Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sermon: The Holy Spirit

The subject of the Holy Ghost or as I like to call him the Holy Spirit is one that has perplexed many for sometime however The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ are not in a state of confusion or misapprehension concerning the Holy Spirit for we have been told all we need to know concerning this personage who sits on the God head with the Father. Let us be clear we are not talking about what the Holy Spirit does or what his function is, there is not confusion about that, we know that he is sent to bear witness of the Father and the Son and also to be a constant companion to those that diligently seek, we read "The gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men…. For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come" (1 Ne. 10:17-19).

As we have said we know the role that the Holy Spirit plays in our lives and the power that he is endowed with, but who is he? It must be stressed that in this dispensation nothing has been revealed as to his origins or his ultimate destiny all we do know is what is written in the scriptures and that details mostly with what he does and not who he is. In the Lectures on Faith, which form an integral part of our doctrine it tells us that the Holy Spirit is the mind of God the Father and that he is the feeling or power of God in all things.

Now let is look at who he is. The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ teach that the Holy Spirit is a man, a man of spirit a personage like the Father but is a personage of spirit separate and distinct from both the Father and the Son. Joseph Smith told us that the Holy Spirit has not a body of Flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Let us be clear that the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit, a spirit man if you will, but he can only be in one place at one time however his power can be felt all over the world.

So let’s look at what we already know. We know that the Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead and that he is called the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit and that he has been given an authority to express the feeling of God to all men who allow him in their hearts and is therefore called the comforter, all three the Father, Son and Holy Spirit form a Godhead equal in authority and power. In a very real sense, the Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of the righteous Saints of all dispensations.

The Prophet Joseph Smith stated in his many teachings that an "everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth, and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth; these personages…are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the witness or Testator" (TJS, 190). When we examine this wonderful piece of revelation form the Prophet we see that the Holy Spirit was with God from the beginning and that he was a key component in the creation of life and so we proclaim that whatever he covenanted with the God of us all he is now and forever more a God equal in authority with the Father and the Son and had ascended beyond the need for a physical body just as the Father has done. We may never know why he has not had to receive a body; however we know that he has ascended to the role of God and sits at the highest levels of the Kingdom and with the power that he has been endowed with to bare witness of the Father and to send confirmation that Jesus is the Christ. Let us not forget that the creation could not have happened if it were not for the power of the Holy Spirit, for the priesthood works in concert with the Holy Spirit and they work together to magnify their power. And so when we examine the personage of the Holy Spirit and we examine just how little we know concerning him we should always look to the power that he conveys. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the influence of the Holy Ghost, is the convincing power of God of the truth of the gospel, and can be received before baptism; however the gift, or constant companionship, of the Holy Ghost, only comes by the laying-on of hands, and is only obtained only after baptism (TPJ, 199). The prophet went on to say "You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half-that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost" (TPJ, 314).

For us as members of The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ the most important role that The Holy Spirit fulfils is that of a teacher. All of us at some stage in our lives must be taught by the Holy Ghost. We must remember that the things of the Spirit can only be understood when taught and learned by the Spirit (D&C 50:11-24). Again let us look at what the Father did on behalf of the Saviour, for it was the Father who gave Christ the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). Angels also speak by the power of the Holy Ghost  without it they could not do their work. (2 Ne. 32:3). Such is the standard for all who go forth in Christ's name. "Ye are not sent forth to be taught," The Saviour said to the early church, "but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit; and ye are to be taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken" (D&C 43:15-16).

My Brothers and Sisters the Holy Spirit, no matter how much we study will always remain in many ways an enigma to us. We do not fully understand what role he fulfilled in the pre-existence and we only know what role he fulfils for us today and it is to that that we must look, for the power of his influence is so powerful that we must remember that without it we would all be alone and without a knowledge of the Father of his love for us. The Holy Spirit is such an uplifting power and source of gospel knowledge that to have his constant companionship and influence is the greatest gift a person can receive. It is this that makes us stand out from any other faith, not only our love of the feelings of the Holy Spirit but our love of the man himself and although our knowledge is limited to what he has done to deserve the awesome privilege of being a God and ascending like the father we love him and all he has done in enriching our lives and love of the father.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sermon: The Value of Honesty

Honesty is the glue that holds our civilization together. It helps us remain true to ourselves and makes us men and women of integrity. Honesty builds trust and character in ourselves and in our dealings with others. And it is the thread that, when unravelled, tears human beings apart from one another, destroying families and individuals alike. In scripture, we learn of many powerful examples of honesty that illustrate honesty's importance and its ability to make our lives more whole and meaningful.
The Lord Jesus Christ taught that those are with "an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it," will "bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)

How, then, can we be less than honest, if the Lord commands it?

Heavenly Father tells us that He considers a lying tongue to be "an abomination" (Proverbs 6:19) and that the lips that tell truth are "established forever." (Prov. 12:19) In ancient Israel, God’s chosen Prophets often spoke honestly to warn of dangers - those that were hazards to both the moral and spiritual well being of God's people. The people of Nephi, the Book of Alma says, were "numbered among the people who were of the church of God." They were said to be "perfectly honest and upright in all things." (Alma Chapter 15; 27:27)

As Latter Day Mormons, we believe that God has never left us without Prophets - men of God who were tellers of Truth to God's people. These men told the Israelites, the Nephites on the American continent and the People of Light in the British Isles the Truth about God, and the need for God's people to be truthful. In the Book of Helaman, Nephi said he was an "honest man" sent "unto you from God.....And then shall he say unto you, that I, Nephi, know nothing concerning the matter save it were given unto me by the power of God. And then shall ye know that I am an honest man, and that I am sent unto you from God.” (Helaman Chapter 3; 9:36)

To the Gentiles in the Ancient Roman world, the Apostle Paul urged men to hold fast to honesty and honest dealings with men, saying, "Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.” (2 Corinthians 13:7) “Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.” (Hebrews 13:18) “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.” (Romans 13:13)

The Latter Day Prophet Joseph Smith, in Doctrine and Covenants, calls upon us to seek honesty in our dealings with others, and to seek out honest men with which to associate. The Prophet Joseph calls for us to "let every man deal honestly, and be alike among this people, and receive alike, that ye may be one, even as I have commanded you.” (D&C 23:2; 51:9) And: “Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.” (D&C 85:2; 98:10)

Today, in these latter days, I urge you to heed the Prophets and Apostles of old to provide for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men (2 Corinthians 8:21) and to reflect upon their holy words about the sacredness of honesty. All things of value are wrapped in honestly and truth. Those who tell the truth revere Heavenly Father and His Prophets. Those who shun truth shun God Himself. Be honest for the sake of Heavenly Father and His people, and blessings will be upon you.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Official Church Statement: Wayne May Products Now Available

The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ and the renowned historian and archaeologist Wayne May of Ancient American Magazine and LDS have come together in offering The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ and its members the opportunity to buy Wayne Mays hugely successful books 'This Land' from our official website and also to watch his videos from the church website.
The church will be able to offer for sale all of Wayne May's ‘This Land’ series of books and also special laminated versions of the proposed heartland setting Book of Mormon maps. We would like to take the opportunity to officially thank Wayne for allowing us to be able to offer our members and others the opportunity to obtain these wondrous works through The Latter Day Church direct


Saturday, 12 July 2014

Mary Magdalene, Witness of the Risen Lord

I want to speak about the events about when Mary Magdalene meets Jesus at the empty tomb. This story is found only in the Gospel of John, and is very much understated in the whole of the story of Jesus Christ's resurrection. For Latter Day Mormons, it is a very important event, and one that I think is missing from the other Gospels - maybe because Mary only told it to John personally.

Everything about this little story within a bigger story rings true to human nature as we know it. A woman alone by an empty tomb, weeping, wondering what has happened to the body of the Lord she loved. While the woman knelt alone weeping by the tomb Jesus suddenly appears, she doesn't recognise him at first. Then the women so overcome with joy and the spirit reaches out to touch the Christ she knows and loves, who confides in her that he has not yet fully resurrected and come unto his father. The event ends with the mourner turned into a missionary, running to tell the others what she has just seen and heard.

Although Mary Magdalene plays an important role in the life of Christ, the wider world knows very little about her and her role in the life of Christ. What we as Latter Day Mormons do know is that she is one of at least five different women named “Mary” in the New Testament, and unless we are careful, we will get them confused.

Mary Magdalene was one of a group of women who became followers of Christ during his earthly ministry. We know that she joined herself to Jesus in a way that no other women had ever done, As Latter Day Mormons, we know through modern revelation that Jesus loved her more than any other woman, indeed, more than any other of his disciples, and that they indeed were married. It has been taught by people down the ages, and is still taught by some, that Mary Magdalene was the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), but there is no evidence in the text to support this claim.  Others suggest she was the “sinful woman” who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50, but the Bible does not make that clear, either. There is some tradition among many churches that it makes her a promiscuous woman, but there is no reason to say that based on the facts. After a time throughout Christian churches she became a symbol for repentant sinners who come to Christ from very chequered and colourful backgrounds, this may in fact be true in her case, but we have no way to be certain as to the validity of the stories attributed to Mary.

Far from doing Mary and her reputation throughout the world any good, it has meant that this wonderful woman has been darkened and tainted with sin, sin which can not be proved she had ever committed. However, this much we do know: That through her love and discipleship, Christ set her free, and liberated her from the world that surrounded her, a world that had kept her chained figuratively to darkness. Mary Magdalene is living proof that those whom the Lord sets free are free indeed. Having been liberated from the world around her, she said to herself, "I love him for what he did for me. I will follow him wherever he goes." And so when it came time for our Lord to offer his life and was hung on the cross, she stood nearby with Mary, his mother.

When they took his body down from the cross, she was there to see that awful image of her Lord. When they placed him in the tomb, she was sitting on a rock ledge, watching it all happen (Matthew 27:61). And so when the Sabbath had concluded, Mary, this woman whom the Lord had set free from the bondage of the world, this woman who loved him and followed him, this women who was joined to him forever, this woman who was there at his death, now went forth and purchased spices because she hoped to anoint his dead body, something only done in Jewish law by the wife of the deceased. The Lord was hastily buried on Friday in order to finish before sundown, which is why they had not finished preparing his body. Early on Sunday morning, before the sun came up, Mary and the other women ventured through the darkness to the Garden Tomb, expecting to finish the job of anointing the body of Jesus. When the women came upon the tomb they found it empty, they were confused and terrified. Then they saw and heard the two angels of the Father and they told them that Christ had risen from the dead. 

They returned to tell the disciples who did not believe such a thing possible even though the Lord has told them such things were possible and that he would be resurrected. And so John and Peter went and investigated, and when they saw the linen wrappings exactly where the body had been placed on Friday evening, they believed, now they believed and they ran to tell the others of what they had seen. At that point, Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb alone, confused, bewildered, in shock, frightened, and of course at the very heart of it, broken-hearted, her beloved not there, but missing. It has not yet occurred to her that the empty tomb meant that Jesus had risen from the dead.

It has often been said that Mary Magdalene was last at the cross and first at the tomb. Even though this may sound a slight to Mary it must be remembered that that can not be said of the men who followed Jesus, the men who lived by his side as she did, the men who saw him do so many great and wondrous things. Mary was the first to see him alive and the first to hear his voice, this is the one person he chose to see first, he chose her above his Apostles, and he chose his beloved, his wife. The irony of the story is that when she saw him, she didn't recognize him. But when the truth hit home, she became the first evangelist in Christian history. As Latter Day Mormons we must always remember that Christ bestowed this great honour on her because she loved him so deeply and so devotedly, and he loved her deeply and devotedly.

Let us, therefore, be inspired by this great woman of faith to be faithful in our devotion to Christ and in our duties to honour God.

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