Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Membership in LDS Church

                    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth.  As members of the Church, we learn the gospel, receive saving ordinances, and make covenants related to those ordinances.  The Church provides us with opportunities to grow and to serve with fellowship, support, and inspiration.  The mission of this divinely revealed organization is to invite all people to "come unto Christ, and be perfected in him" (Moroni 10:32).

"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Moroni 10:32).

The establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth in the last days was prophesied by an Old Testament prophet named Daniel (Daniel 2).  King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream and was troubled because he did not know its meaning.  When his magicians and sorcerers could not relate the dream or interpret it, the king was angry and commanded that they be killed.  But then Daniel, a captive Hebrew who had found favor with the king, stated that if the king would give him time, he would reveal and interpret the dream.

                    Daniel went to his house to ask God for help, and God revealed to him the dream and its interpretation.  Later, in the presence of King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel said that God could reveal secrets and make dreams known and understood.  He said that the king had dreamed of a great image.  The head of the image was gold, the breast and arms were silver, the belly and thighs were brass, and the legs were iron.  The feet were made of a mixture of iron and clay.  A stone cut out of a mountain without hands hit the image at the feet, breaking it to pieces.  Daniel said, "The stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:35).

                    Daniel also gave the interpretation of the dream.  The head of gold represented King Nebuchadnezzar and his powerful kingdom.  Lesser kingdoms that were to follow and that would eventually become weak were represented by the other parts of the image.  But in the last days "the God of heaven [would] set up a kingdom, which [would] never be destroyed" (Daniel 2:44).  That kingdom - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - was represented in the dream by the stone.  The following scriptures give further meaning to Daniel's prophesy.

                    "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed:  and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Daniel 2:44; italics added).

                    "The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth" (Doctrine and Covenants 65:2).

                    President Gordon B. Hinckley explained how Daniel's prophecy is being fulfilled today.  "The little stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands is rolling forth to fill the earth (see D&C 65:2).  What a wonderful thing it is to be a part of this growing kingdom of our Lord.  There are no political boundaries separating the hearts of the children of God, regardless of where they may live.  We are all of one great family.  We are sons and daughters of God.  We are engaged in the service of His Beloved Son.  He is our Redeemer and our Savior, and a testimony of this truth burns within our hearts.  Each is entitled to such a testimony of this work.  It is an individual knowledge of great fundamental truths that binds us together into what we call the church and kingdom of God" (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 4-5).  
                    It is a common experience for our family while camping to go down to the lake and throw rocks in the water.  We like to watch the ripples in the water that keep growing bigger and bigger.  The gospel of Jesus Christ has the same affect with the people of the world when members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Christians faithfully live the principles of His gospel.

                    Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claim to belong to the only true Church of Jesus Christ on earth today.  "The church is the organized body of believers who have taken upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ by baptism and confirmation.  To be the true church it must be the Lord's church, and must have his laws, his name, and be governed by him through representatives whom he has appointed" (Bible Dictionary, "Church," 645).

                    Other churches teach some truths and do many good things.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the earth because it is the only church that has the complete gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood authority to perform ordinances in the name of Jesus Christ.  It is Jesus' Church.  It has his name and his law, and it is led by his appointed representatives.  I am grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith and his obedience and faithfulness in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

                    Jesus Christ himself testified that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true.  "And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually" (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30; italics added).

                    The gospel of Jesus Christ strengthens and unites us, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be likened to the V-formation in which some birds, like geese, migrate to different climates for summer and winter.  Most of us have watch geese fly overhead in a V-formation and understand that they do this for the purpose of strengthening each other.  The leading bird faces the full effect of the wind, but the geese following in the formation have less air resistance and so can fly longer without getting tired.  When the leader becomes tired, it falls back in the formation and another bird takes its place in the lead.  Geese can be heard honking as they fly, and this is their way of communicating and encouraging each other.  When any goose has to leave the foundation because of sickness or injury, two other geese travel with it and stay with it until it either dies or has enough strength to rejoin the flock.

                    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is like the V-formation of the geese in numerous ways.  Our Stake Presidents, Bishops, and other leaders are in leadership positions for designated periods of time and then are released while others are called to lead.  Our missionaries, home teachers, and visiting teachers travel in pairs to teach and to care for others.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the same wherever it is found in the world, and the lessons are coordinated.
The Church is the organization through which the Lord accomplishes His purposes.  Through the Church, truth is taught and people are united in love and in their desire to serve the Lord.  President Ezra Taft Benson, thirteenth President of the Church, stated:  "The mission of the Church is glorious - to invite all of us to come unto Christ through proclaiming the gospel, perfecting our lives, and redeeming our dead" (Ensign, May 1988, 85).

                    The mission of the Church was originally defined in a three-fold statement:  Proclaiming the Gospel, Perfecting the Members, and Redeeming the Dead.  Another emphasis was recently added to the mission statement, and it has to do with Caring for the Poor and Needy.  This does not mean that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not previously taken care of the poor and needy.  It only means that this emphasis was added to the mission statement.

                    Proclaiming the gospel is important for several different reasons as explained by the following scriptures.  We must have the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to prepare, and we cannot learn this until we now of it.

                    "Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
                    "Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
                    "Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 2:6-8).

                    "For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it" (Doctrine and Covenants 123:12). 

                    Families who have members serving in the mission field are richly blessed because of the sacrifices made to support missionaries.  There is a stronger feeling of love in the home, and funds seem to stretch further when paying for missionary work.  The missionaries themselves gain life skills and experiences that can be gained in no other way.  It is wonderful to send a teenaged son out into the mission field and have a grown man, ready to take his place in society, return home.  Members of the Church do not need to leave home to proclaim the gospel because we can share it with relatives, friends, neighbors, and work associates.

                    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helps us to perfect our lives by its ordinances and principles.  Some of the necessary ordinances, such as baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, and eternal marriage, are explained in the following scriptures.

                    "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
                    "Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
                    "Jesus answered, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:3-5). 
                    "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38). 

                    "In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
                    "And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
                    "And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
                    "He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase."
(Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4). 

                    The basic principles of the gospel are faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, and the gift of the Holy Ghost and can be further explained through scriptures such as the following.

                    "And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world….
                    "Now this is the commandment:  Repent, all ye ends of the earth, ands come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 27:16, 20). 

                    "We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are:  first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Pearl of Great Price, Articles of Faith 4). 

                    Proper priesthood ordinances, covenants, and instruction in gospel principles help us progress toward perfection can only be found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

                    We can help to redeem the dead by doing family history work to find the names of ancestors who need to receive temple ordinances and then doing the work in the temple, such as being baptized for the dead.     
                    We believe that temple work for the dead is important because it helps those who have gone ahead of us and it also helps us to grow spiritually.   The Apostle Paul explained about baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29:  Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?  Why are they then baptized for the dead?"

Doctrine and Covenants 128:15 explains:  "And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation.  For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers - that they without us cannot be made perfect - neither can we without our dead be made perfect."

We do our part to help the needy, naked, hungry, and poor by caring for them spiritually and temporally.  Members of the Church fasted from food and drink for two meals each month and donate the money that would have been used for sustenance to care for the less fortunate.  We understand the necessity to those in need.

Amulek, a missionary companion of an ancient American prophet named Alma, taught:  "And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need - I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 34:28).

President Gordon B. Hinckley, fifteenth President of the Church, stated, "We are all in this great endeavor together.  We are here to assist our Father in His work and His glory, `to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man' (Moses 1:39).  Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere.  No calling in this church is small or of little consequence.  All of us in the pursuit of our duty touch the lives of others" (Ensign, May 1995, 71).

                    Because of our understanding about what the Lord expects of us, we work together to fulfill the mission of the Church.  The following story describes the experiences of a young Latter-day Saint doctor, but many people share similar stories.

"I did not realize how much the Church had done for me until I left my home and went to study at a large medical university.  I feared I could not keep up with the other students.  There were only four Mormons in the entire class, but we all soon found out that we had an advantage over most of the others because of the opportunities the Church had given us.  We were not afraid to stand in front of our classes and give reports.  We could work well with our classmates and teachers because we had taken part in Church activities that had given us these skills.  We did well in our studies because we had learned that help is always near, through prayer.
                    "We discovered, too, how much we meant to each other.  We were suddenly among people with many different beliefs and ways of life, and it was important to us to have friends who believed as we did, friends who knew the way our Father in Heaven wants us to live.  We did not want to follow the temptations of the world, and we needed each other.
                    "I am so grateful for all the Church as done for me as a person, when I didn't even know that it was happening" (in Walk in His Ways:  Basic Manual for Children, Part A [1982], 76).

                    President Joseph F. Smith, sixth President of the Church, stated:  "My standing in the Church is worth more to me than this life - ten thousand times.  For in this I have life everlasting" (quoted by Joseph Fielding Smith, in The Progress of Man [1964], 450).

                    My membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints means everything to me.  The principles and ordinances of the Church are what have made me the person I am today.  I am very grateful to be a member of the true Church of Jesus Christ on earth today.

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