Saturday, June 28, 2008

Faith and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

June 29th, 2008 – Sweetwater 2nd Ward – Sacrament Meeting

My overwhelming task this afternoon is to rehearse to you within the context of my own preparations the message behind President Eyring’s talk entitled Faith and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood given at the Priesthood Session of General Conference. While simple regurgitation may work, my audience base is significantly more feminine than President Eyring’s was when he first delivered it. As such, I have tried to reach an understanding of the heart of his message and will endeavor, with the help of the Spirit, to reach all congregational demographics with a message of inspiration.

I understand that last week Brother Hoch specifically addressed the topic of the oath and covenant of the priesthood and just minutes ago we were blessed to hear from Elder Clark on The Blessings of the Temple. My goal today will mirror that laid out by President Eyring, when he said: “My purpose…is to help you grow in your confidence that you can and will rise to the blessings of the oath and covenant of the priesthood.” I would also like to show the correlation and cohesiveness between the three.

The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God. Through the priesthood God created and governs the heavens and earths. Through this power He redeems and exalts His children, achieving His work and His glory, by bringing to pass “the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth.

By gaining entrance into this great brotherhood comes much responsibility. Many of you know of my fondness for comic books. In the comic book Spider-man, there is a phrase, which has endured for generations and which has been a guiding factor for the main character, Peter Parker, and his determination to serve and protect the community as Spider-man. The saying goes as follows: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I have seen that ideology put into real life application by those who have attained worldly power, whether it is influence or wealth. Typically we tend to focus on the negative examples of those who achieved great power, failed to wield the responsibility with honor, and the historical horrors they have inflicted upon humanity over the generations. However, I have also seen the tremendous good that gracious philanthropists do in giving back to make the world a better place to live.

As I grew older, and my gospel understanding matured, I realized that I didn’t need to be bit by a radioactive spider so that I too may make a difference in the world. I have also come to learn that Spider-man’s motto, “With great power comes great responsibility,” does not apply to the Priesthood of God. In fact, I have found the opposite to be true.

With great responsibility comes great power. President Eyring says, “As you will try to keep your covenants, the Savior has promised His personal help. He has said that as you go forward in honoring the priesthood: ‘There I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.’”

How often have we heard the stories about brethren giving priesthood blessing that struck to the soul of those being blessed without knowing full backgrounds of the situation? How many of us have personal experiences that have secured our faith in the power of the priesthood beyond that of the abilities of mere mortal men?

The Lord is behind this great work and though we may feel weak or unworthy remember these words of President Eyring: “The very fact that you have been offered the oath and covenant of is evidence that God has chosen you, knowing your power and capacity. He has known you since you were with Him in the spirit world. He has allowed you to find the true Church of Jesus Christ and to be offered the priesthood. You can feel confidence because you have evidence of His confidence in you.”

Inevitably whenever talks or classroom lessons are given regarding the Priesthood, it is more often than not, that questions arise concerning the roles of women and the Priesthood. However, Sunday sacrament meetings and the subsequent meetings on the Lord’s Day are for the uplifting of the Saints through the revealed word of the Lord. As such, the personal revelations and individual speculation also known as the doctrine according to Brother Shelby will not be making the airwaves today. However, I have found a few responses from the Brethren that will address what little we know about the eternal purposes behind the division of roles.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has declared, "A few Latter-day Saint women are asking why they are not entitled to hold the priesthood. To that I can say that only the Lord, through revelation, could alter that situation. He has not done so, so it is profitless for us to speculate and worry about it." ("Ten Gifts from the Lord," Ensign, November 1985, 86; quoted in Harrison and Richards, 187).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell declared, "We know so little, brothers and sisters, about the reasons for the division of duties between womanhood and manhood as well as between motherhood and priesthood. These were divinely determined in another time and another place." ("The Women of God," Ensign (May 1978): 10).

Of myself, I simply add that the great and oft-mentioned patriarchal promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could not have been made without their faithful covenanted companions being Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel.

For all that we do not know, that which has been revealed WILL enable us to achieve Celestial glory through obedience to the laws pertaining to that kingdom. Recall the words from the Lord: “And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveith my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood” (D & C 84:35-39).

Furthermore, we know that the fullness of the blessings promised in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood are not to be enjoyed alone. In fact, they cannot be obtained alone. Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-3 says: “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.”

But together, man and woman, when united together as husband and wife “…by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise…” and they continue faithful in the magnifying and fulfilling of their covenants by enduring to the end in faith, then shall the promise of eternal life apply: “and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fullness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever” (D&C 132:19).

Let us not think that once we are sealed in the temple of the Lord that all will be easy or every calling will come without challenges. President Eyring said, “You may at times need reassurance, as I do, that you will have the strength to meet your obligations…The Lord foresaw your need for reassurance. We are promised that as we keep our covenants and magnify our callings we ‘are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of (our) bodies’ (D&C 84:33).”

If we are to fulfill our potential we must get there step by step. Let us imagine we are creating a map that will guide the way to exaltation by checkpoints known as temporal gospel ordinances. Sisters would have four checkpoints: Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, Receiving the endowment, and temple sealing or the New and Everlasting Covenant of marriage. Brethren we have five checkpoints. We share the same four but have the oath and covenant of the priesthood inserted as the third checkpoint in our quest for exaltation.

Both in the world and in the church today, there are so many different distractions that can take us away from those activities of the highest priority levels. Many of us fall into the trap of confusing action or activity with progression. However, distractions can lead us to forget WHY we are doing our church callings and as a result, risk losing our faith. Achieving 100% Home or Visiting Teaching is pointless if we forget that our main objective is to ensure that our assigned families “might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ…(Moroni 6:4).

Lest we become as Lehi’s rebellious offspring and their families when forgetting WHY we are doing something and becoming stuck in a rut of spiritless activity, or even worse, willful disobedience to the commandments of God. Alma used this example of his ancestors to teach the lesson to his son Helaman: “They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey…And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual (Alma 37:41,43).

How can we maintain fresh in our memories the glorious blessings promised to us if we keep our covenants? How can we ensure that the shadows of darkness do not cloud over us and begin to dim our lights? President Eyring shares: “You can do it in simple things. When you meet with your quorum, you can decide to see them as brothers in the family of God. There will be someone in your quorum or priesthood group who is in need. He may not show it. You may not be able to see it with your eyes. But God know and invites you to be His servant in helping him.”

On a more personal level a few years ago, partially inspired by an old talk by the late President Faust, I decided to come up with a list of things I could share with my brother that he could do to develop a more firm faith in and relationship with the Savior.

First – Daily prayer.
Second – Daily scripture study.
Third – A daily act of kindness or service to another.
Fourth – Daily repentance.
Fifth – Daily sharing of testimony.

As an addendum, I have recently added to the list monthly temple attendance. I have heard Bishop Hurdsman, on multiple occasions, counsel us as ward members to seek to attend the temple at least monthly.

Let us make the temple our spiritual fortress of solitude. Let us go there often to ponder, receive instruction and communicate with our Father. May we within those walls, solidify our faith in the covenanted priesthood blessings. It is my prayer that we may all realize the closing promise of success: “Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sine save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God. And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest” (Alma 13:12-13).

I testify that God lives. Jesus is the Christ, the Creator and my Redeemer. This is His church and in it resides the authority and the keys of the priesthood. I testify that as we serve in the Kingdom, we will be sanctified and cleansed, and our faith in the covenanted blessings of eternity will become more real in our lives. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Top 7 Favorite Songs by The Smiths

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan Morrissey and especially his period with The Smiths. I began this as an attempt to list my Top 5 Favorite Smith's songs of all time. However, in trying to narrow them down, I could only get it down to my Top 7 without feeling like I was going to be short-selling just how awesome they were. Sorry fellow fans of Morrissey, no hits from his solo days, only from the good old days as front man for The Smiths. Special thanks to KROQ 106.7 for introducing me to one of my all time favorite bands (and singer). Enjoy!




#4 ASK:


#2 BIGMOUTH STRIKES AGAIN (ignore the video on this one-just enjoy the music):


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

This Is How I Know I Am Officially OLD...

I remember as a youth traveling to various church activities and asking the church youth leader/chaperone to play music like this in the car and watching their uneasy reactions or hear the "Is this really music" comments. I just figured it was because they were so old they couldn't appreciate the evolution of music.

Oddly enough I now find myself in the role of church youth leader who drives these young teenagers around to our various activities. Up until now we have actually had similar tastes in music but recently I was found pumping this through my speakers and found myself pondering introspectively: "Is this really music?"

I must be getting old because THAT my friends is most definitely NOT music...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Can the Lakers Do The Impossible?

Of the 28 previous teams who have gone down 3-1, none have come back. Those teams never had Kobe Bryant. In the immortal words of Winston Churchill: "Never, never, never give up."


Friday, June 13, 2008

A Recent Blog Posting by Orson Scott Card entitled: "Real science, faith unafraid"

While I don't agree 100% with some of his statements, I appreciate that the Lord would inspire someone, whose critical analysis, debate and literary skills I admire, to pen a blog on an issue my heart, mind, and soul have been struggling with.

"Real faith, science unafraid" by Orson Scott Card

(as posted at

I was 9 years old when I brought home a book about "cave men" from school.

It hadn't even crossed my mind that there might be difficulties in putting cave men and Adam and Eve in the same world story. But my parents were alert to the kinds of things that can lead to problems for believers.

No, they didn't snatch the book out of my hands. Nor did they call the school librarian and rail at her for polluting the minds of the young. They didn't even tell me, "We don't believe that way."

My father stood in the doorway of the room where I was reading and said, "Remember this, Scott. Whenever science and religion disagree, one or the other or both of them are wrong."

And that was it. The end of it. I didn't even learn my father's views on the subject of evolution at that time.

His slogan stuck in my mind. So easy to remember. A tool that has stood me in good stead throughout my life.

The possibility that science could be wrong. The possibility that religion could be wrong. Our religion. The revealed religion.

Because that's one of the things that is gloriously right about our religion: It is one of our articles of faith that there are things we do not know, that our present understandings may well be superseded by later revelation.

"The Lord is extending the Saints' understanding," we sing in church meetings. But our understanding can only be extended if it is now incomplete.

"We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (Article of Faith 9).

If there are many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God that are yet to be revealed, it stands to reason that we do not know them now.

It is in the nature of the human mind to try to make sense out of the knowledge we have. We fill in the gaps and smooth out the seeming contradictions as best we can, and for a time we think we have found truth. Until we run up against the wall of evidence.

On this 30th anniversary of the revelation extending the blessings of the priesthood to all worthy male members, it is good to remember that some very strange and fanciful "doctrines" were circulated for many years, trying to make sense of the restriction on giving the priesthood to one already-longsuffering group of God's children.

I remember hearing many of those "doctrines" taught as if they had authority. Then, years later, a non-member friend of mine lent me a book from the 1820s that explained all the reasons why it was appropriate to keep the African race in the chains of slavery. Almost every point that was later taught as Mormon "doctrine" was already present in the justifications invented to soothe the consciences of "Christian" slaveholders.

They were never Mormon doctrines. And they were never true. They were the doctrines of men, mixed with scripture.

Error creeps into both religion and science -- leaps of imagination become entrenched as consensus and taught as doctrine or fact, when in fact they remain nothing but guesses. Yet people will cling to them in the face of contrary evidence and revelation.

For instance, faith in anthropogenic global warming became a cause celebre long before anyone made a serious attempt to test the hypothesis; even now, when carbon emissions plainly do not track with global temperature fluctuations, it is treated as heresy to question the hypothesis -- even in the presence of hypothetical causes that do track with temperatures.

There are countless examples of scientific doctrines that led nowhere, yet were slow to die.

In real science, everything is supposed to be questioned, all the time. Be sure of this: Whenever a point of scientific doctrine is treated as beyond doubt, you can be sure that it is wrong.

Why? Because all scientific "knowledge" will eventually be found to be at least incomplete and quite possibly flat wrong, so if any area of science remains unquestioned, that is where the errors will accumulate.

Real scientists are unafraid of questions and never stifle them. The evidence of honest experiment will either affirm the existing belief or replace it with a better understanding. What's to fear in that?

There are no final answers in science, and anyone who thinks he has found one is no scientist.

Similarly, in the LDS religion, we proceed in the same confidence as scientists. Looking through the Doctrine and Covenants, reading the history of the church, we see time and again that great revelations come because of questions -- and often, questions that could be classed as "doubts."

They rarely come when no question is being asked, or on topics where the prophet or the people have no doubts.

The LDS faith is an experimental religion. We use the scientific method. No one is asked to rely on other people's faith; we are expected to ask the questions ourselves, and then "prove" and "test" the answers we are given.

It remains a subjective process, of course, because the experiment is performed on ourselves, as we transform our lives to conform with the teachings of the gospel, as we pray and receive answers that cannot be transferred to or understood by someone else who has not performed the same experiment.

When I hear a Latter-day Saint say, "We have all the answers," I shudder a little. Because how could we possibly have all the answers, when we haven't even begun to think of all the questions?

What my father's slogan gave me was the principle of abeyance. When I have doubts and questions about some aspect of our religion, then I will hold that point in abeyance, waiting for further light and knowledge.

Or I will explore it further, seeking through questions to open the door a little earlier. What I find out for myself I do not teach as doctrine of the church. I hold it in my mind as Orson's Best Guess So Far.

There is no aspect of the gospel where faithful Latter-day Saints would refuse to "extend" our "understanding" because of new revelation -- once we confirmed its genuineness for ourselves.

We do no service to ourselves or others if we ever claim to know everything. What the church offers is a means by which we can each know everything that God has deemed us ready to receive so far.

About all the rest, wise are the Saints who remain humble about what we think we know. The words "so far" must never be out of reach. To think any answer is final is to close the book, to seal the heavens. That is the road, not of faith, but of apostasy.

It is the living God we believe in.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lakers Basketball: So Close...Yet So Far Away...

Now I know what it feels like to be a Utah Jazz fan. See you next year Lakers fans...I hope the addition of Andrew Bynum will be enough.

And I don't want to hear another comparison of Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan for at least another 4 or 5 years. Jordan never let his team lose a series. I know what you're saying..."It's not over." No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-1 deficit. And although I am as diehard a Laker fan as you'll see, this is NOT the team that will be the first to do it. When you nearly give up a 20 point lead in Game 3 and then do it twice in Game 4...sorry, you are done.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Top Five Favorite Videos

Well, as most of you saw from a previous post, I absolutely love the new WEEZER video, "Pork and Beans" and have decided that it is definitely in my top 5 videos of the last few years. Unfortunately, that means that one of these five will have to be bumped. Enjoy them and I hope that after watching them all again will help me decide. They are in no particular order as far as my preferences. (On a side note - If you are easily offended, please do not watch).

Toby Keith - "As Good As I Once Was"

Pink - "Stupid Girls"

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "White & Nerdy"

Flight of the Conchords - "Hiphopopotamus vs Rhymenoceros"

SNL/Justin Timberlake - "D**k in a Box"

Friday, June 6, 2008


I don’t quite know where this is going so I hope it makes sense by the time I’m done typing. Are there questions which you simply refuse to entertain? If so, why? I will tell you that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called the Mormons. I have a firm belief that the core doctrines embraced in canonical scripture are true and I strive to live them. That being said, as I age, I have realized there were many things which I simply heard, accepted, and embraced.

Occasionally I used the popular safety net of “Well, if the church is true, then this must be.” I never really put doctrines, beliefs, practices, and traditions through an individual, case-by-case mental process of acceptance. In my first 22 years I became the perfect spiritually-educated Mormon robot. I knew the standard appeasing answers to 99.9% of the questions that would come up, disregarding worldly evidences that demanded intelligent thought and analysis. And sorry, but no, bearing testimony is not an acceptable counter-argument. Testimony sharing has a rightful place but in an exploration of evidences between like-minded individuals who already share the common denominator of faith, it doesn’t hold water. In fact, it comes off rather ignorant. To be fair, I do not completely believe that it is the goal of Mormonism to create unquestioning, loyal robots but it seems to be an unfortunate side effect of the system in place.

The last decade for me has been a process of mental education and spiritual reconciliation. Having a solid foundation in my own faith, it does not mean that I have all the answers to all of my questions and yet I don’t believe it lessens my convictions regarding my chosen faith. I believe I have strengthened my faith through secular studies. I do not believe that there are questions which should never be asked. If one of the purposes of this life is to learn and grow, why would any religion tell us NOT to ask questions and just have faith? Sorry, that doesn’t fly with me. That does not mean to say that there are not ridiculous questions but if one becomes afraid to entertain thought, I need to wonder why?

Every religion will have their own set of questions that get the faithful riled up, so I’ll give a few that I have seen ruffle some Mormon feathers. Why get so hot under the collar when one wants to discuss the age of the earth, evolution, or science in general? Why get so offended when someone brings up archaeological evidences (or the lack thereof) regarding the Book of Mormon? Why get flustered when people question the validity of Joseph Smith’s status as prophet, seer, and revelator? And this one applies to every religion I have ever encountered, when there is a question which one cannot answer, why does the phrase “mysteries of God” always enter the conversation?

I don’t even care if people will look at the questions and come up with answers that fit their current belief system. I think I do that at times…I think I have to. At least then, individuals are mentally processing the quandary and coming up with a solution that will allow them to continue forward with their faith. I have friends who are sick of religious institutions because of the way the various sects lead their loyally blind sheep through methodical fear tactics. Mormons are not immune from this activity either. I can vividly recall many instances from my teenage years when these methods were implemented on me.

Coming back to the thoughts that originally inspired this posting, I have two great unknowns. One, how bad is Hell? Two, how good is Heaven? Those familiar with the Mormon faith will know that we don’t believe in a two-pronged eternity. For the sake of this argument, we’ll leave it at Heaven and Hell. I started thinking about this a few nights ago when I began to introspectively analyze the motives behind my behaviors. In other words, do I strive to live by the strict standards of my religion because of my fear of eternal punishment or because of my desire for Eternal Life? And if I ever stopped fearing Hell, is Heaven motivation enough?

I don’t have an answer for that yet…guess it’s just one of the mysteries of God.