Have Some Faith

Nobody knows the exact location of the Book of Mormon's events. Because of that a lot of people question the reality of the events that happen in it, but you know what? I don't care and neither should you.

When you read the Book of Mormon there are examples of faith from the very beginning–Lehi's family leaving Jerusalem without knowing where they're going, Alma's discourse on faith, Ammon willingly helping a Lamanite king and offering to be his servant, and Moroni's insistence that if you ask in faith whether or not the Book of Mormon is true. So, why does a book rooted in faith rather than proof garnish so much cynicism and skepticism?

A lot of it deals with how the Church was perceived when it was first reorganized and how it's still received today.

In the early 1800s when Joseph Smith first reorganized the Church he was branded a charlatan, a money digger, a crook. It wasn't true, but the pastors and preachers in his area were so entrenched in a "war of the churches" that they were not going to lose any ground to an inexperienced teen. That attitude followed the early Saints throughout the entire eastern United States before they were finally pushed West.

Rough beginnings. And even now when history is discussed in schools and the congregations of other faiths Mormons are seen as a joke or the villains (which I really don't understand because they were the ones being tarred and feather and pushed out of their homes repeatedly). But that's the sad truth of the matter. Because of that (and the fact that the LDS Church refuses to bend their standards based on public opinion) the Church is held to higher standards of proof.

Because there has been no physical and definitive archeological proof there are a few different paths of thinking people take: having faith, coming up with ill-supported evidence in North and South America, or demanding evidence that's not there.

Speculation about the location of where the Book of Mormon took place can be fun. There are individuals who have created some convincing arguments that they present as proof; but people who rely too fully on evidence miss the message of the book. The message of the Book of Mormon is not about what you can physically find; it's about how the Spirit speaks to you. It's about the faith you build in the Savior. It's about the love God has for you and what He's done to ensure the gospel can rest in your hands at any time.

So, I'll say it: where it happened does not matter as much as the fact that it actually happened.

Search the scriptures. Ponder the message. Pray sincerely. The truth will come regardless of what anyone else says or does.


-Nikita

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Your Life is (Kinda) Like a Video Game

“We have our agency to do whatever we want and we can choose to do whatever we want to do, so God can’t be omniscient because that would take away our agency.”

It’s an argument I hear against religion all the time. It’s also a concept that is misunderstood by a lot of people and a great way to get a brief understanding of it is imagining your life is like a video game.

Before video games come into existence, a game designer (or a group of game designers) has to plan the game out. There are quests, paths, character designs, foes and villains, and options all around that the main character gets to explore. The designer knows everything about the game. All the ins and outs, paths and quests, companions and enemies–everything. I mean, it would be silly if a designer knew nothing about their own game, right?

So, now you’ve got a new game that has been designed and finished in your hot little hands. You become the main playable character and it’s awesome. There is literally a world at your fingertips to explore. And that’s exactly what you get at doing. You go through tutorials, you find tools to help you on the way, and there are even people in your game that point you in the right direction to go through the main storyline. It’s pretty simple.

Then you get sidetracked by so many things, and that’s okay because there are tons of side stories (or quests) that you can play. They don’t detract from the main story and they can give your character valuable experience points which help your character level up. It’s all part of the game. And the designer knew it.

The designer knows every path you can take because he designed it and he knows what the possible outcomes of each story will be. It doesn’t mean you can’t explore to your heart’s content to all the ends of your game map. It also doesn’t mean you can’t skip stories or get really into them. It just means someone has thought ahead and came up with dozens of solutions to each problem presented and has given the player the options of which way to go.

It sounds complicated, but reasonable, right? Well, that’s pretty much a mortal equivalent of what Heavenly Father has done for us.

He has created this amazing world full of different paths that you get to choose to follow or not and He has given you free reign over it. The first 18 years of your life are kind of like the tutorial where you find tools, and then you step out into the world and find companions to help you get places. You work on your main storyline.

Just because the Designer knows all the possible outcomes and stories, doesn’t mean He doesn’t give you the agency to go through them all. You get to choose what to go through. You get to decide if you wanna be a good guy, a villain, or somewhere in between.

The best way to get through the game is to read the instructions or walkthrough guides that have been complied by people who played before us (this applies to games and life–read your scriptures! Those are your instructions and walkthroughs.).

Agency is an amazing gift from God. It allows us to decide where we want to be and gives us the opportunities we need to grow in this life–and the next. Use it wisely.

-Nikita

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The Coffee Question

Those crazy Mormons are at it again. Not only do they have to their own Bible, but now they're supposedly health nuts? Who cares if they drink coffee or tea? They drink energy drinks and soda and those are worse!

I get it, I really do. Why have restrictions on something so widely used and say it's for health reasons when ignoring all the other garbage we eat and drink? There are a lot of answers and opinions on the Word of Wisdom, but really, it boils down to obedience.

Whether you are a born and raised Mormon, convert to the Church, or just interested in Mormonism, there's one thing that you should know about that really gets people's feathers ruffle: the Word of Wisdom.

Like most revelation given to prophets both in ancient times and present, the Word of Wisdom started out as an answer to a problem Joseph Smith presented to the Lord. The Lord answered with guidelines for fruits, vegetables, grains, and vague statements like "hot and strong drinks". Fortunately, we have prophets who clarify what it meant. In 1921, Heber J. Grant told the Saints that the Word of Wisdom specifies alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco. Pretty simple, right?

Well, in the less than one hundred years there have been justifications and reasonings and murmurings as to why the Word of Wisdom isn't applicable. On the other hand, there are people who become fanatics and refuse to entertain phrases such as "coffee table".

People will come up with reasons that God instituted the Word of Wisdom, a common reason people say coffee is avoided is tannins, but there are just as many tannins in grape juice.

In opposition of the Word of Wisdom some Mormons will say that since barley is set apart for use in mild drinks (D&C 89:17) it's okay to drink beer, even though prophets have specifically said alcohol is breaking the Word of Wisdom.

Sometimes commands from God are simple. Sometimes they don't make sense either. In the Bible the Israelites were bitten by snakes. The Lord told them they would be healed if the bites if they looked at a serpent on a staff. And what happened? It was too easy. Many of the Israelites didn't believe it could happen. Like the Israelites there's a promise to the Word of Wisdom:

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel, and marrow in their bones;

19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21

Sounds pretty awesome to me, but the promises, like every other promise from God has a prerequisite of obedience. You don't have to understand the why, sometimes you just have to show God the respect He asks for and the love He deserves by following His commands.


-Nikita

Are Mormons Christian?

"Mormons are weird. I mean, they read the Bible, but they have another Bible? Revelations says you can't add to God's word anyway. There's no way they can be Christian."

It's something I've heard over and over in my lifetime–in fact, I heard it yesterday when I was asked to leave my favorite Bible journaling group. Unfortunately, it's also technically not true.

Sure, Mormons are kind of weird. I mean, who else willingly wears long pants, capris, or Bermuda shorts with regular t-shirts in the middle of 100•F weather? We kind of stick out once in a while because of it, but we don't have another Bible. I mean, we have scripture that's different from the Bible that we accept as the word of God, but so do the Jews and followers of Islam.

Before I get to the Book of Mormon (and I'll get there), let's talk about Revelations. In the last chapter of the book it says:

"If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book".

Pretty serious, right? I'd say so. And since Revelations is conveniently placed at the end of the Bible many people have concluded that the warning is to anyone who tries to add to the Bible itself. What most of Christian people don't realize is that Revelations was actually written before a majority of the New Testament. Chronologically it was written concurrently with the gospels. That doesn't mean we disregard all of the New Testament after John ends. I mean, if we did we wouldn't have the admonition of Paul, we wouldn't have the epistles if the ancient disciples of Christ, we wouldn't have very much of any New Testament at all.

In reality, John the Revelator was speaking specifically of the codex he wrote. The Bible wasn't all nicely put together and added to from time to time. It's made up of different codices that complement each other.

So, by having additional scriptures, no one is violating John's warning.

Now, onto the Book of Mormon and whether or not Mormons are really Christian or not.

The Book of Mormon is scripture. That's what it is. You don't have to believe in it just like you don't have to believe in the Torah or Quran. The Book of Mormon can be summed up pretty neatly in one verse from the Second Book of Nephi (which is one of the books in the book). The scripture says:

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we write of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

2nd Nephi 25:26

Pretty neat little mission statement there. But that is literally the purpose of all Christian scripture. To bring people to Christ. The Book of Mormon doesn't take away from the Bible; it doesn't replace the Bible either, it complements the Bible. It testifies of the Bible's truthfulness while showing the "other sheep which are not of this fold" that Christ spoke about to the apostles.

So, are Mormons Christian? I'm going to answer with a resounding "yes". If the scripture above from the Book of Mormon doesn't convince you and if the fact that we believe and study the KJV (King James Version) Bible doesn't convince you, I'll offer this:

noun

noun: Christian; plural noun: Christians

1 1.
a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

Mormons are baptized at the "age of accountability" or later–which means eight years old or older. We are baptized by immersion just as the Savior was. And in addition to Christian baptism, we believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

In case you didn't know the actual name of the Mormon Church is "the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". His name is literally in our church name.

I know there are still going to be people who don't believe members of the LDS (Mormon) Church are Christian even after I've presented my case. You know what though? That's okay. I just want to emphasize that there is happiness in doing good to all people, even though they may have different views and different beliefs.

It's not enough to say you're Christian. Act it.


-Nikita

A House of Order

It’s the 24th of July. I know, it doesn’t seem like anything but another day of the month, but here in Utah it’s a big deal. I’ve got friend from all over the world and I can confidently say that not a lot of people are aware of the fact that the early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were severely prosecuted for being part of what is essentially a Christian sect different from Protestant, Presbyterian, or Baptist.

After being pushed from their homes repeatedly, having an extermination order put into place by the Missouri governor calling for all Mormons to be killed, and then having the first prophet of the Church brutally murdered the early Saints decided to head west. Out of the (then) borders of the United States. There’s your history in a nutshell.

July 24th is a big deal because after being persecuted over religion for so long, the early Mormons became pioneers and they came to the Salt Lake Valley where they settled. That’s what is celebrated in Utah on this day. Religious freedom and the ability to live without fear of someone signing an extermination order (although there was something similar to that with Buchanan’s Blunder in the 1850s).

If you’ve never seen it, in Salt Lake there is an amazing building called the Salt Lake Temple. A lot of people know it’s a tourist destination in Utah, but what they usually don’t know is the purpose of that building, so here it is: the temple is what members of the Church believe is literally the House of God. You know the tabernacle the Israelites had in the Old Testament? Yeah, pretty much a modern day version of that. We don’t have the Ark of the Covenant housed in the temple, but we have sacred ordinances that we take part of there.

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When you go to the temple there is a feeling of peace and serenity, calmness and a feeling of unity with God. It’s amazing. It’s a sensation you want to follow you to your own home. And honestly, it can. You can make your home a comfortable place to live that invites the Spirit of God. There’s a verse in Mormon scripture that gives an awesome outline for what you need to do:

Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;

Doctrine and Covenants 88:119

Organization can be hard. For me it’s nearly impossible with my five small children running around like crazy heathens. But it can happen. That scripture I just shared has an amazing hidden gem that tells you exactly what you need for organization and order: prepare every needful thing. Do you really need dozens of bottles of shampoo you may never use? Do you really need to buy your kids 12 new toys when they don’t play with the 48 toys they have at home? Do you really need a new book when you already have a bookcase at home filled with unread materials?

I’ve been on and off again practicing minimalism. I know there’s this general idea that it means you have so little that you can literally live out of a suitcase, but really minimalism is appreciating the material things you already have and not buying more than what you need. It’s almost an abstract way of thinking in our overly materialistic world. For a while people seemed to jump on the minimalism train when Marie Kondo published her book “the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. That book is actually what I use and recommend.

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Minimalism, order, organization, decluttering, and learning to appreciate and use our material things to their full potential will help us in so many ways. I know it can help with “mental clutter”, it can help you feel less overwhelmed with your home, it can help prevent overusing materials that are limited in the world by reducing supply and demand. It’s kind of like an unexpected jack of all trades.

I’m going to be going through “the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” on this blog. You can check out posts related to minimalism and organization every Monday so you can see what I’m going to be doing every week and try it out yourself.

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-Nikita

the Millennial Mormon

Millennials are self-absorbed, technology addicted, nonreligious human beings who can’t focus on anything but their participation trophies they got as kids… Right? Talk to nearly anyone and you’ll hear all of that and maybe more. Of course, that’s just a generalization, but it is so hard to break free of stereotypes. I’m a millennial, and while I do use my fair share of technology and social media I like to think I’m not very egotistical or self-centered–I mean the majority of my waking life is centered around my five kids, so focusing on just me is a little impossible.

Oh, and I’m an active member of organized religion.

I was born and raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In an age of exploring what spirituality may mean and embracing abstract ideas of who (or what) God is, I’m an oddity. I read the Bible. I read the Book of Mormon. And I love it.

Religion hasn’t always been a big deal in my life. In fact, I was distant from religion for a while in my late teen/early adulthood. There’s a long story behind all that and I’ll have to share it sometime, but here I am in the heart of “Mormonism” and here I’ll stay.

Here’s the dealio: I’m going to let you see what Mormonism looks like from an active member’s eyes. I’m going to share all the funny, weird, and creative stuff I do to connect emotionally to my religion (think service projects, scripture journaling, trips with my kids to religious places, temple worship, etc). I’ll be honest about how the Church and accepting Christ into my heart and life has changed me, so if you have questions for me feel free to reach out and ask. 

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-Nikita