries are foreign agents is baseless. “It is somebody’s opinion without any facts, without any legal investigation, without court decisions,” she said, adding that “preaching the gospel is our main goal.”

Russia is home to approximately 16,000 Latter-day Saints in roughly 100 scattered congregations throughout the country. The Moscow Russia Stake of the Church was dedicated last year on 5 June 2011.

Surely, no matter the outcome of recent political frictions or newly passed laws, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Church members will strive to honor and obey the laws of the land in Russia and to serve their fellow man and their communities. A basic tenet of Mormon faith is that,

“We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.”

– Doctrine and Covenants 134:5

Misunderstandings about the Church and Church members is expected, but as Christians we always welcome an open dialogue of common courtesy and respect. Although the full causes for last weeks protests may never be known, they ended peaceably and with little disturbance.

As missionaries and Church members continue to labor to build up Zion in their part of the world I have little doubt that their shining examples as good Christians will erase any harm done by recent simple misunderstandings, and the work of the Lord will continue in Russia.

Stan Way

If you’ve stumbled upon this site and you’re not a Mormon please click here to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what we believe.

A section of the Young Guard’s statement and call for protests on their website 31 October 2012. This section began with the heading “Dubious Mormon Missionaries in Russia” and accompanied a picture of two elders.

You can read more about the history of the Church in Russia online here.

The Winds of Religious Influence Are Shifting: The Rise of the Non-Religious in America

As a Latter-day Saint and a Christian, today was a historic day.

For centuries America’s largest religious group has been “Protestant”, but according to findings published today, that is no more.

Earlier today the Pew Forum on Religious & Public Life released their latest analytic study titled, Nones on the Rise, now showing that one in five Americans (19.6%) claim no religious identity.

This group, called “Nones,” is now the nation’s second-largest category of faith, behind only the Catholics, and outnumbing the top Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptists. This shift will have, and is already showing, significant cultural, religious, and even political changes in our society at large.

Last year, the president of the largest atheist organization in the United States spoke to a group of students organized for the 2011 Secular Student Alliance leadership conference. A focal point of his talk on the future of atheism was the idea of a “sleeping giant,” or what he called the “30 percent under 30”, the nonreligious Americans who would shape the future of our national discourse on religion.

Even though that figure was slightly off – under the most recent survey figures available last year, 25 percent of Americans under 30 were religiously unaffiliated, and only about 7 percent of them identified as atheist or agnostic – the statement was oddly prescient. Indeed, those who identify as religiously unaffiliated is growing rapidly, particularly among people born in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

The nonreligious do indeed seem poised to assist in shaping the future of religious discourse, but who are these “Nones” and what exactly do they really believe?

According to Pew,

“In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).”

– “Nones” on the Rise

About 37 percent of the religiously unaffiliated say they’re spiritual but not religious. Many even pray, believe in God, and have regular spiritual routines according to the report. From 2007-2012, the so-called “Nones” have risen from just over 15 percent to just under 20 percent of all U.S. adults. That is staggering growth, the likes of which not even us Mormons can keep up with as the nation’s faster growing religion.

But as society changes, and secularism and succinct socialistic ideologies squirm their way into the footholds of society, I believe we’ll see even larger shift and growth of the “Nones” in coming years.

In the 1960’s two in three Americans called themselves Protestant. Now the Protestant group – both evangelical and mainline – has slid from 53% of the population of the U.S.  in 2007, to 48% just five years later.

According to a Washington Post article written earlier today about the survey’s findings,

[The “Nones”] can be found in all educational and income groups, but they skew heavily in one direction politically: 68 percent lean toward the Democratic Party. That makes the “nones,” at 24 percent, the largest Democratic faith constituency, with black Protestants at 16 percent and white mainline Protestants at 14 percent.

By comparison, white evangelicals make up 34 percent of the Republican base.

– One in five Americans reports no religious affiliation, study says; Michelle Boorstein; The Washington Post, 9 October 2012

The Post article goes on to say that “the study presents a stark map of how political and religious polarization have merged in recent decades. Congregations used to be a blend of political affiliations, but that’s generally not the case anymore. Sociologists have shown that Americans are more likely to pick their place of worship by their politics, not vice versa.”

In a society where people choose their religious doctrines according to their political beliefs, instead of the other way around, it is easy to see why Elder Quentin L. Cook spoke directly to the members of the Church who “allow intense cultural or political views to weaken their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ” this past weekend.

The winds of religious influence are changing. The world and society are changing. The currents of popular opinion are shifting our nation like never before.

As Latter-day Saints we make up just 2% of the general populace of the United States. However, though prophetic mandate the Lord is likewise working in the winds and currents of society, and is now calling younger missionaries than ever before to serve as His ambassadors to the world.

As the youth of the world follow less and less the faith of their forefathers, the youth of Zion are being called upon to shoulder a challenging charge.

Graphic Courtesy Pew Research Center

Today as the Pew Research Center released their report I felt like standing up and singing happily We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet, because surely the Lord knew what was coming, and what is yet to come in the world in which we live. It is of little wonder that we’ve been counseled so vigorously to more fully convert convert ourselves, strengthen our families, and stand in holy places as the world changes around us.

As a tiny 2% we cannot change society as a whole. Yes, we must stand up and let our voices be heard. Yes, we must defend sacred doctrines, family structure, and our beliefs to the world. But in the end the real question will be, “What did I do to secure my family in Zion?”

I pray that might be a question we will all be able to answer happily when the day comes for an accounting.

Your pal,

Stan

To download the complete Nones on the Rise findings to your computer in PDF Format click this link and select “Save as”:  Download the Full Report (1.37MB, 80 pages)

If you’ve stumbled upon this blog and website and want to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints you can do so by clicking here. You’ll be glad you did.

The Lord’s Footstool

Yesterday I mowed my parents lawn. It was an all-day affair involving chasing off geese multiple times, moving turtles out of the weedeater’s way, and enduring the muggy pre-summer heat of Alabama.

As the sweat rolled into my eyes, I pulled a few stretch marks, and cooked like an overdone pork roast, I kept thinking of Adam and Eve. “I’m sure glad the Fall happened,” I grumbled to myself as I walked up the steep hill my parents live on for the nineteenth time. “Work by the sweat of my brow. Ohhh yeah. This is great.” – Sometimes I am sure I could have been a murmuring Nephite. – But once the work was done, I sat on the front deck overlooking the freshly manicured lawn and the beautiful ponds below, and I watched the sun setting in the west, all the thoughts of grumpiness went away. “This is just beautiful,” I said out loud as the frogs and bugs of Alabama brought the evening to life with their buzz. “I am really blessed to live in such a beautiful place.”

A common sign welcoming travelers to Alabama the Beautiful on any of the major roadways entering the State.

I’ll be honest and confess that I have no idea where Alabama got the nickname Alabama the Beautiful, but I can attest to the truth of its nickname. From the stunning sunsets atop Mt. Cheaha to the lightning bugs that hover over country train tracks at dusk, the heart of Dixie is a truly beautiful place.

Last week in our sacrament meeting our youth speaker (who did a super fantastic job!) gave a short talk in which she mentioned how her family has spent a Family Home Evening at a local park picking up trash. Afterwards her mother taught her about the importance of taking care of our planet because it is Heavenly Father’s. It really touched me.

I remember riding with my Grandpa Way in the car when I was about five or six years old. We were driving down a simple country road behind a small pickup truck. Then trash began blowing out of the back of the truck. First was a plastic bag, then a couple of bottles, until finally a whirlwind of things had blown from the back of the small truck onto the side of the road. My Grandpa Way seemed infuriated by this, and took it as an opportunity to teach me the importance of not littering. We then followed this small truck all the way to its final destination where my grandfather gave the young man driving it a strong lesson and a fair amount of finger wagging for his lack of care for the environment.

That lesson has never left me. And, as I recall the loudly worded manner in which my Grandpa delivered his lesson in a stranger’s driveway, I am sure that young gentleman has never forgot that lesson either.

I love these verses from The Book of Mormon:

Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should posses it…

He ruleth high in the heavens, for it is his throne, and this earth is his footstool.

1 Nephi 17:36 & 39

In my overly-visualistic mind I literally picture the Lord sprawled out righteously, yet comfortably, across the expanse of our solar system. His head is on the golden cushion of the sun. And His feet rest comfortably on this tiny green earth which we are blessed to inhabit.

Do we honor the Lord’s footstool? Do we treat it with the respect and honor which it deserves? Do we ever casually toss trash out the windows of our cars? Do we take the proper care to beautify the small parcels of land which we are blessed to inhabit? In short, do we ensure that the footstool of the Lord is clean enough for His holy presence?

The words of the hymn come to mind,

For the beauty of the earth,

For the beauty of the skies;

For the love which from our birth,

Over and around us lies;

Lord of all, to Thee we raise

This, our hymn of grateful praise.

– For the Beauty of the Earth, LDS Hymnal #92

I am thankful to live on such a beautiful earth. And although it is by the sweat of my brow that I am to enjoy this mortal life and this beautiful earth, I think it will be worth it in the end.

– Stan Way

Rescuing Others

The Lord is My Shepherd by Simon Dewey

My second mission president was emphatic in his teaching us missionaries about the importance of seeking out the less active members of the congregations in which we served. When he had been set apart as a mission president by President Monson, then the First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, President Monson had told him of the countless members on the records of the Church in the Seattle area that no longer attended. It was our job to rescue them.

The symbolism of the Lord being our shepherd and herding us in like sheep is powerful when you consider all of the nuances of meaning. That there are many, countless many even, who reside in our own wards and branches is a fact. I remember the first time I was called a ward clerk we had nearly 430 members on our rosters, yet we only had an average sacrament meeting attendance of 73. The fact that I had 19 home teaching families to visit each month before I served my mission was good training ground for seeking out the lost in Seattle.

Did I hit each family each and every month as a young elder? No. But did I try? Yes. Because the joy of seeing someone come and feel the love of the Savior is a feeling that cannot truly be put into words.

Today our good friends over at the Mormon Channel put out this new video. Please take a couple of moments to enjoy it:

“The birds that I rescue are a bit like the people out there. They’re injured and they need to be rescued.”

Perhaps we can all be good friends like John was to George. Perhaps as you watched this video the Spirit whispered someone’s name to you that you could go and rescue. And what might you share when you go out and speak to the person you’ve been prompted to visit? Maybe you could share the love of the Savior…

I absolutely love George’s words in that video:

“Christ…became my personal buddy. He became my best friend, and He still is today. I’ve let Him down many a time, but He’s never let me down. And I know for a fact He never will, and He’s there for anyone who wants Him.”

Jesus Christ is there. He’s there for you. He’s there for me. He’s there for everyone.

It’s our job, as His disciples, to go out and rescue His lost sheep. We may get muddy as we hike up and down the glens of the world to share the good news of the Gospel. We may get lost ourselves as we try to persist in the principles of the Lord’s Plan of Happiness. But as we hike into the darkness to find the one who is lost, we have the promise of The One who is guiding us that it’s for a just cause.

Go to the rescue. The Lord needs you, and so do so many of our Heavenly Father’s children.

I hope we can pass by one another in our travels…

Your friend,

Stan

Love One Another As I Have Loved You

A variation of a popular internet meme.

Of all the things Jesus said to the Twelve during the events of the Last Supper, these, to me, are the most profound:

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

I think we often miss how profound, and yet simple that commandment truly is.

My senior year of high school I had seminary once a week, by myself, just me and the teacher, on Wednesday nights at the Church. That year we were studying from The Book of Mormon. Sometimes there were not even any other activities happening Wednesday nights in our ward, and we would be left to do our lessons on the sidewalk outside the church building, having been locked out. It was there on that curb that I fell in love with the prophet Alma, with Captain Moroni, and with the faith of the prophet Mormon. One sunny spring evening, as the year was drawing to a close, it was there on that sidewalk that for the first time I began to understand the prophet Mormon’s words.

“Where for my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail —

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.”

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.”

Moroni 7:46-48

Seventeen years old, stupid, about to graduate from high school, and sitting uncomfortably on a sidewalk, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and pierced my heart and told me that these words were true. And I felt the fervency and pleading in Mormon’s words that we should pray “with all the energy of heart, that [we] might be filled with this love”. I took Mormon’s counsel to my own heart, and I began asking for charity every morning and every evening in my prayers.

The results were amazing. In a sacred and very real way God allowed me feel His and His Son’s love for others as I prayed sincerely for that gift. And I was surprised at how often I was moved to tears when home teaching, when comforting a friend going through a struggle, or even in the course of daily events. I knew, like I had never known before, that God loves His children.

In the autumn of 2004 Preach My Gospel was released word-wide to all the missionaries in the Church. I was blessed to be part of a test mission for a portion of Preach My Gospel, but nothing had prepared us for the revolutionary tool that came from the Lord and the Brethren. As my companion and I got an advanced copy the weekend before it was given to the rest of our mission, we were told by our mission president to “ingest it and internalize it”, and our hunger was great. Our purposes as messengers of Christ was greatly defined. We were taught how to study, and what to teach in clarity we had never before understood. It was revolutionary. But the section that touched me the most at first were the words from Chapter 6 on developing Christlike attributes. Under the section heading Charity and Love it says this:

“O My Father” by Simon Dewey

“A man once asked Jesus, “Which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus replied: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:36–39).”

Charity is “the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47). It includes God’s eternal love for all His children. We are to seek to develop that kind of love. When you are filled with charity, you obey God’s commandments and do all you can to serve others and help them receive the restored gospel.”

Charity is a gift from God. The prophet Mormon said that we should “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love” (Moroni 7:48). As you follow this counsel and strive to do righteous works, your love for all people will increase, especially those among whom you labor. You will come to feel a sincere concern for the eternal welfare and happiness of other people. You will see them as children of God with the potential of becoming like our Heavenly Father, and you will labor in their behalf. You will avoid negative feelings such as anger, envy, lust, or covetousness. You will avoid judging others, criticizing them, or saying negative things about them. You will try to understand them and their points of view. You will be patient with them and try to help them when they are struggling or discouraged. Charity, like faith, leads to action. You will develop charity as you look for opportunities to serve others and give of yourself.”

As I read those words as a full-time missionary I was touched by what the Brethren and the Lord were teaching us to become: Like our Heavenly Father.

Recently I have seen a variety of pictures similar to the one at the beginning of this post. They’re uploaded to popular meme-sharing sites, to Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. And what I have noticed mostly is that they are usually shared by those who are not even believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s as if the nonbelievers of the world are sticking it to the Christians and saying, “Hey look! Jesus told you to love everyone. What y’all’s problem?!”

As there is an ever-increasing shift down the middle of the moral fabric of society in the latter days it will become increasingly important for us as Christians and as Latter-day Saints to truly represent Christ and what He stands for.

It pains me beyond words when I see those who profess to be Christians say things such as, “God hates fags!”, or “All the Muslims are going to Hell.”, or any similar bigoted remarks.

“Really?!” I want to say to them. “Who made you their judge?”

I am not sure what Jesus Christ they are professing to have faith in, but my Jesus Christ taught me that I am not the judge and that I am to love everyone.

As Jesus Christ took upon Himself the sins of the world in the Garden of Gethsemane, He, “being in an agony…prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) And as He died on the cross He did so for all of us. Not just Latter-day Saints. Not just other Christians. But for every member of another faith, for every nonbeliever, and for everyone who even hates His holy name.

Jesus Christ loves everyone unconditionally, and as Christians we are to do the same. Often we forget that we’re to love the sinners but hate the sin. Sometimes we let that hate spread out just a little too far…

In closing I would encourage you to take Mormon’s challenge to heart. Ask your Heavenly Father for the gift of charity. Pray for it with all the energy of your heart. And as you come into contact with each every person you meet each day don’t look at them as just another person, but look at them how God might look at them, and as you do so, I promise that your life will change for the better.

Let me know how it goes. I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Your friend,

Stan

If you would like to learn more about Charity I would recommend clicking here and clicking on the left side of the page to study from the Scriptures, General Conference addresses, and Church magazines. – If you’ve stumbled upon this site and you’re not a Latter-day Saint please click here to learn more about us crazy Mormons and what we believe.

And just because I love this video so much, I had to share it with you. Enjoy!

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