My Life in Zion

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

Archive for the tag “Church”

The Newly Called Alabama Birmingham Mission President: Stanford C. Sainsbury

A photo of Stanford Sainsbury from the Daily Herald upon his retirement in 2012. Photo by Jim Mcauley

A photo of Stanford Sainsbury from the Daily Herald upon his retirement in 2012. Photo by Jim Mcauley

With yesterday’s exciting announcement of 3 new missions being created in the world, the Church also publicly listed nearly all of the 168 new mission presidents who will begin service this summer with their wives.

Here in the great state of Alabama we will be welcoming Stanford C. Sainsbury and his wife Sister Melanee Sainsbury.

Living on a 50 acre farm in West Mountain, Utah (Payson/Spanish Fork Area), President and Sister Sainsbury will be leaving behind their lives and trading in the Rocky Mountains for Appalachian Hills for the next three years. Sainsbury, who turned 60 just last month, with his wife Melanee, are the parents of seven children. President Sainsbury spent his professional life as an employee for the city or Orem, Utah. After graduation from BYU and earning a law degree, Sainsbury spent 10 years as a city prosecutor for Orem city, then deputy city attorney. During that time he became a certified planner. He then spent his final 16 years of employment as the director of development services. He retired in December of 2012 after 29 years of service for the City of Orem.

A graduate of BYU, President Sainsbury served a full-time mission as a young man in Sweden under the direction of President Paul Oscarson. President Oscarson, who was only 29 years of age at the time of his call as mission president, was known for his youth and enthusiasm in the Swedish Mission. Perhaps President Sainsbury will bring some of the same vigor of his full-time mission as a young man to Alabama as the mission president. His wife, Sister Melanee Anderson, is originally from Manassa, Colorado. According to an online profile from President Sainsbury he enjoys “[spending] time visiting children, working in the yard and garden, farming, following BYU sports, spending time in the temple, ward callings, traveling, reading,etc.”

President and Sister Sainsbury have served in a variety of church callings throughout the years, including recently as a ward mission leader for President Sainsbury.

As members of the Church residing in the Alabama Birmingham Mission we will deeply miss President Richard D. Hanks and his beloved wife Elizabeth. However, we recognize that with the hastening of the work comes a hastening of the years, and we are thankful to be have been blessed with the acquaintance of such fine saints here in Dixie. President Sainsbury will have very large shoes to fill, both figuratively and literally, but we have no doubt that with the blessings of the Lord he will do so exceptionally.

President and Sister Sainsbury. (Picture from one of their personal blogs - they also blogged here for a period of time.)

President and Sister Sainsbury. (Picture from one of their personal blogs – they also blogged here for a period of time.)

 

Mormonism in a Nutshell

Tonight I went out with our full-time missionaries, Elder Prisbey and Elder Miklich, to teach a lesson to a gentleman who has been attending church with us for the past couple of months. As we entered the place where this man lives I recognized one of his roommates as someone I had previously known and, after briefly catching up with one another, she asked in an excited fashion, “So you’re a Mormon too?!” I acknowledged that I was, but had grown up Lutheran until I was a young man. She then asked the most basic of questions anyone could ever ask a Mormon:

“Whats the difference between your church and the Lutheran church?”

It’s a question Latter-day Saints face continually in one form or fashion. “What makes you different?” “Why do you have that book?” “Who was that Joseph Smith guy?” “What makes you different than Christians?”

We’ve heard them all.

Recognizing that this woman was on her way out the door and about to leave before the elders and I sat down to share our message, I gave her what I have deemed my “Mormonism in a Nutshell” sermon. I started by saying,

“Well, that’s a great question! I grew up Lutheran and recognized when I was young that the church that I was a member of was not similar to the church found in the New Testament. Lutherans, after all, are just Catholics without the pope. But I knew that the church I saw in the New Testament was not like my church, or any church that I knew of. That all changed when a couple of guys in white shirts and ties showed up at my door, and the rest you could say, is history.”

Everyone laughed noting the abundance of white shirts and ties in the room. Then I continued with the real meat of my nutshell,

“As Mormons we know that Jesus Christ came to the earth in New Testament times to die for our sins and provide a way through His grace to return back to Heaven. We also know that He established His church when He came. As taught continually throughout the Holy Bible, He called men and gave them authority to act in His name. This authority is called the priesthood. This authority is what gives men the authority to act in the name of God and perform ordinances such as baptism. Remember that even Jesus Christ went to someone who held proper priesthood authority to be baptized.”

Everyone nodded at this point remembering the story of Jesus Christ going to John the Baptist to be baptized. I pressed on,

“When Jesus Christ gave this authority to the apostles in the New Testament He established His church, as Paul taught, on the foundation of apostles and prophets with He Himself being the chief cornerstone. In the New Testament there were not different denominations of Christianity, there was, once again as Paul teaches, one Lord, one faith, and only one manner of baptism. When the apostles and the prophets died the authority to act in God’s name was no longer on the earth. The church of Jesus Christ no longer functioned as taught in the New Testament. This was predicted and it was known that it would happen, but when the men holding the proper priesthood authority died the church died with them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Christianity died. In fact, we know that Christianity flourished, and that there are countless good Christian people in the world. But we as Mormons make the bold claim that the church of Jesus Christ has been restored, just like it was in the New Testament, and that God has called a prophet today. Since the Lord truly is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He has once again restored that priesthood authority to the earth to act in His name, and that authority is found solely in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Everyone in the room nodded, and then I concluded saying,

“It’s a big and bold claim: We are the one truth church. God still speaks and there are prophets today. But that is what we teach. That  is the difference between us and other denominations. And that is why we come out and share it with anyone who is willing to listen.”

My mini sermon over, my old acquaintance smiled and said, “Well, I never knew that.” She then took a seat and listened as the missionaries taught the gospel with a beautiful simplicity and humility which I often lack.

Yes, there’s much that could be said about we Latter-day Saints. But, when it comes down to what our main message is, it’s pretty cut and dry.

 

This Is My Life

A Tweet from earlier this evening.

A Tweet from earlier this evening.

On Tuesday of this week I approached my office manager and my company’s owner asking what it would take to get off a few minutes early today. We only work one Saturday a month for four hours. It’s mandatory. And missing it is not optional. I’m pretty sure you have to sell your kidney on the black market to get out of it. But I realized if I were going to have any chance of making it to the temple for our regional YSA baptismal trip today, I would have to leave work early.

“Soooo….,” I started slowly as I approached my bosses during a break the other day. I drug out the word for so long they both turned around in their desk chairs and looked at me cautiously.

“What would I have to do to get off about twenty minutes early on Saturday?”

Their faces were sullen and I felt like a kid who had asked to stay out late past curfew.

“What for?” my office manager asked with a stern look on her face.

“It’s for a church thing,” I said. I could have lied and made some extravagant excuse, but lying for Jesus? Yeah, not my style.

She kept the stern look on her face and turned to the owner of our small company. They exchanged an unspoken converstaion. Then she quickly smiled and said, “Sure. I figured it was for a church thing.”

My kidneys were safe after all.

And I was reminded again of how nice the Lord has been to give me a job that fits my ever increasingly busy life.

It was King Benjamin who shared these iconic words:

“I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

– Mosiah 2:17

I love those words and have taken them as a personal mantra for my life.

The temple was a great experience. Somehow we ended up with so many Melchizedek Priesthood holders that I ended up being the funny guy out, and I actually ended up getting baptized and doing confirmations instead of serving somewhere else. I haven’t been “dunked” in the temple since June 12, 2003…not that I’m keeping track or anything…So it was a nice experience. At least for me. The poor skinny guy who was doing the actual baptizing I felt bad for. As I stepped into the font, all 235 pounds of me, I smiled at him and said, “I’ll make sure to bend my knees as much as possible.”

I only heard him strain to get me back up once out of the water. What a rockstar.

A nice lunch with fellow YSA followed in the neighboring chapel, and as I was walking back to my car I read the following email subject line on my phone:

WML Conference Call Tomorrow

“Grrrrreeeat,” I said sarcastically to myself before even opening the email and sitting down in my car. I knew that meant the fellow unit mission leaders in my stake and I would be getting trained by our stake president, which is an awesome thing, but I also knew it would probably conflict with something else. With being a branch mission leader and  a YSA representative my hat is always full of things to do.

I clicked the email and saw that it did conflict,  and I quickly reshuffled my sabbath schedule in my mind.

My sabbaths start off my weeks like it’s a mad dash to celestial glory. Right out of the gate I’m running, literally (and often late) to a series of meetings, classes, visits, teaching appointments, blessings, etc. before coming home long enough to grab a bite to eat (sometimes) and make my way towards Birmingham for our stake’s YSA Family Home Evening. If someone were to clock my speed “coming out of the gate” for this figurative race to celestial glory I would definitely be towards the front of the pack. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays follow a similar pattern to Sunday, only instead of sitting in uncomfortable chairs in church meetings I’m sitting in my uncomfortable desk chair at work. On Wednesdays our office closes early (thank Heavens!) and I do get to do my weekly laundry. By Thursdays when I get home and realize I don’t have somewhere to be, I often get a text or phone call asking me to be somewhere else. And by Friday, when I should be going on a date and trying to get married, in the words of a famous Disney character, “I’m too pooped to poop.” By the end of the week, if it were literally a race and if celestial glory were achieved by crossing a white Finish Line, I would be lucky to crawl to the finish with my bloodied stubs of leg dragging behind me.

Too graphic?…Yeah, well, that’s how I feel sometimes.

This is my life. I love it. And I would have it no other way.

But sometimes, on nights like tonight when I’m doing my laundry (because the elders needed to visit with me on Wednesday during “laundry time”), I wish I just had a little extra time to find that special someone and fall in love so that she could join this hectic life of service with me.

That would be awesome. And that’s really the only qualification I have for the future Mrs. Way:

That she wants to serve the Lord.

And that she understands I want to also. Everything else will fall into place after that. I’m rather simplistic in my priorities. And I know that she’s out there somewhere…

But right now, I have laundry to fold.

So in the meantime, I’ll just keep running (late) to my YSA meetings (and every other meeting) and hope that she finds me attractive when we do meet, even if there are big black circles under my eyes.

Stan

The Real Number of Missionary Applications

Last night I shared that there were rumors flooding the LDS corners of the internet that in the past week there had been 7,000 new applications for full-time missionaries.

This evening church spokesman Michael Purdy gave the following statement as reported by KSL Television in Salt Lake City:

“As Church leaders had anticipated when the change was announced, the number of individuals who have begun the missionary application process has increased significantly. Typically approximately 700 new applications are started each week. The last two weeks that number has increased to approximately 4,000 per week. Slightly more than half of the applicants are women.”

For clarification purposes, those are not submitted applications, but merely applications that have been started via the Church’s online application process.

When Elder Jeffrey R. Holland predicted that lowering the age limits for missionaries would trigger a “dramatic” increase in numbers, “dramatic” was an understatement. Instead there has been approximately a 471% jump in new applications in just the past two weeks. Worth noting is the ratio of men to women who have began the application process.

Of note personally were the few emails I personally received from this blog. A couple of church members blasted me for helping spread such an unfounded rumor. A couple of church members lauded my sharing of the news. And a couple of members emailed me to share what they had heard from General Authorities and their own local church leaders over the weekend at church meetings, essentially saying the rumor was “almost” accurate.

My intent in writing last night’s post wasn’t to spread rumor. In fact, I thought I had made that very clear when writing it. Rather, it was to simply take joy in the fact that obviously a terrific event was occurring within our unique and peculiar culture. It is wonderful to hear of such a flood of young Latter-day Saints desiring to serve the Lord! Nothing should take away from that joy.

To the two thoughtful Saints who felt I was in error (and all the others who didn’t take the time to personally email me about it), I sincerely apologize. I did not intend to stir up falsehoods. I was simply trying to share my views of the rumor/news as an LDS observer of social media.

The most popular Tweet which led to yesterday’s social media blitz was shared by Dale Cressman, a journalism professor at BYU. It said, “On average LDS Church had received 600 missionary applications per week. Last week it received 7,000.” When pressed by a doubter of the numbers as to the veracity of his tweet, Cressman tweeted in response, “Not in the habit of fact checking my stake president.”

According to the press release from the Church indicating the lowering of ages for missionaries to serve, currently “58,000 missionaries are serving, and that number has been increasing in recent years and will likely rise significantly with this change.”

In any case, thanks to the technology with which we are blessed we can now see missionaries apply faster, and the news of their applications spread just as quickly.

Here’s to hoping our testimonies are Tweeted and our faith is as Facebooked as much as a rumor we all may have heard yesterday.

Stan Way

The Church Receives 7,000 Missionary Applications In One Week…Maybe…

A Popular LDS Meme shared hundreds of times today. – Meme courtesy of the LDS Memes Facebook Page.

Today was a typical Sunday in my small branch in Alabama. The talks in sacrament meeting were terrific and my Sunday School class passed by without anybody throwing rotten tomatoes at me. – Yes, I consider that a real measure of success. – During the brief intermission before priesthood started I took a glance at my phone. I responded to a text message and hopped on Twitter just because I love seeing what my fellow Latter-day Saints of the #Twitterstake (the unofficial group of Mormons on Twitter) were saying about their sabbath services.

And there I saw it.

Not just once.

But three times right in a row.

I almost couldn’t believe it, and I’m sure my mouth hung open as I stood beside my church’s water fountain so fascinated with what I was seeing that getting a drink had passed by my mind.

I started doing the math in my head…and it just didn’t seem possible. But there it was repeatedly on my Twitter Feed:

“The Church received 7,000 new missionary applications last week.”

“Silly internet rumors,” I said to myself as I finally stopped doing unrealistically large mathematical equations in my head and got a drink of water. I walked into the gym and sat down waiting for the third hour of our block of meetings to begin. “That’s just an unreal number,” I continued thinking. Deciding that it was probably just gossip I kept my mouth shut. Since I had just taught a Sunday School lesson on honesty, and we had spent a significant amount of time on the subject of gossip, I felt I should at least try to not spread gossip just mere moments after having taught about it. As our class began and the day went on the thoughts of 7,000 missionary applications being submitted in just one week quickly passed from my mind. Church ended and other meetings took place. I went with our missionaries to the hospital and to make a visit. After that I met with our branch presidency (a meeting in which I was once again invited to get married – the joys of being a YSA) and finally ended up getting home at 4:30. By the time I ate lunch/dinner I fell asleep in my recliner and didn’t wake up until later this evening.

When I finally looked at my phone and checked my Twitter Feed after waking up, there it was again, only this time by way of a popular Retweet.

Dale Cressman’s Tweet regarding the 7,000 missionary applications submitted this week to the Church.

At this point I felt like there might a little more substance to this “rumor” that was spreading so quickly via social media. After all, Dale Cressman did look like a rather handsome and honest LDS fella, and he even had a hint of perfect Romneyesque Hair. How could I not trust a Tweet from this guy? So I read some of the replies he’d gotten to his Tweet and an insightful response he provided as to his “source” for this “news”.

Mormons Tweeting in response to Dale Cressman.

I then did a quick Google search of my new buddy Dale Cressman and found that he’s actually a rather legitimate source for news. After all, how can I not trust a handsome LDS fella with perfect Mormon hair who is a Professor at the Y?! Now granted, I found out from his official BYU Directory Bio that he is a Canadian, and he earned his Ph.D. at the University of Utah in 2003 (nobody is perfect), but he’s also a former television news producer and newspaper reporter who now teaches media and journalism. So this guy checks out as legit.

“But,” I thought to myself as my Google Stalking Abilities were paying off, “this is just one guy and one stake president who was saying this earlier today. It could still be gossip.”

Then I looked at the time of Dale’s Tweet, and realized the Tweets I’d seen earlier this morning came before his, and from different friends across the State of Utah. A few minutes of Twitter searching and I quickly saw that multiple priesthood leaders had shared the exact same “news” of ridiculously large number of new missionary applications that had been submitted this past week.

However, it all became Facebook Official (like a real live relationship) once I signed into my Facebook account. There at the top of my timeline was the meme I shared at the beginning of this post.

“This will help me get to the bottom of this,” I thought to myself as I quickly clicked on the meme and its link. However, I soon found many others with the same reluctant thoughts as mine.

I enjoyed reading through many of the comments on the LDS Meme’s Facebook Page in relation to this “news”.

Now could this all be one giant LDS social media rumor? Of course it could be. If one animal quacks in the dark, you can safely guess that it could be a duck. But if dozens of animals begin quacking in the dark, and then hundreds of them, it’s probably safe to say that you’re dealing with a bunch of ducks. If it turns out not to be true, then I suppose we all need a good call to repentance. Those who have helped spread this rumor will be found to just be a bunch of quacks. But if the news shared on Twitter, Facebook, and from various pulpits in Utah today proves to be true, then we are seeing the Lord’s work and purposes coming to pass in truly awesome and powerful ways.

Personally, I hope that this “news” is true, and not just a faith promoting rumor. However, I’ll be the first to say that in our day and age it’s never been easier to see a rumor spread so rapidly.

In the press conference that followed the announcement on the change in missionary ages, Elder Jeffery R. Holland said that the Lord is “hastening His work”. Whether the Church truly received 7,000 missionary applications this week or just 50 it does not matter. This is the Lord’s Church. It is His work. He is the Lord of the vineyard, and He will prepare and call His laborers as He sees fit.

Ever since President Monson’s announcement regarding missionary work was made, this quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith has came to my mind repeatedly. He said in the the now famous Wentworth Letter,

“Our missionaries are going forth to different nations . . . the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

– History of the Church 4:540

Only time will tell what sort of increase we will see in the number of full-time missionaries serving. The only important thing is that we, as the Lord’s covenant people, live our lives in such a manner so as to be able to assist the Lord’s full-time servants in finding those prepared to hear His gospel. There are countless millions who are waiting to hear the message we have, but we have to invite them to hear it first. It’s important to remember that success as a member missionary isn’t always measured in seeing someone come all the way the waters of baptism. Success is inviting someone to meet with the missionaries and merely extending the invitation to come unto Jesus and His ordinances. If we simply invite others the Lord and His missionaries will do the rest for us.

Meanwhile, I’m still working on the math with the 7,000 applications and what kind of an increase that is. I’m from Alabama; so this could take a while. Once I run out of fingers and toes it becomes much harder for me to add this stuff up…

What do you think though? Could this news be true? Or do you think it’s just a rumor? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.

Stan Way

Update 22 October 10PM: The Real Number of Missionary Applications

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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)

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There Is Only One Way

A conveniently placed street sign that sits directly west of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple in South Jordan, Utah.

Thursday afternoon I logged onto my computer and perused through my usual list of websites. It’s a ten minute sweep to usually cover all of the new Church happenings posted online, gloss over the major media headlines about us crazy Mormons, and make sure Facebook is still there and Apple is making money. I stopped cold in my tracks though as I checked my usual database for Mormon headlines. In my clicking I saw a headline from a prominent newspaper entitled “A Look At the Mormon Endowment Ceremony”, and my stomach turned over. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought to myself as I clicked the link and discovered my fears to be true.

A reputable news organization had not only wrote in detail about the holy Endowment ceremony, but they posted links to the entire text of the ceremony, and also posted links to illegally made audio recordings of the ceremony. I was mortified that a supposedly unbiased and professional paper would stoop to such a level to simply draw in readership. The brief article’s writer began by saying,

“I was talking with my ex-Mormon friend about Mitt Romney’s presidential nomination. He shared with me a copy of the Endowment Ceremony which members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), including Romney, take part in once they are deemed worthy to enter the temple.”

That right there should be a warning sign to any and all readers of the rest of the article. However, most will gloss over the “Ex” part and simply assume that this ex-Mormon wised up and cut himself free from such a group of weirdos.

The article then went on to share the links I told you about, and summarily making Latter-day Saints sound like a secret society of whackjobs. The author ended the article by saying,

“The Endowment Ceremony is interesting and concerning to me as a citizen. The more I learn about Mormonism the more strangely fascinating it is and the crazier it sounds.”

I am sure that to outsiders it does seem crazy. But I would like to share just a few short thoughts on the subject, which I am sure will not due the subject full honor, but may help in putting the thoughts of this article’s author into perspective.

That the Endowment ceremony can be found online by anyone at any time is not a big secret. It’s not like like a quick Google search won’t turn up exactly what people are looking for. What bothered me most about the article though was the lack of respect for the sacred. And, if not for respect for what other people at least believe is sacred, at least not publicly mocking it and calling it crazy.

I don’t believe in the tenets of Islam. However, I don’t go around calling Muslims crazy because they believe Allah spoke to Mohammed. That’d be kind of a jerk move. I like to be respectful. And, as a practitioner of the Golden Rule, I sometimes think that all people should abide likewise. Sure, write about my sacred stuff, but don’t call it crazy.

As to the temple ceremony being found online, it brings just one thought to mind: Milk before meat.

The Apostle Paul said,

1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Why do the things which we do in the temple seem odd to most of the world? Because they don’t understand it. It is a symbolic teaching experience, a true endowment and gift from God, not to be understood by any except they are pure in heart and desirous of His will.

In June of 2003, just a month before entering the MTC, I was in Utah visiting some of my family there for the final time before leaving for my mission. One evening my family packed together and we drove to Manti to attend the annual Mormon Miracle Pageant performed on the temple hillside there. As is usual for the event, there were protesters and “real Christians” in abundance shouting the Good News of Christ and the follies of Mormonism. There was even a group of young teenage girls dressed in pioneer costumes walking around telling everyone about how they were married to Ol’ Joe Smith. – Real classy stuff.

As I herded my mom and dad (a less-active Mormon and a non-believer) carefully through the crowds one man stood out among the rest of protesters. Standing directly in the center of the intersection in front of the pageant was a loud preacher condemning the ceremonies of the temple. Shoving his pamphlets into people’s hands, I flatly rejected it as we brushed past his pavement pulpit. Because seating for the event is limited to the first 20,000 or so, we had gotten there hours early to make sure we got good seats. We eventually found good seats in the middle of the field of chairs. As the hours passed and I repeatedly passed by the loudest of the protesters in my travels, I found it harder and harder to not step forth and share my own feelings. As the sun set lower in the west and the time for the pageant to begin grew closer, our born again friend only grew louder. Thousands of people streamed by him eyeing his towering erect figure as he waved his arms in the street. But nobody stopped to challenge his tenacious tirade against the holy.

Eventually I had enough though. I said a short but sincere prayer, and stepped up to him as calmly as I could as folks continued to pass by. He smiled, obviously glad to have lured in a young Mormon. I extended my hand cordially and casually and said, “Kind of hot out here isn’t it?” He grasped my hand, still smiling, but obviously not expecting that introduction. Still firmly gripping his hand in mine I said, “It’s nice to meet you, I’m Stan.”

Picking up on my slight southern drawl he said, “Nice to meet you Stan.” He then gave me his name. “You’re not from around here, are you?” I laughed and told him that he was correct in his surmise. I told him I was in Utah on vacation with my family. “Oh,” he said. “Then you’re not Mormon then?” His towering erect body frame seemed to ease at his stating this. “I’m glad there’s some Christians here from as far away as Alabama!” he continued in his booming voice. Obviously he felt comfortable among the kinship of a non-Mormon amongst the masses.

I looked deep into his eyes and smiled, waiting a few seconds to see if I might feel the Spirit guide me in where this conversation might go.

“Yep, I’ve been a born again Christian ever since I was baptized Mormon a few years ago,” I said smiling broadly as the sun gleamed in from the west. I said it loudly and noticed that a couple of passerby were now standing still watching our middle-of-the-street-exchange.

My new friend’s smile faded, but quickly reappeared as he realized he’d found someone he could teach “the truth“. I was thinking in the back of my mind that perhaps I had been young and foolish enough to enter a debate I wasn’t prepared for. My silent prayers became quick and feverish as my friend began discussing Romans Chapter Six with me.

What happened next though was surprising and something which I will never forget.

For the next twenty or so minutes my friend would postulate a theological question citing a New Testament scripture. I would answer to his satisfaction and then pose my own question citing only Biblical verses. With each passing question his voice grew louder and higher in pitch. When he tried to pin me into a theological corner from which he thought I could not escape, I would merely use the Savior’s approach and rephrase the question to my advantage towards him. As the minutes passed his smile was faded. The crowd watching our conversation had filled the street. The niceties and politeness of speech he’d originally used were now gone, and the “wives of Joseph Smith” had even come into the peripheral edges to see what was happening. I recognized I was answering questions I did not naturally know the answers to and quoting verses I hadn’t read in some time, but I knew it wasn’t me speaking.

As the conversation grew to its precipice over the subject of baptism for the dead and the Plan of Salvation, and I quoted 1 Corinthians 15 to this gentleman, he finally snapped and went carte blanche in his approach. He was done toying over interpretation of scripture. Lifting his left arm to his side he pointed sharply at the temple on the hill above us. “I know what you do in there! It is not of God! It is not of Christ! You cannot profess to be Christians because of what you do in there!” He was nearly screaming the words as he gritted his teeth. Each syllable came off of his tongue like he was choking on vile vinegar he hadn’t intended to spew forth. The crowd watched, nearly silent in their stares. There was a circle gathered around us, the size of which I hadn’t truly noticed until this point. I looked around and felt the collective prayers of my fellow Saints. And I began to feel nearly as overcome with emotion as the preacher before me. As he panted in hatred I saw the setting sun’s fiery glare burn behind his head, and tears formed in my eyes. I felt complete compassion for this man.

The silence was palpable.

In almost a whisper I asked, “How do you know what happens in there? Have you ever been inside of a temple?” I felt an overwhelming love for this man as our eyes locked with one another, and he lowered his pointing arm.

“No.” His voice had lowered nearly as soft as mine. “But I’ve read every single word of your temple ceremony on the internet, and I know what you do in there.”

And then, feeling my words guided, I bore my simple testimony. I told the man he had no idea what happened in the temples of God because he had sat alone in a room reading holy words off of a computer monitor. The Spirit of God had not been with him when he had done this because he wasn’t pure enough in heart or pure in his purpose in reading them. Yes, he knew what was said inside of our temples, but he didn’t know what happened there or what the Endowment ceremony was because the Holy Spirit had not taught him like it had taught me. I told him that by the same Spirit that testified to the ancient Apostle Peter that Jesus was the Christ, I knew that Jesus was the Christ. And it was that same Holy Ghost which testified that The Book of Mormon was true, that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was God’s one true church on the earth. I told the man I loved him as a fellow Christian, and that I knew he was only trying to do the right thing, but all he was doing was driving a wedge between fellow Christians over doctrinal differences he hadn’t prayed enough about. I was simple, but bold, and I never looked away from the man’s eyes.

When I finished I wasn’t sure what to say. It was as if there were hundreds of us frozen in some scene from some movie, and none of us knew the next steps to take. After the longest of pauses, he put out his hand to shake mine, and as I stepped forward extending my hand he embraced me. As he pulled me into his large arms he said softly, “Thank you. No one has ever said it like that.”

Our brace lasted for perhaps ten seconds. He then stepped back, picked up his pamphlets from off the ground, and walked out of the north end of the circle of people that had gathered. As if on cue the crowd melted back into a passing mass and a couple of people stepped forward to shake my hand and say kind words.

But I was speechless and the world seemed in a blur. As I stood there pondering what had just happened, I realized that Heavenly Father had taught me perhaps just as much about the temple as He’d taught the preacher whom I’d stepped forth to talk to. In an indelible and new way I knew that the ceremonies of the temple were of God and were the only way by which we might again regain His holy presence.

An “endowment” is defined as a gift, an inheritance, or a continual source from which your needs can be met. I testify that the Endowment ceremony performed in the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are truly that. However, it is sacred, and cannot be understood unless you are prepared, worthy, and seeking God’s will fully in your life.

As I read the newspaper article on Thursday my heart was saddened. My friend from a street corner many years ago in Manti came to mind. And I felt true compassion for the gentleman who wrote the article. “Of course we sound crazy,” I thought to myself. “You just don’t know the truth.”

If you are reading this, whether endowed Latter Day Saint or curious Christian, I implore you not to take lightly the things of God. Something that is truly sacred, even a pearl of great price, has been placed online for anyone and everyone to read. The Endowment ceremony is more than words on a computer screen though. Reading them in such a manner is treating them as a thing of naught, and when you do so you truly trample upon things which are of of God. The temple ceremonies are not secret, only sacred, and true spiritual meat that cannot be understood if you have not supped long enough upon the milk of the Restored Gospel of Christ.

As the Church comes forth out of obscurity there will doubtlessly be an increasing amount of questions and even attacks against our faith. However, we as Latter Day Saints must stand true to the faith and testify in simple boldness to the truths which we know. We must show the love of Christ and pray for those who revile us and our beliefs.

Thursday I witnessed as a prominent newspaper lost journalistic integrity in my eyes. But all that matters is that I keep my integrity and hold sacred things sacred. I pray that we all might do so.

Your friend,

Stan Way

If you’re a Latter Day Saint and you have not yet been to the temple I would encourage you to do so. Speak with your local priesthood leader and do whatever you must do in your life to be worthy to enter the temple’s doors. There is nothing that’s not worth giving up to be endowed eternally by our Heavenly Father.

If you’re not a Mormon and you’ve stumbled upon this blog post, thank you for reading. But don’t stop here! I encourage you to click here and learn more about my faith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Once you click that link you’ll be guided to countless resources to help you learn more, and you’ll even be able to chat with a real live Mormon if you have any questions. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

The annual Mormon Miracle Pageant draws thousands of viewers each night from across the world each summer. Beginning at dusk, it is one of the longest running pageants within the Church.

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