In the day and age in which we live, there are many people who seem to have lost sense of the real meaning of charity. There are people, regardless of their social status, who tend to live in their own little world and only think of themselves. Giving to help another in need doesn’t appear to be a part of their character.
However, there are others like Mormon entertainer, Dan Reynolds, the lead singer of the rock band Imagine Dragons, who do understand the concept of giving back. In fact, Reynolds has stated, “The best part of my career is to be able to do something to give back and to help.” He exemplifies the words of Anne Frank, the German-born Jewish girl from Frankfurt Germany, who wrote a diary while in hiding with her family and four friends in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II, when she said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”
Because He Has Been Given Much
It was Mother Teresa who said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Those words no doubt resonate with Kim Olsen White, who considers Reynolds to be a great friend.
White and Reynolds first met in 2007 while attending a fireside for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. White, a 26-year-old wife and mother from Utah, was 18 weeks pregnant with her second child when her doctor found a cantaloupe-sized tumor on her kidney. Unfortunately, the only way to remove the tumor was by delivering the baby [whom they named Hinckley], who subsequently did not survive. She is currently battling stage two adrenocortical carcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer originating in the cortex of her adrenal gland, and Reynolds is helping her meet her medical expenses by performing a benefit concert to raise the needed money.
In a July 16 Deseret News article, Reynolds stated, “I think anybody in that position to help should definitely take it because you feel like you’re part of something bigger than you, and it makes you see the world in a different way.” Reynolds’ intentions are not to gain any type of self-recognition or gratuity for performing a charitable deed, but rather his reward is the blessings that he receives from helping another. It is as the Savior Himself taught,
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again (Luke 6:38).
He realizes that because he has been given much, he must be willing to give in return.
The Power of Faith and the Love of Family
White has said that the hardest part of dealing with cancer, in particular the past six months, is the thought that her 2-year-old daughter, Hensleigh, might have to grow up without her mom. When she was in the hospital for 11 days, some of those in ICU, she went 48 hours without even being able to see her daughter, which she says was a dramatic first experience for the both of them. After her surgery she was not allowed to lift anything, which presented another challenge, especially when Hensleigh wanted her mom to hold her.
Through it all, White attests that it has been her faith that has allowed her to cope with her illness. She is currently taking four pills a day for her chemotherapy treatment. Thus far, things appear to be going well. In the July 16 Deseret News article, she commented:
I still get a little nauseous sometimes, and the pills are supposed to make my body weak, but I’ve been exercising more and more to combat that. I’m feeling very blessed that I’m doing well and I can take care of my daughter by myself again. I am able to live a normal life right now.
In order to remain true to her faith, she relies on personal prayers, scripture reading and study, and listening to Mormon Messages. She also understands the power of Priesthood blessings. She further commented, “There’s been many nights when I would pray to Heavenly Father and say, ‘I need a break. I need something to go well. I believe that in the hardest trials, you receive the biggest blessing and the most tender mercies.”
I look at her and she gives me a reason to fight and she gives me a reason to keep going, Even though she’s little, on my hard days I’ll put my head on her lap and cry, and she’ll say, ‘Mommy sad! Mommy sad!’ She’s my everything.”
Seeing the Good in People
Imagine Dragons is currently on tour in Europe, but Reynolds flew to Utah for the acoustic concert, which was performed on 17 July 2014 at the Sandy Amphitheater. Also performing were musical artists Joshua James and Timmy and the Teeth. Reynolds has stated, “It’s always a little more emotional playing for someone in need. It also can be a very uplifting, happy experience and that’s what we try to focus on.”
The word “education” is defined at Dictionary.com as “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.” In short, education is an enlightening experience, or as Sydney J. Harris, an American journalist for the Chicago Daily News and later the Chicago Sun-Times, astutely stated, “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” However, as someone has intelligently reasoned, “An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living, but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.”
Why Mormons Place a High Value on Education
It is the desire of every faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to become more like their Father in Heaven. One way in which this is achieved is through the education of the mind, which enables a person to develop the skills and talents that will not only prove to be of great worth and help him to appreciate mortal life, but will be of value in the life hereafter as well. Modern-day revelation as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 130:18 teaches, “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.”
Robert Maynard Hutchins, an educational philosopher, Dean of Yale Law School, and President and Chancellor of the University of Chicago is quoted as having said, “The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.” He further stated, “My idea of education is to unsettle the minds of the young and inflame their intellects.” These intellectual ideas and others are incorporated in the philosophy which Latter-day Saints maintain about how and why members should pursue a life-long education.
Education will prepare you for greater service in the world and in the Church. It will help you better provide for yourself, your family, and those in need. It will also help you be a wise counselor and companion to your future spouse and an informed and effective teacher of your future children.
Education is an investment that brings great rewards and will open the doors of opportunity that may otherwise be closed to you. Plan now to obtain an education. Be willing to work diligently and make sacrifices if necessary. Share your educational goals with your family, friends, and leaders so they can support and encourage you.
As Latter-day Saints we believe in education, and we have a philosophy about how and why we should pursue it. Our religious faith teaches us that we should seek learning by the Spirit and that we have a stewardship to use our knowledge for the benefit of mankind.
Our quest for truth should be as broad as our life’s activities and as deep as our circumstances permit. A learned Latter-day Saint should seek to understand the important religious, physical, social, and political problems of the day. The more knowledge we have of heavenly laws and earthly things, the greater influence we can exert for good on those around us and the safer we will be from scurrilous and evil influences that may confuse and destroy us.
The Quest for Knowledge
Education is an ongoing process, therefore we are constantly learning throughout the different periods of our lives. Case in point, in the early morning of our lives, our school is our home, the students in the classroom are our siblings, and our teachers are our parents. In the afternoon of our lives, our school is a building outside the home, the students in the classroom become our friends and confidants, and our teachers are those who have themselves studied and prepared to impart knowledge to us that we will use as we continue on our journey through life. And in the evening of our lives, we continue learning in the school of life with the world being our classroom, and life itself being our teacher.
The start of each new day presents opportunities to learn new and interesting things. Mormons attest to the fact that the wise man gleans as much as he can from his life experiences, and with his new found knowledge and wisdom, he is able to chart and navigate his course in life. It should be noted, however, that education should include more than the things that are learned in the traditional classroom from textbooks. It should also include spiritual learning which can be obtained from the study of the scriptures, and for Latter-day Saints, that also includes the words of Latter-day prophets. Latter-day Saints are also encouraged to participate in seminary and institute classes and to continue throughout their lives to learn about Heavenly Father’s plan. It is through spiritual learning that a person, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is able to find answers to the quandaries and challenges of life.
Solomon, perhaps one of the wisest men who ever lived, wrote, “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). There are many students who have witnessed the truthfulness of that statement as they have pulled an all-niter studying their textbook, trying to memorize important material for a test or exam. In making his point, however, Solomon was not attempting to devalue or minimize the importance of education, but rather his counsel was, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).
In the book of Proverbs, a son is exhorted to heed his father’s instruction, and the application of the knowledge learned is called wisdom. The word education may not appear in the English form in the Bible, but Scripture does say a lot about the process of education, and it begins with the parent and child. The command to parents is to nurture their children in the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), and the Greek word paideia, translated “nurture” in the KJV, carries with it the idea of training, education, instruction and discipline.
Solomon tells us that the basis of all true knowledge is the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). The word fear here does not carry the idea of terror or dread; rather, it is awe and reverence for the holiness and majesty of God and a reluctance to disappoint or disobey Him. Jesus said that when we know the truth, the truth will make us free (John 8:32). Freedom from fear comes from being educated in Truth.
In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul uses the word “know” or “knowing” eleven times. What is it that he exhorts that we should know? The Word of God. Thus, a knowledge of the Word of God is absolutely essential in our spiritual learning process. God’s Word is absolute truth, and the beauty of absolute truth is that it forever stands on its own merits as being truth regardless if one person believes it, if a thousand people believe it, or if no one believes it. Absolute truth does not need our sustaining vote to be declared as truth, nor can we void its validity by simply disbelieving it. Such “absolute truth” cannot be discovered in traditional education alone. When we acquire spiritual knowledge and apply it to our lives, we are then able to serve the Lord in spirit and truth (see Romans 6:11-13).
The Apostle Paul also admonishes us to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). It is noted that the Greek word translated “study” means to give diligence, to exert oneself, or to make haste to apply oneself. Therefore, in our quest for knowledge, in order to adequately educate ourselves, we must include as part of the education process, the personal application of diligently studying the Word of God. At any cause, in all of our learning, we must avoid being, as Paul warns, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
The purpose of God’s creations and of His giving us life is to allow us to have the learning experience necessary to come back to live with Him in eternal life. That is only possible if we have our natures changed through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, true repentance, and making and keeping the covenants He offers all of His Father’s children through His Church. True learning must have a powerful spiritual component. That spiritual element, when it is effective, refines and uplifts the aims of our total education.
The thirst for education can be a blessing or a curse, depending on our motives. If we continue to seek learning to serve God and His children better, it is a blessing of great worth. If we seek learning to exalt ourselves alone, it leads to selfishness and pride.
The Lord and His Church have always encouraged education to increase our ability to serve Him and our Heavenly Father’s children. For each of us, whatever our talents, He has service for us to give. And to do it well always involves learning, not once or for a limited time, but continually.
Remember, you are interested in education, not just for mortal life but for eternal life. When you see that reality clearly, you will put spiritual learning first and yet not slight the secular learning. In fact, you will work harder at your secular learning than you would without that spiritual vision.
William Ralph Inge, an English author, Anglican priest, Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, perhaps said it best when he stated, “The modern world belongs to the half-educated, a rather difficult class, because they do not realize how little they know.” Latter-day Saints are taught that although they may be a part of the world, they are not to be of the world. Therefore, they learn from an early age to learn, but not to follow, the philosophies of men, unless they are wise. “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). They realize the importance of education and dedicate their lives to continually learning for they also understand “the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:36) and “Light and truth forsake that evil one” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:37).
On the evening of Wednesday, 25 June 2014, viral YouTube sensation, Lindsey Stirling, an American violinist, dancer, performance artist, and composer, performed at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center. During the event hosted by the Washington D.C. North Mission and the visitors’ center, Stirling a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke of her faith and demonstrated her music prowess by playing her violin.
Stirling, who is well known for her amazing choreographed violin performances, both live and in music videos found on her YouTube channel, was a quarter-finalist in 2010 on season five of America’s Got Talent, where she became well-known as the hip-hop violinist. Since then, she has released two studio albums – a self-titled album, Lindsey Sterling, in 2012, and her newest release, Shatter Me, which reached number 2 in America and was nominated for Top Electronic/Dance album at the 2014 Billboard awards.
She has also released an EP and several singles. Her repertoire includes a variety of music styles ranging from classical to pop and hip-hop to electronic dance music with original scores, as well as covers of songs by other musicians and various soundtracks. Her music video “Crystallize” was ranked as the eighth-most watched video in 2012, and her cover version of Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” with Pentattonix won Response of the Year in the first YouTube Music Awards in 2013. As of June 2014 her YouTube channel has more than five million subscribers and 675 million total views with 100 posted videos.
During the event at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center, Stirling performed “Shatter Me,” the title song of her second album. According to Stirling’s twitter account, the song, which was released in April 2014, quickly rose to the top of the charts and became the No. 1 album on AmazonMP3 and iTunes. In a recent video, Adweek featured her in a video in which she relates how her videos have gone viral on YouTube.
Stirling performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 2013 and this summer she will be touring the United States and Canada.
The name Jabari Parker is well-known in the sports arena. The Chicago-born, 6’8”, 235 pound, all-star athlete will long be remembered for his basketball prowess at Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy. While attending Simeon, he quickly gained the favor of several recruiters, and in fact was a top recruit in the class of 2013, when he became the second player in the history of Illinois high school basketball to start on four state championship teams. After incisive deliberation, he made the decision to play for the Duke University Blue Devils. In an interview with DukeBluePlanet in July 2013, Parker was asked why he chose Duke University to which he responded,
I chose Duke because I thought it was the perfect fit for me. The student population is very tight. It’s a family-oriented community. It’s very nice and diverse and a community that will prepare me for the real-world someday.
The Key Players Who Have Influenced His Basketball Career
My greatest influence basketball-wise is probably my father because he played in the NBA and I’m trying to get to where he has been. He played in college at Texas A&M. Just seeing what he did in college, I think that he made a real big impact and I’m trying to live up to his expectations and what he did.
Being around Coach K, I just want to pick his brain as much as possible. He has a lot of knowledge, a lot on his resume. I’m trying to get to where he has been and accomplish at least 25% of what he has done. His knowledge and love of the game at his age is real rare. Hopefully I can do half as much for him as he will do for me because that’s going to be a lot. He’s going to do more than I expect because, you know, he’s Coach K.
What impressed me most about Coach were his experiences and relationships with his players and how he wants them to be a part of the program forever. He wants them to come back. That’s real big on my end because it’s a family.
A Humble Giant among Men
Although Parker is a basketball phenom, he has not allowed the stardom and recognition to discredit his true character. To understand who the real Jabari Parker is, a person would need understand the things that matter the most to him, namely his family and his faith.
He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and attests that it is his faith that has helped him to remain level headed and well grounded, thus keeping his head in the “real” game. Because of his strong faith and unfailing support from his family, he has been able to accept all of the recognition that he receives with great humility. In the May 21, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated which had a feature article on Parker, he was quoted as saying, “Basketball is what I do, it’s not who I am.” During the interview with DukeBluePlanet he was asked to elaborate on his comment:
At the end of the day, being a good person is more important than basketball because you are only going to be remembered by what you do and how you carry yourself. You can be the most amazing athlete in the world, but if you’re not there for people and you’re not there for your community, your family, then what is your worth? That’s what separates the greatest from the average people. That little bit of selflessness, that character. I want to live my life not as Jabari Parker the basketball player, but as Jabari Parker the good guy, the helpful guy.
Staying True to the Home Team
Although Parker has achieved status as an outstanding basketball player and has been afforded many opportunities, he has not forgotten his real roots. He still considers Chicago to always be his home base, as it is there where it all began. He realizes, especially growing up on the South Side of Chicago, that the city is incessantly represented in the news media in a negative light. He has stated that he wants to be that person who helps to shed more light on the positive and help to eliminate the focus on the negativity.
Oh Chicago is the best. That’s the reason that I am the person that I am now. The hard-nosed style of basketball that we play around the city is from the community that I represent. Being from the South Side, I want to make a positive impact as much as possible. You see on CNN, they talk about the crime rate, there is a lot of negativity. I want to be as positive an influence as possible and be that guy who helps the city be looked at in the right way.
When he is off the court, Parker describes himself as a “relaxed cool guy.” He says that he enjoys being around different types of people and getting to know more about them, as they learn more about him. He also loves music. One of his future goals is to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. However, his immediate goal and purpose in life is to have a positive impact both on and off the court. There is no doubt that Jabari Parker is a name that people will be hearing for some time to come. The video below highlights the first 18 years of his remarkable life and career.
Scriptures teach us, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). And we are further admonished, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2). Therefore, when a brother or sister has been found guilty of any transgression – from the smallest to the most serious – we must do all that we can to help them return to the fold in good standing.
Whom the Lord Loves, He Chastens
As young children, whenever we misbehaved it often became necessary for our father to discipline us. At times the discipline may have seemed a bit severe or unfair, but our father always reassured us that it was because he loved us that it was necessary at times to discipline us in order to correct our behavior. In the same way, our loving Heavenly Father disciplines us whenever we commit a transgression. The scriptures teach us in Hebrews 12:6-11,
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Church Discipline and Repentance
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whenever a member has committed a transgression, he is able to talk with his bishop, branch president, or stake president who can help him overcome the transgressions in his life through a process called repentance. Those who are serving missions may speak with their mission president who is there to help them overcome their transgressions.
For more serious transgressions such as serious violations of civil law, spouse abuse, child abuse, adultery, fornication, rape, incest, and apostasy, formal Church discipline is often required. This formal discipline is begun when a presiding priesthood leader determines through prayer and revelation that it is necessary to hold a disciplinary council. It should be noted that the “purposes of disciplinary councils are to save the souls of transgressors, protect the innocent, and safeguard the purity, integrity, and good name of the Church.”
Such formal Church discipline may include restriction of Church membership privileges or a loss of Church membership, also known as excommunication. Excommunication is rare and is considered as a final means of resolution. Before a pronouncement of excommunication, all things are carefully and prayerfully taken into consideration in order to help a member who has transgressed to remain a faithful, active member of the Church.
During the proceedings of a disciplinary council, prayerful counsel is offered to the member for whom the council is being held. It becomes the responsibility of the member who has transgressed to act upon the counsel that is given to help him work through the repentance process and to regain his good standing in the Church. Excommunication is usually sought after counsel has been given and the transgressor willingly refuses to accept and follow the counsel which had previously been given.
The Church of Jesus Christ Responds to Questions Regarding Discipline
In response to the many questions received recently from the news media regarding Church discipline, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued the following statement:
The Church is a family made up of millions of individuals with diverse backgrounds and opinions. There is room for questions and we welcome sincere conversations. We hope those seeking answers will find them and happiness through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes members’ actions contradict Church doctrine and lead others astray. While uncommon, some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the Church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs. This saddens leaders and fellow members. In these rare cases, local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled. Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.
Actions to address a person’s membership and standing in their congregation are convened after lengthy periods of counseling and encouragement to reconsider behavior. Ultimately, the door is always open for people to return to the Church.
Excommunication is not necessarily an End
Careful note should be taken of the final line in the statement, “Ultimately, the door is always open for people to return to the Church.” The statement made by The Church of Jesus Christ should help to shed a light of hope and understanding on the often misunderstood subject of excommunication. Excommunication from the Church does not have to signify an end to all things even though Church privileges are taken away. As stated, the door is always open and people who have been previously excommunicated can return to the Church.
One person wrote the following in the comments of Jana Riess’ article Are we looking at a Mormon purge?, which helps to clarify the definition of excommunication as it applies to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
Excommunication is not irretrievably permanent, and it’s actually meant to be a beginning and not an end. Although there are serious consequences that go along with it (related to ordinances and gifts thereof, names on records of church, holding callings, etc), people who are excommunicated are not disposed of nor are they out of the community. People for whom that action is invoked can (and often do) attend church weekly and church activities, receive home and visiting teachers, associate with members, and meet intensively and regularly with their bishop. (In this way, excommunication may differ quite dramatically from the way the same word is used in other traditions.) They are by no means thrown away or spiritually dead, and we are to remain without judgment of them and welcome them in our community just as we would anyone else.
Church disciplinary action is not intended to be the end of the process—rather, it is designed to be the beginning of an opportunity to return to full fellowship and to the full blessings of the Church. Priesthood leaders try hard to be sensitive to the disciplined person’s needs for understanding, encouragement, counsel, and assistance. They work to see that he or she has regular visits with his or her bishop; that the person has mature, caring home teachers or other specially assigned individuals; and that his or her family receive the attention, counsel, and fellowship they need during this difficult time.
The desired result is that the person will make whatever changes are necessary to return fully and completely to be able to receive the marvelous blessings of the Church. When the person has progressed to that point, his or her current bishop or stake president has the authority to convene a new disciplinary council to consider what action needs to be taken—even if the person is now living in a new ward or stake or if a new bishopric or stake presidency is now serving.
After the rebaptism of a person who has not been endowed in the temple, his or her membership record shows the original baptism date, with no reference to the excommunication. A man who previously held the priesthood but was not endowed should generally be ordained to his former priesthood office. Again, his membership record will show his original ordination date, with no reference to excommunication.
The Healing Streams of Mercy and Love
As a former Stake High Council member, and a former member of two Bishoprics as both Second and then First Counselor, I have had the opportunity to be a part of disciplinary councils. It was my experience then, and is my sincere belief now, that disciplinary councils are not held merely to discipline a person for the transgression which he or she has committed, but rather that person is viewed and treated as a special soul of worth, a son or daughter of a loving Heavenly Father.
The council is begun with prayer asking for the Lord’s guidance and direction in attending the affairs of the council, and no decision is made as to the outcome of the hearing until the presiding priesthood leader and his counsellors have sought the Lord for guidance and inspiration.
Furthermore, it has been my experience as I have been called upon to participate in such councils, that the overarching message that is conveyed to the transgressor is that they are loved by their Heavenly Father and by the members of the Church, even on the rare occasion that a person is excommunicated. In all instances, regardless of the outcome of the council, the healing streams of mercy and love continue to flow.
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