Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Scientific Discussion with a Stake President

Two months ago I had a young man come into my office wanting to discuss some of the theories of science as they relate to Mormonism.  As a man well versed in science and the workings of the Lord I welcomed him into my office for such a discussion.  Tony admitted he was struggling with his testimony by the things he was learning at school.  As you will see from our ensuing discussion I was able to guide him back to the truth and set him on the straight and narrow way.  Below is more or less how our conversation went after the normal pleasantries;

PP (President Paternoster): Tony you come from a long line of faithful priesthood holders.  I perceive that you are a very intelligent young man and I look forward to sending you out on a mission in a few months as you follow the example of your older brothers and sister.  Tell me exactly what it is that is bothering you. 

T (Tony): Well President, I have been learning about the history of the Earth and the teacher said things that would indicate that death has been on the Earth from well before the time of Adam.  I was taught in seminary that it was Adams Fall that brought death into the world.  Adam lived around 6,000 years ago.  I’m just not sure who to believe.  

PP: Tony this is an excellent question and you are absolutely right that Adams Fall brought death into the world.  If you will turn with me to the Bible dictionary we can read about this:
"Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall (2 Ne. 2: 22; Moses 6: 48).”

To readers of this blog below is the url to the website which has this statement:

Tony from 2 Ne2:22 we learn that if Adam had not transgressed he would have remained in the Garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

Tony please consider the following statement and clarification on the above scripture made to the students at the Lords university (BYU) by an apostle even Bruce R. McKonkie.  Keep in mind Tony that many of the students present were studying sciences at the time:
"My reasoning causes me to conclude that if death has always prevailed in the world, then there was no fall of Adam that brought death to all forms of life; that if Adam did not fall, there is no need for an atonement; that if there was no atonement, there is no salvation, no resurrection, and no eternal life; and that if there was no atonement, there is nothing in all of the glorious promises that the Lord has given us."

T: Wait wait so if death occurred before Adam then there was no Fall or Atonement and Christianity is a false religion! Is that what he was saying?

PP: Tony that is exactly what he was saying.  And he was a prophet, seer and revelator in every sense of the word.  Are you willing to give up Christianity and the chance to serve a mission based on the theories of scientists?

T: No of course not President.

PP: Very well then.  Tony I would counsel you to ponder the things we have discussed today, particularly the scriptures in the Book of Mormon and come back to report in two weeks so I can see how you feel. 

T: I will do that President.

PP: Thank you Tony.  Oh and Tony never feel ashamed to speak up in class if what they are teaching is incorrect.  Always stand up for your beliefs.

T: Uh OK    

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A New Policy for the Stake Over Which I am Called to Preside

Today was a very successful Sabbath for me.  I instructed the high council to read the following business in each unit of my stake;

"President Paternoster in following the counsel to adapt the new church handbook of instructions to local needs would like to remind members of the following statement in section 21.1.6 of book 2.   

"Church members should not seek the autographs of General Authorities or Area Seventies including signing in their scriptures, hymnals or programs.  Doing so detracts from their sacred calling and the spirit of meetings.  It could also prevent them from meeting other members. Members should not take photographs of General Authorities or Area Seventies in chapels."

In the spirit of this statement the stake presidency with support from the high council has decided that from this time forth this policy will also apply to the stake president.  In this way he will not be hindered in the performance of his sacred duties.

Following these policies will help bring this stake closer to the Lord and the example he has set for us.

All in favor please manifest by the uplifted right hand.  If there are any opposed please manifest it in like manner."

I am pleased to report that the high council members have all reported back to me and the votes were unanimous in the affirmative.   

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Should I Marry Her - A Heart Wrentching Decision

A rather sad situation occurred about a year ago that I wanted to discuss.  I have changed the names of the individuals involved for the sake of anonymity. 

Rachel had been married in the temple to a wonderful return missionary (whom I will call John) just before her 20th birthday.  They loved each other very much and we were all deeply saddened when John passed away a few months later.  He had been hit by a drunk driver while waiting at a bus stop.  They had no children.

Two years later Rachel starting dating again and fell in love with another wonderful return missionary whom I will call Dave.  After dating for a while Dave asked Rachel to marry him.  Rachel’s Bishop was new and asked me to help with the situation.  I decided that this would be a good training opportunity for the new Bishop and agreed to meet with the couple and the Bishop to go over some of the doctrines and eternal consequences in question.    
After the normal pleasantries we turned to the manual of instructions (Book 1 for Stake Presidents and Bishops) and read from section 3.6.1 under the heading Sealing of Living Members after a Spouse's Death. Here it clearly states that a living woman may be sealed to only one man.  It goes on to state; “A woman whose husband dies can remarry but can not be sealed for time and eternity to another.”

I wanted to make it clear to the couple that John, her first husband would be with her in the next life (and not Dave). 

I could see that Dave was getting a little upset so I asked Rachel if we could meet with him alone for a few minutes.  When Rachel left the room I shared section 3.6.2 of the manual which says that “if a woman who has been sealed to a former husband remarries, the children of her later marriage are born in the covenant of the first marriage”.  I wanted Dave to understand that all their future children will in fact be sealed to John (and Rachel) who will have these children for eternity.  Dave would basically be raising children for John the first husband and would enjoy no eternal increase of his own. 

Dave asked if he then would remain separate and single in the eternities which is an excellent question and one that I do not have an answer to.  We continued reading however in section 3.6.2 where it clarifies that “Members who have concerns about the eternal nature of such relationships can find peace in the knowledge that Heavenly Father is loving and just.  He will ensure that eternal family relationships will be fair and right for all who keep their covenants.”

Dave asked me what I thought he should do.  Should I marry her, he asked.  I knew Dave to be a very capable and intelligent young man with lots of leadership potential in the church. 

I explained to him that it is always useful to see what the top leaders of the church do in these situations.  I always look to them as an example of what I should do.  In many cases an apostle after the death of his wife will remarry.  One of the main purposes of the marriage is to increase the apostles’ eternal family and his ability for eternal increase in the next life.  This can only be done by marrying a sister who has not previously been sealed/married.  I gave him two examples from our current living apostles.   

Dallin H Oak’s wife June died in 1998.  He then married Kristen Meredith McMain in the year 2000 who had never been previously married.  This way Elder Oaks will have two wives and more potential for bearing spirit children in the next life. 

We also have the example of Russel M Nelson whose wife Dantzel died unexpectedly in 2005.  On April 6, 2006 Elder Nelson married Wendy L. Watson who again had never been married. 

I counseled Dave to seriously weigh his options before making a final decision, but that I would not counsel him one way or another.  After many weeks of prayer and fasting he decided to not go ahead with the marriage and he broke off the engagement.  Less than a month later he met someone and ended up marrying her instead.  I understand he and his new bride are doing very well and are expecting their first child.   

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Will Mother Teresa go to Heaven?

Last night while passing through the stake building a young sister asked me if I had a minute to answer a question that was bothering her.  I asked her if she would like to come to my office and we discussed her concern.

She said she had read about Mother Teresa's life and the miracles she had performed and was wondering whether she would go to the celestial kingdom.

I told her that I had great respect for Mother Teresa and asked the young sister if she had turned to the scriptures to find her answer.  She had not. 

We then read together a requirement to enter into the celestial kingdom from John 3:5 in the Bible which states "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

I asked her if Mother Teresa had fulfilled this requirement and the young sister hesitantly said that she had done her best according to the knowledge she had.  I confirmed this to be true. 
I then lovingly asked her to turn with me to The Book of Mormon.  We read aloud from 1 Nephi 14:10 which states the following:   
"Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth."

I asked the sister if she thought the Lord would accept a baptism performed in a church that is not the church of the Lamb of God.

I noticed that the sister was almost in tears.  I reassured her that Mother Teresa was a good woman who had simply not had the fullness of the gospel in this life.   I explained further that Mother Teresa had experienced doubts and struggles over her religious beliefs which lasted nearly fifty years until the end of her life.  I told her that this was in my opinion the spirit telling her that more truth was out there.

I assured her that if Mother Teresa accepts the true gospel in the spirit world and the baptism that has been done by our church in our temples on her behalf, she too may enter into the celestial kingdom. 

I am proud to belong to a church that provides a way for all people both the living and the dead to return to our father in heaven.    

Friday, February 11, 2011

Surgical Sterilization (Including Vasectomies)

I was horrified this week to find out that a member of the bishopric in one of my wards has had a vasectomy.  When I met with him and his wife they admitted to having done this without consulting church leaders.  They said they had felt good about the decision as they prayed about it.

Wanting to get to the root of the problem I asked them where the idea came from.  They felt that with 1 year old twins and 3 other children at home they couldn't afford and didn't have the space for more.  Frankly I am disappointed at their lack of faith.  As prophesied Satan is deceiving the very elect.

The handbook of instructions is clear on this subject. In the section entitled Surgical Sterilization (Including Vasectomy) it states the following:
"The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control."

I don't see how someone can claim to feel good about doing something that the Church strongly discourages. 

The handbook goes on to clarify that surgical sterilization should be considered only if medical conditions jeopardize life or if someone is mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions.

I asked them if they had any medical conditions and they confirmed to me that they have kept the word of wisdom all their lives and have therefore been blessed with good health.  I then asked them if they considered themselves mentally unstable in any way which they do not. 

The handbook goes on to state that "persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their Bishop".  Because they failed in this regard I felt I should temporarily withhold their temple recommends while they go through the repentance process.  The brother will not sit on the stand as a bishopric member during this time but I will not release him if he sincerely repents.  It breaks my heart.  Church leaders have to make such difficult decisions sometimes.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Testimony Given Sunday February 6th 2011

As the presiding officer I always ensure I am given a few minutes at the end of fast and testimony meetings to ensure the meeting ends on a spiritually high note.  Yesterday I bore my testimony on the prophet Joseph.  After correcting some false perceptions that were given in an earlier testimony this is what I said:

Brothers and Sisters, I know without a shadow of doubt that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God.  And how do I know this?  Well I do not have time to go into a full explanation, but some of the best evidence of his authenticity can be found in the fact that the Book of Mormon itself prophesies of him. 

In 2 Nephi Chapter 3 Lehi is speaking to his son Joseph about the Joseph who was sold into Egypt. We know through this chapter that Joseph in Egypt saw the Nephites in vision and prophesied of Joseph Smith, the latter-day seer.   In verse 15 speaking of Joseph Smith it reads  ‘And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. ‘ 

Can you imagine how Joseph Smith must have felt as he was translating the golden plates and read about himself – and not just himself but his father too?  I wonder how many times he went back over that particular section in the gold plates to verify that they really did tell of him and it wasn’t just his imagination.  It must have been very humbling for the boy Joseph.  I can imagine him excitedly running to tell his father too.  What a joyous time this must have been for the family.

And so it is that here we have Joseph of old prophesying that there would be a prophet named Joseph whose father would also be called Joseph.  I know of no other church that claims to have fulfilled this prophecy.    This brothers and sisters is one of the many evidences we have that Joseph Smith was a man ordained of God to bring about the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days, and I leave this testimony with you, humbly, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What is the Age of the Earth?

Many people debate the age of the Earth.  On the one hand you have the scientists, atheists and liberal Christians and on the other hand you have those who accept the revealed word of The Lord. 

Before I clarify any misconceptions take a minute to ask this question; should I trust the scientists who get their information by looking down at rocks and stones or should I trust the prophets who get their information from the Earths creator, even Jesus Christ?

As members of the true church we need not enter into this debate at all.  Our modern day prophets and scriptures are clear.

Let's start with the scriptures.  Please turn to Doctrine & Covenants Section 77.  In verse 6 a question is asked of The Lord with regards to the seven seals mentioned in the book of Revelations.  In verse 7 The Lord answers and says "We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence"

Here we have our answer.  The Earth will continue in a temporal (or fallen) state for 7 thousand years.  Before entering its temporal state the Earth was perfect and no death had come upon it.  The fall took place around 4,000 B.C. some 6,000 years ago.  We will soon enter a 1,000 year stage known as 'the millennium' after which the Earths temporal existence will be complete.  Have any of our church leaders confirmed this understanding? Absolutely.

In Doctrines of Salvation Vol 1 starting on page 78 our beloved prophet, seer and revelator Joseph Fielding Smith talked about the aforementioned scripture and the age of the Earth in general.  He stated the following:
"Here is a definite statement by revelation that the Earth will go through 7 thousand years of temporal existence. Temporal, by all interpretations, means passing, temporary or mortal.  This then has reference to the Earth in its fallen state.....when Adam transgressed the law. Before that time the Earth was not mortal any more than Adam was. 
We can hardly be justified in trying to harmonize the days of creation with the extended periods of millions of years according to the reckoning of the so-called scientists."

And there we have it directly from the Lord through scripture and confirmed by his prophet!  Brethren, let us refrain from this debate. Those who accept the theories of men with regards to an old Earth are prone to accept other theories such as evolution that are not in harmony with the teachings of the gospel.