Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mormon Pioneers in Texas

“October 29, 1853 –The night we lay at or near the top of the divide there fell a deep snow which greatly impeded our progress. After this the weather turned intensely cold and on the second night after, my splendid mule, “Texas,” was frozen to death. This was a severe loss to me and I felt somewhat sad at his loss. He had served me so faithfully for so long a journey.…though his value was very great to me, I cheerfully parted with him as I have for the sake of this kingdom suffered so many sacrifices in friends and relations in Missouri, and in lands, and homes and farms, in silver and gold, in toils and sufferings, that now there is hardly any sacrifice that I know of which the Lord might call me to make, which I would repine at. 
“But upon this trip my heretofore indomitable spirit almost failed me. Beneath my accumulated sufferings and three times when lying down at night I prayed to the Almighty that I might never awake to see another morning so great were my sufferings. My feet were badly frost-bitten, my old boots were entirely worn out. I had a new pair, but they hurt me so I could not wear them. The snow was deep and I was obliged to walk…After I had prayed that I might depart and go into the spirit world, in order that I might be free from my great sufferings, then the Spirit whispered, ‘not yet, you have a great work to do on the earth.’”
So wrote Elder Preston Thomas, one of the first missionaries to Texas and especially the Brazos valley, as he led a wagon train of Texas converts over the mountains to Salt Lake City. It took them until November 27th to complete the harrowing journey. The following June, Elder Thomas was called to return on yet another of his five missions to the Lone Star state.

July 24 marks Pioneer Day for LDS congregations in the United States. The great saga of the Mormon pioneers typically focuses on journeys along the Mormon Trail from Nauvoo, Illinois, or handcarts from St. Joseph, Missouri, to the Salt Lake Valley. Somewhat lost in history however, are wagon trains of Texans who braved the five-month journey through hostile territory, sometimes offering nearly all the food they had in order to pass safely. As Philip W. Hosking, one of these early Texas converts records:

“Tuesday, July 1, 1856 – We arrived at an Indian town, stretched along the banks of the Arkansas for over 2 miles. It seemed today as if the devil had let his imps loose to destroy our little company. At the lowest estimate there were 800 Kiawas and Comanches and when we nooned the [Indians] came round in swarms, begging... As discretion is the better part of valor we gave them what they wanted [sic].”

The faith and courage of Preston Thomas and other early Latter-day Saint Texans provide a legacy for all who live here. In April, 1857, Elder Thomas concluded a letter to mission headquarters with these thought-provoking comments: 

“The field for preaching in Texas seems about as good as it ever was; and why it is that the people receive the gospel more readily in this than in any other of the states of the American Union, I cannot tell…”

God continues to bless Texas!

— President Tom McMullin, counselor in the College Station, Texas Stake

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

8 Hymns of the Restoration

One of the highlights of my life was the opportunity to visit Nauvoo and participate in The City of Joseph Pageant. My family and I were members of the pageant for ten years, and the events we experienced on an annual basis will always be a treasure to me. Not only did we walk where those early saints walked, but we sang their songs, read their stories, and portrayed their lives. As a result, the foundation of my testimony will always be deeply rooted in the Restoration.

One of our pageant’s great traditions was a nightly devotional where we sang the Hymns of the Restoration. Each night before our performance, all 600+ City of Joseph cast members would gather together—dressed as pioneers—in the Nauvoo Chapel and sing these wonderful songs. It was like nothing I had (or have since) experienced. When we sang, the halls of the chapel bellowed with faith, with devotion, and with belief. We didn’t sing for each other. Instead, we sang for our Savior and Redeemer and for those wonderful prophets and saints of the Restoration who sacrificed everything in order that we could return to Nauvoo and remember the great blessings of the Lord.

It was in these meetings, as I sang my heart out with my faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, that I realized the meaning behind these wonderful hymns. Tears poured down my cheeks as we sang the words:
But if our lives are spared again,
To see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we'll make this chorus swell—
All is well! All is well!
I felt the Spirit of God burn within me as we stood, sang, and shouted:
How blessed the day when the lamb and the lion
Shall lie down together without any ire,
And Ephraim be crowned with his blessing in Zion,
As Jesus descends with his chariot of fire!
I felt a deep sense of gratitude and admiration for Joseph Smith when we sang:
Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;
Earth must atone for the blood of that man.
Wake up the world for the conflict of justice.
Millions shall know “Brother Joseph” again.
These memories continue to touch my heart—particularly at this time of year. Pioneer Day is a special day when we remember all of the pioneer’s sacrifices for the establishment of God's Kingdom in these latter days. It is in this spirit that we share the following hymns with you, as well as some information pertaining to them. We encourage you to study the lyrics, read their associated scriptures, and learn of their history. We promise that when you do, your hearts will be full, and your lives with be touched with deeper gratitude for those who have gone before.
“For some, life is filled with unanswered questions. And yet, my friends, it is not so mysterious or complex. No, the message we bring is a simple one: God lives. Jesus is His Son. We are His children. And someday, with our families, He wants us to come home” (City of Joseph Pageant).

~David S. Boss

Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear; 
But with joy wend your way. 
Though hard to you this journey may appear, 
Grace shall be as your day. 
'Tis better far for us to strive 
Our useless cares from us to drive; 
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell-- 
All is well! All is well! 
Scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 61:36-39
And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you;
And inasmuch as you have humbled yourselves before me, the blessings of the kingdom are yours.
Gird up your loins and be watchful and be sober, looking forth for the coming of the Son of Man, for he cometh in an hour you think not.
Pray always that you enter not into temptation, that you may abide the day of his coming, whether in life or in death. Even so. Amen.
Audio history:http://www.mormonchannel.org/history-of-hymns/16

The Beesley Projecthttp://www.beesleyproject.com/06/hymn-30-come-come-ye-saints/

The Spirit of God like a fire is burning! 
The latter-day glory begins to come forth; 
The visions and blessings of old are returning, 
And angels are coming to visit the earth.  

We'll sing and we'll shout with the armies of heaven, 
Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb! 
Let glory to them in the highest be given, 
Henceforth and forever, Amen and amen!
Scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 109:79-80

And also this church, to put upon it thy name. And help us by the power of thy Spirit, that we may mingle our voices with those bright, shining seraphs around thy throne, with acclamations of praise, singing Hosanna to God and the Lamb!
And let these, thine anointed ones, be clothed with salvation, and thy saints shout aloud for joy. Amen, and Amen.

The Beesley Project:  http://www.beesleyproject.com/03/hymn-2-the-spirit-of-god/

             We thank thee, O God, for a prophet 
To guide us in these latter days. 
We thank thee for sending the gospel 
To lighten our minds with its rays. 
We thank thee for every blessing 
Bestowed by thy bounteous hand. 
We feel it a pleasure to serve thee 
And love to obey thy command.
Scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 21:1-5

Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ,

Being inspired of the Holy Ghost to lay the foundation thereof, and to build it up unto the most holy faith.

Which church was organized and established in the year of your Lord eighteen hundred and thirty, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April.

Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;

For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

Audio Historyhttp://www.mormonchannel.org/history-of-hymns/1

The Beesley Project:http://www.beesleyproject.com/03/hymn-19-we-thank-thee-o-god-for-a-prophet/

Oh, how lovely was the morning! 
Radiant beamed the sun above. 
Bees were humming, sweet birds singing, 
Music ringing thru the grove, 
When within the shady woodland 
Joseph sought the God of love, 
When within the shady woodland 
Joseph sought the God of love.
Scripture: 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.

Scripture: Joseph Smith-History 1:25

So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.

Audio Historyhttp://www.mormonchannel.org/history-of-hymns/3

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! 
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer. 
Blessed to open the last dispensation, 
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere. 

Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven! 
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain. 
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren; 
Death cannot conquer the hero again.
Scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 135:3

Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!

Audio Historyhttp://www.mormonchannel.org/history-of-hymns/4

The Beesley Projecthttp://www.beesleyproject.com/06/hymn-27-praise-to-the-man/

High on the mountain top 
A banner is unfurled. 
Ye nations, now look up; 
It waves to all the world. 
In Deseret's sweet, peaceful land, 
On Zion's mount behold it stand!
Scripture: Isaiah 2:2-3

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Audio Historyhttp://www.mormonchannel.org/history-of-hymns/36

Scripture: 1 Nephi 22:12

Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.

Audio History:http://www.mormonchannel.org/history-of-hymns/8

"Redeemer of Israel, 
Our only delight, 
On whom for a blessing we call, 
Our shadow by day 
And our pillar by night,
Our King, our Deliv'rer, our all!"

The morning breaks, the shadows flee; 
Lo, Zion's standard is unfurled! 
The dawning of a brighter day, 
The dawning of a brighter day 
Majestic rises on the world.
Scripture: Isaiah 60:1-3

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

Audio History:http://www.mormonchannel.org/history-of-hymns/9

The Beesley Projecthttp://www.beesleyproject.com/01/hymn-1-the-morning-breaks/

*We would like to thank the The Beesley Project for providing history and doctrinal analysis for some of these selected hymns.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Facing Infertility With a Perfect Brightness of Hope

Photo Credit: Tiffany Feger, Fishy Face Photography

When I was four years old, I shared a room with my infant sister. One time in the middle of the night, recalls our mother, my sister awoke and began to fuss. Then all was silent. When my mom came in the bedroom to check on the baby, she was quite startled to see that she was not in her crib. My mom looked towards my bed and saw me sitting there, gently rocking the baby. She had no idea how I got her out, but it warmed her heart.

Even as a young child, I had a strong desire to be a nurturer, and that feeling has stayed with me into adulthood. My deepest desire was to get married and have lots of children. Now fast forward almost three decades later. My husband and I have a five year old son, and we have been praying and hoping for more children. After we decided to try for a second child a few years ago, I began to feel impatient as it was taking longer than I had hoped. I asked my husband for a priesthood blessing. After the blessing, I felt a sweet reassurance that things would work out, and I felt renewed strength and patience.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

10 Mormons Explain Why They Were Sealed in the Temple

Have you ever driven past a Mormon temple and wondered what happens inside?

Temples are holy places of worship where members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participate in sacred ordinances performed by the authority of the priesthood. Temple ordinances lead to the greatest blessings available through the atonement of Jesus Christ. One temple ordinance is celestial marriage, in which a husband and wife are sealed to one another for eternity.

"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." -Matt. 16:19

Through a temple sealing, a husband and wife and their children can have the promise of being an eternal family. For Latter-day Saints, the covenants they make in the temple (bound on earth) will last forever (be bound in heaven), if they stay worthy.

Below, ten Mormons explain why they were sealed in the temple:

1. Tiffany, Utah. Married August 2009 in the Mt. Timpanogos, Utah temple.

"I got married in the temple because I knew it was the right way back to our Father in Heaven. I loved my husband so much and wanted to be sealed to him forever. I also only wanted my children to be born into an eternal family. It was the only way for me."

Monday, June 23, 2014

8 Beliefs Mormons Share with Other Christians

My five-year-old son has spent a month memorizing the 6th Article of Faith.

“We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.”

As I was helping him learn and understand what he was reciting, I began to reflect on similar beliefs I have with my friends of other Christian faiths. Below is a list of some fundamental doctrines members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, share with all Christians.