Monday, December 06, 2004


Two nights ago my wife and I watched Luther, a spectacular, moving film starring Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther. For those unacquainted with religious history, Martin Luther was one of the first of the religious reformers of the 16th century. This movie is truly a masterpiece, and gives a glimpse into Luther's life and his personal and public trials. The film also serves to give the viewer a greater understanding of the time period and of the origins of the Reformation.

It also made me think a lot about Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration. Had it not been for reformers like Luther, who helped open people's minds to thinking about the gospel for themselves rather than accepting doctrines and practices that had no scriptural basis, it may have been much more difficult for a restoration of the gospel to occur. I am reminded of a statement given by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1978, quoted by President Faust in the March 2002 Ensign:
"The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God's light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals. . . . We believe that God has given and will give to all peoples sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation" ("Statement of the First Presidency regarding God's Love for All Mankind," 15 Feb. 1978, qtd. by James E. Faust)
President Hinckley, the prophet who leads the Church today, has frequently and openly invited those of other faiths, "You bring all the good that you have and let us see if we can add to it" [1][2][3]. Latter-day Saints respect the work of the reformationists, and are even more grateful for the restoration of the gospel for our time. To learn more about the Restoration, you can get a completely free video from that depicts the First Vision and the beginnings of the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith. You can choose to have representatives bring it to your home at no cost to you. Or if you prefer you can watch the video online first.

And again, if you're at all interested in the history of postbiblical Christianity or the Reformation of the 1500s, I highly recommend that you rent Luther starring Joseph Fiennes from your local video store.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

September 2004 Ensign

For those unfamiliar with the monthly LDS Church magazine The Ensign, I highly recommend subscribing to it. It's only $10 for an entire year, so subscribe now!

Go on, I'll wait.

In the mean time, I'll give links to the articles on which I'll comment below. Okay, now I'd like to share a few things that stood out to me when I read the September issue last night.

In Opposition to Evil by President Gordon B. Hinckley

This is an excellent article, full of pearls of wisdom. Please read it first so you can learn directly from the prophet's words before I point out some parts I found particularly interesting.

To give an overall summary, President Hinckley points out that in many areas of the world today we find media "which is debauching, that which leads to violence and illicit sex." Nevertheless, he is confident that "there are millions upon millions of good people" whose combined voices can turn back the tide of filth in the world. Says he, "I believe the challenge to oppose this evil is one from which members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as citizens, cannot shrink." I think the word "oppose" is significant; we are not to simply avoid evil. We are to oppose it.

"I should like to suggest four points of beginning in our efforts to oppose the tide of evil," President Hinckley continues. He lists and expounds upon these four areas:
  1. Begin with yourself.
    Choice quote: "We cannot expect to lift others unless we stand on higher ground ourselves."
  2. A better tomorrow begins with the training of a better generation.
    Expose your children to good books, magazines, and music. "When there is a good movie in town, consider going to the theater as a family. Your very patronage will give encouragement to those who wish to produce this type of entertainment." "Let those who are responsible for any efforts to put suitable family entertainment on television know of your appreciation for that which is good..."
  3. The building of public sentiment begins with a few earnest voices.
    "...we should earnestly and sincerely and positively express our convictions to those given the heavy responsibility of making and enforcing our laws." "Remarkable consequences often flow from a well-written letter and a postage stamp." " not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. (D&C 64:33)"
  4. Strength to do battle begins with the strength of God.
    "Put on the whole armour of God... For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-13)"
President Hinckley is a wise and inspired leader, and I encourage everyone—Latter-day Saint or not—to follow his counsel.

Compassion for Those Who Struggle (author's name withheld)

This is an excellent article written by a Latter-day Saint who struggles to avoid the temptation of same-sex attraction. Because I have had friends in the past confide in me about such personal matters, I am always intrigued by Church articles published on the subject.

The author recognizes that becoming engaged in a homosexual relationship or lifestyle is not pleasing to the Lord (see Guide to the Scriptures: Homosexuality), and wishes not to be labeled "gay," but to take upon him- or herself the name of Christ instead (¶ 3). Anyone else who feels similarly, or who wishes to better understand the doctrine of Christ on this subject, should definitely read this article.

Some good quotes:

"Persons... struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction are in special need of the love and encouragement that is a clear responsibility of Church members."
-Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

"Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, the claim 'I was born that way' does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal."
-Elder Dallin H. Oaks

"If you do not act upon temptations, you need feel no guilt."
-President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

"We should always distinguish between sinful acts and inappropriate feelings or potentially dangerous susceptibilities. We should reach out lovingly to those who are struggling to resist temptation."
-Elder Dallin H. Oaks

The author states that he or she becomes uncomfortable when people ask why he or she is not yet married. "Worse, however, is hearing the dreaded words 'I have the perfect person for you to date.'" Nevertheless, the author explains that for some people dating those of the opposite sex may help "to work past inappropriate attractions."

The author continues, "Some may say that same-sex attraction can be 'cured' simply through dating and marriage. But President Gordon B. Hinckley has dispelled this notion: 'Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices, which first should clearly be overcome with a firm and fixed determination never to slip into such practices again.'"

Anyway, subscribe to the Ensign! It's a great way to keep the Spirit in your home and to continually learn more about the gospel.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Buddhism and Isaiah

When I was on my mission in upstate New York, I once tracted (knocked doors on) a particularly interesting street in Rochester. There we met Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Muslims, and a Buddhist monk with his own backyard temple -- all right next door to each other. I love studying religion, and we chatted with the Islamic fellow for a few minutes about postbiblical prophets and books of scripture.

The Buddhist monk was quite interesting. He spoke very limited English, but was extremely kind and even allowed us to enter his very elaborate temple (after we had removed our shoes). He showed us his large, brightly decorated Buddha shrine and some scrolls that appeared to be rather old and of great importance to him. We were also given a pamphlet (written by someone else, but also in broken English) explaining some of the practices of Buddhism for novices. (As a token of our gratitude, we brought him a Thai translation of the Book of Mormon the following day.)

There were many Buddhist practices outlined in the pamphlet that should be quite familiar to Latter-day Saints and other Christians. I was studying Isaiah shortly after reading the pamphlet, and I came across a passage that struck me as similar to some things I had just recently read. The following is based on some notes I wrote in my scriptures.


Isaiah 57
The Ten Precepts (or Novice's Precepts) of Buddhism have many similarities to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Two of the more obscure precepts (#8 and 9) seem to possibly coincide with verses 9 and 7 of this chapter of Isaiah.

The Ten Precepts
  1. I observe the precept to abstain from taking of life [Thou shalt not kill]
  2. I observe the precept to abstain from taking what is not given [Thou shalt not steal]
  3. I observe the precept to abstain from sexual intercourse [Outside of marriage? Perhaps relates to law of chastity. If generally intercourse is to be abstained from, may relate to celibacy practice of some Christian faiths]
  4. I observe the precept to abstain from telling lies [Thou shalt not bear false witness]
  5. I observe the precept to abstain from drinking intoxicating drinks [Word of Wisdom—law of health]
  6. I observe the precept to abstain from taking any food after noon [Perhaps has ties to Jewish customs? May relate to fasting]
  7. I observe the precept to abstain from dancing, singing, playing music and looking at shows [some Christian religions denounce dancing as abominable]
  8. I observe the precept to abstain from wearing, decorating or adorning oneself with flowers, scents and cosmetics [Isaiah 57:9 seems to imply that "increasing [one's] perfumes" is abominable. According to the pamphlet, to pay homage "one should make an offering of flowers, candles and incenses to the Buddha image then bow three times to the Buddha image." Frankincense, an ingredient in holy sacrificial incense and also used as a perfume, was offered as a gift to the baby Jesus.]
  9. I observe the precept to abstain from using of luxurious and high seat and bed [Isaiah 57:7 begins "Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed..." LDS footnote "a" (in reference to "bed") says "IE as an altar for idolatrous use." The Hebrew word from which bed was translated here is mishkâb, "a bed," according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.]
  10. I observe the precept to abstain from accepting any gold and money and not to be desirous in spending them [Thou shalt not covet; "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10). Perhaps the first part relates to unpaid ministry.]

Pretty interesting stuff, eh? I'm not implying any particular reasons why similarities might exist between these practices of Buddhism and Isaiah's writings, or between Buddhist practices and those of various Christian faiths; I'm just listing some interesting observations and similarities that I've discovered.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Work quote from Leonardo da Vinci

Heard this quote in church today. I believe it comes from the Aaronic Priesthood manual:
"God sells us all things at the price of labor." -Leonardo da Vinci
How profound is that quote! Think about who Leonardo da Vinci was -- one of the greatest inventors in history and one of the most intelligent people to walk this earth. And yet, as can be inferred from this quote, he wasn't prideful about his accomplishments. In fact, da Vinci recognized that we can receive any blessing from God, but God expects us to work for it.

I believe this fits well with Jeffrey R. Holland's observation that "salvation is not a cheap experience." If "it was never, ever easy" for Christ, can we expect to not do anything and become joint-heirs with Christ? Paul explained to the Romans:
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (Romans 8:16-17; emphasis mine)

General Thoughts

First off, I should state that the intent of my posts on my religion blog is to pass along my own insights on gospel subjects; things I've noticed while studying the scriptures, things that have crossed my mind while pondering religious subjects, etc. Kind of like my own mini one-man FARMS or something.

These are just thoughts of mine, and do not necessarily reflect the teachings or opinions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To learn about the Church and its doctrines from the Church itself, you should start by reading everything available at, and you may wish to request a visit from the missionaries. They can more thoroughly explain gospel subjects, and they have a lot more time to do so than I do. Missionaries of the Church study the gospel for about 3 hours daily, have devoted 2 years of their lives to full-time missionary service in another part of the world from where they live, and most of them are very knowledgeable about gospel subjects.

That said, here are a couple of the first thoughts I'd like to post.
  • If even the prophet and apostles continue to study the scriptures and continue to learn from them, then you and I certainly have a lot to learn.
  • Many people feel the Spirit of God strongly as they read and ponder the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Some have had the experience of not being able to put it down until they finish reading it. There is a certain power in that book. As I was in a missionary meeting one day a thought occurred to me: The Book of Mormon is concentrated gospel. Concentrated in a similar sense as concentrated orange juice. When the prophet-historian Mormon (after whom the book is named) abridged the ancient record of the Nephites, Mormon recorded the most important things in his abridgment. Once you gain a testimony of the truthfulness of the book by the power of the Holy Ghost (see Moroni 10:3-5), it is so important to continue to study the record on a regular basis -- daily when possible -- to continue to receive light and truth from the Christ-centered messages it contains.

First post to the JoshMeister's Religion Blog

My religious thoughts will go here. My regular, not necessarily about religion blog is at