Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pray for These
I am constantly reminded of how incredibly horrific life can be. The terrors of mankind and nature are revealed everyday on the news and in TV shows--fictional and documentative. As I hear survivors and witnesses of such disturbing events share their experiences, I cannot help but feel compassion, pain, and sorrow for them.

Every one of these people is a child of God, known and loved and not forgotten by Him. Let us remember them in our prayers. Pray for all the children who are being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. Pray for all the women who have been raped, murdered, and mutilated. Pray for all the innocent victims of terrifying civil wars. Pray for all the people lost or injured in unforgiving wildernesses. Pray for all the fearful people caught in natural disasters and freak accidents. Pray for all these people to be blessed with comfort, peace, hope, temporal salvation if it's God will, and spiritual salvation if it's not.

Challenge: Next time you pray, ask Heavenly Father to bless those enduring the worst of trials.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Who Are Christians?

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are frequently labeled Mormons/the Mormon Church or Latter-day Saints/the LDS Church. No matter what people call us, they never reference Christ, the Son of God, whom we worship and for whom our church is named. We are never called Christians.

Who are Christians? According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, a Christian is "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ." There are many things wrong with this definition: 1.) it implies that to be Christian you only need to profess belief, 2.) the belief is in Christ's teachings, not in Him, and 3.) there are many interpretations of what His teachings are. The last problem is why people do not consider us Christians. The first two are why I don't consider many people Christians.

Of course, to be Christian you need to believe in Christ. We do. We believe He is the Son of God and atoned for our sins. We worship Him and only Him--not prophets, dead or alive, as some think, which is why we prefer to be called by our church's true name instead of being called Mormons.

However, a true Christian is more than just someone who believes in the Bible and Jesus Christ. Christ said,
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23, emphasis added)
This passage reveals that more than profession of belief and good works are required to be His disciples. We must also do the will of the Father. We must show our true belief by keeping His commandments (John 14:15) and following in His footsteps (3 Nephi 27:21). If we do these things, our Christlike lives will testify to the world that we Mormons are true Christians (Matthew 7:20).

Michael Otterson of Church Public affairs addressed the issue of Mormons being excluded from Christians. “If you try to track the number of references to Jesus Christ in the service, you may lose count,” Otterson says. “So just observe the families, listen to the prayers, leaf through the hymn book to see if any of the hymns seem familiar, and make up your own mind as to how Christian our people are.”

A New Era article adapted from Stephen E. Robinson's book Are Mormons Christians? discusses the question more thoroughly. For more articles on the subject, go to and type "Christians" in the search box.

Discussion: What else makes a true Christian?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness

Service does not have to be big or time consuming. Sometimes the best service is small, random acts of kindness. These little but meaningful acts brighten other people’s day and make them feel loved. Try one of the following ideas to surprise a stranger, friend, neighbor, or family member.

  • Put coins into a parking meter running low.
  • Return stray shopping carts in the parking lot so that they don’t damage cars.
  • Pay for something for someone waiting behind you in line.
  • Give up your seat on a bus or in a waiting room.
  • Hand out or randomly leave treats for students studying in the library during midterms and finals.
  • Hold open the door for people and help them carry in packages or other loads.
  • Give $5 gift cards for fast food places to homeless people.
  • Smile and say hello!
  • Doorbell ditch, leaving behind treats, a small gift, or a kind note.
  • Shovel your neighbor’s driveway, weed their yard, or wash their car.
  • Buy or make a lunch for your roommate(s) or a friend.
  • Clean the dorm/apartment/house for your roommate(s) or a friend.
  • Walk your neighbor's dog (if you and the dog are both comfortable with the idea) or help care for a pet.
  • Help a lone mother with her kids at church.
  • Send thoughtful texts wishing friends good luck on a test or interview, giving words of comfort or humor on a difficult day, or telling them when something reminded you of a memory together.
  • Do a family member’s chores, especially when he or she is busy or wants to go out.
  • Give a younger sibling a ride.
  • Let a sibling borrow or use something of yours.
  • Change a baby’s diaper or comfort a crying baby.
  • Leave notes in your family members’ sack lunches, drawers, shoes, purses, wallets, backpacks, etc., for them to find.
  • Arrange for babysitters and surprise your spouse with a date night.
  • Give your spouse a massage.
  • Surprise your kids with a stop for ice cream on the way home from school or errands.
 Challenge: Try to do one random act of kindness everyday.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Power of Service

I received this story from my father, who got it from his bishop. It has been edited for usage and clarity. Names have been changed for privacy:

This is an amazing story, a miracle really, that happened right here in the loving Lake Elsinore Ward.

There was a very less-active man married to a very active woman: the Smith family. They lived in Horse Thief and had three little children. Sister Smith held callings and juggled her kids and was as active and faithful as could be. What an example she was. Brother Smith was a good guy, but just didn't care much for the Church. 

They asked us to help them move out when Brother Smith found his dream job across the country on the East Coast. As always, our sweet priesthood brethren and our Relief Society sisters jumped in without hesitation to assist in the move. 

The Lord works in mysterious ways! Here's the rest of the story as written in a Facebook message from Brother Smith: 
"Hello Bishop Johnson! Thanks for accepting my friend request. Sister Smith says she's updated you in Christmas letters about my progressing LDSification.

"I thought to get in touch with you because I came across a photo I took the day some guys from your ward helped me pack our
 whole house into a truck! The service I received and the love I felt that day were important parts of my conversion. I'd like to show you the pic, and maybe if the guys in it are still around, you could thank them for me. You could also let them know that the part-member family they helped that day is now sealed in the temple! I've served in many Young Men callings and am thrilled to now be Ward Mission Leader. I have a great love for my Father in Heaven, and I love to serve His children in any way He'll let me. Since we live in a university town, I get a lot of opportunities to follow the good brothers in that photo, helping people move. That is some of my favorite service because it's a hard transition, moving, so people are very clearly in need and willing to accept the service. Also, you really get to know new members when you wrestle their pianos in and out of apartments.

"The photo is attached.

"Also, I would like to thank you for baptizing my son Max. I'm sorry that I couldn't have been more a part of that ordinance and that special day. But you must have done a good job! He is an amazing young man that his peers and adults alike enjoy and respect. Two weeks ago he got his patriarchal blessing and I got to share in it with him. Awesome!

"Brother Smith"

This story is just one example of the power of service in bringing people to Christ. Never underestimate the influence the smallest act of service can have in someone's life.

Challenge: Accept any opportunity to serve, no matter how small or simple.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to Teach the Scriptures to Toddlers

Teaching scripture stories to toddlers is important for instilling them with faith in God, gospel knowledge, and power to do what’s right. But it’s not easy for them to understand the scriptures and they have short attention spans, so try the following ideas to help them learn better.

  1. If your toddler has difficulty cooperating during family scripture study, let them read their church books while the family reads from the scriptures. They will learn that it is a special time to read about the gospel. 
  2. Try reading toddler books about scripture stories together before bed.
  3. Retell scriptures stories in your own words at a toddler level. To get little children involved, have them do something (like clap) every time they hear a certain key word (like faith). Or make little happy and sad faces for them to hold up when they hear the words “happy” and “sad.”
  4. Read the Church's scripture stories for children. After a few sentences, read the corresponding verses from the scriptures. Remember Elder Bednar's words that even babies can feel the spirit of the scriptures although they do not understand them.
  5. Use puppets, stuffed animals, toys, pictures, and other props for visual and audio aides while you tell scripture stories. Toddlers enjoy a lot of sensory stimulation.
  6. Buy or make a flannel board to teach scripture stories. Let the kids help you put up the paper cutouts.
  7. Have toddlers act out scripture stories. Make it fun and dress them up in bath robes and sandals and use props. This idea works best for Family Home Evening.
  8. Watch Veggie Tales cartoons or other animated scripture stories. Discuss the story afterward to help your toddler understand the lessons taught and how to apply them in their young lives. Try corresponding the movie to what you are reading in family scripture study.
  9. Sing Primary songs about scripture stories, such as “Nephi's Courage.” Again, try to correspond them to what you are reading.
  10. Most important, be an example to your children. Let them see you read and study the scriptures, follow the commandments, and live a Christ-like life. They will learn by example how to apply the gospel to their own lives.
Sharing Time: How do you teach the scriptures to your toddlers?