Thursday, June 21, 2012

Religious Voices Are Invaluable to the World

Martin Luther King
Reverend Martin Luther King
Mother Teresa of Calcutta; 1986

at a public pro-life meeting 

in Bonn, Germany

This article was written by Devin Thorpe, author of "Building Wealth for Building the Kingdom: A Financial Planning Guide for Latter-day Saint Families". Devin has owned and operated an investment-banking firm, which included an investment advisory business, a mortgage brokerage and having served in a variety of corporate finance positions. He has unique experience in this area. You can buy his book here. You can also follow his blog at

As our world becomes increasingly secular, I’ve found that there is a parallel increase in the voices calling for Churches to step out of the public forum. A friend recently posted an image on Facebook that said simply, “New Rule: Churches don’t get to offer their commentary on political matters until they start paying taxes.”

Of course, the motivating issue of our day is gay marriage. These arguments are a bald attempt to discredit views about gay marriage that are based in religion. Given that virtually all arguments against gay marriage come from religion, the campaign is designed to get people to reject or ignore religious messages on the topic of marriage, because once religious messages are removed from the discussion, there is only one side to the discussion. It should also be noted that if the proponents of gay marriage are confident in the rightness of their views, they shouldn’t be worried about the source of the arguments in opposition, rather they should welcome the discussion and the opportunity to enlighten the unenlightened, as they perceive them.

This campaign, however, ignores the broader history of religious voices in America. Where would we be without the historic voice of the Reverend Martin Luther King? Can you imagine the civil rights movement without his voice, his passion, his vision? Absent his leadership, we can assume that the rights of minorities in America would have been trampled for years to come before America would have come to the conclusions it reached (sufficiently late) specifically because of his passionate, religious leadership. If you remove religious voices from the public square, you’ll get a world without voices like his.

Think too, about Mother Teresa, whose biography I recently read. Although she won her Nobel Peace Prize for her service to the poorest of the poor in her adopted homeland of India and around the world, when she accepted the Nobel Prize—and in virtually every other forum in which she was handed a microphone (including, notably, President Clinton’s Annual Prayer Breakfast)—she spoke of one principle theme: her strong opposition to abortion. Her voice was tolerated even by those who disagreed with her simply because the good she did in the world was universally perceived to entitle her to express her opinions, even when they were unpopular.

So much of the non-profit work done in the world is led by faith-based organizations or by religious people that it seems that the same spirit of tolerance that applied to Mother Teresa must continue to be applied to religious leaders of our generation. If society at large wishes for churches and religious people to continue doing the good that they do in the world, tolerating their voices, especially on moral issues, is a fair price to pay.

Mormons Seek the Truth of Their Faith Through Christ

I think it's quite interesting and nothing ironic that Satan used a fruit to tempt Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the Bible.

There's a parable in The Book of Mormon that is quite familiar to Mormons. It's in the Book of Alma (Alma Chapter 32), about a righteous prophet in ancient times who preached amongst the poor who were shunned from their churches and synagogues and sought to worship God. They were desperate to find a way to still worship God even though they had been kicked out of their synagogues and shunned for basically being poor.

Alma recognized their humility and immediately took advantage of the opportunity to compare it to the pride of those that had cast them out. He then taught a lesson in faith, one that I think complements what I'm about to get to in a story from the Bible well.

Alma taught that faith isn't something that can be proven - it's something that instead has to be nurtured, and measured by its fruits. Alma challenged the people to plant a seed, being the word of God (or Christ's atonement and suffering for mankind's imperfections), in their hearts. He challenged them to nurture that seed and watch as it grows. As it grows, they would notice the good fruits from the tree that would come as a result. If the seed were bad, the fruit would be bitter, and perhaps the tree wouldn't grow at all. In many ways Alma taught the people a scientific experiment through faith - instead of seeking proof for something that simply can't be proven (it wouldn't be faith if it could), he suggested they measure the fruits that come as a result of the exercise of faith.

As Mormons, this, in many ways is a core tenet of our doctrine. Joseph Smith himself sought to ask the Lord, in faith to know the truthfulness of the Church. The Book of Mormon challenges us to ask, and challenge the contents within to know of the truthfulness using the methods that Alma outlined (I think Moroni was also alluding to Alma's parable of the tree as he challenged readers to pray and seek to know of the truthfulness of the book as well in Moroni 10:3-5).

As a lay Church, we know we're not perfect. Our leaders aren't perfect. We thrive on that seed - the atonement of Jesus Christ - to try out the Word, get to know it, and seek to improve upon the fruits and the growth that comes from it. This goes from the lay member all the way up to the lay Leadership that leads and guides the Church as well. Because we focus on this, we believe the Lord will always lead His Church as we focus on Him as that seed. The fruits that cowme of it are sweet and enjoyable. The minute we take Him and the seed out of the equation, the fruits become bitter, we try to be perfect, and we can't do it without Him. Christ, the Word, and the seed Alma alludes to, is at the center of the entire experiment, and what makes it successful.

I've noticed quite a number of people in and out of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints challenge Alma's experiment. Those seeking to follow God are ridiculed and mocked by them, even at times fooled into being given "refuge" away from what they originally believed as they were trying to participate in this experiment. Most of these people have forgotten that that seed is the Word, or the Atonement and Redemption of Jesus Christ, and they stray away from the experiment. This Op-Ed in USA Today on "Why Mormons Leave the Church" is a good example of that. Many of these people are given a different seed, see a different tree, of which the fruits can't be anywhere near as sweet. Many of them remain bitter as a result, forgetting that they planted the wrong seed and of course will see bitter results by losing that focus on the Savior in their lives. They're fooled into hoping for a better fruit which simply won't come because they've forgotten the Savior in the equation.

The Bible warns of this in Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount, and I really think Christ may be alluding back to Alma's parable (Alma pre-dates the time of Christ - this, in many ways was a look forward to the time Christ would come and save the world from sin as much as we look back on it). In such, just like Alma's parable, Christ Himself warns man to watch for these bitter seeds in the form of False Prophets, and even shows how you can know which path is the right one to take (Matthew 7:15-20):
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."
Mormons believe in looking at the fruits in everything we do. If in the end, the individuals are not leading a path back towards the Atonement of Christ, a path of repentance recognizing our (meaning all of our, not just lay members) imperfections, but even more than that, one of forgiveness, redemption, and the overcoming of absolutely all suffering in the world through Christ (and no one else), the source is evil. It's not true, and we won't follow it. It's a simple formula for understanding and finding truth in everything we do.

I think Alma concluded it best by himself tying his parable back to the Savior, culminating a beautiful sermon on how to find truth in this world (Alma 33:22-23):
"...cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works. 
And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen."
If you're looking for truth through faith, give Alma's sermon a try, and always remember what that seed means! The resulting focus should always be on Christ's redemption and Atonement of the imperfections of man - nothing else. It should be a resulting message of forgiveness, humility, love, and a desire to grow closer to God, and the resulting fruit will be sweeter than anything you've ever tasted. Anything else will lead to bitter fruit. 

It's paying attention to this fruit which leads to a knowledge of everything good, and evil.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mormons Believe That Living Prophets Speak Today [Infographic]

Every year, twice a year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets out of Salt Lake City, Utah, and broadcasts throughout the world in a bi-annual General Conference. At the Conference, called leaders of the Church, which Mormons believe to be prophets just as in the times of Moses, Abraham, or even Peter, James, and John, stand up and speak to address the world over satellite, internet, and many other means available. Mormons everywhere are excited for these events. They're the time when they get to hear men, called of God, speak about issues that are most pertinent to the world, in that given time and moment. Tomorrow at 10am Mountain time and Sunday, April 1 at 10am Mountain time, you can join tens of thousands of other Mormons around the world as we watch these men, called of God just as in times of old, address the world. Part of being a Mormon and believing as we do, as I've discussed here before, is hearing the words of these men in person, and coming to our own terms and understanding that the words they speak are true, and that these men are truly God's representatives here on earth.

I invite you to join us and experience this with me - anyone is welcome. Come see why I believe what I believe. Come see what real Mormons believe. More than anything, regardless of your belief, come learn from inspired men and women and people that will get you thinking in ways you haven't before. Starting tomorrow you can watch live on the internet on Also, feel free to follow the Tweets, and posts on Google+ from thousands of other members of the Church around the world talking about conference by following the hashtag, #ldsconf.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Winning Cub Scout Pinewood Derby Car Secrets

  1. Design does nothing. This is the part your Cub can do, and it doesn't matter how it looks or what shape it is. It can just be a block for all it matters.
  2. Sand and polish the axles - start with course sand paper, and make your way to fine sand paper. This is also something your Cub can do.
  3. Buy an axle press from the Scout Store - this will remove any unstraight axles. It also has an end to arch the end of the nail so the flat of the nail isn't rubbing against the whole wheel. This reduces friction. I have 4 boys so this will be re-used by every one of them.
  4. Make sure your axles are straight. Any unstraightness will cause the car to veer right or left and cause more friction against the track.
  5. If your Pack's rules don't forbid it (ours didn't), raise one of the front wheels higher than the other wheels. This reduces more friction, because fewer wheels are touching the track.
  6. Weight! Weight! Weight! This is probably the most important factor. Go to the Scout Store and weigh your car (or use a package or food scale). It should be as close to the maximum weight as possible (usually 5 oz). Add more weight if needed. I bought some weights from the Scout Store, and added Pennies to increase the weight to the maximum. Fishing weights also work well for cheap.
  7. Put your weight in back. It shouldn't be too far, but right before and on top of the rear axle, and as much weight as possible back there will have the greatest effect. My son's car would some times be slower going down the track, but because his weight was in the rear, that potential energy converted to kinetic energy, and he would always speed ahead of the other cars on the straight-way. Be careful though - if the weight is too far in the back, the car will do a wheelie at the bottom, and lose speed (and some times jump the track!).
Lastly, look up others' stories! There are plenty of people on the internet sharing stories. Google, and Youtube are your friends!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mormons are Volunteers! [Infographic]

Mormon Newsroom just released this infographic on Mormons and volunteerism, based on a study sponsored by University of Pennsylvania, that shows how often Mormons volunteer in and out of their Church. This is one of the main reasons I'm a Mormon. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Church of volunteers! Read more on the Mormon Volunteerism study here.:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

People Are Wonderful

This article was written by Devin Thorpe, author of "Building Wealth for Building the Kingdom: A Financial Planning Guide for Latter-day Saint Families". Devin has owned and operated an investment-banking firm, which included an investment advisory business, a mortgage brokerage and having served in a variety of corporate finance positions. He has unique experience in this area. You can buy his book here. You can also follow his blog at

I’m a Mormon and in all my years, I’ve never faced a personal attack on my religion.

The nearest thing to a personal attack on my religion was in graduate school, a visiting student (who later enrolled) asked me where I was from and upon hearing I was from Utah, she said, “how did you like that?” She was clearly referring to my experience living among “all the Mormons” but I confess, I forced her to say it, by asking her in reply, “What do you mean?”

She was, as you’d expect, a little embarrassed when she completed her query and I responded that I was a Mormon. We both smiled and that ended the conversation.

So that was it. The closest thing I’ve ever experienced to a personal attack on my religion.
Of course, I’ve had some theological discussions with people who don’t agree with LDS doctrine, but I’ve never been the recipient of a personal attack.

Furthermore, I’ve never observed any anti-Mormon discrimination in housing, education, employment or service in any business establishment. Might I have been the victim of some prejudice of which I was unaware? Perhaps. But I’m not that oblivious. Are there some who might have treated me different but for not knowing that I was LDS? Likely, but that only seems to confirm my theory that once people know one another it is unnatural if not impossible to treat them according to the artifice of a stereotype.

Personally, I conclude that the reason this is the case is because people are all so generally good. We are all good to the people we know. We respect each other and even judge one another less by stereotypes and labels than by our individual character—once we are acquainted.

Stereotypes are only used—and then wrongly—by people judging groups of people they don’t know.
The implication of this observation is clear: if you don’t like “Mormons” or any other group of people for that matter, the remedy is simple. Get to know one.

Want to guest post on Stay N Faithful? All writers interested in posting on the topics of religious freedom, Mormonism towards non-Mormon audiences, and patriotism in an unpopular world are welcome to submit a request! Contact Jesse at

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mormons and Mormonism 101 [Infographic]

Ever wondered about Mormons? This is a great infographic put out by LDS Newsroom about Mormons and Mormonism. See anything you didn't know? Click the link to learn even more:

Friday, March 2, 2012

This is HIS Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has certainly seen its share of criticism. Whether it be criticism of the Church's stance on blacks and the Priesthood, or maybe even Baptisms for the dead, or perhaps it's the Church's stance on Gays getting married (click through those links to get a good overview of what those are). The "Mormon Moment" is bringing to the forefront issues that, while perhaps minuscule compared to other mainstream religious histories, due to a Mormon President running for Public office in the United States are now a mainstream issue.

There's one criticism I keep seeing though, which is that the Church has made "mistakes" in the past. That its leaders have swayed from what's "right", and some even suggesting that "The Church can't be true" because of those imperfections of its members and leaders. I'd like to make a bold statement saying, based on my own experience, any statement to that regard simply isn't true. It can't be as long as I call myself "Mormon".

I mentioned before that saying "I'm a Mormon" is a very bold statement. It truly is. It's saying that regardless of imperfect people guiding and leading the Church, this Church is still lead by God (you'll want to read that link). It holds His Priesthood, and He will not let it fall astray. Being a Mormon means, regardless of the imperfections of man, those men still receive revelation from God (I imagine some times whether they want it or not), some times revelation even they don't understand, and this Church is lead by HIM. Most of these men never asked for this calling - I'm sure they'd happily give it away if they didn't have such a firm conviction in God and this principle. To me, the Church of God CANNOT be true without imperfect men receiving revelation from Him to take His Gospel to the world. God will not allow His Church to fail - it's that simple. That's a very bold statement.

Mormons believe in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We believe that mankind was brought to this earth because they were imperfect and needed to learn the things that would make it possible to live in the presence of our Heavenly Father. Christ came to this earth as the only perfect man, willing to give us the example, and take on our sins so that our sins would not hamper us down from moving forward to that end goal.

To a Mormon, God's Church cannot exist without imperfect people. It simply can't. At the same time it cannot exist without the Lord at the helm, leading the way with those called individuals as his mouthpiece. To Mormons, it could be any one of us called to that position, so we support these individuals with every bit we can, knowing and understanding the challenges they must be going through in order to fulfill such a solemn calling. (The story of Moses comes to mind, as does Joseph of Egypt and even Muhammed and other faiths' religious leaders and prophets throughout time that were average people, called of God in very humbling circumstances to be the mouthpiece of their God)

To suggest that anything ever happened to the Church, as a whole, was not lead by the Lord Himself, would completely discredit any truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That is why the Church answers "we don't know" to questions such as blacks and the Priesthood - we simply don't know why the Lord wanted it that way. History shows that many leadership didn't want it that way, but the Lord still said, very directly, "No". And the truth is, we say that not because we're justifying the lack of revelation, but because revelation itself is guiding that response. When the Church says "we don't know", so does the Lord.

To suggest that "the Church made a mistake" on something as big as withholding the Priesthood from blacks simply can't be true if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to be true. The truth is, as Mormons, we believe this Church is true. We've each learned that through personal revelation (and we seek it if we don't yet have it), and because of that we cannot deny the fact that this Church was, still does, and will continually be lead by God Himself in the future. We don't always know why. We sometimes don't always understand and in many typical scenarios we'd even disagree (such as blacks and the Priesthood). However, this is HIS Church in every definition to Mormons and because we believe it's true, we follow the Lord's counsel.

Now it comes down to understanding yourself if God exists, if this is His Church, and if he speaks through prophets. None of this will ever make sense until you are able to come upon this yourself. It's a moot conversation until you do, and shouting from the housetops will never fix that.

Disclosure: as an employee of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these are my opinions and words, and not intended to be the voice of the Church. It's how I define my very personal testimony as a Mormon, and who I am. To learn from the voice of the Church and its called leaders, I encourage you to click through to the links throughout the article.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Family Finance - a Mormon Perspective

Hard times have lead to many of us thinking of our finances. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons), like anyone, are not immune. In fact, there are some very unique things Mormons have to think of which those of other faiths don't when it comes to finances. This article was written by Devin Thorpe, author of "Building Wealth for Building the Kingdom: A Financial Planning Guide for Latter-day Saint Families". Devin has owned and operated an investment-banking firm, which included an investment advisory business, a mortgage brokerage and having served in a variety of corporate finance positions. He has unique experience in this area. You can buy his book here.

There are many people both within and without of the Mormon community that might ask “how is financial planning for Mormon families different from that of other families?”
There are five key differences:
  1. Larger families: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on average have larger families than other people in America. This not only means that there are more mouths to feed, but more college tuition to plan for and at least a desire if not a need for larger homes.
  2. Tithing: Mormons are not alone in the world in making contributions to their church, but devout members of the faith donate more than 10% of their income to the Church—more than three times the average charitable contribution deduction taken by those who itemize their deductions in the U.S.
  3. Missions-Young: Male members of the LDS faith are expected to serve two-year missions—at their own expense—at age 19. While optimally, this expense would be born by the 19-year-old who serves, most often the expense falls to the family. Young women are also invited to serve missions at age 21 if they choose, again, at their own expense.
  4. Missions-Senior: The LDS Church asks senior couples to serve another mission when they enter retirement. This requires not only good financial planning but other sacrifices as well; the time when seniors are entering retirement is exactly the time when their children are typically having children—something that no grandmother ever wants to miss.
  5. “Consecration”: Latter-day Saints believe in the principle of consecration, of devoting all of their resources to building up “the Kingdom of God.” In the 1800s, the Church experimented with literally taking title to member’s assets. While that practice was not continued, members continue to avow their belief in the principle, leading some to place much of their assets in trust for the benefit of the Church. Others find that simply living a life that includes a large family and lots of missionary service leaves substantially all of the assets spent anyway.
When approaching financial planning, Mormons are wise to seek counsel from financial advisors who are familiar with LDS financial planning—not necessarily Mormons, of course. Everyone who seeks financial advice is wise to remember that it is your money—not your adviser’s money—and that you make the financial decisions after obtaining good counsel.

Want to guest post on Stay N Faithful? All writers interested in posting on the topics of religious freedom, Mormonism towards non-Mormon audiences, and patriotism in an unpopular world are welcome to submit a request! Contact Jesse at

Friday, February 10, 2012

Calling Yourself Mormon is a Very Bold Statement

"I'm a Mormon." You've likely heard it before, especially in the messaging and advertising of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Have you really thought about what that means though?

To say you're Mormon like I do takes guts in today's world. It means you believe in modern day revelation. It means you believe there are men today that speak to God, and God speaks to them. It means you follow them because they are normal men called of God, just like Moses, Abraham, and Isaac of old. Many of them are humbled in this calling - they never asked of it. They never wanted it. Yet, God called them. And as a Mormon, you're willing to follow these laymen leading God's Church just like people did in the times of Christ.

Saying "I'm a Mormon" or even calling someone a Mormon is bold because it means they believe and follow the words of modern day prophets that have advised against drinking alcohol, against drinking coffee or tea, against drugs. Being a Mormon is bold, and usually unpopular because you don't believe in premarital sex. You go to church every week to renew covenants you made with God. You likely attend a temple regularly to perform ordinances for your dead ancestors. Some even wear funny (to the world) underwear, in remembrance of covenants made in the temple. True, most Mormons are far from perfect and even though they believe these things they make mistakes, but these are the things they strive to follow, and they rely on the merits of Christ to do so.

Saying "I'm a Mormon" is bold, and unpopular, because you believe in the Judeo-Christian definition of marriage, and that it should be part of the public square, and that religion should still have a place in the public square. It means you follow, and support modern day prophets who have been called to warn of what will happen to society when religious freedoms are taken away, and that that messaging comes from God, while still trying to ensure equality for all men and a love for all. It means you don't think their revelations are wrong, or that God's message sways to meet public need.

Perhaps most bold of all, saying "I'm a Mormon" means you believe a prophet of God, Joseph Smith, saw  God the Father and Jesus Christ, as two separate beings, negating even the popular notion of the trinity itself being 1 being in many forms. And because you believe it, you can't deny it, and you're okay being unpopular as a result. It means you believe in a historical record made out of gold plates, dug out of the ground and translated through revelation by that prophet, and that it is true, not fiction. It has likely changed your life.

The truth is, it's really, really tough to be a Mormon in these days. I've been mocked. I've been ridiculed. My ancestors were forced from their homes and their lands because of this. I've been called a bigot, despite my purest, and most loving intentions to love my fellow man as my Savior taught me. The truth is I've seen the fruits of what being a Mormon brings though, I've learned that being popular isn't what it's about, but if the Church is true, it doesn't even matter if you're popular. I've learned that's why it's so important to know for myself, without hesitation, that those that lead The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are God's servants on earth today. It's why I've sought so hard to learn if it is true, and why I'm willing to openly declare it. It takes a belief in God. It takes testing that belief. It takes prayer. It takes trying it out and seeing the fruits that come, but in the end, I know it's true so I have to believe. For every Mormon out there, they know this and have tried it, and are willing to give up everything for it, just as any treasure one might find.

Either you're Mormon or you're not. Either you believe in modern-day revelation or you don't. It's the very core of Mormon beliefs. Saying so is a very bold, unpopular, but deep hearted message. Think about that the next time you hear someone say "I'm a Mormon." And if you're a Mormon, think about that the next time you tell someone you're a Mormon - do you really believe what you're saying?


Disclosure: as an employee of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these are my opinions and words, and not intended to be the voice of the Church. It's how I define my very personal testimony as a Mormon, and who I am. To learn from the voice of the Church and its called leaders, I encourage you to click through to the links throughout the article.