Friday, 23 December 2016

Why I'm proud of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and President Donald Trump

It has been a fascinating and turbulent American election season featuring two candidates with larger-than-desired low approval ratings but with huge support from their own followers. 

Donald Trump's win was unexpected and played down by the mainstream media despite its historic proportions. Fault-finding of the businessman has been incessant but he has turned the tables on his critics in every instance. His past has been dug up, false allegations have been spread like wildfire, and he has issued an apology for previous conduct while calling out and exposing the corruption which has cankered American government for years.

And now the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (MOTAB) has agreed to perform at President Trump's inauguration at the swearing-in ceremony.

A lot of Mormons have expressed outrage, disappointment, shock, concern and disapproval of both the MOTAB and the Church itself. Facebook posts have been littered with comments with both positive slants and negative rants.

My message to my fellow-LDS is this: Get over yourselves! 

This is what I posted on the LDS Living facebook post concerning the MOTAB's agreement to perform at the inauguration:

The MOTAB have performed at several past presidential inaugurals and are continuing this trend. As a Church, we support and respect the high position of authority of the President of the United States of America. We sustain and pray for our world leaders, instead of voice disregard for the person occupying the role. (Imagine if a church member we weren't too keen on received abuse and disdain simply because they held a certain responsibility/calling in the church!)

Another reason I support the MOTAB is because they are FANTASTIC! Their music and vocals are second to none and they always invite strong spiritual and positive feelings, good vibes that I hope will unite America behind its democratically-elected leader. I hope that the MOTAB brings a lasting element of peace to the inauguration which can reflect Mr. Trump's position of having constructive and healing dialogue with leaders of the world instead of stubborn standoffs as politicians of the past have done.

What many people look over is the fact that Donald Trump is a good man who prefers staying in with his family and who is a generous giver of charity and jobs. A lot of people base their judgements of Mr. Trump solely on the last 18 months since he announced his intention to run for President. The truth is, that time frame produces extremely poor and clouded views of who exactly he is. Do a bit of reasearch. Learn about him. See the good in him. He is going to be an excellent President.

We all say and do things behind closed doors and out in the open, that we regret and are not proud of. God, in His infinite mercy and love, grants us endless second chances.

It's time President Trump was extended the same prayers, support and hope. 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

"What, if anything, could the Mormon Church do right now to make it more favourable in your sight, or in the sight of others who view it unfavourably?" - A Survey

*The 'Mormon Church', 'the church' and 'organisation' are used in this article in reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With a lot of issues that have sprung up in recent times regarding the Church's policy or stance on topics such as the church essays, seer stones, sexual orientation, females and the priesthood etc. I have compiled a set of responses to the question outlined in the title of this post.

The question was open to interpretation regarding whether one thinks the church has a necessary obligation to make certain changes to accommodate others, whether it would even be possible for the church to do just that, or whether it is people who need to change and align themselves with the church. As such, the question was answered in a number of different ways.

We cannot simply ignore the way this organisation has made people linked to it, feel. It is my urge that we have to seek for every opportunity to build bridges between active, less-active and ex-members. That the qualities of compassion, empathy and love manifested by Jesus Christ be the standard on both sides.

Building bridges may include listening to others instead of responding with a retort, demonstrating sincere empathy. Showing the Saviour's love for each and every soul may take precedence over attempting to prove that you are right in a doctrinal/historical/policy back and forth.

And now to the survey itself.

I do not personally agree with every comment made in this report. The comments of other individuals do not necessarily reflect my position on issues. However, I feel it absolutely necessary to publish everyone's comments exactly as they were given, with zero alterations. The comments contained herein were given from real people whom I contacted privately and separately through facebook messenger.

This survey is neither an attempt to slander the church or renounce my faith in it, nor an effort to narcissistically extol myself or the church. I am merely genuinely interested and intrigued by the people who have contributed their opinions, their method of thinking, and their vivid ideas and feelings.

The following messages contain candid and honest opinions both in favour of, and in opposition to the church. Please decide for yourself whether you wish to proceed in reading this survey after this point.


(This question was originally worded as "What, if anything, could the Mormon church do right now to appease you and make it more favourable in your sight?")

I will kick things off with Greg Rattey, who I became acquainted with in a conversation on facebook:

I met Henry Lions in the same facebook thread, and these are his comments:

Next up are some comments from a Graham:

Jolyon Folkett shared his views as such:

Gareth Horne offered up his response to the question as follows:

Sarah Fuller indulged me with her comments:

Hilary Presbury shared her comments here:

These are Eric Spaans' comments:

Next are Mitch Hilburn's comments:

Joanna Horne shared her thoughts about this question:

Finally, we turn to the remarks of Nephi Hatcher:

While the entries here in this survey are raw and candid, I have found that we don't have to share the same opinions in order to be agreeable. We don't have to agree on common beliefs to be respectful. And we don't have to see eye-to-eye regarding our concept of truth in order to attempt an empathetic response. It is these such traits or qualities - agreeable, respectful, empathetic - which provide a foundation to build bridges. Their exact opposites create chasms.

We cannot attempt to demonstrate these attributes without first listening to and understanding the different viewpoints and feelings of both members and ex-members. Whichever side we are on, we have all been affected by the church in one way or another.

Of course, I always welcome sincere comments but I really hope that such comments don't isolate individuals who contributed, castigate them, ridicule their opinions, or cast them in a negative light. We are all humans and we all have strong feelings. Let us treat each other with kindness as we all try to be civil and respect each other's right to worship how we may and our right to an opinion and a voice.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The dreaded DISCOURAGE word and what it means

Ah, the word 'discourage' when spoken by general authorities of the church. I hate it when I hear them utter this word. I find myself exhaling in a 'here we go again' fashion.

Quite obviously, if a warning, directive or piece of advice is coming straight from the Lord through the revelation of the Spirit, there is no room for 'discourage.'

However, when a person has a personal opinion on something which they feel others should comply with, they will 'discouarge' the object.

The following link provides the latest apostolic discouragement:

Now, I sustain the apostolic leadership of the church, which means I know of no indiscretion that would prevent them from serving in their callings. What it doesn't mean is that I agree with every word they speak in various settings and to differing audiences.

This very issue draws into focus the question of when an apostle is speaking on behalf of the Lord Himself, and when he is merely offering an opinion. It has become challenging for some to differentiate between the two scenarios.

Is the general church membership deemed so spiritually immature as to be unable to decide what is too much? When to start and when to stop something? To be so dull to personal spirituality as to allow Pokemon Go to destroy their lives? 

Elder Ballard self-admittedly doesn't understand Pokemon Go but has discouraged us from playing it. Why would he do that? Perhaps he has our best interests at heart? He wants us to focus on more spiritual things? 

John Taylor, the third President of the Church, reported:“Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a gentleman in my hearing, a member of the Legislature, asked Joseph Smith how it was that he was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order; remarking at the same time that it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else. Mr. Smith remarked that it was very easy to do that. ‘How?’ responded the gentleman; ‘to us it is very difficult.’ Mr. Smith replied, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.’”3

Quite obviously, Pokemon Go has nothing to do with the principles of Christianity as contained in the Mormon Church. Extreme at worst, unwise at best, I think all that Elder Ballard was trying to say was that we need to exercise moderation while playing this game, just as we do in all other things. We don't want to get so consumed in video games, the internet, TV, unhealthy eating habits, that we stop finding time for family, the scriptures and other spiritual  matters.

The delivery of this discouragement has raised a few eyebrows as not everything he described as effects of the game, are true. People do go outdoors playing this game and do see more of the world, sights and nature. It has actually brought some families together and been very educational.

Instead of discouraging members from things, I wonder if it would be more effective to encourage members to do good?

Monday, 5 September 2016

I thought of Enos

Looking for role models from the Book of Mormon who are applicable and relevant today can be very hard. Most of the characters have either waged war on their enemies or killed someone, neither of which is an advisable way to live.

Everyone has their favourite person in the Book of Mormon.

Mine is Enos.

Enos is the real man.

I think of Enos a lot.

Nephi beheaded another human. Ammon cut off other humans' arms. Captain Moroni executed the death penalty on otherwise innocent humans. Teancum murdered another human in act of revenge.

There were also many good points about these people, and their darkest moments I mentioned above may be rationalised away by many with decent arguments. Yet the point remains: how is beheading someone relevant to me? Chopping off limbs? Supporting the death penalty? Being filled with revenge and anger? 

And then there was Enos.

Here's a picture of Enos praying

What do we learn about Enos from the Book of Mormon?

We learn that he valued his parents' teachings so much that the memory of their words were able to suddenly and vividly come to his mind. We learn that he was an imperfect person who was magnified and emboldened by the power of prayer. He had gone off into the forest hunting beasts, which we may assume was a very normal activity in his life, and ended up having a profound spiritual experience. We learn that his energy and motivations in prayer was for people - for his own welfare and the welfare of ALL others. 

Enos also possessed a reverence and respect for the written record and requested for divine assurances that the record of his people might be preserved. The Book of Mormon on my dining table today is that very record that Enos was so concerned about around 2,500 years ago. 

We also learn that Enos understood that the Lamanites had something against the Nephites but that he lived amongst a people who tried to resolve conflicts and plead their innocence of false assumptions by peaceful means.

Enos is my role model. I too strive for peaceful resolutions to conflicts. I can relate to having spiritual experiences in the often normal and mundane tasks of the day. I am imperfect like him and stand in need of repentance like him. I understand the 'struggle' of prayer, of spending long minutes in quiet but pained thought and determined frustration to say what I want to say and not what I've been conditioned to say. To pray for people; myself, friends, enemies, local and world leaders, church leaders, all who have a need. That these are often the most fulfilling and meaningful prayers.

So when I was wondering where on earth to read in the Book of Mormon the other day, I thought of who I judged to be a good character and who I totally admired in the record. I thought of my role model. 

I thought of Enos. 

Saturday, 30 April 2016


This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

Zion can mean a lot of things:

- a place in Jerusalem
- heaven
- a city of God to be built
- the church
- the pure in heart

Zion is referred to in the scriptures and hymns as the ideal of beauty and perfection. It is both a place, an organisation, and an attitude. To me it seems that it's an ideal way of living that will prepare us to live in the presence of Deity in a future existence.

But can my family build Zion in the wilderness of Kuantan?

I believe we can.

As with all worthwhile spiritual endeavours, it is developed slowly, step by step, through consistent little efforts. It starts with the home. We build, establish and beautify our home. We build it by reverencing God; we establish it by avoiding anything that would tarnish it; and we beautify it by learning and living the gospel of Jesus Christ and searching out truth.

These things produce a Zion-like place of refuge and state of mind.

While we don't regularly gather with other church members, we gather as a family in our home in the wilderness, and for us, this is our little piece of Zion.

Where is your Zion? How do you create a Zion-like existence? What is your understanding of the concept of Zion?

Friday, 29 April 2016

Youth Program

This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

The Mormon Church runs two tremendous youth programs for 12-18 year olds, known as Young Mens and Young Womens. I now look back on my time spent in this program with great fondness.

In addition to having classes together at church, we also enjoyed activities on Wednesday nights which were mostly sport-related. On occasion, the young men would join with the young women for activities supervised by youth leaders.

I guess I was fortunate to have a lot of great friends at church and we developed extremely close friendships. We all loved football and spent many happy hours and days doing exactly what we loved. It also kept us in church on a Sunday as we checked the fantasy football scores and tables to see how our teams were doing.

Those in the church youth program became my closest circle of friends, much more exciting, meaningful and deep than my school circle. We would hang out as often as possible, whatever the time, whatever the weather, and my teenage years are filled with hilarious memories of these times and other crazy adventures we embarked on together.

Some experiences include: long summer afternoons at the park playing football and tennis, hitting golf balls on the field, cycling together, walking into town to play pool and buy 50p football socks, hanging around at someone's home (usually the Bayliss'), sleepovers, blowing up aerosol cans, throwing berries at house windows, and the list goes on.

We now have a (slightly) more mature relationship and it was awesome to see my best mates last year on my trip back to England where we reminisced about all of these memories!

Thursday, 28 April 2016


This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

Ex-Mormons can be generous, kind, loving, family-oriented, opinionated, idiotic, stubborn, vengeful.

Mormons can be generous, kind, loving, family-oriented, opinionated, idiotic, stubborn, vengeful.

Hope that clears it up.

This is a post stemming from my very first posting here on open-minded-mormon titled Building bridges in interesting times. It's worth reading that post as a little background to this one.

Ex-Mormons, if treated in the right way, can open some valid and insightful discussions and questions regarding the church, its history, and policies. And it's not even left to ex-Mormons to do deep digging. Church members, most notably Kate Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women movement, was excommunicated from the church for preaching her viewpoints which the church perceived to be in opposition to its own stances. Sometimes it takes people like Kate Kelly to cause us to think deeper, to cause changes for the better in the church. Ex-Mormons have quite different perspectives on the church from the typical comfortable member.

While it may be impossible to agree with each other's opinions, we can at least be agreeable in our understanding of and empathy for one another.

Ex-Mormons usually make a firm point of how happy they are after leaving the church, which is probably correct. But it doesn't mean that the happiness I feel in the church is in any way less than theirs.

I don't have to renounce my faith to be happy.

I don't have to leave the church in order to see other perspectives.

I don't have to forfeit my spiritual convictions in order to be open-minded.

I don't have to abandon my beliefs in order to acknowledge and consider mistakes of past or current church leaders.

I don't have to fight against the church collectively just because one person offended me.

From my observation, a lot of ex-Mormons are not necessarily bad people, they have just been perhaps treated harshly or unfairly by certain people in the church; they have been offended by one person's lack of empathy or unkind words or bad example; they have been overburdened with callings and responsibilities; they feel cheated by the church when they learn of proposed mistakes or contradictions in early church leaders or on points of doctrine or practise; they have differing personal opinions to church policy which leaves them marginalized and criticized by the majority.

I think we can show empathy, defend the faith, and do so with increased kindness so that we can build bridges instead of erect walls.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Women and the priesthood

This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

We need to get away from the thinking that holding the priesthood is the be-all and end-all of membership in the Mormon church. That somehow it is advantageous now and in the hereafter to be a priesthood holder.

It is not.

While the priesthood is important in administering the ordinances of the gospel, it cannot serve itself. It can only benefit and bless the recipients of the ordinances it authorises. It has no bearing on ability to receive spiritual convictions concerning the doctrine of Christ. Every man, woman or child in the church may receive personal revelation for themselves or their families. Such spiritual messages are not dependent on bearing the priesthood.

As a man, it is a duty that I didn't choose, but one that was willingly thrust upon me. I honour the priesthood I hold as it enables me to serve the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to my family each Sunday in the wilderness of Kuantan. It blesses me and my three girls in equal measure. We are all able to partake of the same emblems and associated covenants because of it.

The priesthood also serves a man and a woman in a temple by pronouncing the exact same covenants and eternal blessings on both of them at the marriage altar, representing the highest gospel ordinance available to Mormons, received equally by both sexes.

The woman is in no way disadvantaged by the use of the priesthood or the blessings it prescribes.

The "Ordain Women" movement could be looked upon as a landmark turning point in gender equality, or an ill-advised and misunderstood concept of church organisation. The day came when black males were informed they too could receive the priesthood. We may live to see the day where females are informed they can receive the priesthood. As with most policy changes in the church, it has to be at the right time and according to shifting circumstances, which we are certainly seeing now with the Ordain Women movement.

However, there is an order to how the church is arranged as it currently stands, and that order is connected to the allocation of priesthood responsibility to the males, and predominantly family responsibility to the females. The church has been taking steps to involve women more in previously all-male general church councils, which is definitely an exploratory step in the direction of ordination for women.

It's hard to imagine what would happen should these gender-defined responsibilities suddenly cease to be segregated by sex. Perhaps the order in the church would turn to chaos. Women would be seeking men's roles and vice versa. Roles which each may not be best-suited to as compared to the opposite gender. For example, a man may receive a calling in primary being alone in a room full of small children. A woman may not enjoy leading a sometimes rowdy bunch of teenage boys, neither might it be appropriate for a man to take charge of a group of adolescent young women. Suddenly, a baptism in the family would turn into an agonising decision as to whether the husband or the wife performs the baptism. Would revelation for the entire church flow as smoothly and reach unanimous decisions if the general leadership was a mixed bag of both women and men? 

I asked my wife about these issues to get a female perspective on women and the priesthood. And believe me, I pressed her on it! Among other things, I asked her if she felt marginalised in the church as every major decision is made by men. Was she satisfied with the perceived lack of equality between the genders? I was a little surprised to hear her rebuke me and inform me that she has so many other things going on in her life with family duties that she would have no time or effort left to hold the priesthood, attend meetings, fulfill callings that would then become possible as a priesthood holder. She left me in no uncertain terms that she is perfectly happy with how the church is ordered now, that she feels fine with letting the men get on with the church business. She ended by saying she wouldn't even want to receive the priesthood!

Time will tell what direction the church takes, how it responds to the changing circumstances, and whether by divine decree, women are instated to the priesthood here on earth.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Vicissitudes of life

This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

The vicissitudes of life describes the constant state of change we encounter. Changes in age, health and career happen to all of us. The vicissitudes I will talk of here are church-related.

The Mormon church has changed a lot since its beginnings in 1830. These vicissitudes are worthy of analysis, sincere questioning and an effort to understand.

Some of the vicissitudes of Mormon history include the implementation of polygamy and its later cessation, the priesthood being extended to men of all races and colours, the method of succession to the Presidency, as mentioned in "Quorum of the Twelve Apostles", age for full-time missionaries, and the essays released on the church website,, albeit hidden away, representing the church's publicizing of previously 'dark' information.

On, you have to click "Scriptures and Study" ---> "Gospel Topics" ---> "Explore the essays" to locate the newly released essays providing detailed information on issues such as Book of Mormon translation, polygamy and Race & the Priesthood
While such changes may well have received some sort of divine command, it is apparent that they were not wholly decided upon by revelation. Many of these vicissitudes came as a result of fierce opposition by non-Mormons, fellow members and governments, with revelation merely confirming the need to change according to different circumstances.

The fact that the Mormon church is a changing church may demonstrate two opposing sides of a pendulum - to some it shows deceit, bending to the will of the world and its increasing worldliness, and a string of losses to outside influences suggesting a church that is not being led by God, but by imperfect men - on the other side, and to the more rational thinkers, we may note the church's adaptability to changing times and different circumstances, awareness of outside concerns, and willingness to change for the better.

To be honest, an organisation like the 15 million-strong Mormon church would find it nigh impossible to remain stagnant in policy and organisation from the 19th through 21st centuries. Any company would crash if it didn't change and adapt.

As an example, my English company has already adjusted policy a few times in just four years, in response to suit our clients' needs and adapt to our growing size. Without such changes, it would be easy to rapidly become irrelevant and inconvenient.

The Mormon church runs on principles of continuing revelation and inspiration making it reasonable and frankly necessary for changes in policy or stances to occur. Obviously, 19th century stances on race, slavery and equality are entirely different from those of the 21st century, for example.

These church-related vicissitudes often facilitate the increase of light and knowledge on certain issues and provide great learning opportunities.

Sometimes, the changes might be that specific issues are spoken of with more frequency, for example the recent increase in discussions on homosexuality and gay marriage and the church's definition of marriage. The church has a tricky balancing act as it can only change on policy within the parameters of God's standards of living which it declares. For example, the church can acknowledge that people have homosexual tendencies, but it cannot allow such people to be married in its churches or temples as the doctrine of the organisation states that marriage is between a man and a woman. Such couples may freely find an organisation with standards that allow such marriages.

Living in the wilderness, we are away from the hubbub that sensitive topics which have become embraced by the world, generate. Granted, social media brings some of that commotion to us, but it's certainly nice to be away from the crowds of church members where I can formulate more easily my own thoughts and opinions on these important vicissitudes without them being concentrated by popular Mormon cliche.

Monday, 25 April 2016


This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

Am I underperforming spiritually?

This is a question which regularly crops up in my mind and one I asked myself after listening to some Christian friends in the back of my car discuss their study of the Old Testament. They talked about 1Kings and I probably couldn't have joined the conversation right there.

Am I underperforming spiritually?

It's a question you may have asked yourself before.

Sometimes when we hear others speak of the scriptures with an obvious certain level of knowledge, we begin to question ourselves.

Am I underperforming spiritually?

We often tie this question and the accompanying feelings to comparisons with others. But is the acquiring of spiritual knowledge really a competition between people? Do we compete with others to see who has the highest level of scripture mastery?

The answer should always be 'No.' Simply because we cannot force spiritual things the same way we can force children to memorise academic information. Regurgitating scriptures is one thing, but real spiritual wisdom comes from application of spiritual principles outlined therein. It also comes from careful slow study, meaningful lengthy consideration, and diligent speedy recording of thoughts, feelings and impressions garnered from a study of the Word.

There are people of faith everywhere who are at different levels of spiritual knowledge. We are all progressing at our own pace. Our common Father in heaven has no regard for how intelligent I am compared to you. We were never placed here to learn of God as some sort of contest to prove ourselves against others.

What matters is that we are proving ourselves to God. What matters is that we are a little better today than we were yesterday. What matters is that today we bite our tongue and hold our peace when yesterday we emitted a vocal act of impatience. What matters is that we are humble enough to listen and learn from the Spirit when it acts upon us through our study, prayer, pondering or listening to others.

Our relationship with God is intensely personal. Nobody else's spirituality, knowledge or intelligence, however great and mighty, can actually save us. We are all working for our own salvation. Only our very own prayer, study, meditation, faith, knowledge and works can ultimately prepare us for spiritual safety here and in the life to come.

So, am I underperforming spiritually?

When we view this question as a personal, relationship-with-God goal, and not a competitive fear, we will be able to set aside inadequate worries, learn freely at our own pace, and make plans for healthy self-improvement.

Saturday, 23 April 2016


This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

In many a discussion with non-member friends, we have come to a crossroads over "testimony" and Mormons' oft-repeated declaration of "I know" when sharing about spiritual feelings. How can one bear testimony of Joseph Smith and his role as an authorised prophet when we haven't even physically seen him, nor possess any sort of personal physical evidence that such a person actually existed? How can we say "I know God lives" when it's near enough physically impossible to see God? And they are fair points which I took on board and pondered. I came to wonder what exactly is my testimony.

A testimony is described using words such as 'witness', 'evidence' and 'proof', which physically speaking makes our familiar declarations of God, Jesus and Joseph Smith somewhat inaccurate.

What I think we really mean by sharing our testimony is 1. making a statement of what we believe to be true, and 2. declaring what we know to be true after obtaining such information by personal spiritual means, for example through the gift of the Holy Ghost or by the spirit of Christ, and not necessarily by physical means.

And we are all able to receive that type of conviction according to our desires.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained it succinctly:

"When we know spiritual truths by spiritual means, we can be just as sure of that knowledge as scholars and scientists are of the different kinds of knowledge they have acquired by different methods." (General Conference, April 2008)

As Mormons, we term this set of beliefs as "testimony" - I prefer to label it as "spiritual convictions."

In the Book of Mormon, a man named Alma used a tree as an analogy in testing the word of God to gain spiritual convictions. At one point he said:

"And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand."
(Alma 32:34)

In bearing testimony, or sharing spiritual convictions, of the truths of the restoration, it's not that we saw Joseph Smith receive the visitation of God and Christ, not that we saw the golden plates upon which lay the ancient writings that he translated with a seer stone, nor that we saw the angel Moroni visit Joseph Smith on numerous occasions, delivering and later collecting those plates, but that through studying and considering these things in the scriptures and accounts provided, we have noticed the change for better in ourselves. We have become a better person and developed Christlike attributes. We know for certain that the word has swelled our souls. 

Therefore, a Mormon testimony, as it is called, becomes more of a witness of ourselves - of the positive change which has taken place in ourselves because of the words of God. It's like saying,

"Look what the restoration has done for me. Look what the doctrine delivered from Christ to Joseph Smith and Joseph Smith to me has done for me. It has made me better, enlightened my mind, expanded my thoughts and increased my spiritual convictions. Therefore 'I know' that the Book of Mormon, the source of this increased spirituality, is true and that Joseph Smith served as a prophet of God."

We bear testimony or share spiritual convictions of the truth of the restoration and the divinity and works of Jesus, and we do so because of the visible, tangible impact they have had on us.

Friday, 22 April 2016


This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

The ultimate aim is not for us to be dependent on an organisation but to be able to be self-sufficient beings. The Mormon church tries to strike a balance between being merciful to those who stand in need of mercy (see the Christlike stance on refugees), and helping all become self-reliant (note the extra-curricular self-reliance classes held by church members around the world).

I am a stubborn supporter of self-reliance and demand it of everyone, but when urged by my better half, show mercy to those in need. After all, I was in need of monetary help before, and had a good friend who willingly obliged.

My pride was dented in having to ask for money, even though my friend understood our immediate need and had earlier said he was ready to help when needed.

Raymond, front centre, helped me out financially when I stood in need
 We duly paid him back in installments and determined to never have to borrow of others again. It was a horrible feeling to ask for help. I felt that I couldn't provide for myself or my family. I felt very small. It was a very humbling experience.

We gained great motivation to work harder and save more. To consciously save money and build our savings. To be a little more frugal in our spending. To be in a position to not have to rely on anyone else for our welfare.

And I can tell you, that is an awesome feeling!

Living in the wilderness of Kunatan, we don't have an immediate branch leadership that we can turn to when in need. We belong to the KL branch which is 3-4 hours away and we know just a handful of people there. So we understand that we are isolated from the church and this spurs us on to never need to rely on the church - for money, or for spiritual light.

We have to be responsible for our spiritual welfare too. That probably comes at a greater degree of difficulty than earning money. With no lessons to prepare for Sunday School, no fellowship with other members, no mid-week activities, living as a Mormon in the wilderness can be incredibly tough spiritually. It is unimaginably easy to 'forget' to pray and for scripture study to become obsolete. 

On the flip side, guided by the Spirit we have become our own teachers, escaped all the horrible cliches associated with groups of Mormons stuck in repetitive circles, and learned to rely more strongly on God's grace for our spiritual nourishment.

We see things in an entirely new light, looking at gospel topics from different perspectives, living the gospel with more pronunciation and decision, according to our circumstances. Such spiritual self-reliance we could not have developed as personally in more tight proximity to the church.

I finish with this scripture, which has been applicable to us:

 26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
 27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
 28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
 29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
- Doctrine & Covenants 58: 26-29

Thursday, 21 April 2016


This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

Our circumstances and experience contribute to determining to what extent we can relate to something. And how we relate to something goes a long way to deciding if it is applicable to us.

In the Book of Mormon record, Laman and Lemuel couldn't relate to their father Lehi's dreams, visions and actions because they didn't have any experience in spiritual things. Unfortunately, this resulted in 1,000 years of family conflicts.

On the flip side, not being able to relate to something, doesn't always deem it unapplicable. Not one of us can relate to the atonement of Christ. We can learn about it, try to understand it, we can feel its effects in our lives, but we cannot directly relate to it as none of us have had to go through anything remotely similar to it. Yet its application in our lives is all-consuming.

While we know our circumstances should not alter our levels of faith, and most certainly do not lower the necessity of God's commands, living as a Mormon in the wilderness does bring up some things that we just can't relate to.

In recent General Conference talks, I have listened to our leaders talk of certain things that don't apply to us. Now, I am not speaking of the gospel of Jesus Christ, or the doctrine as presented in the Mormon church. I can always relate to the truth that has set me free and enlightened my mind. I refer to general statements, made-up words, and small components of principles.

1. Elder Quentin Cook stated in the October 2015 General Conference that "Christianity is under attack," which when compared to my experience in my quiet wilderness town of Kuantan, simply doesn't ring true.

I can't relate to that statement. I haven't personally experienced any hostilities regarding my faith. It is my lungs, not my faith which is under attack from a guy who smokes in a restaurant. I do not feel that my faith is under attack by the increasing number of bars selling alcohol. I do not feel that my faith is under attack when people decide to practise homosexuality more openly than before. No-one is removing my freedom to choose my responses.

Although I can't relate to this particular statement and it therefore doesn't apply to me, our circumstances don't alter our support of our elected leaders or our allegiance to the will of God. Perhaps to a majority in America, Christianity may seem to be under attack. Just not to us.

2. Secondly, the infamous profiteering of the fabricated word 'ponderize' by Devin Durrant in October 2015. This is something that I could not, would not and do not relate to. It's somewhat surprising how this talk gained authorisation. (His son was concurrently running a website selling 'ponderize' merchandise. Ooops)

His attempt to make profits out of a General Conference talk was appalling.

I don't 'ponderize' the scriptures. No, Nephi was not a 'ponderizer.' And no, I don't try to make money out of spiritual preaching. I cannot relate to this person's words.

3. Thirdly, Elder Christoffersen gave a great talk in October 2015 where he balanced family and church. Very insightful. He remarked near the end, "Repentance is individual, but fellowship on that sometimes painful path is in the church."

This was a quote that both resonated with me and at the same time appeared very alien to me. Repentance is individual - yes. We have to do it ourselves, no-one else can repent for us. Repentance is probably the most self-reliant aspect of the gospel. The latter part of the quote is generally true, but for us in Kuantan, does not apply. We have no fellowship with other church members in a typical branch/ward community. The path of repentance and re-establishing a strong personal connection with Deity for us is a personal and lonesome struggle. A struggle, though, that has been a huge blessing in my life. Without living here in Kuantan, separate from the church, I would not have learned so effectively concerning the establishment of a personal relationship with Deity. It has been thrust upon us that we are doing this without the 'fellowship of the saints' and that we are of a stronger personal and family faith because of that.

I understand what all three gentlemen were trying to say. I also understand that they were speaking to a general audience of ward and branch church goers. Living in the wilderness is different in the fact that not everything our general leaders say, directly relates to us. This has increased my reliance on divine confirmation as to what snippets of proposed truth we should seriously consider. For example, church leaders have asked us to help refugees whenever possible. There are no refugees in Kuantan! So instead we continue to help others including ourselves whenever we can.

Not everything relates or applies to us, which is okay, but our peculiar circumstances don't change our devotion to God and the gospel covenants we have made with Him.

What it does is make us more aware of the specifics that do and don't relate to us living in the wilderness.