Jesus Christ Teaches About Money

This is my Easter Sunday talk I will give at church tomorrow. For a more traditional message watch the video.

Speaking In Church

I got a phone call from Brother Platt on April 1st asking me to speak in sacrament meeting. I thought it might be an April fool. When Brother Platt said that the bishopric needed a good speaker for Easter and they thought of me then I knew for sure it was an April fool.

On the 22 January 2009 President Obama signed an executive order that in part says, “…to be sure that our policies and practices comply with all obligations and are sufficient to ensure that individuals do not face torture and cruel treatment….” It appears that Brother Platt is not complying with this executive order — he’s still asking members to give talks.

My family enjoyed listening to all the sessions of General Conference. But half way through the last session on Sunday afternoon all of our family fell fast asleep. Two of Jake’s friends who were with us were most co-operative — they fell asleep also. We awoke to hear President Monson give a special message which we felt was just for us:

May we long remember that which we have heard during this conference. I remind you that the messages will be printed in next month’s Ensign and Liahona magazines. (Thomas S. Monson, “Until We Meet Again,” 179th Annual General Conference, April 2009)

The Life of Jesus Christ

I was requested to speak on the life of Jesus Christ. You all know a lot about His life. You know about the birth of Jesus; the friends of Jesus (John the Baptist and the twelve Disciples); the teachings of Jesus (the Sermon on the Mount and Parables); the miracles of Jesus (His power over nature, disease, and death); and the trials of Jesus (death, burial, and resurrection). In the time I have alloted I will concentrate mostly on the parables of Jesus and what he taught us about money. I will quote from our leaders and also I will add my own two shekels.

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My Faith continued

Yesterday I posted the first part of My Faith. Here is the conclusion:

“Which Church Is Right?“ quoted Bible verses and was methodical and logical in its presentation. It was the first time that I’d thought of a church that way, though I didn’t have any real feeling about it. The prophet’s testimony was different. A paragraph that stood out was:

It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself. (Joseph Smith—History 23)

I thought it strange too, and identified with Joseph.

Another paragraph:

During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three—having been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day, and being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me—I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to any one who recollects my youth, and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament. (Joseph Smith—History 28)

I was impressed that Joseph would admit to “foolish errors”. To me, someone telling a lie would not say this so openly.

I now know that being impressed by these two paragraphs was the Spirit acting upon me. After over thirty years the deep convincing that I felt is still with me.
Elder Vance Burton (left) and Elder David R. Wilson (right) at my baptism

I wrote to the Bishop of the Macclesfield Ward and asked him about the Church and that I wanted to know more. He replied to my letter, inviting me to travel to Macclesfield and meet with the missionaries. I did so, and recall one memory from our first meeting. I was being taught the first discussion and my mind wandered. When I was a child my mother used to say in a kindly way that “I was off wool gathering” when I didn’t pay attention. The missionaries asked me a question about what was being taught and from then on I was attentive. After the first discussion the missionaries told me that there were missionaries in Crewe and that I would be taught by them.

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My Faith

If you have been reading through Paul’s missionary posts last month you may have noticed a reference to my conversion story. Paul asked me several times to write it and I eventually did. Here it is:

The story, to be told correctly, needs some family background. My father was born in Independence, Missouri and was baptized a member of the church at eight years old but was not active as an adult. My father joined the USAF and was stationed at Burtonwood, England during the Korea War. My mother was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, England, and had three sons by my father before they were divorced. At age four I was raised in England with my mother and new stepfather. I knew nothing about my LDS heritage as I grew up and never came into contact with any members of the church.

My mother was Catholic and my stepfather never mentioned religion but was a hard worker and was a good influence. If I asked him to do something that he thought I could do for myself he would say, “Use your own initiative”. We never went to church as a family but when I was very young I recall my mother telling me that there was “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost”. She said I can pray to God the Father and ask for what I needed. I could understand asking for what I wanted, a young child knows how to do that. She then said that you have to have faith. I didn’t understand that, what’s faith? Fast forward to age twelve and I am having a difficult time at school such that I felt I could not talk to anybody. I lay quietly in bed, tears in my eyes, no-one to turn to. I remembered my mother’s words from years ago and so I prayed as best I could to “God the Father”. In my mind’s eye I pictured Him as a grandfather, a real person. I started the prayer something like this: “God, I don’t know if you exist but please help me…”. It was a somewhat rickety faith but I did have my prayer answered.

I was attending a Catholic school at the time though I wasn’t a member of any church. When I was taught about the Trinity I had difficulty with the concept, it did not seem to align with my experience of praying to Father.

Macclesfield Chapel undergoing renovation in 1984

At age twenty I wanted to meet my father as I had not seen him since I was four. I didn’t know where in America he was living. I was visiting my home town of Macclesfield, where I noticed a church with a strange name—“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. It wasn’t an English church that I knew of so I thought perhaps it was American. I went in and talked to a woman who was cleaning the floor. I told her I was looking for my American father and she took my name and address and told me that someone would contact me. Soon after, I received a letter from the Bishop of the Macclesfield Ward telling me that perhaps I should write to the Genealogical Society in Salt Lake City. My mother remembered that my grandmother lived in Utah and that she went by the name of Martha Harrison, after her second husband. I wrote the letter, mentioning my father’s mother’s name.

My grandmother was active LDS, my grandfather RLDS. Grandmother worked for the church at Zion’s Printing in Independence, Missouri. When Zion’s moved to Utah in 1946, she came with her work. When my letter reached the office girl at the Genealogical Society, the girl knew my grandmother and called her. My grandmother wrote to me saying that my father was in England on a 14 week TDY with the Air Force. Richard Sr. wrote to me, and I immediately traveled south to meet him, unannounced. He had married twice more and his third wife, my stepmother, greeted me at the door. I talked with my father and he explained how he had kept out of my “new” family so as to not disrupt it but now things were different. We saw each other a lot until he returned to the United States.

Newcastle-under-Lyme Stake Center where I was baptized

I corresponded with my father and my grandmother. After some months, I asked my grandmother about the church I went into in Macclesfield. She responded by mailing to me two pamphlets: “Which Church is Right?” by Mark E. Peterson and “Joseph Smith’s Testimony”. I did not attend any church but thought there was something to the Bible or else why do so many people have an interest in it? However, I did remember in my childhood when all was despair I had prayed to God the Father and my prayers were answered. I also owned a Bible I had purchased and read portions of it. I especially liked the book of Proverbs and enjoyed many of the wise sayings. I was curious about the Ten Commandments and found them in Exodus and read them several times.

These two pamphlets were my first exposure to the Church. I was not interested in them but I felt obligated to at least glance through the pages because my grandmother had taken the time to send them to me. While lying in bed in January 1974, I read through them very quickly to fulfill my obligation. I put them down and decided to sleep. However, I could not sleep and picked up “Which Church is Right?” and read it cover to cover. I also read “Joseph Smith’s Testimony” in its entirety.

I will post the conclusion of My Faith tomorrow.

Missionary Jake – Part 3 of 10

This is part three of a ten part series chronicling Jake’s Mission. It is told mostly in his own words using excerpts from his letters and photographs sent home.

January 2007

Things are good down here in Mexico. The weather is really nice—not too hot and not too cold. It rains sometimes, but never is cold enough to snow. The climate is similar to Utah but more mild. I imagine that the summers will be really hot. Usually the second thing people ask me when I say I’m from Utah is: “it snows in Utah, right?” I’m glad it doesn’t snow here though—I think there would be a wreck every 5 seconds if it snowed. The driving here is crazy. Stop signs are non-existent, or if there is a stop sign nobody pays any attention. The government puts in speed bumps every intersection to force people to slow down.
Photo of Elder Hernandez and Elder Willoughby ready to baptize
You don’t have to worry about speeding either. You can just give the police 10 or 20 dollars and they will let you off the hook. At least that is what my companion says. I’m glad I took his [Brother Peterson’s] class of Christian History because I understand a lot better who I am teaching. It helps to know exactly what is the apostasy and why we needed a restoration. In the mission all we have to do is make sure our investigators understand those two words—apostasy and restoration. Although all the churches may have some little part of the truth, none of them have the fullness of the gospel.

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