Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Importance of Sealing Divorced Couples After They are Dead

On Sunday I had a very interesting case.  Two sisters who are 48 year old twins came to see me.  One had joined the church as an adult and is an endowed temple attending member.  The other is not a member despite numerous efforts to reach out to her. 

The member is single and is unlikely to ever marry in this life.  Like all good latter-day saints she has had her deceased parents baptized and endowed in the temple which are essential steps in their eternal progression.  She is now planning on having them sealed (married) to each other for all eternity which will in turn enable her to be sealed to them. 

She feels strongly that since she likely won't marry in this life she should at least complete this sealing in order to be sealed into the family of God. 

She decided out of respect to inform her non member sister of her intended actions.  As a non believer her sister had been kind enough to allow the baptisms to take place, but was uncomfortable with this next step.  This is what prompted them to come and see me.  

I first explained the doctrine to the sisters that members of the church have been charged with the solemn responsibility to seal all members of the human family together; husbands to wives and children to parents all the way back to Adam.  I further explained that in order to be sealed to ones parents the parents must first be sealed together and this is done on their behalf by proxy in our sacred temples.

The non member sister explained that their parents loathed each other.  They wanted nothing to do with each other after the divorce.  It was so bad in fact that they could not even both be in the same room on her wedding day. 

I was able to explain to her that while these feelings may have existed in their earthly life we must assume the best of them now.  I tried to assure her that they may have forgiven each other and are likely looking forward with great anticipation to being sealed for eternity together in order to be eligible to attain the highest degree of glory within the celestial kingdom. 

The non member sister further explained that their father was very abusive both physically and verbally.  She was sure that even if some sort of reconciliation had taken place in the next life they still would not want to be married to each other for eternity. 

I opened the handbook of instructions (Book 1 for Stake Presidents and Bishops) and read to them as follows:     
"Deceased couples who were divorced may be sealed by proxy.  These sealings often provide the only way for children of such couples to be sealed to parents."

I told her that in Mormonism we marry and seal together divorced couples all the time once they are dead regardless of their ill feelings for each other in this life.  This is done that the purposes of the Lord may be fulfilled.  I also told her that this is the only way that she (if she humbles herself and joins the church) and her sister (who is ready for this sealing to take place) can be sealed to their parents. 

The non member sister then asked if her sister could simply be sealed to their mother.  I responded by quoting from the handbook that "A child may be sealed only to two parents - a husband and wife - and not to one parent only."

Since the non member sister wouldn't budge I felt a little like Solomon.  Solomon when faced with deciding who the mother of the baby was decided to cut the baby in two so that each mother could have half.  When one mother cried out, "Please, give her the child” Solomon knew that it was in fact her who was the real mother. 

I offered a silent prayer and then felt a distinct prompting.  I asked them ‘Who is the first born among you?’  The sister who was a member stated that she had been the first born (as per the spiritual prompting I had received).  With that information I then passed the judgment that the first born had the authority in this matter to make the final decision. 

At this point the other sister stormed out of the office.  I explained to the member that this is a perfect example of Satan doing all he can to halt the progress of the Lords work on the Earth.  I further promised her that her sister would eventually be grateful to her when she realizes the importance of the work being done.

I am grateful for the wisdom I have been accorded as I seek to do the will of the Lord and further His work and kingdom upon the Earth.   

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Stake President

I am very proud of my son.  He has grown up to be a wonderful husband, father and priesthood holder.  I asked him to prepare a talk at our November 2010 Stake Conference on the subject of following the stake president.  He submitted his intended talk to me and after a few modifications I sent it back to him.  Apart from my talk which ended the conference this was by far the highlight of the conference weekend for all stake members.  Below are the words he spoke: 

Brothers and Sisters I have been asked to speak to you today on the subject of sustaining and following our local leaders.  Since this is stake conference I will concentrate on sustaining and obeying the stake president.  I have entitled my talk “The Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Stake President” which has reference to President Bensons talk given at BYU in 1980.  This talk was referred to twice in the recent October 2010 General Conference.  I have of course adapted the 14 principles to apply to the father of our stake who is also my earthly father even President William Lilburn Godfrey Paternoster.  

The first principle in following the stake president is to understand that he is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything within our stake.  This privilege and responsibility rests with him and him only. 

In our day the stake president has told us to keep the commandments, to love our fellowman, to serve, to take care of the rising generation, to rescue the inactive or less active—to do many things that we call prophetic priorities. We need to understand that these priorities are God’s priorities and the stake president is His voice in communicating them to all of the Church in this area.

We would do well to apply the following scriptures as we think of our stake president. We are counseled to “give heed unto all his words and commandments” (D&C 21:4). We also learn: “For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.”

The second fundamental is that the living stake president is more vital to us than the scriptures or standard works.  While the scriptures are important I can testify to you that our living stake president is receiving specific revelations for us in these the latter-days that cannot be found in the current standard works of the Church.

The third fundamental is that the current stake president is more important to us than past stake presidents.

We learn a great lesson about this from the scriptures. In the times of Noah it was easier for the people to believe in the dead prophets, but it was difficult for them to believe in Noah. We know that because of their incredulity they did not survive the Flood.  Similar things can happen to us in our area if we do not heed the words of president Paternoster.

The fourth fundamental is that the stake president will never lead the Church in this area astray.

President Paternoster has said on several occasions: “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as the president of this stake to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty”.

The fifth fundamental is that the stake president is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.  As the Lords representative in this area President Paternoster has the right and sole responsibility to counsel government representatives, mayors, other civic leaders, law enforcement officers, scientists and other religious communities; even if he himself has not held such a position within the community. 

The Lord called a young man, Joseph Smith, to restore His Church. Do you think that the young Joseph Smith was a doctor in theology or science? We know that he was a humble and not academically educated young man. But he was chosen by the Lord, and he received from the Lord all that was necessary to honor and magnify the calling of a prophet of the Restoration.  So it is with our stake president.

The sixth fundamental is that the stake president does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture.  Every word that proceedeth forth from his mouth is to be counted as if it were the mind and will of the Lord.  Obedience to the president at all times without question is essential to our salvation. 

The seventh principle is that the stake president tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.  President Paternoster often laments that people within the stake speak to him as did Laman and Lemuel to Nephi saying “Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear” 
Our stake president will often reply as did Nephi “And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us.”

The eighth fundamental is that the stake president is not limited by men’s reasoning.
Does it seem reasonable to cure throat cancer by telling a man to wash seventeen times in the river right behind this very stake center in the middle of winter? No it doesn’t. Yet this is precisely what the President told Brother Stumstead to do; and was he healed?  With the help of radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy and this act of faith he most certainly was.  In fact he is sitting amongst us today. 

Brothers and sisters my time is running out so I will skip to the last principle about obedience to the president which is probably the most important and is a warning unto all; follow him and be blessed; reject him and suffer.  I don't know how to make it any clearer than that.

We are privileged to have the words of our living stake president during this wonderful stake conference. He will speak the will of the Lord for us, his people. He will transmit the word of God and His counsel to us. Pay attention and follow his instruction and suggestions, and I testify to you that your life will be completely blessed.

Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Bill Paternoster is the current living president who works under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who are prophets, seers, and revelators.  I say these things most humbly in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Stake Presidents Perspective on Homosexuality

Often I hear complaints that the church is homophobic.  I believe it is about time a leader stood up and corrected this false notion once and for all. 

Frankly I am fed up with the negative press the church gets over this issue.  In this post I will show that the church has always done its utmost to reach out to those suffering from homosexual tendencies in order to help them feel normal again. 

Now I understand that President Packer said "we can very foolishly cause things we are trying to prevent by talking too much about them" so I would like to ask all those under the age of 21 and any who already suffer from homosexual inclinations to stop reading this article.

Now that we have that out of the way I would first like to reiterate that the church has always taught that the practice of homosexuality is a choice and in many cases is a curable mental illness.  As a church we affirm that one can and must avoid homosexual relations.

Since 1959, church presidents starting with David O. McKay have taken seriously the work of curing gays within the church.  Speaking to church educators and LDS psychiatrists in 1964, Spencer W. Kimball said "We know such a disease is curable and that ex-gay Mormons have emerged from the church's counseling programs cured.”  I honestly don’t know how to say it any better than that!

Kimball taught that church leaders may assist those with homosexual tendencies by reciting scripture, appealing to their reason, encouraging gays to abandon gay associates, praying and straight dating.  The cure to this problem comes through following the basic rules for moral and spiritual health for a long period of time with undeviating determination.

In President Kimball’s book the Miracle of Forgiveness, we learn of one of the key causes of homosexuality.  Keep in mind this book was written by a prophet of the Lord and is widely circulated today.  In fact whenever someone is struggling with sin I encourage them to read this book.  From it we learn that masturbation can and does lead to the act of homosexuality.  This is why we strongly discourage masturbation among our youth.  I have had to delay many prospective missionaries from serving full time missions over this very issue. 

In 1978, President Packer characterized homosexual interaction as a perversion and clarified that it had its roots in selfishness and could be cured with unselfish thoughts and acts.  Homosexual problems can be overcome through faith in God, sincere repentance, and persistent effort.

We as a church have done all in our power to help those with these tendencies to change.  This is why I find it so upsetting when we are wrongly accused of being homophobic.  Take this as an example; At Brigham Young University we have had great success in the past with aversion therapy.  Participants with homosexual tendencies were fortunate to have had the opportunity to be cured by participation in this inspired program.  Basically we hooked participants up so that they could be shocked with increasing amounts of electric voltage while showing them pornographic photos of men.  Afterwards they were shown heterosexual images while soothing music (probably from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) was played in the background.  This and other efforts by the church clearly show the love we have and concern we show in helping gays become normal again.  I don’t know why the critics refuse to cite these instances in their attacks.  Those who criticize us ought to first do their research.  

Now let’s discuss the origin of homosexuality.  Why do some suffer from these tendencies?  This is an area that is very misunderstood in the world today and that I will now clarify. 

I was once asked this question; “if homosexuality is inborn then is the plan of salvation true?”  I responded absolutely not.  If homosexuality can be proven to be inborn then this church and the whole plan of salvation are man made.  It would show that our church leaders didn’t have a clue what they were talking about and were and are completely uninspired of the Lord, which obviously cannot be the case.  Here are three quotes from our latter-day prophets, seers and revelators to show this:

1. even as far back as 1976 the Lord inspired our leaders on this issue.  Here is what President Packer taught back then: “There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just 'that way' and can only yield to those desires. It is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil. No one is locked into that kind of life... Boys are to become men – masculine, manly men – ultimately to become husbands and fathers.”

2. President James E. Faust of the first presidency said in 1995:
 “There is some widely accepted theory extant that homosexuality is inherited. How can this be? No scientific evidence demonstrates absolutely that this is so. Besides, if it were so, it would frustrate the whole plan of mortal happiness. Our designation as men or women began before this world was.  In contrast to the socially accepted doctrine that homosexuality is inborn, a number of respectable authorities contend that homosexuality is not acquired by birth. The false belief of inborn homosexual orientation denies to repentant souls the opportunity to change and will ultimately lead to discouragement, disappointment, and despair.”  See this link for the full talk:

3. In the last General Conference (October 2010) President Packer confirmed: “Some suppose that they were preset, and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, he is our Father…..You can if you will, break the habits, and conquer the addiction, and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church.”

Now let’s discuss the ecclesiastical responsibilities I have with regards to those who persist in this practice.  Since prophets have made it clear that these are not inborn tendencies I have no problem knowing how to react when believing members choose such a course of deviation by a clear, conscious decision.  I have on several occasions under inspired direction had to conduct church discipline including excommunication of these men.  In one case when I served as a Bishop we even excommunicated a woman for persisting in these acts.  This is one of the great burdens of being in leadership positions within the church. 

In conclusion I hope that I have shown in this post that the church does all it can to save sinners by ministering unto them individually.  This is no different for homosexuals.  In the church we love the sinner but hate the sin.  I commit to continue to do all in my power as a stake president to save the souls of those who have allowed themselves to be tempted by such tendencies.  I leave these thoughts with you in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How the LDS Church is Leading the World in the Treatment of Women

One area of the Church in which we are leading the world and making great strides is in the treatment and importance of women.  This was highlighted during the recent worldwide leadership training on the new instruction manuals.  In fact Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve devoted a whole talk to the subject of sisters named “Sisters in Councils”.  I am not ashamed to admit that I too will need to make an effort to incorporate these words of counsel into my own stake meetings where sisters are present.    

Elder Scott’s words can be read directly from this link:

Below I will quote some of his words and will add my own thoughts in brackets and in italics for your consideration.  I have bolded the parts that I as a stake president deem to be especially important.  Here are the words of Elder Scott; a latter day prophet, seer and revelator:

“I have observed—particularly in international areas, although it often occurs domestically (and yes that includes Utah) —that sisters do not participate openly in ward council meetings (this is an excellent point that Elder Scott makes. I would like to add that this occurs at the stake level too where sisters are present).  This is most unfortunate, because they have perspectives and experiences that are of immense value. When they can be encouraged to take part freely in ward council meetings, their ideas are always helpful and inspirational.

This challenge can be resolved easily in the following way (listen up Brethren). As the ward council meeting unfolds and specific suggestions are made, the presiding officer can call on individual sisters present by name (this will have the added benefit of making leaders learn the names of not just the brethren, but the sisters too), asking them to express their feelings regarding the matter. They will always respond to such an invitation (I am looking forward to verifying this in my own meetings). As they gain more experience in the environment of the ward council, they will learn to participate actively without the need for such an invitation (this will most likely take a while but will become a great blessing).

There is sometimes a complementary blessing that comes to the homes of priesthood leaders who observe the benefits that result from sister participation in ward council (this is going to be important). These men can become more appreciative of the sacred role of their wives in their own home (wouldn’t that be wonderful). “

During the training Elder Quentin L. Cook reminded us that “Participation from all council members, especially the sisters, is essential if the revelatory potential is to be achieved.  Both men and women are encouraged to speak honestly on any issue.  All should feel that their comments are valued (even the sisters).”

As I think about my own stake meetings that involve sisters I know I will have to make some changes in order to encourage them to not just attend, but to actually speak.  This will be a challenge to all of us, but if the brethren see this as important then we must forge ahead.  I have committed to my leaders that my stake will lead the way. 

Also on the subject of sister’s participation in meetings and the progress of the church in this matter I would remind readers that the new handbook states in section 18.5 that “Men and Women may offer both opening and closing prayers in Church meetings”.  This came as a bit of a shock to me.  I was aware that men could do this, but I had always based meetings within my stake on the example set at general conferences where women are not assigned to give opening or closing prayers.  I will wait to see if there is a change in the upcoming April general conference and will continue to base meetings within my stake on the example our leaders set before us at that time.  Perhaps this April 2011 we will have a sister give a prayer for the first time in the history of the restored church!!  Now if that doesn’t silence the critics I don’t know what will.        


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Having One’s Calling and Election Made Sure

Brothers and Sisters I was about to do a post on having one's calling and election made sure, but then the spirit prompted me that some of the experiences I have had are so special and sacred that sharing them online would be inappropriate.

I am thankful for the guidance of the spirit in my daily endeavors.

President Paternoster

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ventings of a Stake President

It takes a lot to make me vent, but I am at my wits end at some of the young people in the church. 

One of my greatest concerns is with our young return missionaries and their dating choices.   In the past year I have seen at least three return missionaries dating sisters who have more than one set of earrings in their ears. 

I am at a loss.  I had the high councilor over the young single adult unit in my stake address this and report back to me, but have seen no changes.  I instructed him to use the example of the talk given by Elder Bednar entitled ‘Quick to Observe’ (http://lds.org/liahona/2006/12/quick-to-observe?lang=eng). 

In summary Elder Bednar said that he knew a returned missionary who was considering marriage. The relationship however was developing during the time that President Hinckley counseled the sisters of the Church to wear only one earring in each ear.  It has always been important for the priesthood to counsel the sisters in their manner of dress.  As a stake president I take this responsibility very seriously.

The young man waited patiently for the young woman to remove her extra earrings, but she did not take them out! This was a valuable piece of information for this young man, and he felt unsettled about her nonresponsiveness to a prophet’s pleading.  He ultimately stopped dating the young woman, because he was looking for an eternal companion who had the courage to promptly and quietly obey the counsel of the prophet in all things and at all times. The young man was quick to observe that the young woman was not quick to observe.

Sometimes I wonder whether the young men coming home from their missions are unaware of this prophetic counsel.  Do they not consider it important to have an eternal companion who quietly obeys the priesthood in all things?

If any readers (including sisters) have suggestions on how to get the young men to stop dating those who blatantly disobey the Lords counsel I would very much appreciate your comments.  

Sorry again for the vent.  I suppose that even us stake presidents are human.

President Paternoster

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Is President Paternoster Approved of the Lord?

Since creating this blog I have received a lot of feedback.  While most have been positive there are those who accuse me of being unjust in the way in which I perform my duties.  Some think I am too controlling or restricitive in my counsel and discipline.  The basic question I ask myself (and that you may ask) is whether my actions are approved of the Lord.  The below scenario addresses this issue.

One of my toughest responsibilities in the church has been in deciding whether a couple should be allowed to marry or not.  A few years ago when I was a Bishop a young man came to me asking for a temple recommend as he wanted to get married.  This young man had served an honorable two year mission for the Lord and was from a good family, but I had not seen him at church for a long time.  He said he had been attending his future wife’s ward.  This I found to be unacceptable.  I explained to him that we do not go to church to socialize.  We go to serve the Lord and since members can only receive callings in their own wards we should seldom visit other wards.  I noticed on his records too that he had not paid tithes in a few months.  I asked him to attend his ward, accept a calling and start paying tithes.  In six months we could talk about a temple recommend and marriage.  This was very difficult for the couple and was especially hard on me as the bishop.  Two adults do not have the right to marry just because they fall in love; marriage has to be earned.

Wondering whether my decision was approved of the Lord, I prayed and asked the Lord to tell me whether I had done the right thing. 

The Lord responded in a miraculous and unexpected way.  On November 4th 2007 Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to the young people in a CES fireside that was broadcast throughout the world.  In his address he talked about this same young man mentioned above and my decision to withhold a temple recommend.  Here the Lord was not only endorsing my actions but was answering my prayer. 

For interested readers the talk by Elder Oaks can still be read on the official church website at this URL (scroll to about 3 quarters of the way down into the talk):

For your convenience I will quote below the part of the talk where I am mentioned: “Don’t be in the position of a young man who recently asked for an urgent appointment with his bishop because he wanted to be married in the temple the following week. The bishop said: “Who are you? I have your membership record, and I know your parents, but I haven’t seen you since you came off your mission. I have no record of your paying tithing. I know that you have not been serving the Lord in a calling. I cannot give you a recommend. Come back to your ward. Serve here and pay your tithing here and let your bishop feel your spirit here. Then, in a few months, we can talk about a recommend.” When the temple wedding did not occur on schedule, it was hard for everyone, especially the bishop. But the bishop was right.”

Tears still well in my eyes when I read those words from a prophet of the Lord and know that my service is acceptable unto him.  I pray that I can continue to serve the Lord honorably as a stake president.  To my readers; I want you to know that I appreciate all your love, support and devotion.