Tag Archives: Gordon B. Hinckley

General Conference and Looking for “New Wording”

I’m really excited for General Conference. Come Saturday morning, I’ll be in my super comfy Nautica PJ’s (or maybe sporting my PhillyD monkey shirt), probably setting the oven timer for the amazing French toast casserole we make biannually at conference time.

This French toast recipe is as true as the Church.

Making this breakfast is a family affair. It’s tons of fun.

We don’t dress up for conference in our family, unlike some folks, I guess (the Trib runs pieces like this during the two times a year time it tries to be nice to the LDS Church, the weeks before the spring and fall conferences). That definitely helps me be excited.

When my wife and I were dating, though, I did have her convinced for a moment that in my house, we stayed in church clothes all Sunday long.

(I could see it in her eyes, the way she considered breaking up with me right then and there.)

The way we approach conference – more in terms of what we listen for rather than our dress or food quirks – is very important when it comes to getting the most out of it. Let me show you what I mean.

In 2005, then President Gordon B. Hinckley gave a talk entitled, simply, “Gambling.” I’ve always found the structure of this talk far more interesting than the content. Continue reading General Conference and Looking for “New Wording”

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My Thoughts on Today’s Supreme Court Review

Yesterday, you might not have known what was on the Supreme Court’s docket for today.

Today, you know.

You know because you probably have a Facebook account (1 billion of us do, as of October 2012) and your news feed was likely filled up by activists and constitutional “experts” on both sides of the argument, all commenting on news coming out of the Supreme Court.

My Anecdotal Observations of Fellow Latter-day Saints

I’ve written before on the subject of so-called same sex marriage, but I feel like I can contribute to the conversation in one way tonight. I’d like to talk about some of my observations of the LDS community. Certainly I don’t have a good view of all Latter-day Saints, so my observations will be little more than anecdotal. Still, that doesn’t make them invalid. I, at least, think that they’ll be worth considering.

A Diverse Body with An Important Foundation 

We Latter-day Saints are a fairly diverse group of people. You might not think it, getting pop culture hints from “The Book of Mormon” musical and Big Love, but Latter-day Saints are a 14 million member strong group who live all over the earth and have varied levels of activity and belief, and a wide range of personalities, opinions, and mannerisms.

I’ve mused before about what, among such a diverse group of individuals, unites us, and you can read that post for those thoughts. Since then, Elder Robert D. Hales spoke in General Conference about “Being a More Christian Christian”. His criteria for what it means to be Christian (and I think “Christian” here is interchangeable with “Mormon” or “Latter-day Saint”, as will be clear in a moment) is also a fine study about what should be the same among Latter-day Saints. A Latter-day Saint is:

    • Someone who follows the gospel pattern of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (paragraphs 2 – 4).
    • Someone who believes that God has followed a pattern of calling prophets to teach His children, and that this pattern has continued in our day with Joseph Smith and his successors (paragraph 5).
    • Someone who believes in the Godhead as taught in the scriptures and by modern prophets. This belief regarding the nature of God is at odds with Trinitarian theology (paragraph 6).

There is quite a bit in there that mainstream Christianity would find objectionable, but that should suggest to us that when Elder Hales asks, “With these doctrines as the foundations of our faith, can there be any doubt or disputation that we (Latter-day Saints) are Christian?”, he’s not comparing Latter-day Saints to modern, mainstream, creedal Christianity as much as he’s comparing Latter-day Saints to biblical Christianity.

But that’s a talk for another day and another post.

The point is that Elder Hales highlights a belief in the principle of prophets and a testimony that the leaders of the Mormon Church are the modern-day equivalents of  Peter, Moses, or Paul. That’s not an idle statement to make or believe in. Paul wrote to new church members of his day,

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:19-20).

Distance from Modern Prophets

Whether or not you’re familiar with the LDS position on the issue of so-called same-sex marriage, consider these posts from some of my Latter-day Saint Facebook friends:

“Hopefully today is the first step towards increasing equality in our nation.”

“Real equality would be government that is not in charge of marriage.”

“taking agency away from a group of people is what satan (sic) wants…..”

And many of them posted graphics, like these:

Posts like these really confuse me. They confuse me because, for example, the leadership of our Church said just today:

Today the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments regarding the definition of marriage in this country.

We firmly support the divinely appointed definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman because it is the single most important institution for strengthening children, families, and society.

We hope the court will agree, and we look forward to the decision on this important matter.

That’s not even the least of all they’ve said, but it suffices for this post. It’s not difficult for the sincere student to learn more about the LDS position (try here, at Mormons and Gays, which then links to other legitimate sources at the bottom of the page). This position is in direct conflict with many of the sentiments and graphics above.

Something seems off….

A Story with a Moral – Faithful Obedience

I’m reminded of the story of Martin Harris and the lost 116 pages. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, here is a refresher.

Joseph Smith began translating the Book of Mormon plates in the late 1820s. He had a scant education, and enlisted the help of Martin Harris, a local of Palmyra, New York, to act as scribe. Harris’ help was invaluable – not only was Harris a respected member of the community, but he also gave significant resources to help finance the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon.

By the middle of 1828, Joseph had dictated 116 pages to Harris. Unfortunately, Harris’ relationship with his wife was tenuous at the time. Additionally, she was suspicious of Joseph, and opposed to the resources her husband was devoting to Joseph’s cause. Harris asked Joseph if he could take the manuscript home to show his wife. He thought this would help encourage her support and help heal some of their strained relationship.

Joseph asked the Lord if Harris could take the manuscript. The Lord refused. Still, Harris pressured Joseph to ask a second time. Again, the Lord refused. Harris pressured Joseph once more, and the Lord agreed to let him take the manuscript as long as he showed it to only a few specified family members.

Tragically, Harris lost the 116 pages of the manuscript. They were never recovered, and Joseph was commanded not to re-translate those pages (the thieves who had stolen them had changed the words so that, were Joseph to re-translate, the two versions would not agree – see Doctrine and Covenants 10).

The Lord, with his omniscient foresight, had prepared for this loss. He told Nephi, one of the primary authors of the Book of Mormon, to make two sets of records covering the same time period.

And the reason for making two sets of records? Nephi didn’t have a clue. He tells us,

“Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.

“But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men” (see 1 Nephi 9).

Mormon, who almost 1,000 years later would be inspired to include Nephi’s record in concert with his abridgment, would write,

“And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will” (see Words of Mormon 1:3-7).

Joseph continued to translate, but from this additional record instead of the material he’d previously translated. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said,

“We got back more than we lost. And it was known from the beginning that it would be so.”

For more on that story, you can also read my post, “God’s Divine Backup Plan”.

Some Principles to Follow

Often when we hear this story, we focus on Martin Harris and Joseph Smith. There’s nothing wrong with this – there’s an important lesson to be learned from them. But I’d like to focus on two different individuals. I’d like to focus on Nephi and Mormon, and particularly Nephi.

Nephi, as we saw, was commanded to make a second record detailing the same period he’d just covered. Keep in mind that this is an age before copy-and-paste, before xerox, before the printing press. Nephi was making records on metal plates while traveling as a nomad through uninhabited Arabia and (likely) South America. That would have been extremely arduous and tedious. Yet he did it.

Nephi did this, all without (as far as we know) ever knowing why. He never received any indication of what the Lord’s “wise purpose” was, what fruit would be born from his laborious seed planting. Not even Mormon, who spent his life protecting and abridging these records, ever knew the end from the beginning in regards to these records. Yet they obeyed. And because they obeyed, we have the Book of Mormon today, complete with the powerful testimony of early Nephite prophets.

What’s the connection for Latter-day Saints to same-sex marriage?

In 1995, then president Gordon B. Hinckley presented “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. It highlighted the vital family values that our Church stands for, and called for members and citizens to support measures aimed at upholding the traditional family unit. This proclamation reads, in part,

“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children….

“We warn that… the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

When Prop 8 was prepared as a ballot measure, the First Presidency, led by current president Thomas S. Monson, sent a letter to California congregations. It encouraged Latter-day Saints to do all that they could to support the measure. It read,

“Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families:

“In March 2000 California voters overwhelmingly approved a state law providing that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The California Supreme Court recently reversed this vote of the people. On November 4, 2008, Californians will vote on a proposed amendment to the California state constitution that will now restore the March 2000 definition of marriage approved by the voters.

“The Church’s teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage.

“A broad-based coalition of churches and other organizations placed the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Church will participate with this coalition in seeking its passage. Local Church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause.

We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.

Regardless of the other issues at work here – and make no mistake, this is a highly complex and controversial issue – the Church leaders have been very clear about what is expected of faithful Latter-day Saints. After that, the decision is ours to decide which way we face.

The choice is, of course, ours to make. But let’s make no mistake about what’s happening when we follow personal whims, lean on political correctness, or disregard prophetic counsel. Perhaps President Brigham Young said it best:

“You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God, and sink yourselves to hell.”

Stand with the prophets, even if you don’t understand why. You may never understand – we learn that much from Nephi and Mormon – but you can have faith that the Lord knows what he’s doing.

Money and the Mormon Church

Opposition to the LDS Church can be pretty virulent at times. Considering that, if financial criticism had any merit, it would have gained traction long ago. As it is, people have to stick to 200 year old stories of polygamist kidnappings or gold-digging prophets.

But that doesn’t stop people from digging into Church financials every now and then. Recently, this role was played (just as poorly as it has already been played) by Caroline Winter. The response to her article is the same as President Gordon B. Hinckley’s response to a 1997 Time article. He said,

“The money the Church receives from faithful members is consecrated. It is the Lord’s purse. Our Church facilities are money consuming and not money producing. We are not a financial institution. We are The Church of Jesus Christ. The funds for which we are responsible involve a sacred trust to be handled with absolute honesty and integrity, and with great prudence as the dedicated consecrations of the people.

“We feel a tremendous responsibility to you who make these contributions. We feel an even greater responsibility to the Lord whose money this is.”

Winter’s article may have garnered her some attention, but it will only be remembered as another failed attempt to discredit a spiritual institution that exercises an exactly honorable stewardship when it comes to finances.

For more, see the LDS Church response to the article, or this article about the criticism Businessweek and Winter are facing.

The Principles Behind My Prop 8 Support

Yesterday, an appeals court upheld Judge Walker’s decision declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional. This has caused both disappointment and celebration, depending on what side of the line you find yourself. My Facebook wall, perhaps like yours, was filled with a lot of both.

One Facebook friend of mine wrote,

“This is a very bad day for religious fanatics who want to legislate their hate.”

Another, himself a member of the LDS Church, wrote,

“We as a people are witnessing a terrible obesity rate, devastating unemployment, a never-before-seen national deficit, low education scores and somehow we are worried about dictating who can and cannot get married via Prop 8? Unless you are Jesus or Muhammad, don’t worry about it. Live and let live, or move to North Korea.”

I find such comments disappointing. This is not such a simple issue, and these straw man arguments leave far too much out. What’s more, this damning and demeaning rhetoric deliberately muddies the waters of understanding (“fanatics”? “North Korea”? “Hate”? Please). I would expect more of those who find “ignorance” so appalling.

I have thought carefully about this issue. Through this process, I myself have felt anxiety, angst, and discouragement from within; and I have encountered hate, prejudice, and aggression in practically every social circle to which I belong from without.

I have not come to a decision lightly, nor have I blindly followed the whims of my Church or political party. Despite what some may think, this was for me a cognitively active process. I have written on the subject, and I’ve even read the court decisions (who among you can say the same?).

What are the ultimate principles behind my decision?

Prophets on the Watchtower

In the song “I Believe” from the musical “The Book of Mormon”, Elder Price sings,

“And I believe that the current president of the Church, Thomas Monson, speaks directly to God.”

One of the purposes of the song was to present beliefs of the LDS Church that are outlandish. Yet this belief is absolutely central to the Church and its’ teachings. There are few principles more important, and more unique, than the belief that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by a man who speaks directly with God.

Why is this so important?

The Lord tells the parable,

“A certain nobleman had a spot of land, very choice; and he said unto his servants: Go ye unto my vineyard, even upon this very choice piece of land, and plant twelve olive trees;

“And set watchmen round about them, and build a tower, that one may overlook the land round about, to be a watchman upon the tower, that mine olive trees may not be broken down when the enemy shall come to spoil and take upon themselves the fruit of my vineyard….

“And behold, the watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; and then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:44-45, 54).

You can watch a four minute video, “Watchman on the Tower”, below.

A story from Nephite history illustrates this principle. During a time when they were engaged in war with the Lamanites, the Nephite commander ordered that Nephite cities be fortified (Alma 50:1-6; see also Alma 53:3-4). In order to fortify their cities, they:

  • Dug heaps of earth
  • Built timbers on the ridges of earth
  • Built pickets on the timbers
  • Built towers to overlook the pickets
  • Put men in the towers

Those in the towers were able to see far into the horizon, warn their comrades in the event of an oncoming attack, and then direct the response to that attack. The rest of the men could then ready themselves for an enemy strike.

Do you have trouble seeing what is wrong with same-sex marriage? Perhaps. But, then again, you’re not in the tower. You’re in a ditch. Of course you can’t see the same things that the man in the tower can see.

What is it about the prophet that gives him vision? Why is he so special? Why can’t we each be our own “watchman”?

I’ve written about this subject in my post “Of Paradigms and Prophets”, and I suggest you read that in its’ entirety. Briefly, though, it is impossible to keep from, consciously or unconsciously, filtering out truth from reality around us. We each create paradigms – simplified and incomplete versions of reality that we use like maps – in order to help us process information faster and navigate our world better.

How can we know that some truth we’ve excluded is not an essential part of our paradigm map? In short, we can’t. That’s why a prophet is so important. He can teach us which elements we need in our paradigms, and which elements we don’t.

Why is the prophet the best source for this “map check”? It’s not because he inherently knows more than anyone else. He is imperfect, just like the rest of us. And yet he “talks directly to God”, and God (the only being who’s paradigm is equal with reality) teaches him what to, in turn, teach us.

Prophetic Council on the Family and Prop 8

In 1995, then president Gordon B. Hinckley presented “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. It highlighted the vital family values that our Church stands for, and called for members and citizens to support measures aimed at upholding the traditional family unit. This proclamation reads, in part,

“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children….

“We warn that… the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

When Prop 8 was prepared as a ballot measure, the First Presidency, led by current president Thomas S. Monson, sent a letter to California congregations. It encouraged Latter-day Saints to do all that they could to support the measure. It read,

“Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families:

“In March 2000 California voters overwhelmingly approved a state law providing that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The California Supreme Court recently reversed this vote of the people. On November 4, 2008, Californians will vote on a proposed amendment to the California state constitution that will now restore the March 2000 definition of marriage approved by the voters.

“The Church’s teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage.

“A broad-based coalition of churches and other organizations placed the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Church will participate with this coalition in seeking its passage. Local Church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause.

“We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.”

Because “I believe that the current president of the Church, Thomas Monson, speaks directly to God,” I follow his divinely inspired direction. I make this active choice based on my faith in this principle.

In my Facebook friend’s own words, I believe Jesus has worried about this, and he has directed his prophet to teach his Church what to do about it.

The “Hikers” on the Path to the Tree of Life

Not all Latter-day Saints agree with this position. Those that don’t, like my friend above, remind me of the vision of the Tree of Life.

An account of this vision is found in 1 Nephi 8. In the vision, countless men and women are making their way on the straight and narrow path towards the Tree of Life. We learn that the Tree is a representation of the love of God, and our journey along the path is a representation of our journey through life.

Though the goal of most travelers is the Tree of Life, there are a number of “hindrances”  make their journey difficult. One of these obstacles is a dense mist that makes it impossible to see the path. This mist is a representation of the temptations of the devil. In order to find their way, travelers need hold fast to an iron rod which follows the path. This iron rod is a representation of the word of God.

Another of these obstacles is a great and spacious building. It is across a river, and overlooks the path on which the hikers travel. This building, a representation of the wisdom and pride of the world, is filled with people pointing at and mocking those on the path.

If you read the entire account (which I hope you do), you eventually find four types hikers. I’d like to focus on just two.

The first group of hikers follows the path. They cling to the iron rod to avoid losing their way in the mists of darkness, and eventually come to the Tree and partake of the fruit. It feels their souls with joy, and is sweet above all that is sweet.

The second group of hikers is similar to the first. They also cling to the iron rod, and they also come to the Tree and partake of the fruit. Yet after the have partaken of the fruit, they feel ashamed. The taunts of those in the great and spacious building make them feel embarrassed, and they eventually leave the Tree. Some join those in the building, and others drown in the river as they attempt to cross it on their way to the building.

What is the difference between the first group and the second group? They both persevere through their journey, they both taste the fruit, and they both hear the taunts of those mocking from the great and spacious building. Yet the members of the first group give no heed to the taunts.

Latter-day Saints who disregard the teachings of the president and other leaders of the Church are like the second group of hikers. Though they have personally tasted of the fruit of the Tree of Life, they lose focus and give heed to the wisdom of the world. Even if they make it to the great and spacious building, the end of that hindrance is clear – it falls, and great is the fall thereof.

Latter-day Saints and Proposition 8

Even though the principle of prophetic leadership is paramount in the rationale behind my choice, it is not the only factor. Instead of assaulting us as “religious fanatics,” become informed. It seems an appropriate duty of those who decry ignorance to not remain in ignorance themselves.

Keep in mind, becoming informed does not mean that you must agree with everything you learn. Still, it is important that you at least understand, whether or not you agree.

I’ve made it easier by providing hyperlinks below to resources you can use to lift yourselves out of ignorance. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, the author of many articles below, is especially suited to comment, as he has spent most of his life as an attorney, jurist, and legal professor.

Why not write on, or summarize this myself? First, it won’t stick unless you pay some price to learn the material. I’m not going to spoon feed you. And second, in the words of C. S. Lewis, “I got the impression that far more, and more talented, authors were already engaged in such controversial matters.” Elder Oaks, for example, is one of those more talented authors, and I commend his comments to you.

Same-Sex Attraction

  • Same-Gender Attraction – An interview with Church leaders Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman on same-gender attraction

Religious Freedom

  • Elder Oaks at BYU-Idaho – A speech given to students at BYU-I about the importance of religious freedom, and how Latter-day Saints should act in regard to Prop 8.
  • Elder Oaks at Chapman University School of Law – A speech given at Chapman University about how essential religious freedom is to our nation (you can watch a video of his address below)

Official Church Statements

Hello – Religious Mysteries, and Living the Good Life

See all the posts in this series, or go back to “Hello”.

Changing Your Life
“You simply won’t believe how much this book can change your life.”

A number of years ago, a friend of mine was teaching a lesson about gospel mysteries. He began his comments by reading a little scripture in Alma. The scripture quotes Ammon, a Book of Mormon missionary, as he teaches,

“He that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God (see Alma 26:22).

He told us that his first reaction was to think that these “mysteries of God” referred to the really deep questions – the kind of goofy conjecture that often takes a class or congregation off topic in an otherwise calm Sunday school class or fast and testimony meeting (you know the kind I’m talking about). After thinking about it, though, he realized that these aren’t really the mysteries that Ammon is talking about.

To most people, where they come from – really come from – is a total mystery. To most people, how to make choices that lead to true happiness – not just fleeting satisfaction – is a total mystery.

Living with these kinds of questions is tough. Living with the consequences of bad choices made on imperfect information is tough.

One of my favorite promises from within the Book of Mormon comes not from the original text itself, but from an introduction that was added after the book was translated. We’re told that the Book of Mormon

“puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come” (Introduction; emphasis added).

The gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t about minding your vices so that, in the final balance where your life’s actions are accounted for, the scales are tipped towards “good.” It’s about making your life here – the one you’re living right now – sweeter and more fulfilling.

The Book of Mormon, precisely because it contains the doctrines of the gospel, truly can change your life for the better.

Joseph Smith said that

“a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

Gordon B. Hinckley said,

“Those who have read (The Book of Mormon) prayerfully, be they rich or poor, learned or unlearned, have grown under its power…. Without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read The Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts… the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.”

Those are quite the assertions.

Now, it’s a big book, and you might find the idea of just jumping straight in to be intimidating. Consider as a starting point these questions:

The Book of Mormon contains answers to many other “questions of the soul.” If you’re interested in a copy of the Book of Mormon, visit mormon.org and request a copy.

“The Book of Mormon” Musical – Hello

For a list of all the posts in this series, see here.

Background

The show opens at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah. Elder Kevin Price is leading other missionaries in a role-play of what LDS missionaries call “tracting” – preaching door to door.

Full Lyrics – “Hello”

Hello.
My name is Elder Price.
And I would like to share with you the most amazing book.

Hello.
My name is Elder Grant.
It’s a book about America a long, long time ago.

It has so many awesome parts.
You simply won’t believe how much this book can change your life.

Hello.
My name is Elder Green.
I would like to share with you this book of Jesus Christ.

Hello.
My name is Elder Young (Hello).
Did you know that Jesus lived here in the USA?

You can read all about it now (Hello) in this nifty book .
It’s free. No, you don’t have to pay (Hello).

Hello.
My name is Elder Smith.
And can I leave this book with you for you to just peruse? (Hello)

Hello (Hello).
I’ll just leave it here.
It has a lot of information you can really use. 

Hello (Hi).
My name is  (Jesus Christ).
You have a lovely home (Hello). It’s an amazing book.

Bonjour (Hola. Ni hao).
Me llamo Elder White (Are these your kids?).
This book gives you the secret to eternal life (Sound good?).

Eternal life (Jesus Christ).
Is super fun (Hello. Ding dong).
And if you let us in we’ll show you how it can be done (No thanks?).

You sure? (Oh well) That’s fine (Goodbye).
Have fun in hell (Hey now).
You simply won’t believe how much this book will change your life.

Elder Cunningham: Hello. Would you like to change religions? I have a free book written by Jesus.

Mission President: No, no, Elder Cunningham, that’s not how we do it! You’re making things up again. Just stick to the approved dialogue. Elders, show him.

Hello (Hello).
My name is (Elder Cunningham).
And we would like to share with you this book of Jesus Christ.

Hello. Hello. Ding dong. Hi ho.
Just take this book. It’s free. For you. From me. You see.

You simply won’t believe how much this book will change your life.
So you won’t burn in…

Hello.
You’re gonna die someday.
But if you read this book you’ll see that there’s another way.

Spend eternity with friends and family.
We can fully guarantee you that this book will change your life.

The Book of Mormon. 

Hello!

Mormons and the Cross

Use of the cross among Latter-day Saints is rare, both in personal jewelry and in the decoration of church buildings. Why don’t Mormons use the symbol of the cross today? Paul says that that those who think preaching the cross is foolishness are those that perish (1 Corinthians 1:18). How can Mormons believe in Christ without believing in the cross?

A Declaration of the Living Christ

It is true that the LDS Church does not use the symbol of the cross any longer (see the appendix for commentary on this).  Responding to a question about the lack of crosses in a temple, Gordon B. Hinckley said,

For us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the Living Christ… The lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship” (The Symbol of Our Faith).

In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, it says,

[Members of the LDS Church], like the earliest Christians, are reluctant to display the cross because they view the “good news” of the gospel as Christ’s resurrection more than his crucifixion… No one symbol is sufficient to convey all [that took place in the Savior’s life]. Moreover, the cross, with its focus on the death of Christ, does not symbolize the message of a living, risen, exalted Lord who changes the lives of his followers.

But does this lack of crosses make Latter-day Saints unchristian? Of course not. We believe it is important to remember the sacrifice of the Redeemer, for many reasons (for example, see Licked by the Fog). President Hinckley continues,

No member of this Church must ever forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer, who gave His life that all men might live—the agony of Gethsemane, the bitter mockery of His trial, the vicious crown of thorns tearing at His flesh, the blood cry of the mob before Pilate, the lonely burden of His heavy walk along the way to Calvary, the terrifying pain as great nails pierced His hands and feet, the fevered torture of His body as He hung that tragic day, the Son of God crying out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)... We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave Himself, a vicarious sacrifice for each of us” (The Symbol of Our Faith).

Remembering the Atonement

How is the Atonement and sacrifice of Christ remembered in the worship of Latter-day Saints if they do not use the cross? The Atonement is symbolized and memorialized in baptism (Romans 6:3-6), in the weekly ordinance of the Sacrament (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77, 79), in temple ordinances, and in hymns and testimonies.

What’s more, these ordinances and teachings help members to remember the purpose for which the Atonement was accomplished. The purpose, Lehi tells us, is to

“To answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit… 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” (2 Nephi 2:7-8).

The symbolism in these teachings and ordinances could be compared to the symbolism in various crosses found in different sects of Christianity: in Catholicism the crucifix (the cross with the dead Christ hanging on it) symbolizes the crucifixion of Christ and invites meditation on the Atonement; the plain cross used by Protestants symbolizes not only the crucifixion but also the resurrection of Christ, for the cross is empty; in the Eastern Orthodox crucifix, Christ hangs on the cross, but as the living Lord, his head not bowed in death but raised in triumph, thus the crucifixion, the Atonement, the resurrection, and the Lordship of Christ are all graphically presented (Encyclopedia of Mormonism). Each of these symbols has a particular purpose, a meaning which it emphasizes, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chooses the above mentioned ordinances and teachings for the meanings they emphasize.

The “Gospel”

The Atonement and suffering on the cross is a vital part of what Latter-day Saints consider “the gospel”. In the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith outlines what Latter-day Saints consider the gospel:

“And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us— That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleans it from all unrighteousness; That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:40-42; see also 3 Nephi 27:13-21 for greater detail).

This is the same message Paul preached.  He said that he was not sent to baptize, but to “preach the gospel,” including the cross, “sav[ing] them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:17-18, 21).