From One Ancestor To Another – Temple Blessings

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There are moments in life that defy human speech and words to describe them.

Moments such as the birth of a long awaited family member; a thank you hug for a gift, no matter how much it cost; a chance to truly appreciate a loved one; exist beyond the threshold of human description.

At times the best we can do is weep with these powerful emotions inside of us. Tears of joy and gratitude fall where words cannot go.

I had one of those moments today.

I had a chance to perform the endowment ordinance for my deceased grandfather. Through what has taken place, my grandfather has received a secured place at the presence of God, and if he so chooses, he can accept the gospel and receive that secured place as his own.

If it wasn’t for my paternal fourth great grandfather, who received the gospel lessons from Parley P. Pratt, my maternal grandfather would have had to go through a longer waiting period to receive the blessings offered through Christ.

I met my grandfather when I was a baby. I don’t remember it at all. But what I can appreciate is the sacrifices he made to give my mother the life opportunies she had. I’m grateful to him for that.

But in any other faith, because he didn’t accept Jesus Christ in this life, his eternal destiny was fixed at suffering.

But according to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s actually entirely and mercifully different. The truth declares those who heard not the message STILL HAS A CHANCE.

Luke 15 is a great illustration. I read it in the temple and wept, moved beyond words.

I’m so thankful for having had this opportunity to transfer the blessings of one ancestor to another. I’m so thankful for the mercy of God through His beloved son Jesus Christ.

It’s never too late for anyone.

– Jeremy Unitt

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The Guardian of an Angel #BecauseofHim

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To write a sort of preface, this short story is a combination of real life events and perspective gathered through practice of the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I had an experience that allowed this story to be created in my mind to accurately depict one of the numerous amounts of blessings available because of Jesus Christ and what He did for us. And when I accepted the Easter Challenge to post about the Savior and things that can come to pass because of Him, I felt it was time to release this short story. I’d like to thank Kelsey Warthen, who helped with the editing, information, some wonderful additions and proofreading, and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to be able to write this, to be able to feel the truth that is presented in this perspective. #BecauseofHim Please read, share, comment and reflect on the blessings available by and through Christ!

“Johnathan Castilian is a noble man,” his closest friends would say to describe him.

“I couldn’t ask for a better husband. I already have him,” his wife would say.

“If I need help, John is the first one to come,” his neighbors and co-workers would state on numerous occasions.

He was a best friend, the moral compass in many instances, and a person that anyone would be proud to associate with.

Despite all the praise for his efforts, Johnathan was unsatisfied. He had feelings of inadequacy which he kept to himself because he couldn’t quite explain them. These hidden feelings were always very strong. But they felt the strongest every time he tended to his 1 year old son – his only son – who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Up until that last year, Johnathan had never felt so incapable. He was raised in New York and was taught to take all situations and find the best in them. He made this attitude a guiding principle in his life with his wife and two daughters. Then Alex was born. Everything changed. Johnathan tried desperately to hold on to hope, but his hope and strength and breath were seized by the crushing vice grips of helplessness.

The doctor explained Alex’s condition to them. He explained that Alex would need dozens of surgeries just to stay alive. There was fluid on Alex’s brain. His body was so tiny. Johnathan heard the words but could not see how his small son, his perfect son, his beautiful son could have something so hard ahead of him. Johnathan and his wife lived in and out of the hospital for months and then they finally got to take their little boy home. The doctor explained that Alex would live his life in wheelchairs. Alex would need special beds and braces. They went to classes and support groups. Johnathan learned how to how to care for Alex. He followed what he learned with a robot-like quality of obedience. He refused to make a mistake, and when something went wrong, he felt it was always his fault. It wasn’t long before he began to feel that the reason his son had such a condition was because he had done something wrong. Something made him rationalize that the condition was a direct result of his own mistakes. He felt as if this was some sort of punishment. He felt like he must have done something wrong and now his sweet boy was paying the price.

He went to church. He heard the stories of miracles. People were born paralyzed and Jesus healed them of their conditions. He envisioned a day where his faith would allow his son to walk. But every time he looked at his son in a medical helmet or watched his wife hold Alex’s head up from falling too far, his faith would wane.

One Sunday, the teacher spoke of the power of prayer. He said that all God’s children have a right to answers to their questions. His chest leaped at the mention of an answer. He felt his faith strengthen again. “If I pray with a sincere heart, I can know what the Lord intends for my son!” He thought. Though it was hard for him to admit, he wanted to know if this was his fault. He wanted to know if he had done something in the past that had caused his son to suffer.

The next day, he stepped hastily out of the room where Alex slept. His insides were writhing in anxiety for what he was about to do. He kissed his wife gently and told her he had to step out to take care of something but he would be back before she went to sleep. He headed out the door with a place in mind. Behind a small myrtle grove, which had been in the Castilian family for three generations, there was a small clearing. This was Johnathan’s favorite place to think and to pray. It was so peaceful. He walked quickly in the cool evening air. He knelt and tried to speak but the words caught in his throat. He swallowed hard, determined to seek the answers to his most terrifying question. He started to speak and this time his voice, though shake, quietly sounded in the night. He shared his burdens and feelings with God.

“I have done everything that I know that would help me draw closer to thee,” he said, choking. “I did all I could because I wanted to be responsible for one of your sons. I’ve loved your daughters that you’ve sent me. But I knew that if I could do everything possible to show thee my desire for a son, thou wouldst grant me this. Now I have him, this precious boy…”

At this point during his prayer, he entered into a new depth of sincerity. The emotions began to take over. Tears forced their way down his cheeks and he could no longer maintain his composure. For the longest time he kept these troubled feelings to himself, hoping they would go away. Now, as he knelt before his God, he could no longer hold it in.

“Father, I have him. I’ve wanted him for so long and now I have him. He can’t speak. He can’t walk. He can’t open his hands long enough for me to hold them…” Johnathan said. He was no longer trying to hold back his emotions. In that clearing, he didn’t have to be strong. He didn’t have to paint on a smile and tell his wife or his little girls that everything would be okay. He didn’t know. He didn’t know that everything was going to be okay and he couldn’t honestly see any outcome where everything would be okay. Alex was broken. It was not okay. It was not okay at all. His shoulders sagged as he felt all the tension and worries release from his body.

“I have chosen to take care of him to the best of my ability. But I cannot help but wonder, Father, did I cause this? Am I to blame for his condition?” Johnathan spoke so freely, he couldn’t tell if what he was saying was fair to himself. It went against what he taught, but the thought of it ate away at him, cancerous and unyielding. There was to be no release from the misunderstanding till he asked for wisdom in faith.

After mentioning one more time in prayer how much he loved his son, he ceased speaking and sobbed silently to himself. The guilt from his feelings of inadequacy he confused for being ungrateful. And the longer he reflected on it, the more he felt that what he had said was incorrect.

The feelings of guilt were suddenly dissipated and a comfortable warmth filled Johnathan’s chest. He raised his head and looked into the sky.

The feeling in his chest gradually spread until it filled his whole body and he knew that his prayer had been heard. He turned his attention to the strengthening warmth coming from within. The feeling helped him realize that this was divinely planned from the beginning, orchestrated by a loving all-knowing being who understood the trial, and knew Johnathan was capable of passing through it. As Johnathan focused and listened, he heard a voice.

“Do not forget the miracle you already have been given. I’ve sent you an angel. I’ve sent you my angel and he may not be able to do all those things. But he can still smile.”

Johnathan thought back to the times when he would feed his son and see him grin from ear to ear. When he would sing and Alex could not stop laughing. The moments when he would say hi after being at work and Alex would switch from his normal curious face to one of pure joy.

Johnathan stood up from the ground and looked in the direction of his house. Holding his hand to his chest and feeling the comfort from within, he said out loud,

“Then I will remember his smile.”

Johnathan did just that. As he cared for Alex, he watched for that smile. He looked forward to his son’s wonderful beaming face. With ever smile and ever laugh Johnathan’s feelings of inadequacy left. The guilt left as he focused his efforts on watching Alex’s joy. And there were moments, too sacred to mention, that Heavenly Father would allow Johnathan to know that Alex was a miracle.

Three more years passed and complications took Alex’s life. They mourned but Johnathan felt no despair. He was sad to see his precious boy go, but he knew if he did all he could to return to God, he’d see Alex again. He held onto those precious memories, especially the memories of Alex’s smile.

Those memories got Johnathan through all the tests and temptations till he crossed the veil himself at the age of 87.

From the room where he passed away, led by a man robed in the most exquisite white, Johnathan could not describe the feelings he had as he saw family members greeting him, shaking his hand, hugging him. They all thanked him for his hard work and diligence in following Jesus Christ. He met aunts and uncles, grandparents, and soon he began to meet people he only knew by name through written record and books. While the crowd of relatives flocked around him to greet him into the new setting of life, Johnathan could see a being, surrounded by the most brilliant light, descending a staircase and parting his family members in order to reach him.

The incandescent individual walked closer to Johnathan, freeing the space around him until they were the only two facing each other. The visitor’s hair, figure and clothing was illumined by the most incredible light, emanating a beauty beyond words. His face, form and stature was perfect, and there was not a single defect that could be seen anywhere. Glorious beyond anything Johnathan had seen while on the other side, the visitor rendered Johnathan speechless. Before he could say anything, the radiant being fell to his knees.

He threw his arms around Johnathan, buried his face and wept. After a moment, this magnificent being looked up, choking on his words, and said two simple syllables.

“Thank you.”

Then he smiled.

I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind.

  • Jeffery R. Holland

Are Mormons Christians?: A Troubled Mind Makes Comments On Biblical Infallibility

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Have you asked that before? Have you heard it asked? Or perhaps, this is the first time you’ve heard it, and now are you asking yourself this very question?

Well, this question was certainly asked by a few last night during my Facebook activity.

I saw a post on my wall that was quoting the Bible, a post that caught my attention, and at that same moment, I connected that Biblical verse to a verse in the Book of Mormon that shared the same theme. Curious what posting a similar verse from Restoration scripture would cause, whether it be a question or curiosity, I decided to experiment and comment, using this Book of Mormon verse.

Now, a little commentary for the readers to try to picture the situation here, this person who had posted the Bible quote was a highly respected colleague, a person I associated with and recognized for his faith and his courageous defense of Christ among his peers. He’s someone I long looked up to, someone who definitely wasn’t only looked up to by me. I knew for a fact, he was the role model for several people.

When he got my comment he asked me if it was a verse from the Book of Mormon, and when I replied in the affirmative, I found the comment deleted.

His reasoning for such a response, as generally deleting someone’s post would be regarded negative, was in fact not negative. He wanted to assure me that he wasn’t deleting it out of hate or disrespect. I respected the fact he made the effort to let me know it wasn’t for negative intentions. However, his reasoning for deleting the Book of Mormon was something that ended up troubling me the entire day, till today as I have decided to express this to readers (as this happened yesterday). He said he deleted the Book of Mormon quote because he is a Christian.

My vagueness and lack of names and details is to spare identity. My goal isn’t to single out one person on my friends list, but to single out his philosophy, one which is negative in nature and is unfortunately shared by many people worldwide.

One I think, should at least have a voice against it, to help those actually unaware of the damage such philosophy is doing and continues to do.

Are Mormons Christians? Is using the Book of Mormon, allowing it to stand as another witness of Jesus Christ, incentive enough to separate the Latter-Day Saint faith, a faith centered in the Atonement and the Savior Himself, from others who profess Christ as their Savior but may have minor variations of religious opinion due to various amounts of spiritual light?

No.

I will speak from a personal standpoint, rigid and stubborn as is my natural trait from my family, that God NEVER intended that the profession of faith be bound to an object, even a book as profound, prepared and inspiring as the Bible. This is my opinion backed by personal testimony of revealed truth through the Holy Ghost. Profession of faith should be lead by expression and example of a lifestyle.

There is no Biblical principle that promotes that one who believes other books to be given of God is not a Christian. I state that point to be as clear as the night sky in San Marcos, Honduras (which is exceptionally clear, for those who haven’t ever seen it).

I do invite readers to try and show me where that idea can be expressed by the Bible. Because it isn’t in there. And if you are going to use the same verses that I know you are going to use, be prepared to have those verses better explained.

There are Church leaders of other faiths who spend hours drilling into their congregation that outside the words of the Bible there is no salvation. And I feel that such rigor in teaching has caused the general idea of mainstream Christianity to teach that salvation is tied to the Bible, that the Savior and His words are somehow united where His words save just as much as He does.

That was never meant to be the case.

Faith is an active principle, one that must be demonstrated by works. The idea that reading to believe is the only action necessary to save is error, and one promoted for many centuries, one God intended to remove through the addition of the Book of Mormon as a much-needed guide to expound the Bible’s principle of faith without works is dead.

The Bible is a guide. It is to be used to expound church doctrine and practice. But it doesn’t represent the Savior. It is a collection of books of His personal ministry and that of His chosen servants who spoke as His mouthpieces that were added to and subtracted from for almost three centuries before it was officially canonized, so believing in an open canon could not cancel salvation, because that would mean the disciples before Christ and during the years before the Bible was canonized as it is today would all be condemned for not believing in infallibility.

The Bible never declared that salvation lies on the principle that the Bible is infallible. Once again, an open challenge to readers. If you can show me where the Bible says “The Bible is infallible and you must believe that to be saved”, (remember, the Bible is a collection of books. One book vouching for itself has no lasting intention nor power to bind all the books together in one cohesive document.) then I will admit the mistake of my opinion. Till then, salvation is in Christ alone, and I read any revelation that comes from Him, ancient or modern, that will help improve me to the point that profession of faith is in my life, not in the books I read.

Latter-Day Saints honor the Bible and strive to live by its principles. We believe it to be the word of God. We love it, we study it, and proclaim it to be remarkably accurate. But we do not believe that the Bible alone is the word of God. Paul taught:

“the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.”

Thus returning to the point I wish to establish in this post. The Bible is not what God intended to be an expression of faith. It is a guide to help us express the faith by helping us model our lives after Christ. That was the intention of all the authors of the collection of books in the Old and New Testament.

I AM A CHRISTIAN. Because I believe in Christ, have taken His name upon myself in a promise made to God, and do what I can so that His example is reflected in my life. I do what I can so the sacrifice He made is given opportunity to work its effects for my eternal benefit.

But the Bible does not guarantee salvation, nor does it represent Christ to us. It teaches us of Him, it is not Him.

– Jeremy Unitt

Footnotes:

First Quote: 1st Corinthians 4:20

Comment and share, if you feel to do so, and let me know if there’s anything you would like clarified!

Further discussion is encouraged to take place on the Facebook page, as messaging format is easier, sparse ideas and commentary should be directed to this post.