Good morning family and friends! This is not a political rant nor is it the intent to turn it into one. However, I awoke this morning with these thoughts on my mind and felt impressed to share them with all of you.
With all of the hatred, tumult, and confusion that exists in our nation, nay our world, at this daunting hour, there remains one important fact that so many people seem to have forgotten or overlooked. That is that God Almighty is still on the throne and in total control. He did not relinquish His power or authority to any individual or group of persons on Inauguration Day or any day for that matter. He is still God Almighty – the Lord God Jehovah.
He is the Alpha and the Omega. That is to say, He is the First and the Last – the Beginning and the End. In Hebrew, He is the Aleph and the Tau. He was from the beginning, and He will be in the end. He wrote the beginning chapters of this story, and only He knows what the ending chapters of this story will say. He spoke all things into existence. Therefore He alone knows the end to all things. He is the Author and the Finisher.
When all is said and done, it will not matter who I voted for, who you voted for, or if there were those who did not vote at all. Lest we forget, those who have human authority over us have only been dealt the measure of authority and power that God will allow them to have and not one thimble full more. Lest we forget, they, like you and I are mortals. And like you and I, they will one day stand before the Eternal Judge and give an account.
Therefore, as for me and my house, we are not going to use what precious time we have to worry and fret about the things that are happening at this moment. Why? Because we are leaning on the Everlasting Arms – Jesus Christ – and not the arms of flesh.
No President, Vice President, nor even the Supreme Court justices or any other elected officials of the land will have the final say. The Lord God Almighty and He alone will have the LAST word. And as long as I have my complete trust, confidence, and faith in Him, I know that everything is going to be alright. Amen!
He who dares to dream is an adventurous soul who yearns to explore the unknown to unearth treasures that will prove of immense worth to him. Through his diligence and perseverance, what once seemed an impossibility, becomes a reality.
He who dares to dream keeps hope alive by never giving up or giving in, even when faced by naysayers who believe his dreams are futile and foolish. His glowing embers of hope never die out because his astute determination to press on keeps them ever glowing brightly.
He who dares to dream is never satisfied with the mediocrity of life, but rather he reaches for heights unknown. Defeatism is not a part of his daily vocabulary. But rather, he views each obstacle in his path as mere stepping-stones in helping him to see his dreams come to full fruition, and his watch word of the day is “Victory!”
Humble Thoughts Concerning the Second Coming and the End of the World
With all the chaos and confusion that is happening in our world today, it is of little wonder that so many people are asking the same questions that the disciples asked of the Master centuries ago, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). The Master’s response to them still applies to us during these often turbulent, confused, and chaotic times:
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:4-14)
There are many good hearten people, including some Christians, who are anxiously anticipating the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, even to the point of making futile attempts at guessing the day and the hour when He shall appear. However, scriptures emphatically teach us:
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Mathew 24:36-39)
Scriptures also remind us, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. . . .Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2,6)
While there are some people who put their trust in chariots, and some who put their trust in horses, I will continue to remember the name of the Lord our God (See Psalm 20:7) and strive to endure to the end.
Therefore, I will no more put my confidence and trust in the speculations of man about the Second Coming of Christ than I will in those who purport that the four “blood moons” signal the end of the world. Instead of being overly concerned and feeding into much of the frenzy of the false and nonsensical teachings about the Second Coming and the end of the age, I choose to make sure that my house is in order, and that I am ready to meet the Savior at any day, at any moment or hour of the day. I choose to keep my lamp filled with oil to be ready when the Bridegroom comes.
Instead of heeding the vain teachings and babbling of men, we would be wise to follow the teachings of the Master Himself as in the “Parable of the Ten Virgins:”
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. (Matthew 25:1-14)
O be wise; what can I say more? (Jacob 6:12, Book of Mormon)
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, emphasis added)
As I come across news in social media venues about what is taking place in our world today, I become even more convinced that the handwriting is clearly on the wall. The world as we once knew it is rapidly coming to an end. I am not preaching a doom and gloom message, but the signs are right before our eyes.
In 1987, the band R.E.M released a song called “It’s the End of the World.” The starting lyrics of that song are as follows, “It’s the end of the world as we know it . It’s the end of the world as we know it. It’s the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine.” The sad commentary is that there are too many people, including good hearten Christians, who are looking at the world situation and are beginning to sing along with the lyrics of R.E.M.’s song. There are too many people who have decided to sit quietly by and do and say absolutely nothing with the attitude of “Que Sera, Sera” (Whatever will be, will be). In that same vein, there are others who have adopted the philosophy of life which states, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Unfortunately, because they have decided to live “La Vida Loca” (The Crazy Life) and follow the philosophies and ideologies of men, they have turned a deaf ear to truth, and a blind eye to the reality that “tomorrow” may come sooner than they expect. When it does come, they may well discover that maybe life was not just one big party after another after all.
The Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriages in all 50 states did more than just grant the LGBT community new-found freedom. It opened the doors for many other interested groups to begin to cry out for their “rights” and “freedoms,” while in the same breath decrying the guaranteed rights and freedoms of others. The ruling did not necessarily re-calibrate the scales of justice in the interest of all concerned, but rather the needle of the scales still points off-center in favor of whichever group believes that their “rights” and “freedoms” are justly protected, and oftentimes that particular group shuns the rights and freedoms of others.
We will have to agree to disagree, if that be the case, but same-sex relations and marriages are no more an accepted societal norm than pedophilia, incest, bestiality, nudity, any type of open sex acts, or anything of that ilk. Yet, at the same time, we must realize that the gates have now been swung wide open to invite anybody and everybody who feels that their “rights” and “freedoms”are violated to “rush to justice” to plead their case for the same.
How can any court of the land, let alone the Supreme Court, say that same-sex marriages are legal, but yet a mother cannot marry her own daughter, a father cannot marry his own daughter, a mother cannot marry her own son, or a father cannot marry his own son? Would that not be considered discriminatory? Do they not also have “rights” and should they not have the “freedom” to express those “rights’? For the record, an article appeared in the media, as early as January 2015, about an 18-year-old girl who has dated her father for two years, and has plans to marry him and have children by him. Their plan is to get married and then move to New Jersey where adult incest is supposedly legal. Add to all of this confusion, that pedophiles are also diligently seeking their “rights” to have sex with underage children because they argue that “An adult’s desire to have sex with children is “normative.” Their biggest rallying cry is to lower the age of consent to at least 14 years of age. (See this article also).
It is quite obvious to me that our world is spinning rapidly out of control. What was once considered acceptable and the norm in society, is now frowned upon as being ludicrous and nonsensical, and that which once seared the conscience, or that society labeled as being abnormal, is now being considered the new normality for society. The sad commentary is that many good hearten “Christians” are also climbing aboard the first bandwagon that rolls down their streets without question or reservation. Even some “pastors” have left teaching sound doctrine because they have had their ears tickled by the vain voices of men and thus have decided to join the ranks of those whose philosophy is, “If it feels good, just do it!” Yes, without a doubt, the handwriting is on the proverbial wall, and our world is on a course of certain destruction. “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin!”
Research and studies show that teens who are active in their religions – in particular, Mormon teens – are less prone to get in trouble, because they live their lives according to gospel principles, which help them to avoid the snares of worldly temptations. As a result, they are also more likely to live healthier, happier lives.
Mormon Teens are Living Testimonies of Their Faith
In the Oxford book Soul Searching, and its follow-up volume Souls in Transition, sociologist Christian Smith, based on his research about the religious behavior and attitudes of American teenagers, revealed that “although American youth profess belief at a high level (in God, the afterlife, and the Bible), their level of religious practice does not typically match what they say they believe.” Using that research as a foundation, Princeton Theological Seminary professor Kenda Creasy Dean, one of the researchers in the National Study of Youth and Religion, drew some interesting conclusions. In the book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church, Dean shares the following observations:
If teenagers don’t have a firm grasp of core Christian doctrines and instead worship at what she calls “the Church of Benign Whatever-ism” — or don’t worship at all — it’s because youth pastors and other leaders have watered down the message, she claims. Teenagers in Protestant churches get the idea that they’re supposed to feel good about themselves, but that little is expected of them; Christianity is designed to make them “nice,” but it’s not supposed to form them as disciples. . . .The problem [is] that Protestant teens are being taught a brand of Christianity that is a mile wide and an inch deep.
In the chapter in the book titled “Mormon Envy,” Dean, who admits that she has deep theological disagreements with Mormonism, cites the religious group as one that is doing right by its teenagers. She states,
From a sociological perspective, Mormonism is succeeding in creating young adults who firmly understand what they believe and why their faith needs to have a claim on their behavior. She says that Mormonism is giving teens the four things they need in order to have a growing adult faith: 1) they are sufficiently catechized in beliefs by their own parents and by a spiritual community that expresses consistent expectations, 2) they acquire a personal testimony, 3) they have concrete religious goals and a sense of vocation, and 4) they have hope for the future.
In short, Mormon teens are taught from the early days of their youth that their faith is not just a Sunday religion, but rather they are to be living testimonies to the world as they strive to walk in the footsteps of the Great Exemplar, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are reminded of the Apostle Paul’s counsel to his young son in the gospel, Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). They are further admonished from the scriptures:
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
Religious Teens: The Evidence of Their Faith
Corrie Ten Boom, the author of The Hiding Place is quoted as having said, “Faith is like a radar that sees through the fog.” In the vernacular of today’s teens, faith is that guiding light that helps them to navigate safely through the dense fog of obscurity caused by the temptations of the world. Their faith is evidenced as they learn to stand in holy places and not be moved (see Doctrine and Covenants 87:8). Daily prayer and scripture study help to fortify their faith as they are reminded to “be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
A recent study from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which represented over 14,000 American youth, revealed that religious youth with intact families are less likely to:
- get into fights
- use hard drugs
- have ever committed a theft of $50 or more
- have ever shoplifted
- have ever run away
- have ever been drunk
- have been expelled or suspended from school
- engage in physical intimacy
Additionally, the study indicated that religious teens also have higher GPAs in high school.
Another study indicated that teens who put the religious principles that they are taught into practice will:
- achieve a higher level of marital happiness and stability
- develop greater educational aspirations
- contribute more generously to their community
- live longer and healthier lives
- display higher levels of self-control and self esteem
All of this is not meant to convey the idea that teens who govern their lives by religious principles will necessarily go through life on a bed of roses, but rather when the thorns from the rose bushes begin to prick them from time to time, they will be better equipped to cope with the pain. As someone has wisely stated, “Faith makes things possible, not easy.”
What Sets Latter-day Saint Teens Apart from Teens in Main Stream Protestantism?
In her book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church, Princeton Theological Seminary professor Kenda Creasy Dean asserts:
In Mormonism, there’s a great emphasis on personal testimony. More than half of LDS teens (53%) reported giving a talk or presentation in church in the last six months, compared to one in seven Southern Baptist youths and one in twenty-five Catholics. Mormon teens also exercise leadership, which Dean says is a crucial part of faith formation; 48% reported attending a church meeting where they were called upon to make a decision that would be binding on a group. These practices aren’t just window dressing, according to Dean; they pave the way for other crucial faith-forming events, such as missionary service.
In Mormonism, children prepare for missions and the temple; start fasting with the community every month at age eight; are expected to pay tithing just like adults; give up time on weekends to clean the church building and do service projects; and actually track these things in personal progress journals. They work toward Eagle Scout status or being a Young Woman of Excellence.
In Mormonism, Dean says, teens talk confidently about the purpose of this life (which they understand as being tested and growing spiritually so they might return to their Heavenly Parents after death). In Protestantism, she says, there has been an erosion of eschatological hope.
It is interesting to note that the studies and research that have been conducted emphasize the fact that while many religious youth are devoted to their faith, they are uneducated in their doctrine, and therefore, they have no knowledge or understanding of what they believe. Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, are taught the principles and doctrines of their faith from an early age, and as they mature in their faith, their testimony of what they believe is strengthened, thus enabling them to confidently explain their doctrine. That Mormon youth have milestone ordinances and responsibilities to attain to leads them on along a marked path to gospel fluency and commitment.
The National Study of Youth and Religion points out “Mormon youth were off the charts in terms of their articulacy and understanding of their faith.” In his article “Why Mormons Do a Better Youth Ministry than We Do,” Greg Stier from christianpost.com explains, “Mormonism pushes their kids harder and takes them deeper and farther than even the most ardent of evangelical youth ministries would ever dare.” He continues, ““Mormons expect a lot out of their teenagers. We don’t. Mormons ordain their young men into the ministry at the age of twelve. We don’t. Mormons require their teens to attend seminary every day of high school. We don’t. Maybe that’s why Mormons give more, work harder and are exploding as a religion.”
What Can Parents Do to Help Their Youth Remain Strong and Grow in the Faith?
President Harold B. Lee taught, “”The most important . . . work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes.” Therefore, parents have an awesome responsibility to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They are to “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). They can best do this by:
- being a good example for their children to follow
- holding regular family home evening, family prayer, and scripture study
- teaching practical applications of gospel principles
- providing settings for potential spiritual experiences
- encouraging children to come to know for themselves
Youth today face many challenges and temptations from the effects of peer pressure to the influence of social media. In order to live happy, healthy, productive, and successful lives, they must remain true to their faith, and adhere to the religious principles that they have been taught as they journey through life.
Some people may refer to it as the Mormon Church, however, the official name of the Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a testimony in and of itself that it is the Lord’s Church and its members worship and revere Him as Savior and Lord. It is a worldwide Church consisted of many diverse cultures, nationalities, backgrounds, languages, and dialects. Nevertheless, no matter where a person travels in the world, he or she will find that the Church is the same. Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon are used in teaching the gospel, as well as in personal study. Latter-day Saints believe and testify that both are the Word of God. By their fruits ye shall know them, and so everyone is also welcome to visit the weekly services and learn for themselves what Latter-day Saints believe and teach. Members of the Church are ordinary people who strive to emulate the Savior in their daily lives through compassion, charity, and service, realizing that we are all God’s children, and so we are all brothers and sisters.
From time to time I pause to reflect upon the events that have taken place as this pilgrim continues on his journey through life. As I have traversed the hills and the byways there have indeed been many wonderful mountain top experiences, but there have also been some down in the valley experiences as well.
The terrain upon which I have traveled has at times been smooth and easy to navigate, but at other times it has been extremely rocky and filled with obstacles that I have had to overcome to continue on my pilgrimage. Indeed at times I have enjoyed precious moments when I have had opportunity to rest for a bit from my travels as I have sat down in luscious green pastures. However, with the sweet, oftentimes comes the bitter, and at times I have traveled through some hot, dry, and dusty desserts seeking even just a cup of cool water to quench my dying thirst and cool shade to take shelter from the sweltering heat.
As I reflect upon these things I am reminded that no matter how rough the journey may seem at times, the Lord has been and continues to be right there beside me to guide my footsteps along the way. In times of loneliness and despair, He is always there to comfort me. In the darkest of nights, He is my Guiding Star. When I grow tired and weary, He is there to give me rest and to carry me. Though the way may seem hard and at times I feel that I cannot go one more mile, I am ever reminded that there is absolutely nothing that is too hard for the Lord.
To us, who are mere mortals, oftentimes what lays before us seems to be mountains of impossibilities. With our human mind which is finite, and with our mortal vision, there are things which seem to us to be impossible to do. In our own mind and strength this is indeed the reality of the situation. And so, many times we are left with a feeling of defeat because in our mind’s eye, the tasks before us are too hard for us to master and to conquer.
Of a surety, the Lord’s ways are not our ways. His mind is infinite and His vision expands beyond the widest horizon. What may seem to be too hard for us, seems as mere insignificance to Him. There is absolutely nothing that He cannot do, except fail. There is nothing that is impossible or too hard for Him.
To truly be at a success at what we do in this life, we must take our focus off of what we believe to be impossibilities, and place our full and complete trust in Him who is able to make supposed impossibilities – living realities. Yes, all things are possible if we only believe. For again I say, there is absolutely nothing that is too hard for the Lord.
On Wednesday, 15 April 2015, the Center for Constitutional Studies at Utah Valley University hosted an august program composed of distinguished religious studies and constitutional scholars to include U.S. Supreme Court law clerks and contributors from various denominations.
The Spring Constitutional Symposium on Religious Freedom concluded with international singer-songwriter, and return missionary, David James Archuleta, speaking on the subject “From Being in the Spotlight to Living in His Light: How Religious Freedom has Impacted my Life as a Musical Performer.” Rick A. Griffin, director of the Center for Constitutional Studies, expressed his thoughts about inviting Archuleta to speak and perform at the symposium:
Because freedom of religion is a freedom shared by all Americans and because music has been such a powerful medium of religious expression, vibrating through the pages of our nation’s political and constitutional history, the center was especially interested in including a prominent musical guest speaker. We are excited to have popular singer and songwriter David Archuleta as the finale’s featured speaker and musical performer.
Archuleta spoke about the compelling dynamics of his musical career, and highlighted some of the challenges that he has met on his journey as he has tried to conjoin his religious convictions with the dictates of the American music industry. He stated that there was a great amount of uneasiness among some of the music industry professionals, and even some members of his faith, when at the peak of his career he announced that he had decided that he needed to serve a full-time, two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He told his fans, “I needed to do something that had nothing to do with me.” Having returned home after serving an honorable mission in the South American nation of Chile, Archuleta reflects that “his fidelity to his faith and religious principles had brought him peace and satisfaction both personally and professionally.”
He favored the audience that evening with renditions of “He Lives in You,” “Be Still My Soul,” and “Glorious.”