In a General Conference address given by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, he spoke about modern instruments that have allowed scientists to discover how much larger the universe is than they previously thought. Speaking of the size of the universe and the innumerable galaxies within he said: 

“...before mankind had instruments powerful enough to gather celestial light and bring these galaxies into visibility, we did not believe such a thing was possible. The immensity of the universe didn’t suddenly change, but our ability to see and understand this truth changed dramatically.

The Apostle Paul taught a parallel principle regarding spiritual knowledge. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, “he wrote to the Corinthians, “for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

In other words, if you want to recognize spiritual truth, you have to use the right instruments.”

One of the most important instruments that God has given us in our day for receiving further light and truth is the Book of Mormon.

President Benson taught: “How important is the Book of Mormon? Joseph Smith called it “the keystone of our religion….A keystone is the central stone in an arch. It holds all the other stones in place, and if removed, the arch crumbles. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true - and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true - then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it.”

President Benson goes on to say, “We…should know the Book of Mormon better than any other book. Not only should we know what history and faith-promoting stories it contains, but we should understand its teachings…..I have noted within the Church a difference in discernment insight, conviction, and spirit between those who know and love the Book of Mormon and those who do not. That book is a great sifter....It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book.”

President D. Todd Christofferson has taught, “Indeed, studying the Book of Mormon invites the Spirit, and the Spirit is the medium of revelation. This suggests that we study in a thoughtful, meditative fashion - pondering, praying, and perhaps making notes as we read. This puts us in a condition to receive added light and understanding, both about what we are studying and about other matters.”

I’m going to share a personal experience I’ve had with my ability to perceive additional light and truth because of reading the Book of Mormon, and while I do that I want you to be thinking about a time when serious study of the Book of Mormon has illuminated your life in some way.

Shortly after we moved to Texas, after we got settled in and 3 of my 4 kids were away at school each day, I decided to begin a serious study of scripture. It had been a while. I had been following the commandments, reading bits and pieces of scripture along the way and felt perfectly comfortable and happy with the amount of light I had in my life. I don’t remember the moment that I decided to devote more time to scripture and conference talks but I'm grateful I did. I started out reading the Pearl of Great Price. And then moved on to the Book of Mormon. I also began to listen to scripture on the computer as I cleaned house, pausing to write down ideas or insights that came to me. Additionally I would often listen to scriptures as I drove around running errands. 

As I made it a priority to listen or read every single day, not to just to check off that I had done it, but with the desire to truly learn, something within me began to change. As I came to a deeper understanding and love of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon, my desire to share that love with my family increased. Inspiration for myself and my family increased. My very nature began to change. Instead of being relieved to see my children walk out the door to school each day after a hectic morning, as I almost always had felt, I began to miss them and to look forward to their return and moments we could spend together learning and talking. Hectic mornings became less hectic as my focus turned outward and my patience grew.

At some point the most unexpected thought of bringing my children them home to instruct them began to seem not only inspired of the spirit, but actually possible. I had never felt like I was very good at nurturing and I certainly never thought I had patience be around them 24/7. But as I continued to read and ponder both the Book of Mormon and General Conference talks I knew that homeschooling them was what God wanted me to do. I talked to my husband about how I felt and asked him to pray and ponder it as well. He came to the same conclusion. 

This past year of homeschooling them has been the most amazing experience I have ever had. We have grown closer as a family, they have strengthened relationships with each other, we have strengthened our gospel foundations and have had opportunity to share gospel light with others. This doesn’t mean everything has been blissful and easy, but the experiences we've had have all contributed to our mental and spiritual growth. 

And it all stemmed from a decision to seriously study the Book of Mormon. 

There was further light and a particular path that God wanted for our family, that might never have been realized had I not begun that study. Does this mean that the path God currently has my family on is the path for everyone or that our path will never change? No. But that is the beauty of personal revelation. If we are seeking to listen to and follow the whisperings of God, we will have faith and courage wherever he leads us, however often he changes our direction. 

Could you be so much happier and at peace in your life than you are now, even if things already seem great? If you want to know, study the Book of Mormon.

Going back to the words of President Benson, “Now the spirit, as well as the body, is in need of constant nourishment. Yesterday’s meal is not enough to sustain today’s needs. So also an infrequent reading of “the most correct of any book on earth,” as Joseph Smith called it, is not enough. Not all truths are of equal value, nor are all scriptures of the same worth. What better way to nourish the spirit than to frequently feast from the book which the Prophet Joseph Smith said would get a man “nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book?... We have an increasing number who have been convinced, through the Book of Mormon, that Jesus is the Christ. Now we need an increasing number who will use the Book of Mormon to become committed to Christ. We need to be convinced and committed….My beloved brethren and sisters...let us continually reread the Book of Mormon so that we might more fully come to Christ, be committed to Him, centered in Him, and consumed in Him”

Richard G. Scott has said, “We talk to God through prayer. He most often communicates back to us through His written word. Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important that sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media.

President Uchtdorf said: “The Savior has told us in our day. “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. The more we incline our hearts and minds toward God, the more heavenly light distills upon our souls. And each time we willingly and earnestly seek that light, we indicate to God our readiness to receive more light. Gradually, things that before seemed hazy, dark, and remote become clear, bright and familiar to us.”

The Book of Mormon has a power that I have felt while reading it. I know it is a true book. It testifies of Christ and contains a fullness of his gospel. It brings peace and understanding and joy to my life. I know it will do the same for you. Will you take the time to really read it?

Suggestions for Additional Study

The Things of My Soul - Boyd K. Packer

Safety for the Soul - Jeffrey R. Holland

The Battle in our Brains - Catherine A. at Segullah

I remember when I was in school often thinking things like, "Why do I need to know this?" or "When am I ever going to use this?" and being really annoyed at things I was made to learn that seemed to have no practical application whatsoever. I enjoyed most everything I learned, including science (the no math parts of it) but I hated math with a passion. Up until this last year even, I felt like I was literally incapable of learning mathematics above a 6th grade level. I knew that my kids could learn math using some fantastic online resources and from their dad, so I wasn't concerned about that as far as homeschooling went, but as we've gone through the year I've realized that if they can succeed at mathematics, maybe I can too? It still does not come easily for me but I'm trying. I signed myself up for Khan Academy and am very slowly starting to grasp basic concepts that I never fully understood.

I've tried hard not to pass on my hatred of math to my kids and I've hoped to encourage better attitudes in them towards the subject by showing them how often math is used every day and that it is used in creating so many things that they love to do (toys, video games, movies, etc.).

The same goes with science. I want them to understand the science behind some of the things we do to help make science more relatable. Since I think basic life skills are very important as well I've been trying to teach them the math and science involved in those things, whether it be building a box, proper hygiene habits or baking a loaf of bread. I don't just want to show them how to make bread or tell them only that we knead bread. I want them to know why we knead bread. So today I supervised them in making a basic loaf of white bread. Didn't they do a great job?

We followed this simple recipe and while the bread was on its first rise we watched the following videos:

The kids were wishing we could inflate our own blobs of gluten. I wonder if a bike pump would work?

Another great resource for the science of making bread is a book by Emily Beuhler. Please note that while I am not an amazon affiliate, the link below will take you to the Amazon Marketplace listing, where you can preview the book.

Bread Science: The Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread

Here is a simple experiment you can do to show the kids how yeast works in bread:

Yeast Experiment

Yeah, pretty much the second I was done with the sofa table I started on this. After looking high and low for a storage bench plan that I liked I found one at Rambling Renovators. I only made the larger segment and decided to place the hinges farther back, but I mostly followed their directions. It's not perfect but now I'm not tripping over tools and bags of fertilizer and the like when I go out onto the porch. Oh and the color I used is Mission Control by Behr.
So for a long long long long long long (like in 9th grade) long long long time now I have been greatly desiring to pick up some wood working skills. Sometimes, when I am really interested in learning something new that I know will be more challenging to me, I read and study and visualize and read some more about how to do that thing. Then, when I think I have a solid enough understanding (or when I'm desperate enough to try to create that perfect thing I can't seem to find anywhere else) I take the plunge.

So armed with plans for a console table from Ana White, a friends Kreg Jig, and lumber, I dove in. Here are most of the pieces for the table, all cut up by the lumber store employees:

I changed the length of the original design to fit behind our couch. Here is a picture of one of the frames in progress. At first I was having a hard time getting the pocket holes centered, but eventually I figured out how to be consistent.

And here is the table all put together, awaiting a good sanding. I didn't add the x-braces. I tried but couldn't cut them to fit just right.

To finish the table I started by staining the top. I used Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. Then over that I used Minwax Polyshades Stain & Polyurethane in 1 Step in Honey color with Satin finish. I did three coats.

Then I primed the base of the table with Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 Primer for all Surfaces. The paint I used to coat the primer was Behr Premium Plus ULTRA Stain-Blocking Paint & Primer in One, Interior Satin Enamel. I had it tinted to Crisp Linen White.

After the paint dried I went over the base with more of the Honey Stain, brushing it on and wiping it off almost immediately after each segment was coated. This gave some depth and weathering to the look and gave it a richer tone. Compare the picture above and below, though it's not as easy to see in photos.

And here it is behind our sofa, waiting for some decor. It may have been crazy as a very first woodworking project but I do crazy well the majority of the time. I definitely made some errors in building and finishing but because of that I learned a lot. I think my next project will go much smoother.

The lesson I prepared and taught in Relief Society today, April 12, 2015

When Elder Ezra Taft Benson served as a full-time missionary in England in the early 1920’s, he and his companions experienced what he called “great opposition to the Church”. He later recounted:

“The newspapers, the magazines, even anti-Mormon movies were all over Great Britain….But up in northern England where we were laboring,” he said, “we had a group of people out at South Shields Branch who were very faithful and very devoted and very loyal, and they had invited my companion and me to come over and speak in their sacrament meeting. They said, ‘Many of our neighbors don’t believe the lies that are being printed. If you will come, we will fill the little chapel.’

And so we accepted the invitation and we started preparing and I started studying about the apostasy. It was a subject I liked, and I thought they needed it; and I worked and I studied, and I thought I could talk fifteen minutes on the subject.

We went over to the little chapel and it was filled. Everyone was happy. And after the opening exercises my companion spoke, then I spoke with a freedom I had never enjoyed in all my life. And when I sat down and looked at my watch, I had talked twenty five minutes, and I hadn’t mentioned the apostasy, I hadn’t even thought of the apostasy. I had talked about Joseph Smith, and I had borne witness that he was a prophet of God and I knew it. I told about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon as a new witness for Christ, and I had borne testimony. When I realized what had happened, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

At the end of the meeting, many of the Saints came forward and expressed their gratitude that something had been said about Joseph Smith. They said, ‘Several of our neighbors have said, “We can accept everything about the Church except Joseph Smith.” And then some of those same neighbors came up and said, ‘ We are now ready. We are ready tonight. We have received the witness that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.”

I want to discuss how we can know if a man is a true prophet of God and in what ways Joseph Smith displayed the attributes of a prophet of God.

1. A prophet will boldly claim that God has spoken to him.

Quote 1: “As a young man, Joseph Smith was a seeker after truth. Confusion among existing churches led him to inquire of God which of them was true. In answer to that prayer, he asserted that a pillar of brilliant light appeared. These are his words: “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other - This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (JSH 1:17)

2. A prophet will declare his message(s) without concession to public opinion or fear of repercussion.

Quote 2: Joseph asked the second personage, who was Jesus Christ, which one of the Christian sects was correct. He was told that he must not join any of them, that none were correct. Some treated his testimony with great contempt and began to incite false stories and persecution against him. The young prophet, like that Apostle Paul of old, would not recant his testimony, but defended his claim in these words:

“I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.” (JSH 1:25)

Countless times the prophet was threatened, beaten, tarred, feathered and never would he recant his declaration. The following are the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland from his talk Safety for the Soul, speaking of the Prophet Joseph and Joseph’s loyal brother Hyrum,

“I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth? Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon...In this I stand with my own great-grandfather, who said simply enough, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.”

3. A prophet may predict future events in the name of the Lord and they come to pass.

Quote 3: President Benson taught, “The ultimate test of a true prophet is that when he speaks in the name of the Lord his words come to pass.”

“In 1832, [Joseph] prophesied that the southern states and northern states would shortly be divided in civil war, that this war would be the beginning of world wars which would eventually involve all nations and result in the death and misery of many souls. Specifically, he said that the great Civil War would begin with a rebellion in South Carolina. (See D&C 87). This prophecy was published to the world in 1851.

As every schoolboy knows, the Civil War began with the secession of South Carolina from the Union, and other states followed. When Lincoln sent provisions to the Union forces at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, the Confederate forces opened fire on the fort...nearly one-half million souls died in the civil war.”

Will every prophet God sends forth fortell future events? Not necessarily. But if they do, then their words will come to pass, unless of course the foretold event is conditional. i.e. Jonah prophesied that the people of Ninevah would be destroyed, IF they did not repent. They did repent so that prophecy was not fulfilled.

4. A prophet receives revelations and directions from the Lord for our benefit.

Quote 4: President Ezra Taft Benson said: “If we are living the gospel, we will feel in our hearts that the First Presidency of the Church not only have the right, but are also duty bound under heaven to give counsel on any subject which affects the temporal or spiritual welfare of the Latter-day Saints” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1950, p. 148).

Joseph Smith received the Word of Wisdom in 1833. Of all the treasures unveiled in the Word of Wisdom, perhaps the most precious gem is that “tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man.” This simple and profound truth was offered to the world more than a century ahead of the scientific literature that now supports it. Today medical science has validated the soundness of that revelation.

A 14-year selective study conducted by UCLA epidemiologist James E. Enstrom tracked the health of 10,000 moderately active LDS Church members in California and ended in 1987. Of these non-smoking, monogamous non-drinkers, Enstrom concluded from the study "that LDS Church members who follow religious mandates barring smoking and drinking have one of the lowest death rates from cancer and cardiovascular diseases—about half that of the general population. ... Moreover, the healthiest LDS Church members enjoy a life expectancy eight to eleven years longer than that of the general white population in the United States."

While we may sometimes be able to see the wisdom in a Prophet's council, such as with tobacco use, there are times where things he asks us to do may not make sense, but we should follow his council regardless.

5. A prophet testifies of Christ

Quote 5: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only begotten of the Father - that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (See D&C 76:22-24)

We know that Joseph Smith stood as a witness for Christ, time and again throughout his brief life.
6. A prophet may be recognized by the fruit of his labors
Quote 6: “Another test of a true prophet was established by the Savior Himself. True prophets should be distinguished from false prophets by that standard, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:20)

Consider just some of the fruits of Joseph Smith’s teachings that Ezra Taft Benson mentions:

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints takes care of its poor and needy by tithes and offerings from church members

  • The Prophet Joseph Smith said the Church was not fully organized until the women had their own organization. So he organized, in 1842, the women’s Relief Society, which is today the largest women’s organization in the world.

  • This is a missionary church...Jesus said one of the signs of the times before His second coming was that the gospel of the kingdom would be preached to all the world as a witness unto all nations. (Matt 24:14) We are seeing that fulfilled in our day!

  • The Book of Mormon, containing a fullness of Christ's gospel has been published in 82 different languages today and contains many truths that were lost during the period of apostasy.

In addition to those fruits, that President Benson mentioned I would like to mention another. It is no coincidence that the first genealogical society within the United States was established only a few years after Joseph Smith was visited by Elijah in the Kirtland temple. Today, the Family History Library has the largest genealogical collection in the world.

Are there other “fruits” you can think of that have come as a result of the Prophet Joseph Smith?

7. A Prophet may be recognized by personal revelation from the Holy Ghost

While the previous six guidelines for identifying a true prophet of God can be helpful, the only witness on which we can unequivocally rely, is that of personal revelation on the matter from the Holy Ghost.

Quote 7: "No claim is put forth by the prophets of God to suggest that they are infallible, that everything they say and do is what the Lord would say and do. Only when they act in harmony with the will of the Lord do they become the Lord’s mouthpiece… The Prophet Joseph Smith said, ‘A prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such.' "

Elder John A. Widtsoe commented on the Prophet Joseph’s words: “That statement makes a clear distinction between official and unofficial actions and utterances of officers of the Church. In this recorded statement the Prophet Joseph Smith recognizes his special right and duty, as the President and Prophet of the Church, under the inspiration of the Lord, to speak authoritatively and officially for the enlightenment and guidance of the Church. But he claims also the right, as other men, to labor and rest, to work and play, to visit and discuss, to present his opinions and hear the opinions of others, to counsel and bless as a member of the Church.” (Evidences and Reconciliations, 1:182.)

We also have a promise in the words of Wilford Woodruff that, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church 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."

Again this does not mean that the Prophet will be without error in personal opinion or action in all things, but a prophet of God will never lead us away from the doctrines and revelations necessary for our personal exaltation. We can pray to our Heavenly Father to witness to us the divine calling of our Prophets today and of Prophets of the past, like Joseph Smith.

Suggestions for additional study:

Joseph Smith - Prophet of the Restoration by Tad R. Callister

The Profile of a Prophet by Hugh B. Brown

Joseph Smith: Prophet to Our Generation - by Ezra Taft Benson

Revelations in Context: The Word of Wisdom

Gospel Principles Chapter 9: Prophets of God

As if from mine own mouth: The role of prophets in the Church

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