LDS Church is Providing an Army of Volunteers to Red Cross

LDS Church is Providing an Army of Volunteers to Red Cross

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church) and the American Red Cross have a similar mission: to help others in need. Both depend on an army of unpaid volunteers to get the work done. And sometimes their efforts overlap, as both organizations are often among the first to respond in times of natural disaster. So it’s no surprise that the two have partnered together for more than 25 years.

Leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ and the Red Cross have been working to improve and coordinate their efforts on the community level so they are more prepared when disasters strike. Two years ago, the Church and the Red Cross signed a “memorandum of understanding” designed to improve their joint efforts in disaster planning, including training, drills, and identifying and using shelter locations.

This year, the organizations are taking their partnership to the next level—The Church of Jesus Christ has a goal of providing 200 volunteers to the charitable organization by the end of 2014, according to Kristy Denlein, volunteer services director for the Red Cross’ Utah region. The initiative began in Utah earlier this year, but both groups see potential to expand outside of the state. Denlein said:

The Red Cross and the LDS Church have a strong partnership nationwide, so I think it’s something here, modeling that good relationship with a community partner like the LDS Church, that could definitely be modeled throughout the country.

Prophets and apostles of Jesus Christ encourage members to be prepared for all types of emergencies—including natural disasters, job loss and long-term power outages, just to name a few. The Red Cross also teaches emergency preparedness so their volunteers are ready to help in times of need.

This joint effort will provide “breadth in our services and some depth in our responses through disaster preparedness and response,” according to Lynne Killian, who is one of the Red Cross volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ’s initiative. Denlein said, “It’s a great opportunity for the Red Cross. We’re enjoying working with our partners and we’re just excited to see … where it takes us through the year.”

 

The Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ

 

 

The mission of The Church of Jesus Christ is to rescue souls—sometimes physically as well as spiritually. Latter-day Saints are disciples of Jesus Christ, who taught that the greatest commandment was to love God and our neighbor. Sometimes that means sharing what we know about the gospel and the Savior, and sometimes that requires us to step up and help others in their time of need. The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of my favorites, and illustrates this point well. A Jewish man was walking on a road when two men attacked him, robbed and beat him and left him for dead. Two religious men walked past him and didn’t help. But the third, a Samaritan, stopped and helped the man. This is how disciples of Jesus Christ honor Him. Elder Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ), said:

This is the call of Christ to every Christian today: “Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep”—share my gospel with young and old, lifting, blessing, comforting, encouraging, and building them, especially those who think and believe differently than we do. We feed His lambs in our homes by how we live the gospel: keeping the commandments, praying, studying the scriptures, and emulating His love. … And we feed His sheep throughout the world by being good Christian neighbors, practicing the pure religion of visiting and serving the widows, the fatherless, the poor, and all who are in need.

 

… Like the good Samaritan, the Savior was continually reaching out to rescue, love, and nurture people around Him, regardless of their culture, creed, or circumstances.

Missionary service isn’t always young men in suits and ties knocking on doors—but it is always being an example of Jesus Christ, ready to serve.

 

Called to Serve in the Red Cross

 

Red Cross Helping HandsService is an integral part of The Church of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is part of the covenant (or two-way promise between a person and God, and the terms are set by God) that members make when they are baptized into the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ functions in large measure because of the unpaid volunteer ministry of its members, or its lay clergy. From the Sunday School teacher to the bishop (leader) of the ward (local congregation), all are unpaid volunteers.

But members do not campaign for their assignments. Rather, they are “called,” or invited, to serve in these positions by their local Church leaders, who pray and ask God whom they should call. Most members willingly accept assignments. What does this have to do with the Red Cross? The Church of Jesus Christ will fill their Red Cross volunteer positions through callings, church service and missionary assignments. Although many associate Latter-day Saint missionaries with young men in shirts and ties, some members are called to serve part-time or full-time in humanitarian assistance or other service missions.

Lynne Killian and her husband, Val, were among those called to serve a 24-month humanitarian service mission for The Church of Jesus Christ with the Red Cross. Lynne helps to oversee assistant programs, delivering Christmas cards to veterans and keeping the Red Cross office in order. Her husband, Val, works to ensure that emergency response programs, shelters and kits are all in place. Both are also taking multiple emergency preparedness classes.

The point, said Val, is this: “If you’re not trained and if you’re not proficient and if you haven’t an interest, then all you are is just one that needs help, rather than one that can give help.” And being of service to your neighbor is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. Val said:

We’re all members of the community. No matter what religion or race or creed we are. It behooves each one of us to help each other, to help our neighbor, to know what it means to be neighborly.

As disciples of Christ, we seek to emulate Him by serving those around us.

 

Helping Hands in Times of Need

 

Arkansas_Tornado_4

 

In The Church of Jesus Christ, members believe in helping others. Latter-day Saint Helping Hands volunteers are hard to miss with their trademark yellow vests. But this is just one line of defense, so to speak, as we seek to take care of those around us. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained:

… Using funds donated by generous members, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sends food, clothing, and other essentials to relieve the suffering of adults and children all over the world. These humanitarian donations, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars in the last decade, are made without any consideration of religion, race, or nationality.

 

Our massive relief effort following the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami provided $13 million in cash and relief supplies. In addition, more than 31,000 Church-sponsored volunteers gave more than 600,000 hours of service.

 

Our humanitarian assistance to the victims of Hurricane Sandy in the eastern United States included large donations of various resources, plus almost 300,000 hours of service in cleanup efforts by about 28,000 Church members. Among many other examples last year, we provided 300,000 pounds (136,000 kg) of clothing and shoes for the refugees in the African nation of Chad. During the last quarter century we have assisted nearly 30 million people in 179 countries.

Rather than boasting, Elder Oaks’ remarks illustrate how one person’s contribution can really make a difference. Elder M. Russell Ballard said:

Honeybees are driven to pollinate, gather nectar, and condense the nectar into honey. It is their magnificent obsession imprinted into their genetic makeup by our Creator. It is estimated that to produce just one pound (0.45 kg) of honey, the average hive of 20,000 to 60,000 bees must collectively visit millions of flowers and travel the equivalent of two times around the world. Over its short lifetime of just a few weeks to four months, a single honeybee’s contribution of honey to its hive is a mere one-twelfth of one teaspoon.

 

Though seemingly insignificant when compared to the total, each bee’s one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey is vital to the life of the hive. The bees depend on each other. Work that would be overwhelming for a few bees to do becomes lighter because all of the bees faithfully do their part.

The same is true as disciples of Jesus Christ seek to do His work, serving others around the world. Each person’s contribution adds to the whole. And while each donation of time, money, energy or other resources may seem insignificant, when compiled together it adds up to a great work that blesses the lives of many people.

I have seen countless visual examples of this throughout the years, but I’d like to recount one experience. A member of our ward was struggling to get his hay bales from the field to his ranch, and the rain (and snow) was coming—which would ruin his hay. So another ward member organized an old-fashioned hay bucking party (without telling the owner of the hay). A small army of volunteers of all ages showed up at the hay field and loaded the bales onto trucks.

Then, to the owner’s surprise, at least a half-dozen trucks and trailers loaded with hay pulled up at his ranch and began unloading. This job was too much for one person to accomplish in such a short time. But with many hands, we were able to finish the job in one night. It was cold and wet, but there were no complaints—especially when several ladies brought out hot chocolate and cookies for everyone. And the tearful gratitude of the rancher and his family was a powerful reminder that God hears our prayers, and He often answers them through other people.

 

Ready to Help after Disaster in Austin, Texas

 

Service God Mosiah

 

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ are also taught to be prepared. Because, in truth, when the storms come the time to prepare has passed. Latter-day Saints in Austin, Texas, saw a need for more preparation last fall as they were helping to clean up after massive flooding. The work of the American Red Cross of Central Texas was slowed because too few people were trained to conduct damage assessments—which is essential before those affected can receive aid. Kevin Christensen, vice chair of Central Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, said:

After the flood, we realized the need for more people to be trained to provide disaster assessments. The quicker an assessment is completed, the faster help can be provided to those in need.

More than 50 members of The Church of Jesus Christ teamed up with the Red Cross to receive disaster assessment training. Bill Dorman, disaster services volunteer chair for the American Red Cross of Central Texas, said that these newly trained volunteers can be deployed in a future disaster. He said:

There are three phases in the disaster cycle: preparedness, response, and recovery. LDS members can now work as part of a damage assessment team during disaster response. Providing accurate and timely disaster assessment is essential for good planning and to verify families’ disaster-caused needs.

Kent Huntsman, president of the Round Rock Texas East Stake (a stake is a geographic region consisting of a group of wards), said:

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we seek to follow the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, in our service to mankind. We are pleased to partner with the Red Cross as we prepare to assist those in need during times of disaster.

Their preparation will greatly bless the lives of others in an area that has seen flooding, tornadoes and flooding in recent years.

 

Emergency Preparedness Begins at Home

 

Bottled beansThe scriptures teach us to be ready in all things— financially, spiritually and economically. Ezekiel 38:7 states: “Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.” Indeed, you can’t be a guard or a help to others if you haven’t taken care of your own house, so to speak. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ are counseled to gather a year’s supply of food and have money in reserve, among other things. Elder Boyd K. Packer, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told the story of a woman who was striving to follow this counsel. He said:

Someone ridiculed her determination to gather her year’s supply. She had stored enough for herself and her husband, with some to spare for her young married children who were without the means or the space to provide much for themselves. She told him she did it because the prophets had counseled us to do it. He chided her, “In the crunch you won’t have it anyway. What if your leaders call everything in? You’d have to share it with those who didn’t prepare. What will you think then?”

 

“If that should happen,” she said, “at least I will have something to bring.”

I love this story because I have seen it played out from both sides on many different occasions. When we moved to Idaho about seven years ago, we hit some financial stumbling blocks, as did many others in our area. One husband and wife shared some of their food storage with us in our time of need—and were able to do so because they had it. At another time, we were able to share some food storage with another family because we had it. When we are prepared spiritually and otherwise, we need not fear. And we will be in a position to be a helping hand to others in need. That is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.

6 Ways Technology Helps Spread the Gospel

6 Ways Technology Helps Spread the Gospel

Some friends recently had dinner with a sister missionary serving in Salt Lake City on temple square. She contacted an investigator in another country, commenced teaching the discussions, coordinated the hand-off to local members, and followed up after baptism all from the Internet. This man lived in a country not currently open to proselyting missionaries. With technology and the advancements on the Internet, missionaries are now teaching the gospel in literally every country on earth. As a result, more people are hearing the message and  joining the Church.

Technology is a wonderful instrument, but not something everyone understands extremely well. But incredibly, computer software and the Internet are solving that problem, too.

Distributed software today is everywhere. It’s user friendly, powerful, efficient, and empowering. We take advantage of it without even realizing it. Ask a class room of children how many of them could program a website and expect a few youngsters to raise their hands. Likely most of them have a Facebook page, however, which means they’ve already done what was asked without evening realizing it. We take advantage of the new technology because it’s easier and more ubiquitous than ever before.

The Church of Jesus Christ and the Use of Technology

Such is the case for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well. Technology has considerably changed the way we preach the gospel. That which was difficult and localized is easy and worldwide. Thousands of digital reproductions are completed and posted only moments after live delivery, including video, audio, and text versions, amassing the single largest database of religious information from living oracles on the planet. All these media are made available to the entire world in many different languages free of charge.

1. SCRIPTURES

LDS Scripture Study OnlineA colossal endeavor to link all four standard works together with a topical guide was completed in 1981. With the explosion of the Internet, now the work has moved off the printed page to digital formats on the web with a totally integrated version of the scriptures and study guide online, available in audio, video, and text media formats. Logins for all 15+ million members of the Church are already in place. The scriptures can be marked, labeled, and indexed online. Any verse of scripture can be referenced, highlighted, and navigated with a single link.

2. GENEALOGY

LDS FamilySearch Stories PageAnother popular website, FamilySearch.org, provides access to the largest collection of genealogical and historical records in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services each year to learn more about their family history. Digital records from over 100 countries spanning hundreds of years are safely stored. Experts claim access to an estimated 3 Billion names from all over the world. Additionally, there are 4,745 family history centers worldwide, where personal help can be had and resources are again available to all without charge, including 24/7 telephone support, live chat, email support, and a massive database of training resources and online troubleshooting database. Recently, FamilySearch participants have been granted personal access to Ancestry.com, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage. All this is provided to participants at no cost.

FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to FamilySearch, the site was launched 24 May 1999, and more than 3.5 billion names reside in searchable databases. Over 35 million historic records are published online each month. The resource boasts of 1,363 searchable historic record collections online and over 10 million visits per day by more than 85,000 visitors.

FamilySearch.org—Facts and Statistics

Launch Date 24 May 1999
Number of names in searchable databases Over 3.5 billion
Number of historic records published online each month Over 35 million
Number of digital images published online each month from original source documents Over 33 million
Number of searchable historic record collections online 1,363
Number of indexed names published per year Over 200 million
Number of visits per day Over 10 million
Number of visitors per day Over 85,000
Number of pages viewed per day Over 5 million
Page views since launch Over 16.6 billion
Visits since launch 712 million
Visitors since launch 308 million
Number of online indexing volunteers Over 200,000
Number of registered users Over 1 million
Number of family history centers 4,600 in 126 countries
Number of digital books Over 60,000

FamilySearch has 6.875 billion historic records on microfilm that are being digitized and eventually indexed. These records contain an estimated 20.6 billion names.

FamilySearch has over 200 digital record preservation camera teams in 45 countries who produce more than 100 million new digital images for free online publication each year.

The FamilySearch Indexing program is available in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish with more language interfaces and international projects coming.

3. SOCIAL MEDIA

LDS Leaders Facebook PagesAn estimated 80,000+ missionaries also use social media to preach the gospel all around the world. Facebook and Twitter are frequent sources of their message, but these sites are not the only social media regularly updated with Church content. Instagram was recently added to the list of social media used by the Church, which now includes at least the following media channels:

Facebook

Twitter

Google+

YouTube

Pinterest

Instagram

iTunes

Roku

BYUtv

• Much, much more…

4. CINEMATOGRAPHY

The enormous video project taken on by the Church depicting the life and ministry of the Savior, called The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos, combines technology, cinematic arts, and high-quality film making. Dozens of videos online portray significant events in the life of Jesus Christ. Users can sign-up to be notified as new videos become available. Internet technology was first offered to the general public in the last quarter century during the 1900s. The Church was right there using the Internet then and has improved right along with other advancements in this industry. The number of sites and Internet footprint was small then. But today, multiple sites, blogging, video, streaming and HD quality is common and abundant on all of its sites.

Hundreds more online videos, web links, and millions of impressions are made available through these media as they change the world as we know it, making wholesome and uplifting content available to users. Often embedded in the midst of the article or web page where the reference is used, video and audio are becoming prolific and common. This technology has made content more accessible and easier to use than ever before. But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can see, hear, and feel it for yourself.

5. WEBSITES

The Church maintains dozens of websites in many different languages, and new sites are added and updated regularly. A consistent login is made available between multiple websites with some of the most popular receiving millions of daily visitors.

A partial list of the Church-sponsored websites follows:

lds.org (informational) available in 100 different languages (unofficial count)

familysearch.org (genealogy)

ldsjobs.org (employment)

mormon.org (missionary)

tech.lds.org (technology)

And these items mentioned are only the beginning. To these media there are many more technologies to add, including at least the following: temples, schools, universities, missionary work, broadcasts, training, curriculum, genealogy updates, and much, much more.

6. LDSTOOLS

Provides church organization and membership contacts for local congregations from either a computer or the palm of your hand on a mobile device. In some cases it provides photographs and contact information. That content is left up to the local leaders and individual participants. Additional content is being added every day at a breakneck speed with no evidence of slowing in sight.

The Internet stretches beyond space and time to allow us to visit places and be involved in spreading the gospel message far-and-wide in a way we only dreamed about previously. Proximity is no longer a requirement to see and experience many locations all around the earth and enjoy the beauty this world and life have to offer.

Together these technologies allow the Church to share the gospel message to every corner of the earth, and people from all walks of life benefit.

The Use of Digital Devices in Missionary Work

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released updated information about the growing number of missionaries and the expanded use of digital devices and online missionary work. According to the latest reports, nearly 86,000 missionaries are now serving in 406 missions around the world. With the change in age requirements for both young men and young women who wish to serve full-time missions, the number of missionaries will continue to increase, but is expected to peak at about 88,000 after this year. It is also anticipated that in the late fall, the number will begin to plateau and then decrease and stabilize around 77,000. All the while, Sister missionaries have become a vital part of the discussion in mission leadership councils.

Additionally, 6,500 missionaries in 30 missions in the United States and Japan have been pilot testing the use of digital tablets. This technology is now being extended to all missions in North America, Japan, and western Europe which will enable more than 32,000 missionaries in more than 162 missions to have mini iPads for their immediate use for studying and teaching the gospel. Missionaries will be asked to purchase these $400 devices which they can keep after their mission. Assistance will be provided to those who cannot otherwise afford to purchase the device. Approximately the same number of missionaries will become anxiously engaged in missionary work online through such social media venues as Facebook several hours a day.

You can learn more by reading the article “Church Expands Use of Digital Devices for Missionary Work” and watching a video where Elder David F. Evans discusses the expanded missionary efforts in the Church.

What technologies in the Church help you? How are you using them?

 

Faiths Uniting in Support of Families at the United Nations

Faiths Uniting in Support of Families at the United Nations

The United Nations has set 8 Millennium Development Goals to help the world’s poorest countries improve their situations by 2015. They include eradicating diseases, promoting gender equality and empowering women, improving maternal care and reducing child mortality rates. But conspicuously absent from these goals is the strengthening of families. The leaders of nations, it would appear, don’t seem to notice. But the religions of the world are not only taking notice, they are uniting to do something about it. Nicholeen Peck, a mother and blogger who was invited to present a symposium at this year’s U.N. Conference, wrote:

It is no secret that boundaries are being crossed and topics are being legislated at the United Nations that are not the proper role of national government let alone international government. “The family” a term we are very used to hearing is not a term that many organizations and world leaders favor now days. They think the term is too limiting. Many of these groups also don’t like the term “motherhood,” as they see it as degrading to women. …

For years now, many great people have traveled to the United Nations to impact positive change….  Great pro-family pioneers started productive conversations about the importance of life, the family and motherhood which we are still benefiting from. Currently, there are multiple organizations that are following in the footsteps of these great pioneers. In fact, there were more pro-family organizations attending the CSW conference than I realized existed! This was exciting for me. And, what was even more exciting to me was who was running these organizations. Religious people! So many faithful people from all over the world, Islamic, Catholic, Christian, Mormon and Jew are all working side by side to spread love and brotherhood/sisterhood as well as influence world leaders to support the most holy of organizations, the family. …

What these supporters of traditional family understand is this: The family is the foundational unit of society. If the family fails, then society fails. In contrast, if you support the family, you support and build up society. The late President Gordon B. Hinckley, until his death, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said:

A nation will rise no higher than the strength of its homes. If you want to reform a nation, you begin with families, with parents who teach their children principles and values that are positive and affirmative and will lead them to worthwhile endeavors.

It is this reason that The Church of Jesus Christ and other religious faiths are joining forces to defend the family as well as to help strengthen the traditional family in many nations that are struggling to survive. If a nation will rise no higher than the strength of its homes, then we need to help those in impoverished nations improve their homes—so they can improve their nation. It is, of course, only one area of focus to help a country. But we can’t underestimate its vital role in the process of building a nation.

The Family is of God

True love can alter human livesThe family is the basic, fundamental unit of any society. The family is also an essential element of our existence here on earth. We are all spirit children of a loving Father in Heaven, who sent us here to earth to gain a physical body and to see if we would obey His commandments in all things. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ), explained:

Our understanding of life begins with a council in heaven. There the spirit children of God were taught his eternal plan for their destiny. We had progressed as far as we could without a physical body and an experience in mortality. To realize a fulness of joy, we had to prove our willingness to keep the commandments of God in a circumstance where we had no memory of what preceded our mortal birth.

In the course of mortality, we would become subject to death, and we would be soiled by sin. To reclaim us from death and sin, our Heavenly Father’s plan provided us a Savior, whose atonement would redeem all from death and pay the price necessary for all to be cleansed from sin on the conditions he prescribed (see 2 Nephi 9:19–24).

But a loving Father in Heaven didn’t send us to earth alone—He sent us to earth in families. Elder Russell M. Nelson, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:

Individual progression is fostered in the family, which is “central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” The home is to be God’s laboratory of love and service. There a husband is to love his wife, a wife is to love her husband, and parents and children are to love one another.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World states:

The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally. …

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. … By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

Elder Boyd K. Packer, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:

Children are the past, the present, and the future all blended into one. They are consummately precious. Every time a child is born, the world is renewed in innocence…. Parents are responsible to provide for their children…. We are to look after their physical, their spiritual, and their emotional needs. … Nothing compares with a father who is responsible and in turn teaches his children responsibility. Nothing compares with a mother who is present with them to comfort them and give them assurance. Love, protection, and tenderness are all of consummate worth.

The family is the protective shelter into which children are born, nurtured, loved and taught. It is there that they learn their values, morals and how to treat other people. And parents and grandparents also benefit from lessons provided by the young. Elder Packer said:

When it comes to understanding our relationship with our Heavenly Father, the things my wife and I have learned as parents and grandparents that are of most worth knowing, we have learned from our children.

As a child, it’s difficult to comprehend the love that our parents have for us. But as we become mothers and fathers, we gain a greater appreciation for that unconditional love. And, as Elder Packer said, we gain deeper insight into the relationship we have with our Father in Heaven. Families serve a divine purpose here on earth.

The Power to Bind Traditional Families Together Forever

LDS Temple MarriageFamily relationships also have a divine purpose in the eternities. A loving Heavenly Father did not intend for us to develop deep and abiding love for family members on earth only to be forever separated when we die. Rather, families are designed to be together forever, if certain conditions are met. Forever families begin in the holy temple. Temples are literally houses of the Lord, holy places of worship where a person makes sacred covenants (or two-way promises between a person and God, and the terms are set by God). To enter the temple, a person must have a valid temple recommend—which is available to members of The Church of Jesus Christ who are in good standing. In the temple, a man and woman are sealed together for eternity, provided they keep the commandments and honor their covenants. This means that their marriage does not end at death but will continue beyond the grave. This is possible through the power of the priesthood, which is the power that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of His children. It is the same power by which Jesus Christ organized His church on the earth and performed miracles. Only one who has the proper priesthood authority has the power that Matthew described: “Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). The greatest joys in this life and the next are found in families. Indeed, the definition of exaltation, or eternal life, is to live in God’s presence as families. Elder Nelson taught:

Marriage is the foundry for social order, the fountain of virtue, and the foundation for eternal exaltation. Marriage has been divinely designated as an eternal and everlasting covenant. Marriage is sanctified when it is cherished and honored in holiness. That union is not merely between husband and wife; it embraces a partnership with God. … Marriage is but the beginning bud of family life; parenthood is its flower. And that bouquet becomes even more beautiful when graced with grandchildren. Families may become as eternal as the kingdom of God itself. …

Marriage was intended by the Lord to endure beyond physical death. His plan offers eternal perpetuation of the family in the kingdom of God. His plan provides temples and opportunities to officiate therein for the living and the dead. A marriage sealed there launches a husband and wife into that grand order of unity so necessary to the perfection of God’s work.

A husband and wife, sealed in the holy temple, are bound together for eternity. Any children born into the union are also bound to them. If the couple already has children, these children can be sealed to them in the temple. It is a powerful bond that will remain in force after death.

Linking Generations

God’s grand plan for His children is to have generations linked in love, by the sealing power. One husband and wife, sealed together for eternity, is but a single link in the human chain. My husband is sealed to his parents and siblings. I am sealed to my parents and siblings. Each of our siblings is sealed to his or her spouse. Our hope is that our children will be sealed to their spouses. When my husband and I were sealed together in the Salt Lake Temple, there were two mirrors across from each other. When we looked into the mirror facing us, we saw images of us stretching back for eternity. When we turned around, we saw the same image stretching back for eternity. This is symbolic of the human chain. Each of us has ancestors who came before us, and each of us has countless numbers of descendants who will follow us. We are the current link in the chain. Each one of us will, at some point in our lives—either here on earth or after we die— have the opportunity to accept or reject the teachings of Jesus Christ. Each will have the opportunity to make and keep the sacred covenants necessary to bind our families together forever. It is for this reason that members of The Church of Jesus Christ perform vicarious work in the temples of God for the dead. The ancient prophet Malachi prophesied:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6)

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, explained:

The vicarious ordinances we perform in temples, beginning with baptism, make possible an eternal welding link between generations that fulfills the purpose of the earth’s creation. Without this, “the whole earth would be utterly wasted at [Christ’s] coming.” Elijah has, in fact, come as promised to confer the priesthood power that turns hearts and establishes the welding links between the fathers and the children so that once again what is bound on earth “shall be bound in heaven.” When he came, Elijah declared, “The keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.”

We are anxiously about the task of searching out our fathers and mothers of generations past and binding them to us and us to them. Is not this the strongest possible evidence of our conviction that Jesus Christ will come again to reign upon the earth? We know He will, and we know what He expects we will have done in preparation for His return.

Elder Nelson said:

When I think of the love I feel for each member of our family, I sense, to a slight degree, the love that our Heavenly Father bears for His children. … God’s love for His children is infinite. Regardless of race, nationality, or gender, He loves all of them. … Every human being who comes to this earth is the product of generations of parents. We have a natural yearning to connect with our ancestors. This desire dwells in our hearts, regardless of age.… When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us. We feel part of something greater than ourselves. Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors through sacred ordinances of the temple.

Defending the Family

lds-traditional-familyThe world today seeks to redefine what a family is—that a family is just any group of people of any gender who want to live together. But this isn’t true. There is no power in such a loosely defined term. The traditional family is powerful because it was instituted by God. No other family structure, no matter how well-intended, has the power to extend beyond the grave. In speaking of different options for marriage, Elder Nelson compared it to shopping. He explained:

Wise shoppers study their options thoroughly before they make a selection. They focus primarily on the quality and durability of a desired product. They want the very best. In contrast, some shoppers look for bargains, and others may splurge, only to learn later—much to their dismay—that their choice did not endure well. And sadly, there are those rare individuals who cast aside their personal integrity and steal what they want. We call them shoplifters.

The patterns of the shopper may be applied to the topic of marriage. A couple in love can choose a marriage of the highest quality or a lesser type that will not endure. Or they can choose neither and brazenly steal what they want as “marital shoplifters.”

The subject of marriage is debated across the world, where various arrangements exist for conjugal living. My purpose in speaking out on this topic is to declare, as an Apostle of the Lord, that marriage between a man and a woman is sacred—it is ordained of God. I also assert the virtue of a temple marriage. It is the highest and most enduring type of marriage that our Creator can offer to His children. … The noblest yearning of the human heart is for a marriage that can endure beyond death. Fidelity to a temple marriage does that. It allows families to be together forever.

Marriages and families that aren’t based on the Lord’s standard for marriage—which is a legal, lawful union of one man and one woman—will not stand the test of time. They also undermine the traditional family. Elder Nelson said:

Throughout the world, the family is increasingly under attack. If families fail, many of our political, economic, and social systems will also fail. And if families fail, their glorious eternal potential cannot be realized. Our Heavenly Father wants husbands and wives to be faithful to each other and to esteem and treat their children as an heritage from the Lord.

People of all faiths feel the need to defend traditional marriage because they know the divine importance of the family. While governments and civil leaders may feel the need to bow to social pressures, people of faith do not. They know that traditional marriage is the proper setting for the bearing and rearing of children. And they know that developing countries need to strengthen their own homes and families to build a stronger foundation for their nation. As Elder M. Russell Ballard, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, said:

Our communities and neighborhoods will be safer and stronger as people of all faiths work together to strengthen families. It is important to remember that all larger units of society depend on the smallest and most fundamental unit, the family. No matter who or what we are, we help ourselves when we help families.

Mormons Move Fast to Serve Tongans

Mormons Move Fast to Serve Tongans

Early in January 2014, a massive cyclone hit the island group of Ha’apai, leaving destruction in its wake. As soon as the storm hit, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church) mobilized its resources to provide fast relief to those affected by the storm.[1]

Severe Cyclone Damage

Cyclone Damage TongaTropical Cyclone Ian created severe damage throughout Tonga, and hit Ha’apai the hardest. One woman was killed during the storm. The storm caused damage to buildings as well as to power and communication systems. Complete recovery from the storm will take many months.

Despite the overwhelming damage left by the cyclone, The Church of Jesus Christ was ready and able to act quickly to begin providing relief. (more…)

The Church of Jesus Christ: Nelson Mandela, Race and the Priesthood

The Church of Jesus Christ: Nelson Mandela, Race and the Priesthood

Following the death of Nelson Mandela, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon” Church by the media and others) released a statement expressing its condolences at the loss of a national and world leader.

Remembering the Legacy of Nelson Mandela

Nelson MandelaFormer South African President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nelson Mandela, passed away on Thursday, 5 December 2013 at the age of 95. Born on 18 July 1918 in Mvezo, Transkei, South Africa, he was the son of Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, a counselor to the royal house of the Thembu tribe, and Nosekeni Fanny Mandela. The name given him at birth was Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela. He was later given the name Nelson by a school teacher.

Throughout his life he was known as both “the world’s most famous political prisoner” and “South Africa’s Great Black Hope.” [1] In a CNN report following his death, Mandela was described as a “freedom fighter, prisoner, moral compass and South Africa’s symbol of the struggle against racial oppression.” [2] He was the first Black President of the Republic of South Africa having been elected on 29 April 1994, and serving until June 1999. (more…)

Missionaries Safe in Manila After Wake of Typhoon Yolanda

Missionaries Safe in Manila After Wake of Typhoon Yolanda

The Republic of the Philippines suffered major devastation as a result of Typhoon Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, which occurred in early November 2013.The powerful tropical cyclone ravaged many portions of Southeast Asia, with the Philippines being one of the hardest hit areas. The storm, recorded as one of the most deadly Philippine typhoons, claimed the lives of some 5,924 people, and not one missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon” Church by the media and others) was numbered among those who perished.

The Aftermath of the Storm

On 12 November 2013, 71 missionaries from the Tacloban mission arrived safely by bus in the capital city of Manila. There they were greeted by Elder Brent Nielsen, Philippines Area President, who had been expecting their arrival.

Mormon Tacloban MissionariesThe missionaries had little more than the clothes on their backs as most of their belongings were washed away by the typhoon. They were given warm blankets, taken to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) cafeteria for a hot meal, given clothes that they could change into, and were able to notify their families of their safety via Skype and telephone calls. (more…)

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