The Law of the Harvest: Planting Seeds of Faith

The Law of the Harvest: Planting Seeds of Faith

Bennett Borden, North Star President

September is the first month when we begin transitioning from summer into fall, and this time of year often calls to mind the seasons and cycles of life.  When God organized this wonderful Earth and placed it in its station, He established these seasons and cycles to teach us that there are times of rebirth and new growth, of planting and tending, of reaping and harvesting, and of quiet resting and recharging. As we move into this season of harvest, I have been thinking a lot about the law of the harvest, and in reaping what we sow.

 

Nearly six years ago, Becky and I first considered returning to the gospel after having lived for more than 20 years in an openly gay lifestyle.  We both longed for the peace and joy of the gospel, but were terrified of the process of coming back, and even more terrified of how we could live according to gospel principles.  There seemed to be so many obstacles in our way, and the distance we would have to traverse seemed unbearably far. How in the world could we do it?

 

About this time, we were reading in the Book of Mormon, and came upon Alma 32.  This is the sermon where Alma compares the word of God to a seed. He says that if we make room in our hearts by simply having the desire to believe, that the word will grow and swell, it will enlarge our souls, enlighten our understanding, and become delicious to us.  Alma 32:28.

 

When we read this, the spirit touched my heart deeply, and I knelt down and prayed.  I told the Lord I had no idea how we were ever going to make it back, and I wasn’t sure I believed that we could, but at least I had the desire to believe.  And, most importantly, I told Him I trusted Him, and would do whatever it took to come back.  I will never forget the peace that poured over my soul during this prayer. I saw the path back to the gospel shrink down from this long and arduous road to just a series of small choices, one tiny step at a time.  That, I could do.

 

I look back over the years since that pivotal moment and see the great spiritual harvest that has come from planting that tiny, quivering seed of faith.  Becky and I were rebaptized, my blessings were restored, we were sealed in the temple, we adopted an amazing daughter, and our lives are filled with thousands upon thousands of precious experiences working with the LDS SSA/LGBT saints, their families, friends and leaders.  Our lives are full to bursting with the harvest of tiny seeds of faith we and you have planted along the way.

 

My dear brothers and sisters, we SSA/LGBT saints have been blessed with a truly unique earthly experience.  We have been blessed with a capacity for strength, love, empathy and understanding that is sorely needed in building the kingdom of God and reaching into the far corners of His vineyard.  Sometimes this path may seem hard and to traverse untrod and unproven ground. Sometimes we may not even believe we will make it.

 

But, we have the Lord’s promise that even if we don’t believe today, if we only desire to believe, and plant a tiny seed of faith, nourishing it along the way, it will grow.  And, we will pluck the fruit which is most precious, reaping the reward of our faith. Alma 32: 42-43. May the Lord continue to bless you on your path, and may your harvest of faith be rich and abundant.

 

The Gift of Grace: Finding Empowerment Through the Atonement

The Gift of Grace: Finding Empowerment Through the Atonement

Bennett Borden, North Star President

We, as Latter-Day Saints are expected to do a lot.  We have family obligations, church callings and demands at work. We try to do everything we’re counseled to do including going to the temple, doing genealogical research, and finding service opportunities.  We try to eat healthfully and exercise. And, most demanding of all perhaps, we’re expected to love one another, even those who offend us. How do we keep up with it all? The good news is we don’t have to do it without help, and we have been given plenty of time and space to practice getting it right. That’s really the whole point of this existence.

What kind of help are we given?  The gift of Grace, through the infinite Atonement of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  “It is through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means.” Bible Dictionary, Grace.    Grace is an enabling power that allows us to do things we think are beyond our capability.  

There are many scriptures that encourage us in doing all that is expected of us:

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  Philippians 4:13.

“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” 1 Nephi 3:7  

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men….” 2 Nephi 2:27

“My grace is sufficient for thee….”  2 Corinthians 12:9

These scriptures teach us that there is a way prepared for each of us to do all that the Lord asks of us, and that when we think we don’t have the strength to accomplish it all, the Lord blesses us with His Grace, His enabling power, to do so.

The adversary, our common enemy, would try to trick us out of taking advantage of this enabling power.  He would have us believe that the Lord only blesses us with Grace if we are without sin, and only after all we can do.  We think that if we have sinned, then we aren’t worthy of His grace. But that’s simply not true. The whole point of Grace is to help us overcome our sins and weaknesses.  The moment we begin to exert our efforts to make a good choice, that is when Grace begins to help us.

It also isn’t true that Grace kicks in only after all we can do.  Brad Wilcox put this best when he said: “Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted.  Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel.  Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now.” His Grace is Sufficient, Brad Wilcox, September 2013 Ensign.

We in the SSA/LGBT LDS community are blessed with an invaluable set of skills, capabilities and perspectives that are uniquely suited to build the kingdom of God and establish Zion.  This is a theme I’ve spoken and written on a lot this year because I believe it is such a powerful truth. Because of the adversary’s intense efforts to destroy us and curtail our power, we often suffer shame, depression and anxiety.  But, my dear sisters and brothers, we must throw off these chains of lies, awake to our true potential and arise to our rightful place in the kingdom of God.

I know that our path can be a challenging one.  Remember that it is through the very strain and effort of walking this path that we find and develop our strengths and talents that are so sorely needed in these latter days.  “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth….” Mosiah 4:9. This means that He has the power to bless us with His grace, and that with His grace, we can do all things.  May the Lord bless us all as we walk our path and help and serve those we encounter along the way.

Modern Pioneers

Modern Pioneers

Bennett Borden, North Star President

This month as we celebrate our pioneer heritage, I have thought a lot about how that heritage extends far beyond the Saints who made their way from Nauvoo to the Great Salt Lake valley in 1847.  It extends to the early Saints in New York making their way to Kirtland and then Nauvoo.  It extends to the Nephites who struck out and found Zarahemla, the Mulekites and Jaredites, and the people of Moses.  It extends to Abraham and Noah.  That heritage extends to our first parents, Adam and our great and courageous Mother Eve who consciously chose to leave the comfort of the Garden so that her children could learn good and evil by engaging in this mortal experience.

It seems that striking out into the unknown and unfamiliar is a key experience in our growth as children of Heavenly Parents and in achieving our ultimate potential to be like Them.

We in the North Star community are, in some ways, blazing new trails and walking in paths that are unique.  There aren’t Sunday School lessons, Ensign articles or General Conference addresses that talk about how to navigate this path.  There aren’t a lot of examples of people who have walked this path before us that we can look to and learn from.  We are the ones the Lord has trusted and chosen in this day to find the safe way forward and to make a path for others to follow.  Just like Orson Pratt and William Clayton in 1847, we are part of the vanguard company who are finding our way forward, wearing a path by our experiences and examples for others to follow.  In this effort we have a great responsibility and a great stewardship entrusted to us by the Lord.

Fortunately, we aren’t alone on this path; because our path is no different in many ways than anyone else going through this mortal experience.  “I am the way, the truth and the life,” said our Savior.  Just as all of our forbearers did, we will find our way forward every day by seeking and following the inspiration of the Spirit, by keeping ourselves worthy of receiving that inspiration, by loving and serving those around us, and by trusting that the Lord will show us the way.

My dear brothers and sisters, I know that sometimes this path is difficult, and the way can seem obscure.  But our Heavenly Parents have entrusted us with this great work; to blaze a path and to help others along the way and who will follow us.  We have illustrious examples of those who have gone before us in our great pioneer heritage. May we benefit from their example and become an example of perseverance and hope for those who follow us.

#TrueToHim: Share Your Story

#TrueToHim: Share Your Story

Joseph Stith

Joseph Stith

President

At the very heart of the North Star community experience is the real and intensely personal, individual story. I’m certain all of us have been moved and encouraged by reading and viewing impactful stories that helped us realize we are not alone! Can you recall how your hope and faith was touched when you saw these powerful segments for the first time? For me, not unlike you I’m sure, I binge watched all night, gladly sacrificing sleep and shedding many tears.

I’m excited to announce that we begin a new chapter here at North Star by introducing a theme each month to focus our efforts in growing together in unity and purpose. In deciding how to begin, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to introduce this new effort than with the theme #TrueToHim. Our desires to serve, and our motivation behind all that we do in building this community is centered most in our desire to be true to Jesus Christ.

#TrueToHim is more than a project. It’s the very reason we’re here. Why are you true to Him? What story deep in your heart needs to be shared with others on their journey?
What would you say of your own personal experience that may inspire another as you have been?

Want to learn more about participating? Visit https://northstarlds.org/truetohim/share-your-journey for details.

2018 will be the greatest year ever for North Star International and we look forward to meeting all of you very soon – on video, in writing, and at the Conference in March! (Conference.NorthStarLDS.org -> Early bird rates expire January 28!)

Happy New Year!

With a Grateful Heart

With a Grateful Heart

Joseph Stith

Joseph Stith

President

I began my journey just prior to the first North Star Conference in 2014. Filled with hope, I purchased 2 tickets before my wife of 30 years even knew -about …me.  I remember the overwhelming fear and anxiety replaced with deep gratitude for the people of North Star that had sacrificed so much in building this community.  A place filled with love and hope that would impact our lives as much as the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself.  North Star is truly the Gospel in action.

We know Thanksgiving and Christmas to be seasons of gratitude and giving back.  I wish everyone could see how much time and effort goes into making just one North Star event possible. Today, there are multiple exciting events now being planned or close to completion.

North Star is expanding our capacity to serve at a ridiculous pace!  A new website suite, the relaunch of Voices of Hope, new and reorganized, searchable content… and that’s just some of the efforts we’re engaged in to bless lives. The upcoming Fireside and the 2018 Conference are massive undertakings now in full swing and we’re always in need of more volunteers.

Those of you who have been blessed by North Star as we have, are likely feeling the desire to give back. Please know how very much we need you. Prayerfully consider what degree of sacrifice is appropriate given your blessings.  Giving Tuesday is one opportunity to give financially in helping us make these expansions possible. The Donor page will show you how many ways you can help us bless more lives.  At North Star, the season of giving is continuous and contagious.  May you catch the spirit of giving and be filled with gratitude all through the year.

From all of us here at North Star, we love you, we thank you, and we pray that you will always find peace in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Rising Above the “War of Words and Tumult of Opinions”

Rising Above the “War of Words and Tumult of Opinions”

Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration, grew up in a time of great religious fervor. In his hometown the various religious sects—Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian—were engaged in a great effort to convince the masses to join their religion. While the clergy of each sect professed to allow each person the right to “join what sect they pleased”, as converts began to join the various congregations, “priests [contended] against priest, and convert against convert” (JS History 1:6). A general sense of chaos and confusion ensued which Joseph described as a “war of words and tumult of opinion” (JS History 1:10).

A Modern-Day War of Words

I think that those words—“a war of words and tumult of opinion”—very accurately describe the response and dialog I have seen in society today regarding the topics of homosexuality (same-sex attraction) and gender identity. Recently, these topics have been in the forefront of our news cycles—the United States Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, the JONAH trial, the Caitlin Jenner story, and the Boy Scouts of America’s new policy regarding gay leadership. As each of these stories broke, it seemed that my Facebook and Twitter feeds exploded with conflicting “facts” and opinions. Sadly, in many of these discussions I’ve observed much harshness, even hatred.

Like Joseph, as I’ve watched this chaos and confusion unfold I asked myself, “What is to be done?” (JS History 1: 10). For quite some time I pondered and struggled to understand who was right and who was wrong. As a leader within North Star I felt it was important that I had a “clear stance” on the subject. I began to get very frustrated as it seemed my prayers to God were going unanswered.

I decided that maybe I was approaching this topic from the wrong perspective. Instead of focusing so much on who was right, maybe the better question I should be asking was “What is my role in all of this?” It turns out the answer to that question has changed my life and informed my view of what I believe our Heavenly Father would have each of us do as members of the North Star community, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the world.

Our Role as Peacemakers

My dear friends, the world desperately needs the eternal perspective of the plan of salvation. Within the context of the LGBT community, these beloved children of our Heavenly Father need to understand that God is real, that they are His sons and daughters, that He has a plan for their lives, and that this plan will bring them eternal joy and allow them to reach their divine potential. Without this perspective and vision there is no motivation for these precious children of God to make the positive changes in their lives that lead to a deep and lasting relationship with Him.

These sons and daughters of God need a safe, welcoming place where they can begin to learn these important truths. That is where we come in. I feel passionately that there should be no place safer, more loving, more welcoming than the home of a Latter-day Saint or a LDS chapel. When a gay or lesbian couple feels the desire to connect with God, their Mormon friends should immediately come to mind as a place they can turn to. They should be able to look into our eyes and see the image of Christ reflected in our countenance.

Realistically, we have much work to do in order to accomplish this vision. Many members of the LGBT community have felt marginalized, attacked or judged by professed Christians. The way forward is clear. Our Savior taught us the following:

Blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. […] Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. […] Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (3 Nephi 12: 9, 13, 16)

Surely we as God’s children with a unique, personal understanding of sexuality, gender identity and the gospel of Jesus Christ should be at the forefront of extending light, love, compassion, and mercy to all of God’s children—especially those in the LGBT community. As we extend this love, the Holy Spirit of God will begin to heal hearts and enlighten minds.

Two Principles of Love

I want to share you with two key principles that we can begin working on today that will help us extend love and light to God’s children.

(1) Learn to love those who have different beliefs or opinions than you.

Article of faith eleven states, “We claim the privilege of worshiping the Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where or what they may.” One of the core tenants of our faith is agency. In fact, it was so important that it was at the center of the war in heaven that was fought long ago. It is through the exercise of agency that we can grow and progress toward our eternal destiny.

That means God has given to each of His children the opportunity to form their own beliefs and value system. Sometimes, the beliefs of others (whether religious or political) will conflict with yours. That is completely okay! Some of the most meaningful relationships I have in my life are with people who believe very differently than me on various topics. I have learned how to appreciate their perspective and look for the core principles we share—even when we disagree on how to live those principles.

(2) Learn to love those who make different choices than you.

When I think about the Savior’s life, it always amazes me how much time He spent with people who were marginalized and ostracized—people who the religious order of the day deemed as “sinners”. The Savior knew how to make people feel loved. That love inspired others to be their best selves.

Personally, one of my most freeing experiences was when I decided to leave judgment to the Savior. He knows the minds, hearts, and experiences of God’s children personally—He suffered individually for each of them. I know that with my limited knowledge and imperfect perspective it is impossible for me to completely understand someone’s actions and life choices. My focus has transitioned to loving people and leaving judgement in the Savior’s hands. This shift has led to many rich relationships which bring me great joy.

Conclusion

In summary, it is my sincere hope that we can rise above the “war of words and tumult of opinions” to a higher cause. I believe that God desperately needs us to shine forth a light of love within the North Star community, our wards, and the world at large. He needs us to learn how to love those who may believe or act differently than we do. As we extend Christ-like love to others, the Spirit of God can descend upon those with whom we associate. That Spirit can provide an eternal perspective which helps others see their worth and develop a closer relationship with God the Father.

May we live the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that inspires God’s children to be their best selves—especially those in the LGBT community. I testify that miracles await as we go forth to accomplish this noble mission. Hearts will be healed; relationships will be mended; eternal destinies will be altered. I love you all so very much, and I look forward to joining with you in this noble effort.