Who are we?

We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are currently serving in the mission field of The Church
for a period of three years. This blog represents our own opinions and experiences for these three years. And does not represent or speak
for the doctrine or opinions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

There's no going back now . . .

Things will be forever different in the Church, referring of course to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . . .

The influence of women in the Latter-days is going to change the face of the Church and likely the world.

There you have it, my prediction for the future.

I will add immediately, that this change is not going to come about in many of the ways you are thinking right now.  I am not at all referring to the current events and issues of the day as to the outspoken few who are asking, or demanding rather, greater exposure and rights, including the Priesthood, for women in the Church.

No, that is not at all what I am talking about here . . . .

The Church is changing . . . and it is changing subtly each day according to our Heavenly Father's plan.

What exactly is our Heavenly Father's Plan?

This sensation that I am referring to began approximately two years ago, at this Autumn time of year, immediately after the President of the Church, President Thomas S. Monson gave his now famous "Welcome to Conference" talk and immediately caught everyones attention by announcing a change in the missionary service age qualifications.

He already had everyone spellbound listening for the anticipated new temples to be announced.  What everyone didn't see coming were his next remarks . . .
"I am pleased to announce that effective immediately all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of age 19. I am not suggesting that all young men will—or should—serve at this earlier age. Rather, based on individual circumstances as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available."
 . . .  "we have also given consideration to the age at which a young woman might serve. Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21." 
"We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty—and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve. Many young women also serve, but they are not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men. We assure the young sisters of the Church, however, that they make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome their service." 

A Mighty Change . . .

Amazing . . . and that is where the mighty change in the Church as far as the influence of women in the Church is going to come from . . . and it came from our Heavenly Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ who we believe stands at the head of His Church, and directs the workings of His Church, through the voice of his prophet . . . even the current prophet, President Thomas S. Monson.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints growing missionary program now includes 20,000 young single women, voluntarily, without thought to Priesthood duty, leaving home and family to share what is most precious to them . . . their testimonies of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the love our Heavenly Father has for all people.

After that change in October 2012, missionary applications jumped from an average of 700 a week to 4,000 a week — and more than half of those applications came from women.

Since the early beginnings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ here on the earth by the prophet Joseph Smith on April 6, 1830; missionaries have had a profound and lasting influence upon the strength, growth, leadership and the influence and blessings of the family unit throughout the Church.  Try to imagine where they Church would be today without it's powerful missionary program.

What can we expect to see . . . 

Now prepare to see the exponential growth that will once again occur in the influence for good in the Church and throughout the world as these 20,000 young women begin to return home with their increased gospel knowledge, communication skills, efficient study and planning habits, and powerful testimonies and witness of our Savior Jesus Christ.

The principle that I love most about this phenomena, is that it is being done in the Lord's way, and in his own time and according to his plan. 

The Lord is strengthening the Church from within by increasing the strength of the women of the Church.

Bringing experience back home . . .

As their missions come to an end, each sister will head back home with an incredible repertoire of abilities they've gained through their missionary service . . . self-confidence, foreign language skills, financial budgeting, self-disciple, independence . . . and most of all a deeper, more rooted in the foundations of the gospel, testimony of the gospel principles that they teach and study everyday.  They will have seen these principles at work, blessing the lives of those they teach and changing their own hearts each day of mission life.

As they return home, these abilities will help them succeed in whatever course they choose to pursue . . . education, marriage, mothers in the Church, careers, service, teachers.  And in each and every role that women today assume, which are many and varied, their mission experience will have a profound influence.  

One of the challenges of missionary service for any missionary is knowing that in many instances, they will never see their internationally serving brothers and sisters again after their missionary service ends.  Many precious companionships serving side by side for many months, conquering daily challenges, will hopefully be maintained through the convenience of modern technology.  But they will leave their new converts, and reactivated members, companions, and leaders behind as they return to their homes and lives outside of the mission field.

Causing a mighty change of heart . . .

I enjoy watching the companionships bond with one another . . . sisters of many different colors, races, backgrounds, styles . . . all coming together to serve their Heavenly Father.  They laugh at shared experiences, common mistakes made, adapting to make do with what little the Lord has provided them here in the field . . . think cold water bucket showers, toilets that don't flush, dinner every night from a microwave, uncomfortable beds, the greasy lingering aroma of OFF insect repellant at the end of each day, the insects (actually they have been blessed with an abundance of insects!). 

I watch them share belongings . . . those who have more always sharing and leaving behind whatever they can for those who have less.  

Missionary rules dictate that although we have many lovely beaches in the mission, there is no swimming, no wading, no enjoying the beautiful waters of the Honduras coastline.  There is no television, no movies, no radio and no Internet, except where approval has been granted by the Mission President.  Only inspirational music is allowed, and only books and study materials from the designated missionary library are authorized.  

Yet, all these apparent challenges seem to lead them to an amazing maturity and increased blessings of the Spirit.  They really become the hands of our Heavenly Father as they reach out to each other, their ward members, neighbors, investigators in kindly service. 

It isn't easy!

It isn't easy . . . many struggle, and just as one obstacle is overcome, another is presented by the adversary on almost a daily basis.  Yet almost all remain approachable and friendly each day as they leave their homes and begin to contact all that they meet.  

I have been amazed to see even the most timid survive and thrive!  It just feels my heart to overflowing when I see the amazing growth of character that takes place as they overcome the fears that they initially arrive with.  They have learned to be cautious in potentially dangerous situations, yet feel and seek their Heavenly Father's protection.  

Even though they are much younger than us and usually arrive in good health . . . I am impressed with their dedication and stamina.  They can run circles around us as their daily scheduling can be grueling, with the heat of the day, and the rockiness (literally!) of their paths. 

More Like the Savior . . .

And at the end of the day . . . when they are obedient to mission rules, Heavenly Father's laws . . . heed the whisperings of the Spirit . . . they develop Christ-like attributes and become more and more like the Savior each day.  When they do all these things . . . the numbers of baptisms, while important, in bringing many to a knowledge of the Savior, are not the determining factor in their missionary success . . . it's what they will take away from their experience . . . 

Of course, it's not necessary to serve a mission to learn life's experiences and blessings and develop the attitude described here . . . but there's no doubt that it certainly "hastens" the process.  That's what we are about, that is our business . . . to "hasten the work of salvation", to move our Heavenly Father's plan ahead at an unprecedented pace.

There's no doubt that this is what is going to change the Church from the inside out . . . that will strengthen the position of women in the Church . . . and change the roles of women in the Church for future generations to come . . . Women who know that it's not all about them . . . women who serve unselfishly and put the focus on others. Women who go about cultivating the Spirit in their lives, in their homes and with their families and those who surround them.

It is a wonderful time to be a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today, of that I can testify.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

We Believe in Sacrifice . . .

(This is Part II of a series of blog posts about important doctrines that missionaries teach each day . . . not only do they spend much of their time in personal and companionship study, planning and setting goals, they also are out and about for approximately 8-9 hours each day teaching and testifying of basic gospel principles.  Missionaries visit their new contacts, teach people who are investigating the church, strengthen new converts to the Church and seek out the less active members to strengthen them also.  That's a lot of responsibility for young people ages 18-25.  Part I here)

Sacrifice?  What kind of sacrifice?

Well . . . maybe not in terms of animal sacrifice, that practice ended with the death of Jesus Christ.  But now perhaps you could say . . . human sacrifice . . .

No, not in the way that you are thinking!

After the Atonement of Christ, followers of Jesus Christ, at His direction - began to offer instead a "broken heart and contrite spirit",  (3 Nephi 9:20) a willingness to repent of sins and a desire to follow Jesus Christ and align our thoughts, desires, actions and decisions with His commandments.

The prophet Joseph Smith taught . . .
(If you are not familiar with the Prophet Joseph Smith, see our previous post)

"A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things."

(Companionship study - in a group today with our office staff and assistants)

(First 12 Weeks training with newer missionaries and their trainers)

I think, as prophets always are  . . . 

Joseph Smith was a man with words wise beyond his experience.  Isn't that what inspiration and revelation are all about?

Who could have guessed the importance of this paragraph and the words continued therein, penned greater than 170 years ago.  Who could have foreseen the great and often tragic sacrifices required to bring the Church to where it is today . . .

Why should we or why would we think that the days of sacrifice are behind us?

While I'm not familiar with the doctrines of all religions, I feel confident in saying that few christian religions require their members to offer any kind of sacrifice for their belief and worship of the Savior.  However . . . we the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints  . . .

believe in sacrifice.

We believe so strongly in fact . . . that we make a sacred covenant to do so.

Why is that do you think?

What exactly does the word sacrifice imply?  According to the New Oxford American Dictionary -
  •  An offering to God
  • The act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.
The Latin origins of the word stem from "sacer" or "holy".

In a supreme example, Jesus Christ forfeited or sacrificed His life for something He considered to be of greater value, the salvation of mankind.

As individuals and members of our Church . . . why and what do we offer as sacrifice?

 (Yippee!  A real treat today with our training meeting!)

Why do we offer sacrifice unto the Lord?

In an inspired hymn we sing, "sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven".  We could just let it go at that . . . I'm sure that covers the spectrum for many.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks offers the following story of President Gordon B. Hinckley and a young student.

President Hinkcley speaking with a young man who found the restored gospel while he was studying in the United States . . . As this man was about to return to his native land, President Gordon B. Hinckley asked him what would happen to him when he returned home as a Christian. “My family will be disappointed,” the young man answered. “They may cast me out and regard me as dead. As for my future and my career, all opportunity may be foreclosed against me.”
“Are you willing to pay so great a price for the gospel?” President Hinckley asked.
Tearfully the young man answered, “It’s true, isn’t it?” When that was affirmed, he replied, “Then what else matters?”8 
We sacrifice to show obedience to the laws and commandments of our Heavenly Father.  We sacrifice to show faith and trust in Heavenly Father.  Sacrifice is an opportunity to demonstrate our faith and increase our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we remember the definition of "sacrifice", then it becomes clear that the Lord expects us to give up or exchange "something" for something else of greater worth.  If our sacrifice is based on our faith in our Savior, then that which is of greater worth is the promise of blessings from a Heavenly Father who loves all His children and desires to bless them.

So in a way it can be said . . .

Our faith determines our actions.

How much faith does it take?

And . . .

What do we offer as sacrifice unto the Lord? 

Good questions!

 . . .  Faith is not something a person either has or doesn't have.  It's not like a light bulb that's either off or on.  It's something that's measured in degrees.  Faith is not a constant value.  It is something that can multiply or diminish, expand or contract.

One of the challenges we have in our earthly life is to learn the lessons our Heavenly Father wants us to learn through earthly life.  In other words . . . we believe our purpose is to grow to become more like Him.  Only through sacrifice can we learn and grow and become more like Him.   When a church doesn't require its members to sacrifice, they are robbing them of the opportunity to demonstrate their faith and thereby grow . . . even unto perfection.

Throughout the history of the Church, members have been called upon to make great sacrifices to bring the restoration and growth of the Church to it's present state.  Many, such as the pioneers, early members and missionaries of the Church made epic sacrifices, even to the loss of life.  Today, for most followers of Christ, our sacrifices involve what we can do on a day-to-day basis in our individual lives.

We are a covenant making people!

The Church expects much from it's members . . . tithing, obedience to the word of wisdom, acting in positions of service, home and visiting teaching, missionary work, temple work.  In short, we have much opportunity to grow, to show our faith and trust in the Lord by sacrificing ourselves and all that we possess, including our own lives if necessary.  This is the covenant that we make . . . because we are a church of covenant making Saints.

And like a spinning wheel . . . the greater our faith the greater our service will be.  The greater our service and sacrifice, the greater our faith becomes.

The converse is also true, the less we sacrifice in doing these things, the less faith we show toward Him whom we profess to believe.

Like everything, faith is built a little at a time.  Our faith grows as we offer ourselves willingly to the Lord.

When much is given, much is required - 

In Luke, the widow gave only two mites, but her sacrifice was great, for she sacrificed all she had.  When much is given, much is required.  We could say that to whom God has committed much faith, of them He will ask more of a sacrifice.

I am grateful for the many examples of Christian service I have observed in my life.  Grateful for the example of others dedicating time and means to church callings, grateful for the great sacrifice of missionary service, from both young missionaries, the sacrifice of their families, and of the precious Senior Couples.  Grateful for the examples of great charity, in providing love and services to those all around, using their talents and skills to bless the life of another.

Such examples strengthen all of us.

Just as the supreme example of the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ is at the center of the plan of salvation, each of us as followers of Christ must make our own sacrifices . . . to grow, to learn to become like him.

In this way we will be able to have the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.

When we are willing to sacrifice all that we have for Him then we will receive an enjoyment of life and salvation that never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthy things.

He is the Savior, the Son of our Heavenly Father.  It is only through His atoning sacrifice that each one  of us receives the ultimate blessings of sacrifice, the gift of eternal life.

We teach and testify of these principles everyday.

 (This transfer we received three sister missionaries, one from Mexico, two from Guatemala)

(It's always pretty heart wrenching to say goodbye to our most experienced missionaries - we already miss them so!)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Who IS Joseph Smith?

(This is Part I of a series of blog posts about important doctrines that missionaries teach each day . . . not only do they spend much of their time in personal and companionship study, planning and setting goals, they also are out and about for approximately 8-9 hours each day teaching and testifying of basic gospel principles.  Missionaries visit their new contacts, teach people who are investigating the church, strengthen new converts to the Church and seek out the less active members to strengthen them also.  That's a lot of responsibility for young people ages 18-25. )

Who is Joseph Smith?

A question frequently asked of the missionaries is -

Who is Joseph Smith?

Frequently missionaries encounter some confusion by those outside of our religion, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints concerning our prophet Joseph Smith.

Some mistakenly believe that we worship the prophet Joseph Smith . . . when actually that is not the case.  He was and is a very influential and important part of the restored gospel here upon the earth.

We believe Joseph Smith was a young man called by our Heavenly Father, to be a prophet here upon the earth, and to restore the fulness of His gospel to the earth once more.

(this post illustrated with photos from our recent "First 12 Weeks Training", the arrival of new missionaries, and our recent transfer meeting, also a few scenes from our mission travels, and last but not least . . . Hna. Klein's birthday :)

(Each missionary participates with their trainers in an orientation to the 
"First 12 Weeks" program that is an inspired program that continues their studies and learning
they began in the MTC)

The Lord Reveals his Secrets to his Prophets - 

Joseph Smith lived in the United States with his family during a period of time when great religious freedom was enjoyed in the United States.  He came from a religious family who always sought the truth about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  Many ministers claimed to have the real truth, but as a young man, Joseph Smith was confused about the many conflicting doctrines surrounding him during this period of time and desired to know which church he should join.

In the Bible we read from Ephesians 4:5, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" . . . but what exactly did that mean, and after investigating many ministries of the day . . . Joseph Smith remained confused.  As he sought the for the truth he remembered the scripture passage  -

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him" - James 1:5

A Seeker of Truth - 

Having great faith in God, Joseph Smith turned to God for the answer to one of the greatest questions of his life at his young age.  In the Spring of 1820, he went to a grove of trees nearby his home in Palmyra New York and knelt in prayer to God, to seek an answer to this question that weighted upon his mind.  He described his experience with these words:

"I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me [ … ] When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other-This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" (Joseph Smith-History 1:16-17).

(orientation to the "First 12 Weeks" is taught by Pres and Hna. Klein
the Assistants and some of our Sister Training Leaders)

As described by Joseph Smith, in a vision he saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, who answered his plea saying none of the churches upon the earth contained the fulness of the gospel truths he sought, and that he should join none of them.

We believe today, that many good people believe in Christ and try to understand and teach his gospel, but they are missing the complete gospel truth established by the Savior during his ministry upon the earth, and the priesthood authority necessary to baptize and perform other sacred ordinances. Many of the precious truths and authority were lost as doctrine was passed from one generation to another making changes to and deleting gospel truths.

A Prophet of God - 

We believe as God had previously done with Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses, and other prophets, that He called Joseph Smith to be a prophet in these great and glorious days, and bring about the restoration of the complete gospel principles of His church to the earth.

Later on, after this first vision occurred, the young man Joseph Smith received visions and visits from other Heavenly messengers, or angels. Joseph's friend and associate, Oliver Cowdery was present during some of these Heavenly visits. The most significant visitors being the John, the Baptist, and Peter, James and John, three of Christ's original apostles, who all appeared to Joseph and Oliver and conferred upon them the missing and necessary Priesthood authority to organize and direct the restoration of the Church upon the earth again.  Through the prophet Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ directed the restoration of His Church and called apostles to administer The Church once again upon the earth.

Jesus Christ will Return to Earth -  

We believe and teach, as missionaries, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that the Savior, Jesus Christ will return to the earth again one day.  We believe that the day of his return will be soon.  We believe that we all are now living in the last days of the earth before the return of the Savior, or in another term . . . the Latter-days.  That is why we are called Latter-day Saints, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

(New arrivals at the airport)

(Some of our funnest days are greeting the new arrivals with our Assistants, Sister Training
leaders and much of our office staff)

The Current and Living Prophet Today - 

Even today, a living prophet directs The Church.  His name is President Thomas S. Monson, and we believe he also has been called of God, by our Heavenly Father, and also by His Son, Jesus Christ to be a living prophet, to guide and direct His Church upon the face of the earth in these Latter-days.  He and the current apostles trace their Priesthood Authority to Jesus Christ, in an unbroken chain of ordinations through the prophet Joseph Smith.

You can hear the counsel of these Latter-day Apostles and Prophets online if you would like.

There is much more to be shared about the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and you can read much more about the Prophet Joseph Smith online -

Joseph Smith - a Prophet of God
The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith
The Translation Miracle of the Book of Mormon
The Joseph Smith Papers Project

(Missionaries are starting to arrive from all parts of the mission with all their belongings
in tow, it's TRANSFER day, and they are eager to receive new companions and
discover where they will be serving next.)

Who do we Worship?

We do not worship the Prophet Joseph Smith, he was a man of great virtue who fulfilled an extraordinary calling from the Lord, although as a man he was not perfect.  He accomplished the work our Heavenly Father called him to do until his life was taken, and we honor him for his faith, courage and devotion.

(Transfer meetings are always held in the chapel, they are special reverent meetings where
we enjoy testimonies of missionaries, new converts to the church, and special musical numbers
prepared by the missionaries)

(The hardest part for us is saying "goodbye" - we are excited for families to welcome
home their much missed missionaries, but it's hard for us to let them go.  It's incredible for us
to see the change that takes place from the less confident, unsure missionaries who arrive, as they 
depart the mission as spiritual giants . . . we hope they will stay strong in their testimonies
and be good leaders and teachers in the gospel forever more!)

(Happy Birthday wishes to Hna. Klein - who is very excited for her family to arrive
to wish her happy birthday, and have an opportunity for a family visit! - Oh!  And a peek
at the mission kitty also :)

We do worship the perfect God, our Heavenly Father and his Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  

We invite all to seek more information
 - ask the missionaries
those young men and women you see walking the streets two by two.  They can help you find the truth about the restored gospel.  

Or you can find answers to many questions online -