How to Prepare a Spiritual Sacrament Meeting Talk

Yesterday, I wrote that LDS leaders are encouraging members to improve their observance of the Sabbath day. They are encouraging bishoprics and ward councils to focus on making sacrament meetings more meaningful.

woman-sacrament-meeting-ldsKen Krogue has published excellent tips and suggestions on how to prepare and deliver an effective talk in sacrament meeting in an article on the website WardMissionLeader.com.

Read “How to Give a Sacrament Talk with Impact.”

 

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Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are urging members around the world to improve their observance of the Sabbath day. In training meetings this year, leaders are receiving instruction on the topic of strengthening faith in God by observing the Sabbath day with greater purpose.

Watch this video “Sabbath Day Observance Q&A:”

To download the video, go here and click the link below the video.

Key points from the video:

  • The Sabbath day can fortify us spiritually to remain true to the gospel in a difficult world.
  • Where possible, wards and branches are encouraged to hold sacrament meeting as the first meeting in the block.
  • Increase the involvement of the ward council in the planning of sacrament meeting.
  • Partake of the sacrament with purpose.
  • Improve Sabbath day observance at home.
  • God will bless us as we keep the Sabbath day holy.

manaus-brazil-lds-church-meetingElder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that Church leaders have felt the importance of encouraging families and individuals to rethink and refocus their efforts on what they do on the Sabbath day. “Our whole desire is that throughout the Church, we focus our Sabbath day worship on the Lord,” he said.

family-laughingElder Clayton said Sabbath day activities may include doing acts of service, reading the scriptures, and spending time with family. “What we hope is that the Sabbath will become a delight for people at home, that they’ll love what happens in their homes on Sunday. It will be a time to draw apart from the world, to just give ourselves some rest from the things that are always before our eyes the other days of the week, with the work week, all the things we worry about. And then on the Sabbath we could think about the Savior.”

In his most recent general conference talk, Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “I believe [God] wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal.” (Read “The Sabbath Is a Delight.”)

Training on improving Sabbath day worship and gospel learning within families was given to general authorities, area seventies, and general auxiliary presidencies during the week of general conference. That training is now being extended to stakes and wards throughout the year.

Learn more in the article”Church Leaders Call for Better Observance of Sabbath Day.”

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Preparing to Receive the Melchizedek Priesthood

The topic of study for LDS Young Men, Young Women, and youth Sunday School classes in July is Ordinances and Covenants.

The July issue of the New Era magazine has a great article “Ready to Receive the Melchizedek Priesthood?” It discusses the oath of the Melchizedek Priesthood, explaining the oath made by God, our part in the covenant, and the blessings we receive through the priesthood.

Parents may want to review this article with their sons who are preparing for the Melchizedek Priesthood.

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President Boyd K. Packer Dies At Age 90

Boyd-K-PackerBoyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died at home Friday, July 3, 2015, at about 2 p.m. MDT from causes incident to age. He was 90 years old.

Funeral services for President Packer will be held Friday, July 10, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. MST in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. The services will be open to the public.

Services will also be broadcast live at Deseret News.com, on KSL TV 5.2 and via LDS.org, BYUtv, BYUtv Global, BYUtv Eleven, BYUtv International, Mormon Channel, and on the Church satellite system. Audio broadcasts will air on KSL radio, BYU Classical 89 and BYU-Radio. Broadcasts will be in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

“He was truly an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. From the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, he represented the Savior of the world,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Watch the video below, “President Boyd K. Packer: The Artistry of an Apostle.”

Boyd-K-Packer-portraitPresident Packer was serving as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time of his passing, a position he held since February 3, 2008. The next most senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve is Elder Russell M. Nelson.

For decades, President Packer declared the gospel of Jesus Christ and played a critical role in the growth and development of the global Church, which now numbers more than 15 million members.

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online-tithingOn April 30, I wrote that the Church had approved an electronic method for members in the United States to pay tithing and submit other charitable donations. The Online Donations website is already available in some areas, and is being rolled out to congregations in the US throughout 2015.

This week, Church notified leaders in the Utah North Area that the website is now available for members in their area. This includes wards and branches in North Salt Lake City and northward.

donations-link-ldsorgUsing your LDS Account username and password, log in to the Online Donations web page at lds.org/donations. A link to this page can be found on LDS.org under the “My Account and Ward” drop-down menu.

  • Donations are accepted using an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) directly from your checking or savings account.
  • You can’t make a donation using a credit or debit card.
  • You can’t set up automatic recurring donations. Each time you want to donate, you access the website and submit it. (It’s pretty easy to resubmit a donation similar to a previous one.)
  • You can see a list of your recent donations.
  • If you plan to donate to support a missionary in another ward, you’ll need to get the unit number of the missionary’s home ward to make the donation.
  • You can also print your own annual Statement of Contributions or the Official US Tax Statement.
  • You can’t use the online system to donate to your ward’s fundraising activity to raise money for youth activities or to pay for Relief Society craft projects, because these are not considered donations. You’ll have to pay these through your ward.

What is the difference between Online Donations and your bank’s bill pay?

Online Donations is a way for the Church to receive donations directly from your bank account, using the online donation slip to provide your desired category breakdown. Online Donations has more categories to select. Bill pay directly to Church headquarters requires you to use your bank’s program and enter a specific payee to select one of the general donation categories. It also requires you to manually enter your member record number, which increases the likelihood of errors occurring. Online Donations is the preferred electronic method for donating to the Church.

If you need help, your ward clerk should be able to help you. Clerks have access to training videos and resources to find answers to questions in the LDS.org Help section, accessible by clicking Help, then View More from the Online Donations web page. Clerks can also call the Global Service Center at 1-800-537-5932.

Learn more in the article “LDS Church Approves Electronic Method to Submit Tithes & Other Charitable Donations

Here is an introductory video:

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LDS Video “This Life”

this-life-lds-videoThe Church recently released the video “This Life.”

What are we doing with this life? Are we spending it on things that make us better, brighter, and more able to help our friends do the same? Do we treasure every moment?

You can find the video on the LDS Youth channel on YouTube and at youth.lds.org.

You can also download an MP3 file of the song “This Life.”

Read a behind-the-scenes story about writing the song “This Life.”

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marriage-holding-handsFrom MormonNewsroom.org:

The following letter from the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is being read in Church meetings across the United States and Canada beginning Sunday, July 5. (The Church issued this brief public statement immediately after the court’s decision on June 26, 2015.)

Click to download a PDF version of the introductory letter, statement and background material.

Full introductory letter, statement and background material below:

THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
OFFICE OF THE FIRST PRESIDENCY
47 EAST SOUTH TEMPLE STREET, SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH 84150-1200
June 29, 2015
TO: General Authorities; General Auxiliary Presidencies; and the following leaders in the United States and Canada: Area Seventies; Temple, Stake Mission and District Presidencies; Bishops and Branch Presidents

Dear Brethren and Sisters:

Enclosed is a statement by the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve in response to the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States. The statement also pertains to the situation in Canada. Local leaders are asked to meet with all adults, young men, and young women on either July 5 or July 12 in a setting other than sacrament meeting and read to them the entire statement.

Also included is background material which may be helpful in answering questions that arise.

Stake presidents are asked to see that bishops receive copies of this letter and the enclosures.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas S. Monson

Henry B. Eyring

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

 

RESPONSE TO THE SUPREME COURT DECISION LEGALIZING SAME‐SEX MARRIAGE IN THE UNITED STATES
June 29, 2015  
Because of the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court and similar legal proceedings and legislative actions in a number of countries that have given civil recognition to same‐sex marriage relationships, the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐day Saints restates and reaffirms the doctrinal foundation of Church teachings on morality, marriage, and the family. As we do, we encourage all to consider these teachings in the context of the Plan of Salvation and our Heavenly Father’s purposes in creating the earth and providing for our mortal birth and experience here as His children.

Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well‐being of society. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:27‐28). “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and vital to eternal salvation.

A family built on marriage of a man and a woman is the best setting for God’s plan of happiness to thrive. That is why communities and nations generally have encouraged and protected marriage between a man and a woman, and the family that results from their union, as privileged institutions. Sexual relations outside of such a marriage are contrary to the laws of God pertaining to morality.

Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We invite all to review and understand the doctrine contained in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

Consistent with our fundamental beliefs, Church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same‐sex marriages. Nevertheless, all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there.

The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility—even when we disagree. We affirm that those who avail themselves of laws or court rulings authorizing same‐sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully. Indeed, the Church has advocated for rights of same‐sex couples in matters of hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment, and probate, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.

The Church insists on its leaders’ and members’ right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family, and morality free from retaliation or retribution. The Church is also entitled to maintain its standards of moral conduct and good standing for members.

As members of the Church, we are responsible to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to illuminate the great blessings that flow from heeding God’s commandments as well as the inevitable consequences of ignoring them. We invite all to pray that people everywhere will have their hearts softened to the truths God established in the beginning, and that wisdom will be granted to those who are called upon to decide issues critical to society’s future.

THE COUNCIL OF
THE FIRST PRESIDENCY AND
QUORUM OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES
OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER‐DAY SAINTS

 

 

Background Material for Bishops and Branch Presidents
On the U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Same‐sex Marriage
The Church has provided a statement dated June 29, 2015, prepared by the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same‐sex marriage in the United States. The response reaffirms the divinely‐revealed reasons and proper doctrinal context for the Church’s unequivocal position regarding matters of morality, chastity, marriage, and the family. As the response notes, the Church’s teachings on these subjects are grounded in the scriptural declarations of God’s eternal plan for the salvation and exaltation of His children and are framed in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” While the statement stands on its own, below is additional information that may be helpful to you in responding to questions that may arise.

For much of human history, civil laws have generally been compatible with God’s laws. Unfortunately, there have been notable exceptions to that pattern. For example, it is legal in the United States to perform an abortion on an unborn fetus. However, this practice is not morally acceptable before God. (See Handbook 1, 17.3). The consumption of alcohol, while contrary to God’s law, is legal in most nations of the world, but the physical and social toll for doing so is a painful matter of record. So, too, with issues of unchaste sexual behavior, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual in its orientation. As the First Presidency has previously said and as this current response affirms, “Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society” (First Presidency letter on “Same‐ Sex Marriage,” January 9, 2014).

What is the Church’s Policy on Homosexual Relations?

“Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance. “If members engage in homosexual behavior, Church leaders should help them have a clear understanding of faith in Jesus Christ, the process of repentance, and the purpose of life on earth.

“While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. “If members feel same‐gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances” (Handbook 2, 21.4.6).

Does the authorization of same‐sex marriage affect my right to religious freedom?

Our individual right to religious freedom is protected by the First Amendment to the United States’ Constitution and by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As we exercise that right, we must also exercise tolerance and respect toward others’ rights but do so without condoning behavior that goes contrary to the laws of God. “While we strive for the virtue of tolerance, other commendable qualities need not be lost. Tolerance does not require the surrender of noble purpose or of individual identity. The Lord gave instruction to leaders of His restored Church to establish and maintain institutional integrity—‘that the Church may stand independent’ (D&C 78:14)” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Teach Us Tolerance and Love,” April 1994 general conference). How do I respond respectfully to those who consider the Church’s position on this matter unchristian? Our objection to same‐sex marriage is not based on animosity toward anyone, but on our understanding of God’s purposes for His children. For us, the issues are not simply “tolerance” and “equality.” The issues are the nature of marriage and the consequences of redefining a divinely established institution. In addition, redefining marriage in the law can have profound consequences for society, particularly for children. Mothers and fathers matter, and they are not interchangeable. “On the subject of public discourse, we should all follow the gospel teachings to love our neighbor and avoid contention. Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should . . . be good listeners and show concern for the sincere belief [of others.] Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. We should be wise in explaining our position and, in doing so, ask that others not be offended by our sincere religious beliefs and the free exercise of our religion” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Loving Others and Living with Differences,” October 2014 general conference).

What if I have reservations of my own regarding the Church’s position on this subject?

“Members who . . . have doctrinal questions should make a diligent effort, including earnest prayer and scripture study, to find solutions and answers themselves. Church members are encouraged to seek guidance from the Holy Ghost to help them in their personal lives and in family and Church responsibilities.

“If members still need help, they should counsel first with their bishop. If necessary, he may refer them to the stake president. “. . . Stake presidents who need clarification about doctrinal or other Church matters may write in behalf of their members to the First Presidency” (Handbook 2, 21.1.24).

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jason-black-video-taylor-swift-evolutionIn March, I posted a video showcasing a pair of dueling LDS piano players who played the piano backwards.

Today, one of those piano players, Jason Lyle Black, released a new video “The Evolution of Taylor Swift” – Piano Tribute Mashup (One Shot).”

The video captures the last seven years of Taylor Swift’s music. Jason wrote the mash-up, which features eight of Taylor’s most popular songs. Jason is joined in the video by his 15-year-old cousin Enna, who portrays a teenage Taylor Swift.

Jason’s earlier video (referenced in the first paragraph above) was a mash-up of a medley from Disney’s Frozen, in which he and pianist Sara Arkell, also known as “The Piano Gal,” portrayed two “dueling siblings” fighting over the piano. The video caught the attention of Good Morning America and landed an international performance for Black and Arkell last month in Tokyo, Japan.

Here is a list of other member-created videos I have shared. If you find other videos you think I should share, please post a comment below.

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Member Video: LDS Mission Call Surprise

lds-mission-call-surpriseIn this video, an LDS young man surprised his whole family by reading his mission call.

His family (except his sisters) had no idea that he had decided to serve a mission. In fact, they were convinced he wasn’t going.

He arranged to have the bishop come to their home to “home teach.” The bishop then asked the young man to give a spiritual thought. In the middle of the spiritual thought, he began to read his mission call letter.

Here is the video “Mission Call Surprise:”

Here is a list of other member-created videos I have shared. If you find other videos you think I should share, please post a comment below.

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How to Use Media in the LDS Classroom

media-lds-classroom-teachingUsing videos and pictures in the classroom can enhance any gospel lesson. It can bring a spiritual tone that leaves memorable and lasting impressions. The LDS Media Library on LDS.org offers many resources for teaching, learning, and sharing gospel media. You can also find instructions in the media library on how to access and use technology.

If you have been reluctant to use media when you teach because you fear technical difficulties, the following suggestions may help you avoid problems.

First, download the media file at home and store it on a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or USB drive. Don’t try to access a video or picture in the classroom using the Internet. If you do, the video may pause, buffer, or even stop. Similarly, if you queue up a video online and press pause (expecting to resume at some point in your lesson), the browser connection will likely time out or freeze before you are ready to resume. Don’t try to open an attachment or a link in an email message because you would be relying on a remote server connection with unknown variables.

Once the file is downloaded and stored on your laptop, tablet, smartphone, or USB drive, you have several options to integrate the media into your lesson. What works best depends on your individual preferences and what devices you have access to. Some choices include the following:

  1. Copy or “burn” the file to a DVD+RW disk, and use a DVD player connected to the TV at the meetinghouse.
  2. Copy the media file to a portable USB drive and plug it into the USB port on a Roku or WD [Western Digital] Internet TV in the meetinghouse. WD TVs support many media formats. USB drives are portable and inexpensive.
  3. Upload the file into your iTunes account and sync it with your iOS device. Use your iOS device with Airplay to mirror from your mobile screen using an Apple TV connected to the digital TV at the meetinghouse. The wireless connection with Airplay uses its own network and bypasses potential Internet problems.
  4. Download a file directly to your Android tablet or smartphone that is “Miracast” enabled and “cast” or mirror your screen from an installed media player using an Internet TV that supports Miracast. As an alternative, use a compatible adapter cable to connect the Android device directly to the HDMI port on the meetinghouse TV. There are many versions of Android, so test it for compatibility.
  5. Connect a laptop directly to a digital TV at the meetinghouse with an HDMI cable. Use the remote control to select the correct HDMI input port to see your laptop display mirrored to the TV screen. If you are using older equipment, you may need a VGA/HDMI adapter with the cable.
  6. Use an HDMI cable to connect to a video projector. Test it to make sure the screen resolution on the laptop is compatible with the projector resolution. Set the laptop to mirror the screen to the projector.

For additional help, read “How to Show Videos without an Internet Connection” or consult your ward or stake technology specialist.

This article was adapted from the article “Create Memorable Impressions with the Media Library” on tech.lds.org.

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Video: All About That Book (of Mormon)

The video “All About That Book (of Mormon)” was created by Paige B. from Utah. She developed the idea for the video and used it as one of her Personal Progress projects.

Here is a list of other member-created videos I have shared. If you find other videos you think I should share, please post a comment below.

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Meme: When Adversity Comes

I was inspired by this quote from Elder Kevin W. Pearson from the last LDS General Conference:

“When adversity comes, don’t let something you don’t fully understand unravel everything you do know.”

Read Elder Pearson’s talk “Stay by the Tree.”

when-adversity-comes-ldsconf-pearson

You can also download a full-size PDF of this poster.

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LDS Unity in Diversity

LDS Unity in Diversity

The following article originally appeared on MormonNewsroom.org as “Unity in Diversity.” It is the first in a three-part series on the worldwide Church.

Can a church be unified and diverse at the same time? In a global world like ours, where people exchange ideas and culture easier than ever, the better question may be “How can a church survive without unity and diversity?” Far from a contradiction, the two complement each other, like sides of a coin.

Diverse Faces of the Mormon People

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” Ephesians 2:19

The face of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is changing. Once consisting mostly of people from northern Europe and concentrated in the state of Utah, the Church’s membership has grown across the world since the mid-1900s. Today that face reflects every race and culture and has more color, more diversity, than ever before.

The mosaic may surprise you. Latter-day Saints live in 190 countries, nations and territories, speak over 120 languages and worship in nearly 30,000 congregations around the world. Brazilians run the Church in Brazil. Japanese organize the work in Japan. Germans teach the gospel to members in Germany. And the Church occasionally creates congregations to address the needs of ethnic communities such as the Polish in Chicago, the Chinese in Salt Lake City and Cambodians in Massachusetts.

Missionaries from around the world serve in more than 400 missions. A young man from Italy might serve in a Mandarin-speaking mission in England; a young woman from Australia may serve in a Hmong-speaking mission in California; a retired couple from Idaho might serve a medical mission in India. These volunteers immerse themselves in foreign cultures and love the people they serve.

But statistics convey just a portion. Much of this story is told through cultural expression.

Experience a cultural celebration at any LDS temple dedication and you will see the vibrancy of the world’s peoples. Whether it be the artistry of Eastern European cultures at the Kyiv Ukraine Temple or the spirited folk performances in Buenos Aires Argentina, these celebrations display the dancing, music and costumes of Latter-day Saints in their home environments.

Every three years Mormon artists from around the world participate in the International Art Competition. Hosted by the Church, this event features paintings, drawings, illustrations, photography, sculptures and more. Gathered in one eclectic display, side by side, these works show the depths of religious reflection and the craftsmanship of spiritual imagination. The participants bear the personalities of their heritage and the sensibilities of their region. No single perspective overshadows another, and the colors of the gospel shine through.

In each country and locale, Latter-day Saints contribute to their own cultures. But whatever the ethnicity or outward appearance, they have a common identity as children of the same Heavenly Father. Race is an affirming part of human purpose. As much as these differences enrich, the gospel of Jesus Christ transcends them all.

As the Body of Christ

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12

Living the gospel does not require people to give up what makes them unique. The qualities that form identity and build character also contribute to the good of the Church. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul compared the church to the body of Christ. At that time branches of the church spread across diverse cultures and nationalities of the Mediterranean. He wrote: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). So it is today. The Church has members of all races and nationalities, and each is a vital member of the whole.

For all their differences, Latter-day Saints find comfort in their commonality. Wherever they travel, whether it be Seoul, Sao Paulo or St. Petersburg, members of the Church feel the fellowship of their religious community. They share a common set of beliefs, a familiar vocabulary and a joint commitment to care for one another. Though they may disagree over politics or economics, they grow together as they address differences with understanding and sensitivity.

Stepping into a Mormon chapel and hearing the rhythms of a Mormon worship service can feel like coming home. Sunday services follow the same format, feature similar music and administer the same sacrament. Sermons use the same scriptures, and instructors teach from the same lessons. The same resources are translated and distributed to congregations throughout the Church. And yet each Latter-day Saint internalizes the experience differently. A united gospel culture exists alongside varying individual and societal environments.

In the end, there are no American Latter-day Saints, European Latter-day Saints, Latin Latter-day Saints, African Latter-day Saints or Asian Latter-day Saints. There are only Latter-day Saints, pure and simple.

Read part 2, “Citizenship and Conscience.”

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Mormonad: Noteworthy Music

Have you read all the June issue of the New Era yet?

This Mormonad poster is on page 11.

“What goes in your ears stays on your mind. Choose to keep it upbeat and in harmony with the Lord’s standards. (See D&C 25:12.)”

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You can also download a full-size PDF of this poster.

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Father’s Day Videos

Over the years, the Church has made some great videos about dads.

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