Friday, February 12, 2016

The Miracle of the Holy Bible

When I was a child, my family attended a Methodist church. I don't have many strong memories of my time there. In the Methodist church, when members have a child, he is usually baptized as an infant, and attends confirmation class in middle school, at which time he has the opportunity to choose to become a full member of the local church, or not. I remember going to confirmation class, and not learning anything I felt substantial enough to make my decision. I remember asking my pastor, "What if I say no? Am I allowed to say no?' He told me I could, but in the end I said yes because I knew everyone wanted me to. I became a full member of my local church, but my heart wasn't in it. I wasn't sure of what I should do.

After, I remember going on retreats and trips to serve others in the summer through my middle school years. I remember being frustrated with the Sunday School program, and complaining that they didn't teach us anything. I remember not knowing how to pray, and wanting something more out of my faith.

I can also remember, for a long time, having issue with the compilation and canonization of the Bible. I can remember thinking and saying things like, "Who do they think they are? These guys that put the Bible together, what right did they have to choose?" and "What if they put something in that wasn't supposed to be in? What if they left out something really important?" For a long time, I didn't find the Bible reliable because of the method in which it was compiled - all these separate documents for hundreds of years, then put together by a conference of people who thought they had power. Some people assured me that they were "inspired" in choosing books, but how could I know that?

This problem, and MANY others led me to stop attending church services when I was in the 10th grade. Which meant the end of all religious activity, because I had not been encouraged to pray or study the Bible on my own. 

The next few years of my life were really dark, for many reasons. I had stopped believing in God altogether, and decided that all religion was, for lack of a better word, crap. I thought it was dumb, not true, and I no longer saw why anyone believed it. The invalidity of it all was so real that it astounded me that anyone believed. In one of my high school classes, we watched a video in which one of the participants stated "The strongest atheists are those who were once Christians." And I thought, Yep. That's true. Because it was me. 

Now, I realize that I didn't leave religion because it was all bad, but because I hadn't been taught the whole truth. Parts, but I didn't have all the answers.

Exodus 14:13-14
The first Sunday I attended a service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I had a discussion with some members and was given a copy of the Book of Mormon. That day and that week, as I began reading, I knew it was true. Absolutely. Completely. Unequivocally. I knew this was it, this is what I'd been looking for and longing for. These were the answers I needed, the things that were left out of my lessons as a child. 

"All things have been done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things." 

I had long wondered why God sent prophets so long ago and just stopped - Did He think we didn't need Him anymore? Did He stop caring? Anyone looking at this world knows we still need guidance. And here it was, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. A prophet living today. God did care and knew we needed His guidance! I wondered about the compilation of the Bible. And here was a record compiled by a prophet of God - someone who was certainly authorized to decide what to keep and what to leave out, someone most certainly inspired. 

As I grew in my knowledge and testimony of the Restored gospel, I studied for hours and hours the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the words of our modern-day prophets. I loved it. I couldn't get enough. 

However, I didn't study the Bible on my own, and only looked to it when the missionaries, church teachers, or church leaders pointed to it. I only believed the verses our prophets quoted. Many of my former thoughts about the Bible remained - that its compilation was invalid, that it was immensely corrupted, that it was unreliable, and that I didn't really need to concern myself with reading it. I wouldn't have minded if the Church threw the Bible out, personally. I didn't need it. 

Then I came across this talk: "The Miracle of the Holy Bible," by M. Russell Ballard (now on my list of Favorite Talks). He says: 
"It is a miracle that we have the Bible’s powerful doctrine, principles, poetry, and stories. But most of all, it is a wonderful miracle that we have the account of the life, ministry, and words of Jesus, which was protected through the Dark Ages and through the conflicts of countless generations so that we may have it today. It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior."

Okay, I guess that is pretty good. Without the Bible, we wouldn't have this unbroken line of belief in Christ, this worldwide community of Bible-believers who have turned to Christ because of its pages, looking to ancient prophets when we didn't have living ones. If not for the Bible, Joseph Smith wouldn't have been seeking the true church, he wouldn't have known who Christ was, he wouldn't have learned character and strength from its pages, or read James 1:5 - "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."

Joseph Smith - History 1:25
Elder Ballard, a man whom we sustain as a prophet, seer, and revelator said this: "It is not by chance or coincidence that we have the Bible today. Righteous individuals were prompted by the Spirit to record both the sacred things they saw and the inspired words they heard and spoke. Other devoted people were prompted to protect and preserve these records. Men like John Wycliffe, the courageous William Tyndale, and Johannes Gutenberg were prompted against much opposition to translate the Bible into language people could understand and to publish it in books people could read. I believe even the scholars of King James had spiritual promptings in their translation work" (emphasis added). These words, by someone whom I know is a prophet, soothed my soul slightly regarding the reliability of the Bible - he testified that the Bible was written, compiled, preserved, and translated by individuals who were inspired by the Holy Ghost

"I bear solemn witness that we are true and full believers in the Lord Jesus Christ 
and in His revealed word through the Holy Bible."

I can trust his testimony, and he says this book is important. If a prophet says it's important, I guess that's good enough for me. 

"[The Bible] is one of the pillars of our faith, a powerful witness of the Savior and of Christ’s ongoing influence in the lives of those who worship and follow Him. The more we read and study the Bible and its teachings, the more clearly we see the doctrinal underpinnings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We tend to love the scriptures that we spend time with. We may need to balance our study in order to love and understand all scripture. You young people especially, do not discount or devalue the Holy Bible. It is the sacred, holy record of the Lord’s life. . . . Those who join this Church do not give up their faith in the Bible—they strengthen it. The Book of Mormon does not dilute nor diminish nor de-emphasize the Bible. On the contrary, it expands, extends, and exalts it. The Book of Mormon testifies of the Bible, and both testify of Christ."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Reader Report: January 2016

Over the summer, I began writing "Reader Report" posts, to keep track of what I was reading and share the great stuff I found. Over the past months, those have become exhausting and not fun to write or read. There are some books I just skipped over, didn't post about them. These are, like I said, not fun to write and not fun to read.

However, I do still want to keep track of what I'm reading and share the good stuff. So I'm going to change how I do that. Instead of reporting on every single book, I'll do shorter updates every once in a while and say what I've been reading and what I thought - short and sweet (hopefully).

Here goes!!

 Daughters in My Kingdom, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
***** (5 stars)
This book was SO, SO, SO good. If you're a woman, if you're a member of the Church, if you love women, if you care about others - read this book. It covers the history of the Relief Society from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City and then around the world to today. It includes quotes and stories from prophets, Relief Society general president, and women of the Church worldwide. I learned so much reading this book, and was reminded of how much I love the women I've met in the Church. They are numerous, and their influence for good in my life cannot be measured. I have always loved Relief Society, and this book just made me love it more. 

I highly recommend this book. You can order the book for $3, download it as a PDF or MP3, or read online - click here.

Multiple Blessings, Jon and Kate Gosselin
I Just Want You to Know, Kate Gosselin
This books were alright. I watched "Jon and Kate Plus 8" many years ago, and since I love reading, was obviously interested in the book. Both of these books tell about the in's and out's of family life for these folks, at different times. The first discusses how the parents met and what their early marriage was like, their infertility struggles, and how they leaned on God in that time, the birth of their twins, and Mom's longing for "just one more," and how when the ultrasound tech counted SEVEN babies in Kate's womb - they trusted that it was God's plan and decided that life was too sacred to destroy any of them. The second book tells about later parts of their story, how being in the media affected their life, how life was changing with 10- and 12-year-olds, how their family dealt with the divorce. These books weren't spectacular, but not bad, either.

What You Have Left, Will Allison
This novel was about a family: Cal; his daughter Maddy, Maddy's husband Wiley, their daughter Holly; Holly's husband Lyle, and their baby. When Holly was young, her mother (Maddy) died. Wiley brought Holly to stay with Cal for a week or so - and Holly never saw Wiley again. This book is a kind of crazy tale, told in modern time and flashbacks, that describes the rocky road of family relationships. It was really real, true to life. I probably wouldn't read it again, but I don't think it was a waste of time. If you like fiction, it's a good read (I'm not a huge fiction person).

Belly Laughs, Jenny McCarthy
When I picked this book up for about a quarter at my local library, my mom told me it was terrible. She was right. Yes, it was funny, but incredibly boring. The chapters were so short and the topic changed so frequently, it gave me whiplash.

To Train Up a Child , Michael & Debi Pearl
(no stars)
THIS BOOK WAS TERRIBLE. I read it to broaden my horizons, expose my self to other points of view and examine them for clarity. And my decision: these views are bad. Bad. I think, the Pearls had some good ideas, some good reasons; they saw a problem with the way people around them were parenting. But their solution was not a good one. "Training" is basically classical conditioning - treating your children like Pavlov's dogs. You condition them to associate negative behavior with pain ("just a swat on the hand," which is "not spanking"), and to obey every word you say without question. When they aren't obedient, apply the rod - bad behavior leads to a guilty conscience, use punishment to absolve guilt, because they are too young to understand that Christ suffered to rid us of guilt. Basically, when your kids are little, they get the punishment for sin even though Christ already got it for them. You are to act as God, punishing their sin.
Excuse me? 1) My kids are not dogs, they're people. People with hearts and brains and feelings - just like me. They need respect as much as I do. It's my job to teach them how to cope with all these big feelings - sometimes sadness and anger that feel bigger than their little bodies - not to spank the emotions out of them. I'm allowed to have a good cry and it's not called "bad behavior" - so are they. 2) I don't want my kids to do without question whatever authority tells them. I want my kids to learn reason and ask questions and evaluate authority and commands before blindly obeying. They're born with brains - let them use it! 3) My kids don't need to be spanked. Our 7-year-old and my 5- and 6-years-old Primary class understand that Jesus died so that we can be forgiven. They get it.

"Little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin . . . little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.  12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world . . . all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation. . . . For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity. Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy. And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption."