Throughout my many travels I'm frequently asked by persons who don't know much about Mormons, Are Mormons Christians? With a smile I always give the same answer, "Yes we are, very much so."

Mormons quite often are referred to as Latter-Day Saint Christians due to the official name of the church which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. But it's more than just a name, Latter-Day Saints strive daily to live the life of Christ and abide by his teachings and those of his apostles.

The Bible tells us the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:26) The word Christian means “a follower of Christ" but the word disciple means “student” or “pupil.” Hence a true Christian is not someone who simply says they believe in Christ but rather someone who ardently follows and studies the Savior their entire lives. Mormons do exactly that, therefore we are very much Christian in the truest sense of the word.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Meet Greg Trimble, the California man behind the viral Mormon blog

(by Trent Toone deseretnews.com 4-24-17)

In recent years, Greg Trimble's blog posts in defense of the LDS Church have been read by millions.
But at age 21, Greg Trimble wasn't an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A spiritual awakening the night before his sophomore season of college baseball changed the course of his life, he told the Deseret News.

"God had had it up to here with me. He was done 'nudging' me. That night … I had what I would consider a Godly beat down. It was almost as if the next day held some sort of cosmic significance in my life," Trimble said. "It was as strong of a spiritual experience as I have ever had in my life up to that point and even until now. The message? Quit baseball. Drop your scholarship. Enlist in God’s army."
Who is Greg Trimble? The blogger's bio on his website is pretty disarming.

"I’m supposed to jot down a bunch of important credentials here that will convince you that I’m some kind of great writer, but really, I’m just a normal guy, leading a very normal life," Trimble writes.

"Above all, I love God and my family. I love to write and hope that something I say helps someone have a better day. I just want to do some good in this crazy world."

It’s a simple yet straightforward introduction to a man whose blog has received approximately 7 million page views and attracted tens of thousands of social media followers in just a few years. In truth, Trimble has been told his blog has more digital reach than some news outlets. Not bad for a guy who once got a "D" in high school language arts.

Trimble, 36, husband and father of two, is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and resides in Riverside, California. By day he runs two companies: a digital marketing agency that helps businesses do better online, Lemonade Stand, and Yalla, a platform for team, task and collaboration management.

By night he writes primarily about his faith and religious topics, although he reserves the right to share his thoughts on business, sports, life and anything else he finds interesting. It’s why he titled his blog, "Life Through My Eyes" (GregTrimble.com).

"If you don’t like what I write … I hope we can still be friends!" Trimble writes.

Trimble’s motivation to be a digital missionary can be traced back to that life-changing decision that led to a mission, a foundational experience that continues to bless his life. While sending his testimony into cyberspace has resulted in some joining the church, a host of negative comments almost overwhelmed him to the point of quitting. Yet the man behind the blog has continued to write, even recently publishing his first book, with two more in the works.

It’s his "authentic voice" that attracts an audience, his wife, Kristyn Trimble said.

"I get why people love reading his stuff," she said. "He has a great testimony. He speaks from the heart, he’s real. He says things in a way that people can relate."

God's Army

At the time of Trimble's religious awakening in 2001, he was preparing to start his sophomore season as a team captain for the Orange Coast College baseball team. He had just accepted a scholarship to transfer and play baseball at Hawaii Pacific University and was even talking to some major league scouts. When he wasn't playing baseball, he was surfing.

Trimble hadn't been active in the LDS faith for a few years and had no interest in serving a mission.
"Life was shaping up the way I'd planned," he said. "I couldn't have dreamed up a better situation at age 21."

Then came the sleepless night that changed his life. What actually happened is hard for Trimble to describe. It was like a spiritual operation on his soul, and what he learned was unmistakable. And had he not walked away right then, he might not have had the fortitude to do so later, Trimble said.

"I learned that 'God will feel after you and he will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings,'" Trimble said, quoting the Prophet Joseph Smith. "No, the angel Moroni didn't appear to me in my room, but the visions of my responsibilities and foreordination were clear and as tangible as if that angel were standing above me in the air."

As painful as it was, Trimble obeyed. He handed in his uniform on opening day. His coaches told him he was crazy.

When he called the coach in Hawaii, he was essentially told in colorful and angry terms, "thanks for nothing," Trimble said.

Trimble moved home and began preparing for a mission. Within a few weeks he met Kristyn and they promptly fell in love. The soon-to-be older missionary was tempted stay home and marry her, but knew he needed to serve. In time he was assigned to labor in Michigan.

Ready to serve

People who think Trimble is a great writer laugh when he tells them about his struggles with English in school. He didn’t even like reading or writing until he became interested in the gospel. Before reading the Book of Mormon, he would only "skim stuff and try to get by," he said.

As he prepared for his mission, Trimble read the standard works and as many gospel-related books as he could find before writing a book report on each one. The purpose was to better retain information and create notes he could carry into the mission field, he said.

"I wanted to show the Lord I was sorry for being a bum. From the day I committed to him, I wanted to go full throttle. If I was going to give up my dream of playing baseball and leave Kristyn, I wanted to make sure those two years were meaningful," Trimble said. "Now I see the role that a mission has played in everything that I’ve done and am currently doing. The contents of those book reports became the inspiration behind the content of my blogs."
 
 
Another future blogging lesson came to Trimble as a missionary in Michigan. A turning point came when he realized people don’t respond positively to confrontational Bible-bashing or doctrinal arguments. A more effective method is to listen, love and share truth, he said.

"The first half of my mission I thought I had to win with the gospel," Trimble said. "I learned to stand for truth, make your point heard, and leave it at that. Don’t argue if someone has a difference of opinion. I’ve tried to carry that over to the blog."

Going viral

Trimble started blogging in 2014 with zero online presence and fully aware of his writing woes. But he was determined to share what he knew to be true. Within a few months, his blogs were going viral. He remembers taking a phone call from a man at a news website who wanted to know his "strategy."

What strategy?

"I don’t know. I was surprised as anything. I just wrote a few not-well-written blogs about gospel stuff and people liked them for some reason. They got shared a bunch, and that energized me to write more," said Trimble, who serves as the high councilor over missionary work in his California LDS stake. "He was telling me you get more traffic than a lot of news stations get."

Trimble wrote about his "10 Most Read Blog Posts" on his website, displaying page views and shares to date.

As he continued to post his thoughts, opinions and impressions related to gospel topics and current events, Trimble began receiving messages from people around the world who had read his words and felt guided to meet with missionaries, to get baptized or return to activity. This both fascinated and fueled him to keep writing.

"I looked at the blog as an opportunity to be a missionary," Trimble said.

But along with the golden experiences came tremendous opposition in the form of brutal, mean-spirited comments. His most viewed post, "Quit Acting Like Christ Was Accepting of Everyone and Everything," drew more than 500 comments, some of which were especially vicious. His wife told him not to read the comments, but he couldn’t resist. It got so bad that Trimble almost gave up blogging, he said.

"You think you can block it out, but it was depressing and affected me in all walks of life. I had experienced opposition on my mission, but never how vocal and mean people can be on the Internet," Trimble said. "My wife told me to 'Man up' and deal with it, that I was doing a lot of good. So I started writing again."

Part of Trimble’s success might be attributed to how he tackles tough topics and fearlessness in sharing his opinions, Kristyn Trimble said.

"Come what may, I guess. I think so many people get sick of hearing from entities. But to hear a personal opinion from a real person can sometimes be more meaningful and touching,” she said.

Lesson and tips

What Trimble likes most about blogging is making friends with people who are critical of the LDS Church.

"My goal has been to reach out, be kind and try to make friends with them. I like getting to know them, hearing their thoughts," Trimble said. "It’s actually helped to strengthen my testimony."

His three-step approach is to first, recognize he doesn’t know everything, so be open to what others are sharing and listen. Second, don’t lose your cool; maintain an open dialogue. Third, show love and find common ground, regardless of differences or disputes.

"What it boils down to for me is I haven’t found anything that can give me a brighter hope than Mormonism," Trimble said.

When it comes to writing a good blog, Trimble has shared these five tips.

First, ignore what others say about your writing; Second, don’t be so technical, write as if you are having a conversation; third, record thoughts and impressions using available technology; Fourth, don’t give up so fast and write consistently; Fifth, be passionate about your topic.

It’s been exciting for Trimble family to see its husband and father be a pioneer in digital missionary work, Kristyn Trimble said.

"I wish so many people would pick up what he is doing, because of the success and people he has helped," she said. "How many more could be reached?"

Champion of fatherhood

Trimble recently released his first book, "For Dads Who Stay and Fight: How to be a Hero in Your Family." It was published by Cedar Fort and comes with a foreword by Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad. Trimble hopes to publish two more books with Cedar Fort in the coming year.

The idea for this book came to Trimble as he and his family were driving across the South Dakota plains on a vacation. He realized it was their first real family outing in nearly eight years. This turned his thoughts to the importance of fatherhood and the millions of American children who grow up without fathers. It also reminded him of several general conference talks on the topic by LDS Church leaders.
 
 
Trimble’s book offers information, inspiring stories, insights and ideas for seasoned fathers, future fathers and women who are looking for the right man to marry.
 
"The reason I wrote this book was so men, women, boys and girls would read it and that it might inspire a dad movement across the globe," Trimble said.

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865678458/Meet-Greg-Trimble-the-California-man-behind-the-viral-Mormon-blog.html

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The unexpected Book of Mormon

(by Daniel Peterson deseretnews.com 4-20-17)

So you’ve decided to declare yourself a prophet and to establish a new religion! In order to accomplish that, you obviously need to produce one or more revelations and to persuade others to believe in them.

Historically, the typical route is to announce you’ve received at least one message from God. The procedure is straightforward: Simply say that you did — which may perhaps even be true. No corroborating witnesses are required, nor need you supply any confirming material objects or evidences. Your prophetic experience can be entirely personal to you — usually such experiences are. It can be totally subjective and, thus, largely beyond proof or disproof.
 
 
Nobody else shared Isaiah’s vision of God enthroned in the temple (Isaiah 6). Apparently, none of Ezekiel’s fellow Israelite captives saw “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” with him during their exile by the river of Chebar (Ezekiel 1). The Lord called the boy Samuel while Eli the priest slept soundly nearby (1 Samuel 3). The word of the Lord came privately to Micah and, although he was “among the herdmen of Tekoa,” it came to Amos alone. Abraham’s revelations were never shared with others. When these prophets announced their messages, they supplied no chorus of supporting witnesses. They offered no physical evidence to fortify their claims.

Likewise, Joseph Smith, the founder and first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, could have been an entirely plausible prophet on the basis of just his personal revelations. Instead, his public ministry begins with a very different kind of revelation: the Book of Mormon.

He could have produced a series of short revelatory documents and teachings over an extended length of time — just like the Doctrine and Covenants, in fact. But what happened at first, rather, was the dictation of a lengthy, complex book within the stunningly short period of just two or three months. The Book of Mormon recounts a thousand years of history for a people of whom none of his contemporaries had ever heard. (And throwing in the Jaredites just makes the story longer and more complex.) Joseph Smith's neighbors expected no such thing. They wouldn’t have missed it had it not been provided.

In offering such a history, with its multitudes of interacting characters, scores of place names and geographical descriptions, and complicated story and chronology, a fraud would have exposed himself to a host of risks and possible pitfalls. But to what end? It seems, superficially at least, quite unnecessary.

Ellen G. White, at the foundation of Seventh-day Adventism, claimed approximately 2,000 visions and prophetic dreams over seven decades but produced nothing like the Book of Mormon. Mary Baker Eddy’s “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” — fundamental to Christian Science — isn’t remotely comparable.

What’s more, Joseph provides corroborating witnesses who also claim to have encountered divine beings and to have seen and hefted substantial material objects. (In fact, a remarkably large number of his subsequent revelations are received in company with others — see this previous column "Many of Prophet's revelations were shared experiences," Feb. 24, 2011).

By contrast, the remarkable Swedish scientist, philosopher, theologian and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (d. 1772) had no associates with him in his dreams and visions. He took nobody with him on his visits to heaven and hell.

Similarly, during Muhammad’s 22 years as a prophet, his seventh-century Arabian neighbors shared none of his visions or revelations, and the origins of the Quran involved no tangible objects. (For a relatively adequate biography, see Daniel Peterson, “Muhammad: Prophet of God.” ) But Islam quickly became one of the world’s great religions.

None of this is to argue that Swedenborg, White, Eddy or Muhammad — let alone Isaiah, Ezekiel, Samuel, Micah, Amos and Abraham — were frauds. (I don’t believe they were.) It does suggest the claims of Joseph Smith represent a rather unusual challenge to those who would like to dismiss them. In my judgment, it is an unusually formidable one.

Of course, there’s also the question of what price a person setting out on a career as prophet and religion-builder would be willing to pay. In Joseph’s case, the price entailed seemingly endless lawsuits, mockery and persecution, tarring and feathering, substantial periods of imprisonment, being driven from state to state, watching friends and family suffer on account of his claims and, in the end, going — apparently quite consciously — to violent death at the hands of a mob.

There are, a good job counselor might have suggested, better and less demanding career choices.

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865678219/The-unexpected-Book-of-Mormon.html

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Paul and the nature of the Resurrection

(by Daniel Peterson deseretnews.com 4-6-17)

One of the most sophisticated arguments against the traditional belief that Jesus rose bodily from the dead and that the tomb was empty on Easter morning, centers on a reading of 1 Corinthians 15:42-45. It contends that the apostle Paul, who apparently never met the mortal Jesus and who wasn’t present for the resurrected Savior’s pre-ascension visits with his surviving original apostles, understood the risen body of Jesus Christ to be an immaterial one, not the physical body that Jesus had during his earthly ministry.

If this claim were true, it would be of enormous importance. For Paul, as for the other apostles and for the Savior himself, the Resurrection of Jesus is the miracle the confirms the claims of Christ (see, for example, Matthew 12:38-40; 16:1-4; John 2:18-21; Acts 2:23-32; 10:39-43; 13:28-39; 17:2-3, 30-32; Romans 1:4). But almost all scholars believe Paul’s letters to have been written before the writing of the four New Testament Gospels — which, if true, makes him the earliest known author to refer to the Resurrection of Jesus.
 
 
Did he, though, understand that event in a fundamentally different way from the writers of the four Gospels? Strikingly, although the Gospels are very clear that the tomb of Jesus was empty on Easter Sunday, and although they are replete with accounts of disciples seeing the risen Lord, hearing him, walking with him, even touching him and seeing him eat, Paul wasn’t even a Christian at the time, and he never mentions an empty tomb.

Had he not heard about an empty tomb? Arguments from silence are notoriously weak, of course, and it’s easy to think of other reasonable explanations for his silence on the matter.

Usually, for instance, he was writing to local Christian congregations about pressing issues that didn’t revolve around the precise nature of the Resurrection. And anyway, the people to whom he was writing were typically those whom he himself had already taught and converted, and it’s entirely possible that he had told them the story of the empty tomb and that his letters presumed it.

But, argues the evangelical New Testament historian Michael Licona, the claim that Paul believed Christ’s Resurrection to have been immaterial rather than physical seems unsustainable on other grounds. For one thing, as the great British New Testament scholar N.T. Wright argues in his impressive 2003 book “The Resurrection of the Son of God,” Jewish understanding of the concept of resurrection during the time just before and after Jesus always connected it with the return to life of dead physical bodies, the revivification of — to put it starkly — of corpses. Conceivably, Paul could have rejected that doctrine. But there’s no obvious evidence of such rejection.

In passages such as Romans 8:11 and Philippians 3:21, Paul plainly regards the resurrection of Jesus as a model for the future resurrection of all humankind. Accordingly, we can reason back from his comment about general resurrection at 1 Corinthians 15:42-54 to his understanding of the resurrection of Jesus.

Significantly, a careful reading of 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 shows that what is “sown” and what is “raised” is the same thing, just as the “seed” of 15:36-38, to which Paul compares our bodies, is the same thing that “dies” and then is “quickened,” or “made alive.” Likewise, in 15:53-54, it is “this corruptible” that “must put on incorruption,” and “this mortal” that “must put on incorruption.” This strongly implies the resurrection of the dead body, not merely an incorporeal existence after death.

Perhaps the most important verse to be considered is 1 Corinthians 15:44, which distinguishes the “natural body” of mortality from the “spiritual body” of the resurrection. Some argue that these terms contrast a material body from an immaterial one. But a survey of 11 centuries of Greek usage fails to find a single instance where the word “psychikon” (translated as “natural” in the King James Bible) means “physical” or “material,” nor even one case where the word “pneumatikon” (King James “spiritual”) means “immaterial.” Rather, it refers to a state of being connected with and reflecting the Spirit of God.

In other words, Paul cannot be recruited as a witness against Easter’s glorious news that the tomb of Jesus was empty.

The argument in this column is substantially drawn from Michael Licona’s fuller and more detailed discussion, “Paul on the Nature of the Resurrection Body,” in “Buried Hope or Risen Savior? The Search for the Jesus Tomb” (B&H Academic, Nashville, 2008), edited by Charles L. Quarles, which I recommend.

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865677222/Paul-and-the-nature-of-the-Resurrection.html