Religious Freedom Matters: What’s at Risk

We believe in creating a space for everyone to live their conscience without infringing on the rights and safety of others. Elder Ronald A. Rasband

I have decided to share an article today that I recently re-read from an LDS magazine called the Ensign. I share it because I am concerned with the lack of understanding that so many individuals seem to have in regards to the importance of freedom – particularly religious freedom.

During my near-death experience, I witnessed that I was a part of what this article refers to as the War in Heaven. The war in heaven took place prior to this world being created and was a momentous occasion/event in heaven that we all were affected by. Some may think of this as a physical battle. Instead, what I witnessed was an incredibly important and pivotal debate that most of God’s children were a part of.  It was this debate, and our choices in regard to it, that determined our opportunity to be a part of this world.

In the United States, we are blessed to mostly take our freedoms for granted. However, our freedoms should be cherished and need protecting. We may not always agree with the beliefs of another individual or group but as long as forced coercion and physical harm are not utilized, we need to respect their ability to believe and worship as they desire.

It is because of what I witnessed in heaven and my concerns about what I now witness going on in this country and our world that I share today’s article. It includes references to scriptures and materials/individuals who are LDS (Church of  Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). However, I believe it is relevant regardless of your religious persuasion.

I hope you will read it and support efforts to protect religious freedom and freedom in general. Great sacrifices have been made by our military and their families throughout our nation’s history. I am grateful to be a beneficiary of their efforts and sacrifices. I believe that our freedom deserves their continued efforts but it also needs our efforts. If every family in America taught and practiced respect for a diversity of beliefs, not only would the freedoms of this nation continue to be uplifted and preserved, the ability for the world, as a whole, to live according to their conscience and beliefs would likewise spread and blossom.

I believe that every member of mankind inherently knows that they are meant to be free and to live according to the dictates of their conscience. If you are aligned with me in those beliefs, I hope that you will stand for and defend our right to practice freedom of religion and to live according to our beliefs and conscience. Silence will not preserve our freedoms, it will only encourage those who are intent on silencing the voices of religion and conscience.

I hope you enjoy today’s article:

Freedom to choose. That’s what the War in Heaven was all about. We couldn’t afford to lose agency then, and we can’t afford to lose it now. And that includes the freedom to “worship how, where, or what [we] may” (Articles of Faith 1:11). That’s why the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination [as for a Mormon]; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 345).

In addition to maintaining religious freedom as an eternal principle (even God will not remove the agency of any of His children), there are some potentially severe consequences if we lose the freedom to worship, speak, and live according to our beliefs.

  • You could lose your job or leadership positions for expressing religious beliefs—even outside of work. For instance, CEOs, newscasters, judges, teachers, doctors, professors, firefighters, Olympians, graduate students, and many others have been fired, pressured to resign, or intimidated for donating money or simply saying that they support the traditional view of marriage.

  • You might be required to hide your religion or perform tasks at work that go against your beliefs. Does it seem fair, for example, that a doctor who opposes abortion on a religious or moral basis be required to perform one even though numerous other doctors nearby are willing? Should you be forced to wear an immodest uniform when it’s not necessary for your job function?

  • You may be required to work on the Sabbath or religious holidays even when others are willing to take your shift and your employer accommodates other nonreligious interests.

  • Your children in public schools may be required to learn about sexual and gender theories that contradict basic Church teachings. Many public schools already teach sex education in a way that’s fundamentally contrary to Church teachings, and some have required reading lists with explicit content.

  • You may not be able to adopt children or become a foster parent because of your religious beliefs or views on the family.

  • As a business owner or professional, you might lose your license or be fined if you refuse to perform services that are contrary to your religious beliefs. You might even lose professional credentials if you don’t participate in certain activities, even if other co-workers are willing to perform them in your place.

  • You might not be able to create faith-based clubs on college campuses without being required to let people become club members—or even officers—who oppose the club’s religious beliefs.

  • Churches may be forced to employ people who disagree with or refuse to live core values of their faith, threatening their ability to carry out their religious missions.

  • Churches could lose their tax-exempt status by maintaining doctrines, policies, and standards that conflict with secular beliefs regarding marriage, family, gender, and sexuality, resulting in a huge increase in costs to build houses of worship or to purchase and provide goods for humanitarian aid.

  • You might lose tax exemptions for charitable donations like tithes and offerings if the Church loses its status as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization.

  • Churches may not be able to access government lands for camps on equal terms with other groups, limiting youth conferences and camps.

  • Housing units, such as dorms, at religious colleges could be forced to abandon moral standards that protect privacy, modesty, and morality, denying people the right to room with those who uphold the same standards.

  • Religious schools that maintain honor codes may lose their accreditation and be denied research funds and even federal student loans and grants, diminishing the value of their degrees, undermining the quality of their education, and making it financially impossible for many students to attend.

There’s a lot at stake, and this is just a sampling. As society continues to move away from eternal truths and God-given commandments, we can’t predict all the consequences that may result if religious freedom and the right to act on our beliefs are taken away.

So we need to raise our voices to defend religious freedom. If we don’t raise them for the protection of religion now, vital religious freedoms will be lost.

When we join the cause together, we can make a difference that will protect religious freedom not just for Latter-day Saints but also for followers of all religions.

Today’s article is shared from the following website: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2017/07/religious-freedom-matters-whats-at-risk?lang=eng

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You Are a Child of God

Remember who you are. Don’t comprimise for anyone, for any reason. You are a child of the Almighty God. Live That Truth. Lysa TerkeurstWhen I was a young boy, we had a man in our ward whose face had been disfigured by a terrible disease. The man’s appearance frightened me and other children in the ward. Then, one day when I was five or six years old, he stood up in fast and testimony meeting and bore his testimony. I don’t remember what he said, but into my young heart came a powerful feeling of warmth and love.

After that experience, my fear of the man left. I didn’t realize it then, but the Spirit had touched my heart and helped me to see more than the man’s physical appearance. Through those feelings, I learned that he was a beloved child of Heavenly Father and that I didn’t need to be afraid of him.

Later, I had an experience that helped me understand that I too am a child of God. When I was in Primary, disturbing things were happening in the world. I remember being frightened sometimes when I listened to the news. I wondered what the future would be like.

One Sunday in Junior Sunday School, our leaders announced that we were going to learn a new hymn called “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go” (Hymns,no. 270). The music director taught us the words to the hymn using pictures of mountains, stormy seas, and other scenes mentioned in the words: “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord, over mountain or plain or sea; I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord; I’ll be what you want me to be.”

As the words of the hymn ran through my mind, the feeling of warmth and love that I had felt before came into my heart again. I knew for the first time that Heavenly Father knew who I was and that I was important to Him. I knew that my life had a purpose and that everything would be all right.

I am one of 11 children. As I grew up, my parents taught us the principles of the gospel in our home. We worked hard milking cows, feeding chickens, moving sprinkler pipe, and taking care of animals. Summers were spent planting, weeding, harvesting, and preserving fruits and vegetables. We were active in church, school, and sports. There was never enough time to get everything done. But our parents always insisted on us waking up early each morning for family scripture study and prayers before we went our separate ways. Through the years, I felt that feeling of warmth and love reminding me who I was and that everything would be all right.

I testify that each of us is a beloved child of Heavenly Father. He loves us with all of His heart. Take time to read about Him, pray to Him, and attend church to worship Him. I know that He will give you that feeling of warmth and love in your heart. Then you can know that you are a child of God, your life has a purpose, and everything will be all right.

Today’s story is shared from an interview with Paul B. Pieper. It is shared from the following website: https://www.lds.org/friend/2008/01/you-are-a-child-of-god?lang=eng

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How to Get Closer to God & to Know God Personally

We never grow closer to God when we just live life. It takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness Francis Chan

Are you looking for deep spiritual meaning in your life and to learn how to get closer to God?

The good news is that God loves you (yes, you!) and He wants to get to know you too! He wants to show you how to have a peaceful, joyful life… right where you’re at.

Growing closer to God can include a Bible study for women (I’ll show you my simple Bible study method), but at its core, learning how to be closer to God starts with an open heart ready to welcome in God’s loving spirit.

Let’s learn about how to become closer to God, including the #1 spiritual growth skill that will help you better understand the Bible and apply God’s truth to your life.

DO YOU KNOW GOD PERSONALLY?

Do you know God? I don’t mean do you know “of” God. I mean, do you have an authentic personal relationship with the One who created you?

I’m not asking if you go to church every week or if you grew up in a home where God was talked about frequently. Honestly, that doesn’t guarantee that you actually know God at all.

I’m talking about “knowing God” in the sense of a friendship. A relationship founded on grace (not a religion based on rules and regulations).

I’m asking if you’ve had an opportunity to be forgiven for the bad things you’ve done (and yes, according to Romans 3:23, we’ve all done bad things) and made new through the power of Christ’s forgiveness on the cross.

I’m asking if you’ve experienced (even a taste) of God’s great love for you (Ephesians 3:19) and chosen to surrender your life to His plans and His ways.

Perhaps it seems strange to ask you this (since we’ve probably never met in person and choosing to enter into a relationship with God is a very personal decision) but…

Would you like to have a relationship with God?

Would you like to know how to discover that vibrant, full life that only He can show you (John 10:10) when you choose to surrender your heart to Him?

Let me show you how to start that relationship right now.

HOW TO KNOW GOD PERSONALLY

  1. Understand that God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life (John 3:16, John 10:10).
  2. Know that all of us sin and that our sin has separated us from God (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23).
  3. Understand that Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin (Romans 5:8, John 14:6).
  4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as our savior so that we can experience God’s love and know His plans for us (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8-9, Revelation 3:20).

If you believe these truths about God and would like to have a life that is led by Christ (instead of your own plans), you can start that personal relationship with God right now!

Simply pray something like this:

“God, I recognize that I’m not perfect. I know I’ve made mistakes, and I’d like to ask your forgiveness for them. I realize now that your death on the cross is the only way that I can be made right with God and to atone for the wrongs I’ve done.

I want my life to be led by you. I want to learn more about you and to discover your good plans for my life.

I want you to show me how to have that abundant, full life that I’m craving. Please come into my life and take control. Please shape me into the person that you want me to be.”

If these words are the desire of your heart and your prayed something similar to this, then you can be assured that you are now in a personal relationship with Christ!

Today’s post is shared from the following website: https://yourvibrantfamily.com/get-closer-to-god/. I love this article and believe in what it shares. However, a portion of the post has been excluded. That portion infers that only faith is needed and not works. I have omitted it because my near-death experience clearly taught and showed me that our works are a vital part of our relationship with God and to success in our lives – from an eternal perspective. I love sharing the inspirational words that others share but I also feel a responsibility to make sure what I share is complete truth!

Have a great day!

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The Penny – In God We Trust

The Penny. In God We Trust.

What’s a penny worth. Well, a penny. Yet it’s easy to dismiss a penny, something of so little value. In fact the penny, the lowest coin or currency in the United States monetary system, is thrown away as worthless by some. This story offers a different perspective of the penny, a coin of great worth.

The Simple Penny

Several years ago, a friend of mine and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at the husband’s employer’s home. My friend, Arlene, was nervous about the weekend. The boss was very wealthy, with a fine home on the water-way, and cars costing more than her house.

The first day and evening went well, and Arlene was delighted to have this rare glimpse into how the very wealthy live. The husband’s employer was quite generous as a host, and took them to the finest restaurants. Arlene knew she would never have the opportunity to indulge in this kind of extravagance again, so was enjoying herself immensely.

As the three of them were about to enter an exclusive restaurant that evening, the boss was walking slightly ahead of Arlene and her husband. He stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment. Arlene wondered if she was supposed to pass him.

penny jar

There was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped, and a few cigarette butts. Still silent, the man reached down and picked up the penny. He held it up and smiled, then put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure.

How absurd! What need did this man have for a single penny? Why would he even take the time to stop and pick it up?

Lesson from the Penny

Throughout dinner, the entire scene nagged at her. Finally, she could stand it no longer. She causally mentioned that her daughter once had a coin collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been of some value.

A smile crept across the man’s face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see. She had seen many pennies before! What was the point of this?

“Look at it.” He said. “Read what it says.”

She read the words “United States of America.”

“No, not that; read further.”

“One cent?”

“No, keep reading some more.”

“In God we Trust?”

“Yes!”

“And?”

“And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it! God drops a message right in front of me telling me to trust Him? Who am I to pass it by?

in god we trust lincoln head penny

When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God’s way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!

When I was out shopping today, I found a penny on the sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up, and realized that I had been worrying and fretting in my mind about things I can not change.

I read the words, “In God We Trust,” and had to smile. Yes, God, I get the message.

Today’s story is shared from the following website: https://www.atimetolaugh.org/thepenny.html

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The Love of God

“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

Love is the measure of our faith, the inspiration for our obedience, and the true altitude of our discipleship.

How Do We Become True Disciples of Jesus Christ?

The Savior Himself provided the answer with this profound declaration: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”1 This is the essence of what it means to be a true disciple: those who receive Christ Jesus walk with Him.2

But this may present a problem for some because there are so many “shoulds” and “should nots” that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas.”

This was one of the Savior’s criticisms of the religious “experts” of His day, whom He chastised for attending to the hundreds of minor details of the law while neglecting the weightier matters.3

So how do we stay aligned with these weightier matters? Is there a constant compass that can help us prioritize our lives, thoughts, and actions?

Once again the Savior revealed the way. When asked to name the greatest commandment, He did not hesitate. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” He said. “This is the first and great commandment.”4 Coupled with the second great commandment—to love our neighbor as ourselves5—we have a compass that provides direction not only for our lives but also for the Lord’s Church on both sides of the veil.

Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our Church callings, and in our livelihood. Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk.

When we truly understand what it means to love as Jesus Christ loves us, the confusion clears and our priorities align. Our walk as disciples of Christ becomes more joyful. Our lives take on new meaning. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father becomes more profound. Obedience becomes a joy rather than a burden.

Why Should We Love God?

God the Eternal Father did not give that first great commandment because He needs us to love Him. His power and glory are not diminished should we disregard, deny, or even defile His name. His influence and dominion extend through time and space independent of our acceptance, approval, or admiration.

No, God does not need us to love Him. But oh, how we need to love God!

For what we love determines what we seek.

What we seek determines what we think and do.

What we think and do determines who we are—and who we will become.

We are created in the image of our heavenly parents; we are God’s spirit children. Therefore, we have a vast capacity for love—it is part of our spiritual heritage. What and how we love not only defines us as individuals; it also defines us as a church. Love is the defining characteristic of a disciple of Christ.

Since the beginning of time, love has been the source of both the highest bliss and the heaviest burdens. At the heart of misery from the days of Adam until today, you will find the love of wrong things. And at the heart of joy, you will find the love of good things.

And the greatest of all good things is God.

Our Father in Heaven has given us, His children, much more than any mortal mind can comprehend. Under His direction the Great Jehovah created this wondrous world we live in. God the Father watches over us, fills our hearts with breathtaking joy, brightens our darkest hours with blessed peace, distills upon our minds precious truths, shepherds us through times of distress, rejoices when we rejoice, and answers our righteous petitions.

He offers to His children the promise of a glorious and infinite existence and has provided a way for us to progress in knowledge and glory until we receive a fulness of joy. He has promised us all that He has.

If all that is not enough reason to love our Heavenly Father, perhaps we can learn from the words of the Apostle John, who said, “We love him, because he first loved us.”6

Why Does Heavenly Father Love Us?

Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you.7

God does not look on the outward appearance.8 I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.

He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.

What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.9

How Can We Increase Our Love of God?

Since “God is love,”10 the closer we approach Him, the more profoundly we experience love.11 But because a veil separates this mortality from our heavenly home, we must seek in the Spirit that which is imperceptible to mortal eyes.

Heaven may seem distant at times, but the scriptures offer hope: “Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”12

However, seeking God with all our hearts implies much more than simply offering a prayer or pronouncing a few words inviting God into our lives. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.”13 We can make a great production of saying that we know God. We can proclaim publicly that we love Him. Nevertheless, if we don’t obey Him, all is in vain, for “he that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”14

We increase our love for our Heavenly Father and demonstrate that love by aligning our thoughts and actions with God’s word. His pure love directs and encourages us to become more pure and holy. It inspires us to walk in righteousness—not out of fear or obligation but out of an earnest desire to become even more like Him because we love Him. By doing so, we can become “born again … [and] cleansed by blood, even the blood of [the] Only Begotten; that [we] might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.”15

My dear brothers and sisters, don’t get discouraged if you stumble at times. Don’t feel downcast or despair if you don’t feel worthy to be a disciple of Christ at all times. The first step to walking in righteousness is simply to try. We must try to believe. Try to learn of God: read the scriptures; study the words of His latter-day prophets; choose to listen to the Father, and do the things He asks of us. Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible—and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you.

How Can We Hear the Father’s Voice?

As you reach out to your Heavenly Father, as you pray to Him in the name of Christ, He will answer you. He speaks to us everywhere.

As you read God’s word recorded in the scriptures, listen for His voice.

During this general conference and later as you study the words spoken here, listen for His voice.

As you visit the temple and attend Church meetings, listen for His voice.

Listen for the voice of the Father in the bounties and beauties of nature, in the gentle whisperings of the Spirit.

In your daily interactions with others, in the words of a hymn, in the laughter of a child, listen for His voice.

If you listen for the voice of the Father, He will lead you on a course that will allow you to experience the pure love of Christ.

As we draw near to Heavenly Father, we become more holy. And as we become more holy, we will overcome disbelief and our souls will be filled with His blessed light. As we align our lives with this supernal light, it leads us out of darkness and toward greater light. This greater light leads to the unspeakable ministerings of the Holy Spirit, and the veil between heaven and earth can become thin.

Why Is Love the Great Commandment?

Heavenly Father’s love for His children is the core message of the plan of happiness, which plan is made active through the Atonement of Jesus Christ—the greatest expression of love the world has ever known.16

How clearly the Savior spoke when He said that every other commandment hangs upon the principle of love.17 If we do not neglect the great laws—if we truly learn to love our Heavenly Father and our fellowman with all our heart, soul, and mind—all else will fall into place.

The divine love of God turns ordinary acts into extraordinary service. Divine love is the motive that transports simple words into sacred scripture. Divine love is the factor that transforms reluctant compliance with God’s commandments into blessed dedication and consecration.

Love is the guiding light that illuminates the disciple’s path and fills our daily walk with life, meaning, and wonder.

Love is the measure of our faith, the inspiration for our obedience, and the true altitude of our discipleship.

Love is the way of the disciple.

I testify that God is in His heaven. He lives. He knows and loves you. He is mindful of you. He hears your prayers and knows the desires of your heart. He is filled with infinite love for you.

This address is from a General Conference of the LDS church. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was the provider of these remarks. Minor edits to these remarks have been made to eliminate references to members of the LDS faith. Although this address was specifically made to members of the LDS faith, I believe that the remarks by President Uchtdorf are profound and that anyone can benefit.

As an experiencer of a near-death experience, I am aware of the complete and incredible love that both God the Father and His son Jesus Christ have for us. It is because of that knowledge, that I had a special desire to share this address by President Uchtdorf. I know that the words that are shared by President Uchtdorf are true and can and will help anyone know God better who seeks to do so. Maybe, more importantly, utilizing these words and making them a part of our lives will help each of us to know of the total and perfect love that God has for us. I testify that words alone cannot express the love that God has for each of us. Knowing Him in mortality takes work and effort…but every ounce of effort is more than worth it and brings unspeakable blessings!

The following link contains the full address: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/10/the-love-of-god?lang=eng

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