Thursday, July 17, 2014

Another book of scripture?

I want everyone who reads this post to know upfront that I love the Bible. I believe it to be the word of God. I believe it to be true. I believe that it can lead us down the path that God wants us to take and ultimately end up living in true happiness. But this blog post is more specifically about the Book of Mormon.

As a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I try to invite everyone to read the Book of Mormon. You may ask, "why not invite everyone to read the Bible?" Well, the rest of Christianity already believes the Bible to be the word of God. And for the most part, they don't need to find out if it is true because they grew up believing that it's true. And we hope to have those we teach to come to know that the Book of Mormon is true. But I might add that we do encourage everyone to start or continue reading the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon.

So, what is the Book of Mormon? Who wrote it? Why do we have it? The introduction to the Book of Mormon reads:

"The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God's dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel. The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophesy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon (which is why it is called the Book of Mormon, and also where our church got the nickname of "Mormons"). This record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C.,...The other came much earlier when The Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel..."

We often call the Book of Mormon the keystone of our religion. A keystone is the large, center stone in an arch that holds the other stones in place. The Book of Mormon has three main purposes: first and foremost, it's purpose it to bear witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer. Second, it contains the fulness of the doctrine of Christ, and helps support and clarify things taught in the Bible. And third, it is the foundation of our testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church once again established on the earth.

So where did the Book of Mormon come from? Nearly two hundred years ago, Joseph Smith was trying to decide which church to join. He visited many different sects, but never felt like any of them were right. After an appeal to the Bible, he came to the conclusion that in order to receive an answer, he must pray about it. As a result of that prayer, he was visited by God and Jesus Christ. They told him to join none of the churches, because they had lost the fulness of the gospel. They called him to be a prophet, and through him restored Christ's church to the same state it was in when Christ was on the earth. They led him to, and had him translate the ancient record written on gold plates, into what we have as the Book of Mormon.

You are probably thinking that that is the craziest thing you have ever heard, and that there is no way that that could happen. Well, let me ask you a few questions.

- Do you believe that the Bible is true?
- How do you know it is true?
- Do you know what's in the Bible?
- Why wouldn't you want more of God's word?

For those of you who believe in the Bible, let me test your faith a little bit. If you believe in the Bible you believe that Adam lived for 930 years (Genesis 5:3). You believe that Noah built an ark and fit at least two of every kind of land animal on it (Genesis 6). You believe that Moses saw God (Exodus 3), and parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14). You believe that a donkey spoke to Balaam (Numbers 22). You believe that Jonah spent three days in the belly of a whale, and then was spit up on shore (Jonah 1-2). And I could go on and on and on, the Old Testament has 929 chapters full of these crazy stories.

So why couldn't Joseph Smith's story happen?

I believe that it did happen. I believe that he really was chosen to be a prophet of the Lord and to restore Christ's church to the same state it was in when Christ was on the earth. And the reason I believe that is because I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I have read the entire thing, cover to cover, multiple times. I also read the Bible nearly every day, and my testimony of the Book of Mormon only strengthens my testimony and understanding of the Bible. 

So please, read or reread the Book of Mormon and pray to ask God if it is true. If the Book of Mormon is true, then what we teach is also true, then Joseph Smith was truly visited by God and Jesus Christ and they called him to be a modern day prophet, it's as simple as that. All you have to do is read the book and pray about it. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Not interested?

A horrible ringtone breaks the silence. 6 am, time to get up. It seems like my head just hit the pillow 5 seconds ago. We get up, exercise, eat and get ready for the day. At ten we head out the door, after 2 hours of studying and pondering the scriptures. Those studies giving us more energy than the previous nights sleep. It's already 90 degrees outside, 70 percent humidity. We have a 45 minute bike ride to our appointment with the nice woman we met last week. We start off on our bikes. Cars drive by, profanities shouted in our direction, accompanied by obscene gestures. We finally arrive at her house, our white button up shirts wet with sweat. Her husband answers and tells us to go away. We try to explain to him that his wife told us we could come back. His only response "We aren't interested." A little sad and discouraged, we decide to knock a few doors in that neighborhood before heading to our next appointment, likely to have the same outcome as the first. First door, no one is home. Second door, someone is home but won't open the door. Maybe it's a child or wife home alone, I don't blame them for not opening. Third door, we receive a similar response as we did from the husband at home of our potential appointment. Fourth door, some "educated" man wants to tell us why we are wrong, and proceeds to tell us what we believe, all of his
"facts" either false or out of context. He won't let us explain, but continues to degrade. We leave his home minutes later feeling discouraged and starting to get angry. I start to wonder why I am out here in Virginia. But then I remember what we have to offer, and we continue to the next home. Maybe these people would treat us differently if they knew what we went through. I wonder how they would treat me if they knew that it's been almost two years since I have seen my family, my only way to communicate with them through email once a week. Maybe they would let us in if they understood that we aren't paid to be here, but that we volunteer, and actually pay our own ways out here. They might not realize that we do all of the things we do on our own free will. We don't have someone breathing down our backs daily, forcing quotas or rules on us. We willingly follow the rules that have been set, we get up on our own, and we decide where we are going to go that day. Maybe if they knew that I have put off school for two years to be out here, they would think that what I am sharing has had a big impact on my life. Perhaps if they knew that we do this 24/7 with a few hours of free time one day a week, they would wonder what drives us to do all of this. Why are we so dedicated? Why would we make such major sacrifices to be rejected day after day, week after week, month after month, for two years? It's because it has changed my life. We have the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That gospel was restored in it's fullness by a modern day prophet named Joseph Smith in the early 1800s. We do not worship Joseph Smith. But he was a prophet, just as Moses or Noah or Abraham, and we honor and respect him. There is a living prophet today, who has been called of God to act as the Lord's mouthpiece here on this earth. What we have as missionaries is this restored gospel, and a way to find out if it is true or not. How do you know the Bible is true? Because you grew up with it right? And everyone else says so right? We believe the Bible to be the word of God, and we have another witness that Jesus is the Christ, our  Savior and Redeemer. It's called the Book of Mormon. We invite all men and women everywhere to listen to our message, to read from the Book of Mormon and to pray to ask God if what we are sharing is true. If what we are sharing is true, then there is indeed a living prophet today, his name is Thomas S. Monson, and he receives direct revelation from God to guide us through this life's obstacles and challenges. Next time you see some missionaries, stop them and ask if you can hear their message. It will change your life, it will bless you more than you can imagine, I promise.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Ask, and it shall be given you"

As full-time missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we spend two hours each morning studying the scriptures and becoming better acquainted with the life, and gospel of Jesus Christ. At the beginning of each study session we say a prayer asking for the Spirit to help us understand the things we are going to be studying, and then we begin reading whatever it is we need to study for those we are teaching. Doing that day after day, a person starts to develop certain study habits and techniques. One habit that I have developed

over the past 20 months is a color coded marking scheme. I mark different scriptures with different colors based on what each scripture is talking about. For instance, commandments and other things the scriptures tell us to do I mark in green, and the associated promised blessings are marked in blue. I have this really shnazzy marking pencil that I use, and have used almost every single morning of my mission. It's like a big mechanical pencil that holds 8 different colored led inserts. You just turn the end and click the button and you have a different color. Well, about six months ago, while serving in Arlington, I lost my marking pencil. It shouldn't have been a big deal, but for some reason it made it really hard for me to study. I tried using regular colored pencils, but it just wasn't the same. This went on for a few days and I was pretty bummed that I couldn't find it. It's kind of funny how something so small and seemingly insignificant can make that much of a difference.

One morning as I was praying to start my studies I decided to ask God if he could help me find my marking pencil. As soon as I asked for help finding my pencil, I had a distinct impression saying "the marking pencil is behind your desk". My first thought was "I already looked behind my desk" but I decided to check anyways. Sure enough, there was my marking pencil, down on the floor in between my desk and the wall. Now, I already believed that God answers prayers, He has answered my prayers many times before that. But it was amazing to me that God would care enough to help me find something as simple as a pencil. It strengthened my testimony that He is indeed our Father in Heaven, and that He loves us and wants us to be happy. I could have survived without that marking pencil, and in a week or two I would have been totally over it and on to a new marking system, but I think that God wanted to take a chance to reach out, and to show me that He is there. In Matthew 7:7-8 we read:
"7. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."
God wants to answer us, to show us that He is there, but it is up to us to reach out to Him. He has given us our agency, or our free will, and he won't take that away by reaching out to us when we don't want, or aren't ready, to receive Him. Some of you may feel that you have reached out to Him and he hasn't answered. In 2 Nephi 4:35 we read:
"Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss..." 
Sometime we pray for things that we don't need, but that we want. Or things that we feel we need but really don't. When we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, we pray as Christ himself would pray. In other words, we should be praying with a "nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" attitude (Luke 22:42). Be patient with your prayers, and be humble enough to recognize that God knows best. He will answer you, but it will be in His own way and in His own time. God is the author of this great plan. He knows each and every one of us, and what we are going through. He loves us and cares about everything in our lives, even things as insignificant as a pencil. Turn to Him with any and all of your troubles, seek His counsel, and if you watch and listen carefully, you will see His hand in the everyday details of your life. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

We 'shall not cast them out'

I was talking to a friend recently who told me of some of his co-workers who had left our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) because they had been offended. They felt they were judged for things they had done and didn't feel as if they were welcomed any more. They don't want to come back to church because they think it will be the same when they return. I know exactly what they are talking about and we need to change it. It's the pride that we have over the claim that we belong to the only true church on Earth, the very same church that Christ Himself established nearly 2000 years ago, now restored in its fulness.
Shortly after this dicsussion I read 3 Nephi chapter 18, the chapter when Christ introduces the sacrament to the Nephites. Towards the end of the chapter, Christ tells us how we should treat the "unworthy". Specifically, He is referring to the unworthy partaking of the sacrament. The sacrament is an ordinance in which we renew our baptismal covenants, or promises to God. "Unworthy" meaning those who have not repented of their sins and/or have not been baptized and made those covenants. Christ tells us here that we "shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of [His] flesh and blood unworthily", the reason being is that we take the sacrament to renew our covenants and also to remember the sacrifice of our Savior. If we have not repented of our sins and have been spiritually cleansed through baptism, then we cannot access the redeeming powers of Christ's atonement. But then Jesus tells us that we "shall not cast them out" but that we should "minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father", and that's really what I want to talk about.
I have several friends and aquaintances that have left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints because they had been offended. They said that they felt they had been judged because of things they had done, and they felt that they would be judged if they were to return. No one should ever be or feel judged in a Mormon church, but it still happens. We claim to be THE restored church of Jesus Christ, along with the same power that Christ gave His apostles anciently, and along with the fulness of the Gospel that He commissioned them to preach to all nations. I feel that often times we let those claims go to our heads, and become as the apostate Zoramites upon our Rameumptoms (Alma 31). Let us remember that we, meaning members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, are not the only children of God. Every human being that has ever lived, or ever will lived is a son or daughter of a living God, our literal Father in heaven. Just being baptized into the Mormon church doesn't guarantee that we return to live in God's presence, we must constantly be living the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is; faith, repentence, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. It is also part of our baptismal covenant to stand as a witness of Jesus Christ at all times, and in order to do that, we need to act as Christ would act. We all need to forsake our pride and become humble, meek, kind, and teachable. President Ezra Taft Benson said:

"Pride is characterized by 'What do I want out of life?' rather than by 'What would God have me do with my life?' It is self-will as opposed to God’s will. It is the fear of man over the fear of God....Was it not through pride that the devil became the devil? Christ wanted to serve. The devil wanted to rule. Christ wanted to bring men to where He was. The devil wanted to be above men."

 I invite all of us, myself included, to find the pride we still hold on to and let it go. To give our will to God. To recognize that we are no better than anyone around us. No matter what circumstances someone is in, they are and always will be a child of God. I invite those who may have been offended to also let go of their pride, and to recognize that we all make mistakes. The people of the church are definately not perfect, so I invite you to forgive them and return to worship with us.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


"I can't I'm Mormon" has become the trademark phrase of many Latter-Day Saint teenagers. Surrounded daily by things that push and pull at the standards associated with the church they attend. You my be asking yourself "Why can't they do anything? Do they ever get to have fun?" I have no idea how many times I was invited to do things where I responded with that cliche negative answer.

 What's the Point? has a Facebook page!

The world views commandments as restrictions, limiting our freedom and the right we have to make our own decisions. That view is the result of viewing life in the "now" without any regard to consequence, or what brought us here in the first place. The latter meaning our purpose in life, having in mind that God created us and is the author of this plan. I understand that not everyone that reads this post will have a belief in God, so I will try to focus a little more on the consequential aspect of our choices.
Whether you believe in God or not, we all know that we have control over our choices, or at least initially we do. We can choose our actions, the things we will and will not do. But we cannot choose the consequences. A good example would be drinking, whether underage or legally. You choose to take the first drink, and the second, and so on, but you don't choose what happens as a result of that. You can't choose what your drunk friends will draw on your face when you pass out. You can choose to drive home. But you can't choose to go back and start over after you crash. That's a morbid thought, but it's true, think of those you know that might still be alive if it weren't for drunk drivers. Those are the kinds of consequences we can't choose, but can avoid.  (I don't want to just target drinking, it's just a good example)
In reality, commandments are a way for us to continue to use our agency. It's also a way to avoid negative consequences for our actions, and a way for us to receive the blessings of God. In John 14:15 the Lord said "If ye love me, keep my commandments." So if you believe in God, then commandments are also a way to show love and obedience towards the Savior. Think about that for a second. Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world, meaning he suffered the pains of everyone that has ever lived and will ever live. He knows exactly how each of us feel, whether on the highest of mountains or in the deepest of valleys. Because He loves us, He asked that we keep His commandments, so that we don't have to suffer as much as we otherwise would. And in turn, if we keep the commandments and suffer less, then He has to suffer less.
I chose to keep the commandments for a number of reasons. I love the Savior and what He did for me personally and also the rest of the world. I know that I don't want to pay for the consequences of bad choices that could be avoided if I were living the commandments. I have felt the joy that comes from knowing that I am doing what I am supposed to. And if you don't believe that Jesus Christ died for you, or there isn't a God out there, then I invite you to live the commandments anyways to save yourself a lot of trouble and heartache. I would also invite you to seek to know if there is a God and if Jesus really did die for you. There is a lot of peace and direction that can come from a faith in God.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

"Elder?" Allred

Since we have begun using Facebook as missionaries, I have often wondered what all of my "non-Mormon" friends have thought to get a Friend Request from me, with "Elder" in front of my name. I
have also wondered what they have thought when all they see me post is things about Jesus. So this blog post is to shed a little light on why all of this is the way it is.

I think that most people I went to High School with knew that I am Mormon, or at least a good chunk of them did. They probably knew that that was the reason they never saw me at parties or anything like that. But for them, the simple answer was "because he's a Mormon". Yes, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has standards that are much more strict than most other religions, such as no drinking alcohol, tea or coffee, no smoking and no illegal drugs. There are also high standards for things such as language, music and virtue. I knew all of these things, and I attended church every Sunday with my family from the time I was born, but honestly, I didn't follow these standards because I was a "converted" Mormon. I followed them because I didn't want to make my Mom sad. I am the 4th boy and by the time I was in High School she had gone through enough that I didn't want to be the reason for any more pain. I really didn't know why we were asked to follow all of these standards. Luckily I had a great group of really good friends, and we spent a ton of time together having fun and staying out of trouble. I owe those friends so much, because I now fully understand
the importance of all of those standards that at the time seemed so limiting.

Immediately after graduation, I moved to Utah to go to college. I didn't have a solid group of friends for a while and there was a huge difference in my life. Then I walked on to the Track team at USU and really quickly made another group of solid friends that kept me out of trouble. About 7 months after I left home, one of my closest friends from Helena left on his mission for our church. It was then that I decided that I also wanted to go on my mission. A mission for our church means spending 2 years in some other place giving volunteer service and teaching people the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I started preparing for my mission, some of my track friends told me I needed to be reading the Book of Mormon daily, which I started to do. They would remind me day after day. About this time I started to do a lot of thinking, and I started to pray a lot. Two years off from school, track, and work is a major sacrifice, and I needed to know if this was what I should be doing with my life.

Now would be the time that I would tell you about the amazing experience that I had in receiving an answer. But that never happened. I don't ever remember feeling any sense of direction during all of this. I decided that at least I wanted to develop the skills that a mission can teach and that I would benefit in many ways from serving a mission. I received a call to serve in the Washington DC South mission, which is really only Northern Virginia, and I left in July of 2012. At the beginning of a mission a missionary goes to the MTC, or Missionary Training Center, where they learn how and what to teach, and some good study habits and things like that. It was in the MTC that I finally received an answer. We were spending up to 10 hours a day in a classroom studying, and I was wondering if I had made the right decision. I remember one night before bed, praying to know if I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, and in particular praying to know if the Book of Mormon was true or not. I will never forget the feelings that I experienced that night, and I don't think I will ever be able to describe them. Along with these feelings came and overwhelming sense that I had indeed made the right decision.

18 months later I am so grateful for that experience, and the decision that I made to come on a mission. I am grateful that I had lived the way I did in High School, and now I understand the importance of those standards and why they are so high.  I have been so blessed to learn the things that I have, and to have an opportunity to help others learn them. I have learned so much about our relationship with God, and why it is important. Learning all of these things, and being able to watch the way God works through me as a missionary, and other people, has brought so much peace and joy into my life. I want everyone to feel the same way that I do, and to be as happy as I am. I have started this blog and have been posting things on Facebook in order to help others do this, and it's been great! Elder is a title that we hold for the 2 years as missionaries. There are female missionaries, they are called Sisters and they serve for 18 months. I know that this blog has been long, but it is a rather meaningful story to me, that I didn't know entailed so much until I started to write it out. I mentioned a lot of things in this blog that might lead to questions, mainly all of those standards. Feel free to message me on Facebook with any questions you have. Also, LDS.ORG and have all the information.
 Elder Allred's Facebook page