In the fifteenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus Christ is confronted by the scribes and Pharisees who asked him this question:

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Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? (Matthew 15:2)

The Jews, at the time of Christ, carried forward many traditions which had been developed to augment their worship of God. There were rules regarding cleanliness, rules regarding acceptable activities on the Sabbath, rules regarding travel. All of which were a vain attempt to ‘improve’ on the core principle of their religion. Today, many of these practices survive in the rabbinic halakhah.

Bruce McConkie characterized it this way:

Rabbinical ordinances and interpretations were added to the Mosaic law by scribes and teachers over the years. These traditions were actually and formally deemed to be more important and have greater binding force than the law itself. Among them as supposed guards against ceremonial uncleanness, were the ritualistic washings which Jesus and His disciples had ignored. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, page 366)

Christ responded with His own question to the scribes and Pharisees:

Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (Matthew 15:3)

The example Christ used in His response was based on one of the laws of Moses:

4  For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.

5  But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;

6  And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free.  Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.

Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,

8  This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

9  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men

10  And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:

11  Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.  (Matthew 15:4-11)

Verse five was difficult to understand until I did some research. This same event was captured in Mark, chapter 7 where the equivalent verse states

11  But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

12  And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;

13  Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.(Mark 7:11-13)

Corban is derived from the word related to the temple treasury. The idea originally was that the son could avoid providing support for his parents, which was inherently part of the commandment to honor your father and mother, by pledging all of his wealth to God. Once this was done, the son no longer was deemed to have any responsibility regarding his parents support. By the meridian of time, this had simply become a vow that could be made and the son was then free of the need to meet the commandment.

As Christ indicated in verse thirteen above, there were many other ‘traditions’ that were inserted by man into the practice of a believer. It is interesting to note the a number of the accusations launched by the scribes and Pharisees were based on the apparent violation of these ‘traditions.’ such as appropriate activities for the Sabbath and others.

The scribes and Pharisees sought to accuse Christ of violating the law and found themselves charged with supplanting the commandments of God with the doctrines of men. Those who defended these traditions – the doctrines of men – lost the opportunity to participate in the gospel as delivered by Christ. They were found to be hard hearted and lovers of their position and power, they were not receptive of the message brought to them by the Son of God.

As history dictates, the gentiles did not fare significantly better. As the Holy Roman church began to assert its position, a similar set of traditions began to dominate the lives of the pious. Here is how Bruce McConkie described the situation with the early church:

To the pure and simple doctrines of Christ, the scribes and priests of early Christianity added such things as: selling indulgences, which freed the wicked from past sins and authorized them to commit future crimes without divine penalty; forgiving sins (supposedly) through repeated and perfunctory confessions; praying departed persons out of purgatory; burning candles for the dead; praying to Mary and other so-called saints, rather than to the Lord; worshiping of images; turning of the sacramental emblems into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus (transubstantiation); laying up a reservoir of good works in heaven which the so-called Church can sell to those who need them; forbidding priests and other church official to marry; doing penance to gain forgiveness of sins; adorning houses of worship with costly materials; wearing of expensive robes and costumes by priests and other church officers; using elaborate ministerial titles; augmenting the Church treasury by gambling; and so forth.

All these, and many other like traditions, are counted of more importance by some than the law of God as originally given by the Master. Indeed, the so-called Christian Church today is founded in large part on the traditions of the “elders’ rather than on the revelations from heaven. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, page 367)

Many of the simple and pure aspects of the gospel as delivered by the Savior and the apostles were replaced by the traditions and doctrines of men. The following is an example from the life of Martin Luther;

He at first gave himself up to all the observances which the Church enjoined for the expiation of sin. One day, wishing to obtain an indulgence promised by the pope to all who should ascend on their knees what is called Pilate’s Staircase, the Saxon monk was humbly creeping up those steps, which he was told had been miraculously transported from Jerusalem to Rome. While he was performing this meritorious act, he though he heard a voice of thunder crying from the bottom of his heart, as at Wittenberg and Bologna, “The just shall live by faith.” These words twice before struck him like the voice of an angel from God. They now resounded unceasingly and powerfully within him. He rose in amazement from the steps up which he was dragging his body; he shuddered at himself; he was ashamed of seeing to what a depth superstition had plunged him. therefore he fled far from the scene of his folly. (The Life and Times of Martin Luther, pp 54-55)

Would we today believe that by climbing a series of steps on our knees, we would be able to free someone from Purgatory? Acts such as those prescribed for the Jews as well as those that found their way into the church established after the original apostles carried the gospel to the gentiles represent the doctrines of men mingled with scripture.

The Jews of the birthright had the opportunity to accept the gospel of Christ and, through the covenant, receive the blessings of the Kingdom of God. In their rejection, the gospel was then taken to the gentiles. These too had the opportunity to build the kingdom.  As described in the Book of Mormon, we can see that “they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.” (1 Nephi 13:26) These ‘plain and precious’ parts were supplanted by the doctrines of men. Practices which could easily lead the practitioner to focus on the ritual rather than the message.

The stage is set for the restoration of the gospel. As characterized by Nephi, those parts,  plain and precious, will once again be made available.

For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb. (1 Nephi 13:35)

As a result of the restoration, we, the Gentiles, now have a book which contains the ‘fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ What should we consider as the fulness of the gospel? Should we believe that it is incomplete in any way? Should it be the bellwether regarding the doctrines by which we should govern spiritual lives? I believe this is the case. I have long held a testimony of the Book of Mormon as the mechanism that the Lord utilized to announce His doctrine. This testimony was not drilled into me by repetition, I had a singular profound experience that left me with a knowledge that the book was God-breathed.

This now brings me to the core question of this post. I have attempted to outline the circumstance under which both the Jews, or the house of Israel, and also early Christianity lost their way and adopted the traditions and doctrines of men instead of the doctrine of Christ. It can happen gradually, as imperfect men attempt to improve on the word of God.

Are we, today, as keepers of the fulness of the gospel, susceptible to the same shift from the pure doctrine of Christ into the quagmire represented by the doctrines of men? Are the doctrines held by the so-called Church of Jesus Christ still after these nearly 200 years still in perfect alignment with the doctrine of God?

To answer these questions, we should first clearly define the doctrine of Christ. Secondly, we should examine our own traditions and doctrines to determine that the two are in alignment.

Following His identification of the twelve disciples in His visit to the Nephites, the Lord set forward His doctrine:

35  Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

36  And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

37  And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.

38  And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

39  Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

40  And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them. (3 Nephi 11:35-40)

If I were to attempt to place this in my own words, the doctrine of Christ is that those who believe in Christ will be visited by fire and the Holy Ghost. To receive this, we must repent and be baptized. We must become as little children, humble and teachable. Anyone who says that the doctrine of Christ is “more or less” than this and establishes a different doctrine is of evil.

Should the doctrine of the church that bears His name be different than the doctrine defined by Christ in these verses? The answer should be a resounding No!

Are there rituals and activities that are promoted as the doctrine of the church that do not align with the doctrine of Christ? I would suggest that we each individually and collectively as followers of Christ should assess our actions to determine if they are aligned with the doctrine of Christ or if they are manufactured by men. Have we allowed our traditions become the doctrine of the church?

Ask any active member of the LDS church what is required of them and you will probably get a list such as:

  1. Pay tithing
  2. Accept callings in the church
  3. Do your home and visiting teaching
  4. Attend your meetings
  5. Hold Family Home Evening

I could carry the list on for many pages. This is the Mormon version of halakhah. The list of guidelines that a good Mormon must follow. I am sure that obedience to the list will give us, today, the same satisfaction, pride, and arrogance demonstrated by the scribes and Pharisees.

I will say it again. Hark, all ye who claim to be saints. Are these traditions in alignment with the doctrine of Christ? I respond with a resounding “NO.” Just as with the scribes and Pharisees at the time of the mortal ministry of Christ, just as it was with the gentiles in the Holy Roman Church, the acts and actions that should be spawned by our acceptance and implementation of the doctrine of Christ have replaced it. Once we believe that the list of traditions we have come to live by as ‘the gospel,’ we are no better than the Jews in the meridian of time. And we will face the same fate. It is very sad to consider that people who hold to the pure doctrine of Christ are considered apostate, just as Christ was condemned by the religious rulers of his time.

Even in this enlightened age of the restored gospel, we are susceptible to being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine?” (Eph 4:14) Should plural marriage be a requirement to hold high office in the church, as it was at the time of Brigham Young,  or be an offence worthy of excommunication, as it is today? Tossed to and fro… We need to identify the traditions of men in our own worldview and strip them away. We need to gauge our process along the strait and narrow path by the doctrine of Christ, no more, no less.

I implore you to search the words of Christ, to seek knowledge regarding the doctrine of Christ as contained in the restored scriptures. Look in your heart and determine if your personal halakhah is a stumbling block to employing the real doctrine of Christ in your life.

What think ye?

The title for this blog is taken from the twelfth chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon. Amulek and Alma were confronted by Zeezrom, who was a lawyer and “was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business to do among the people.” (Alma 10:31) Zeezrom intended to catch the missionaries in their words but was stymied by the knowledge that Amulek and Alma had received of his intentions. When this became apparent, Zeezrom trembled and was apparently humbled enough to change the tone of his questions from accusation to a search for understanding. His question dealt with the resurrection of the dead.

In response to the question posed by Zeezrom, Alma stated the following found in the twelfth chapter:

9  And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

10  And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

11  And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.

12  And Amulek hath spoken plainly concerning death, and being raised from this mortality to a state of immortality, and being brought before the bar of God, to be judged according to our works.

13  Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned. (Alma 12:9-13)

Before Alma was ready to answer the question regarding the resurrection, he first defined the importance and structure of the knowledge that was going to be discussed. We first learn that many have been given the opportunity to gain knowledge and wisdom from the Lord. The way that one receives this information is through the word of God – revelation. The mysteries of God are given to us “according to heed and diligence” that we demonstrate unto God.

There are those who, through pride or other impediments, “harden their hearts” toward this available information are not given the mysteries of God through revelation. I have come to believe that ‘hardening our hearts’ is a product of a misplaced desire to achieve salvation based on our own knowledge and understanding.

 On the other hand, those who exhibit of ‘soft’ heart, one that allows the words of God to penetrate, are given the opportunity to receive great knowledge, even to the point of receiving this knowledge in its fullness. There are other demonstrations of this idea in the scriptures. I find it of note that Nephi, in the first chapter and verse of the Book of Mormon, chose to reference this idea with these words: …having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God.., (1 Nephi 1:1. Nephi received visions and revelation to the extent of seeing the entire history of the world. He is not the only one who was able to receive this glorious revelation. 

In the seventy-sixth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord states:

5  For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.

6  Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.

7  And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom. (D&C 76:5-7)

While these citations contain sufficient material for a wide variety of discussions, I want to simply point to the multiple references that encourage, no, command us to individually and collectively seek the mysteries of God. You and I are encouraged and should be compelled by our desire to serve God in righteousness, to seek the knowledge He is willing to share with us.

But what of those who “harden” their hearts? The description found in Alma tells us that they are ‘given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning His mysteries.’ As I pondered this phrase, I came to understand that two elements are described. The first indicates that continuing revelation will not happen.  There will be no pronouncements of “Thus sayeth the Lord” by those who are not seeking the mysteries of God. While the mantra may continue that there are prophets, seers, and revelators upon the earth, there is no meat delivered in terms of revelation. Those who harden their hearts will not be privy to the revelation of God.

And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; (Alma 12:11)

Secondly, the past revelations will be lost in terms of understanding. This verse suggests that there will be a, perhaps gradual, slide downward in terms of understanding revelation that was given in the past until nothing is understood regarding His mysteries – His word delivered by revelation.

Do we see evidence of the gradual loss of the knowledge of God that we have already received from Him? In my mind, there are a number of potential examples. You are certainly to accept or reject them as evidence that there is a chronic hardness of the heart among us individually and collectively.

 Miracles

After Jesus Christ was resurrected, He appeared to His disciples as described in Mark:

14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

15  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

16  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

17  And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18  They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:14-18)

First, I find it interesting that the apostles of the Lord were chastised because of the hardness of their hearts. More importantly, they, the twelve, were to take the message of the gospel to the world. They were to do this accompanied by the signs that they were doing this in His name.  Shortly thereafter, as described in Acts, chapter three, Peter healed a man lame since birth.

6  Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

7  And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.

8  And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.
(Acts 3:6-8)

This same behavior was exhibited by the disciples of Christ in the Book of Mormon:

5  And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus. (4 Nephi 1:5)

Why don’t we see the apostles of the Lord demonstrating miracles in the name of the Lord? Do they not carry the same pronouncement as the apostles of Christ in Jerusalem and among the Nephites?

Today, miracles have been defined around many things that I would consider as short of the description of miracles found in the scriptures. Is it a miracle when a change in the age requirement boosts the missionary ranks to over 75,000? Can the church efforts in genealogy be considered miraculous? I suggest you ponder these questions in your heart. What should be considered a miracle? What have we lost by redefining what ‘miracle’ mean among the body of believers?

Law of Consecration

The Law of Consecration is laid out in the forty-second section of the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 42:30-39).

31  And inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me; and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church and his counselors, two of the elders, or high priests, such as he shall appoint or has appointed and set apart for that purpose. (D&C 42:31)

The members were instructed to consecrate their property to the church and then receive an inheritance from which they were to extract their living. This commandment of the Lord also has roots back into the meridian of time. Following the Savior’s death and resurrection, we find his followers practicing a similar way of life:

42  And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

43  And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

44  And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

45  And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

46  And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, (Acts 2:42-46)

Note that there is another reference to the signs or miracles done by the apostles. The followers of Christ lived as one, their possessions were pooled together for the benefit of all. The same appears to be the case for the Nephites after the visit by the Savior:

3  And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. (4 Nephi 1:3)

If we were indeed given revelation as to how the followers of Christ were to conduct their daily lives, why do we seem to be satisfied today with the temporal law of tithing? Have we lost our collective memory of the revelation given by God?

Here is how President Eyring described the method by which the followers of Christ have been directed to care for one another:

His way of helping has at times been called living the law of consecration. In another period His way was called the united order. In our time it is called the Church welfare program. His way of helping has at times been called living the law of consecration. In another period His way was called the united order. In our time it is called the Church welfare program. (2011 April General Conference Saturday morning session)

 Does the church welfare program equate to the law of consecration? Or is it possibly an example of how the word, the purpose of the original revelation, has been taken from us due to our hard hearts?

Gathering to Zion

I have a friend who ended every communication with the phrase, “next year in Zion.’ There was a time in this church when people still talked of preparing to return to Missouri. There was a time when the saints were told to gather that they could be ‘one.’ Speaking to the apostles of the restoration, the Lord said:

7  And ye shall go forth baptizing with water, saying: Repent ye, repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

8  And from this place ye shall go forth into the regions westward; and inasmuch as ye shall find them that will receive you ye shall build up my church in every region—

9  Until the time shall come when it shall be revealed unto you from on high, when the city of the New Jerusalem shall be prepared, that ye may be gathered in one, that ye may be my people and I will be your God. (D&C 42:7-9)

We now know where the Lord originally intended to have His Saints gathered. We also know that the people who attempted to establish Zion were thwarted by their own actions.

9  Therefore, in consequence of the transgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion—

10  That they themselves may be prepared, and that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands.

11  And this cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high.

12  For behold, I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them, inasmuch as they are faithful and continue in humility before me.

13  Therefore it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season, for the redemption of Zion. (D&C 105:9-13)

How long is a little season? What are the things that we, collectively and individually, must learn to be better prepared to establish Zion, the pure in heart? Will it still happen in Jackson County, Missouri or will there be some other place for those who are truly converted to collect?

In the Sunday School lesson conducted about one year ago, the teacher made it clear that we are to stay where we are at; that we are no longer required to gather. I cannot find any commandment to that effect. There was no mention made that we are to be preparing for the gathering? Is this yet another example of the revelation, the word, that has been taken from us?

The Mysteries of God

So this brings me back to the start of this blog entry. As members, we are told today that we are not to seek after the mysteries of God. We are told that we place our membership in jeopardy if we stray outside of the correlated church. We have recent examples of people who have been excised from the fabric of the corporate church because they dared to share their concerns with others. We find that they were not charged with apostasy against the gospel but that they were excommunicated because they spoke words that were at odds with the current version of the church doctrine.  How do the chains of hell feel? There are surely people around you that have no desire to seek after the mysteries. They are fully committed to following man rather than God.

In closing, my plea is for us all to ‘come unto Christ.’ Seek to prepare ourselves for the commandments that we have received. Prepare our hearts for the word that the Spirit will deliver.

What think ye?

A few days ago, as I sought some quiet time away from the frantic pace of life, I turned on the television and was browsing for a distraction. I came upon a rebroadcast of the miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth” being shown on TBN. I came in fairly early in the show as Joseph was practicing his carpenter trade and preparing to take Mary as his betrothed.

As the narrative continued, I was absent mindedly in a mode of critiquing the story for its lapses relative to the scriptures. I noted that the side story of Zacharias’ encounter with the angel Gabriel was not included in the story. As my cynicism reigned, I was viewing the part where Joseph was considering what to do with Mary, now that she was with child – not something he was willing to accept. The story also left out the dream that Joseph received:

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 1:19-20)

I could just imagine what Joseph had been thinking. Here, he is trying to set up a carpentry business and establish himself as a solid member of the community and of the church when, BAM, his betrothed is with child. What are the people going the think? How is this going to affect his new business? What will the elders think when they count the months between his marriage and the birth of what appeared to be his son?

Joseph, based on the guidance received in a dream, proceeds with his marriage to Mary.

As I continued watching, I was overwhelmed by what I can only call revelation. My cynicism was interrupted by a flash of pure knowledge, for lack of a better term. My mind was redirected to the scripture:

And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God! (1 Nephi 11:26)

Christ was born to Mary and all who knew them could count the days between her marriage to Joseph and the child’s birth. He would likely have been, to those who were not spiritually aware of the circumstances, viewed as an illegitimate offspring of two people who couldn’t control their passions.

Here is the Savior of the world born into circumstances that could have subjected him to shame and ridicule due to events beyond His control. Much like the shame imposed on young people who find themselves unexpectedly preparing for parenthood. When I was young, the stigma was much stronger than it is in this day of ‘living together.’ and the optional status of marriage. But that is another topic.

I came away with another profound (for me, at least) appreciation for how God condescended below all of our sins and weaknesses. What greater burden could He carry than to hear the whispers of those around him breathing shame into His entry into the world? How should we approach our lives when we consider how Christ was, by necessity, required to carry all the humiliation and stilted criticism much like we must do in our lives?

As I approach this time when we are supposed to be remembering the birth of Christ, I pray that the majesty of His humble entry into the world is not overwhelmed by the dollar signs of the holiday season. I pray that we may all take a moment to realize that, from the moment He entered mortality, He was likely the recipient of ridicule.

It is our task to turn our eyes and our hearts to the Lord – to recognize Him as our Savior and Redeemer, to read and study His life and teachings and apply them to ourselves.

May we use these ‘holy days’ that are upon us to recommit to the task of coming unto Christ. I am reminded of a statement by Joseph Smith:

Search the scriptures – search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God, nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how He will save them. (TPJS, Section 1)

May I wish all who have come to this humble site a merry Christ mass and may the start of a new calendar year bring you true joy.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

This morning I see the first glint of the morning sun spilling across the tall pines outside my window. I came to the mountains this weekend seeking peace and some needed rest for the whirring machinery of today’s life. As I read the words recorded in our scripture, I was reminded of the invitation, repeated oft in the words of the prophets, to enter the rest of the Lord. Is this rest only found as we leave this life, as I have often heard repeated as we honor the passing of our loved ones? Nay, it is available to each of us today and all the remaining days of our lives.

Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven. (Moroni 7:3)

The phrase, ’entering into the rest of the Lord,’ to me, means leaving the anxieties of the world behind. It means having the hope that we are right with the Lord and that we have had our hearts softened by His word. But the scriptures tell us it is more than just this hope. The rest of the Lord is a state of our being. It is a spiritual cloud that envelops us and speaks peace to our soul.

Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins, and these shall enter into my rest.  (Alma 12:34)

We receive, as is told in 2 Nephi, chapter 31, a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. This sacred experience is what welcomes us into the rest of the Lord. This baptism of fire should be the goal of each of us. The objective is to expunge from our hearts and our souls all the dross of the world around us. The experience lifts us above the realm of the mortal and gives us but a taste of what awaits us in the kingdom of God.

Those of the true high priesthood have, according to the scriptures, already partaken of this gift from God.

Now, as I said concerning the holy order or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and become high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish. Therefore, they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb. Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God. (Alma 13:10-12)

The purpose that these men were called to this high priesthood was to teach others how to receive the same blessing.

And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest. (Alma 13:6)

According to the Book of Mormon, high priests are called to teach us how to enter into the rest of the Lord; something that they themselves have experienced. It is a call to set aside the things of the world. It beckons us to soften our hearts and make our spirits contrite and accept the words of Christ. It is how we become the sons and daughters of God. It is how we are sanctified and prepared to enter into the presence of the Lord.  It is the gate by which we enter the strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life. It is the rest of the Lord.

What think ye?

Dear President Uchtdorf,

In your Saturday morning talk at conference, you began by telling a story of a man who had a dream. The man dreamed that ‘he was in great hall where all the religions of the world were gathered.’ The story continued with this man meeting a nice couple who represented the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and asked “What do you require of your members?” Their response was that ‘we do not require anything, but the Lord asks that we consecrate all.’ The couple went on to explain about ‘church callings, home and visiting teaching, full-time missions, weekly family home evenings, temple work, welfare, and humanitarian service and assignments to teach.’ The list was expanded with ‘family history, youth camps, devotionals, scripture study, leadership training, youth activities, early morning seminary, maintaining church buildings. And, of course, there is the Lord’s law of health, the monthly fast to help the poor, and tithing.

Upon hearing of all that is required of members and the fact that none locally were paid for these contributions of time and talent, the man responded, “Why would anyone want to join such a church?” The couple’s response was, “We thought you would never ask.”

The story reminded me of a talk given by Boyd K. Packer in the Sunday morning session of conference in October of 1974. I was not privileged to hear this talk directly as I was serving a mission in Finland at the time, but the words sunk deeply into my soul.  It was not easy for us, my father had passed away when I was in high school but, at a sacrifice, my mother easily agreed to help cover the costs of my mission. It was she who sent me a copy of the conference proceedings as well as a tape of the session.

In this talk, Elder Packer referenced an event that occurred while he was a mission president as found here. A family receiving the discussions had requested no more visits. The man had heard of tithing and had decided that was too much to pay. When visited by the branch president, he was asked if he knew about fast offering, building fund (remember those days?), welfare and teaching assignments. The story ends with these words

As they departed, almost as an afterthought, he turned and said, “Have you ever wondered why people will do all of these things willingly? I have never received a bill for tithing. No one has ever called to collect it. But we pay it—and all of the rest—and count it a great privilege.

“If you could discover why, you would be within reach of the pearl of great price, which the Lord said the merchant man was willing to sell all that he had that he might obtain it.

“But,” said the branch president, “It is your decision. I only hope you will pray about it.”

A few days later the man appeared at the branch president’s home. No, he did not want to reschedule the missionaries. That would not be necessary. He wanted to schedule the baptism of his family. They had been praying, fervently praying.

For many years, the story helped validate the work I was doing and justified the many church assignments and activities that made up the agenda of an active member. Are we not to be busily engaged in a good cause?  Are not all these things expected of us in order to gain salvation? Doesn’t paying tithing, attending our meetings and the temple regularly, contributing to fast offering, and fulfilling our assignments represent what is expected of a member in good standing? Is this not how we are measured in the church?

I no longer hold that view. I now understand that relying on these works of men can only give us ‘joy in our works for a season.’ (3 Nephi 27:11) These outward acts – tithing, buildings, assignments and other works of man requiring our time and energy, do not gain us anything but a short lived satisfaction without the correct foundation. Checking all the boxes is not the prerequisite to entering into the rest of the Lord.

In a marvelous display of the workings of the Holy Ghost,  the people of King Benjamin were baptized by fire and received a remission of their sins. They were cautioned to ‘humble themselves even in the depths of humility’ in order to retain a remission of their sins. (Mosiah 4)

They were also taught that, in order to retain a remission of their sins, they were to consider the needs of those around them as described in verse 26:

And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

The pattern that the Lord has set here is that we are to first seek a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. We are then to maintain humility and seek to serve those around us in order to retain a remission of our sins. We must cleanse ourselves before we can truly serve others. Through that service, we are able to retain a remission of our sins from day to day.

But, let me know turn to the message you delivered to those who are estranged from the church. I quote from your talk:

There are some who leave the church they once loved. One might ask, if the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave? Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended, or lazy, or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations. Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question of whether they should separate themselves from the church.

I am gratified that there is at least some recognition that offense and sin are not the general cause of people leaving the church. Yet, in the pamphlet the church sends to those who have asked to have their names removed, that attitude is still apparent, at least as of last year.

In this church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers. We respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the church we love and the truth we have found but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience just as we claim the privilege for ourselves.

Does this church truly honor personal agency? What would you say to the September Six who were honestly seeking truth, albeit outside the bounds of the lesson manual? Are we not told we must seek the mysteries of God or be bound by the chains of Hell? (Alma 12:9-11) Are we not to share these mysteries as guided by the Holy Spirit? Who is to judge from the outside which of us are to share and which to keep to ourselves?

What is the message to Denver Snuffer now that he was involuntarily separated (excommunicated) from the church? Is that how the church honors personal agency? Is that how you show respect for those who are honestly seeking for truth from the scriptures and historical records of the church. It seems that the church is doing the exact opposite. It is dictating what are the acceptable bounds of personal agency – bounds drawn by the currently accepted view of historical events and filtered by the need to justify the abandonment of practices and doctrines of the past.

Do not the people who travel to listen to people like Denver Snuffer deserve the same protection of personal agency for themselves? Can a person who differs in the perspective message they derive from the scriptures versus the correlated message of the church be shunned and cast away. Can’t truth stand on its own?

In the past, I was a casual reader of Denver Snuffer’s blog. When his notice of pending church discipline was published, I ordered his book, Passing the Heavenly Gift, to see for myself what would get a person excommunicated these days. Having recently finished the book, here is my perspective. I found someone who had put many painstaking hours into rationalizing the scriptures and the documented history of the church with the current church practices and doctrines. I found many of the same scriptures and information that I had independently found on my journey. I would suggest that the message delivered in the writings of Denver Snuffer are as worthy of the sanctity of personal agency as the result of any other prayerful search for truth.

Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of church history along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.

Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.

Patience appears to be the only rational response to the cognitive dissonance that prompts many of these questions. Will patience answer the question why the ordinance of the sacrament differs in practice from the scriptural dictate? Will patience explain why the call to gather to Zion is now ignored? Must we wait to understand the core aspects of the gospel and the true meaning of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? Must we wait for a season to understand why the works of God have been replaced by the works of men in the validation of the mission of the church?

Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the facts really mean. The question that creates doubt in some can. after careful investigation, build faith in others. And to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.

Is the difference of opinion as to the ‘facts,’ even after careful investigation, sufficient to threaten church discipline if that opinion runs counter to the current correlated version of church history? How does one resolve which events are mistakes and which are ‘inspired?’ Are we not encouraged to seek the confirmation of the Spirit in these matters? Should that not be the encouragement given to members when confronted by these differences in opinion, rather than threats and coercion?

As an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and as one who has seen firsthand the counsels and workings of this church, I bear solemn witness that no decision of significance affecting this church or its members is ever made without earnestly seeking inspiration, guidance, and the approbation of our Eternal Father. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. God will not allow His church to drift from its appointed course not fail to fulfill its divine destiny.

To this comment, I would ask where in the scriptures do we find that God would not allow the church to fail? On the other hand, is the church still under the condemnation identified in D&C 84:56 and reinforced by the voice of President Benson? What is the vengeance directed to His house as decribed in D&C 112:23-26? Are we not the Gentiles who have received their belief, in and of the Holy Ghost, and then reject the fulness of the gospel? (3 Nephi 16:6-12)

Joseph Smith stated “…for if Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved in all things, in His sight, He will seek another people; for His work will go on until Israel is gathered, and they who will not hear His voice, must expect to feel his wrath. (TPJS p. 18) Has Zion purified herself in all things, may I ask? We face the same bitter end as the Jews at the meridian of time should we choose to ignore this warning.

The Church of Jesus Christ seems to attract the kind and the caring, the honest and the industrious. If you expect to find perfect people here, you will be disappointed. But if you seek the pure doctrine of Christ, the word of God which healeth the wounded soul and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost, then here you will find them.

Does the church promote the pure doctrine of Christ as found in the scriptures (ex. 3 Nephi 11:31-40) or has it added to church doctrine, many doctrines of men? Does the church teach, as doctrine, the scriptural representation of sanctification or has it adapted doctrine of Christ to be more palatable to the average member (see 2 Nephi 31:17-20) Is it not the definition of some of these core doctrinal questions that cause some people to waver with regards to the church?

I am reminded of a time in the Savior’s life when many abandoned Him. Jesus asked His twelve disciples – “Will you also go away?”  Then Simon Peter answered Him – “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.

There are times we have to answer the same question. Will we also go away? Or will we like Peter hold fast to the words of eternal life.

We stand across a gulf from one another, each pointing an accusing finger toward the other shouting “apostate!!” Has the church itself not gone away from the original teachings of the Savior and the core revelations of the restoration? Have we not rationalized our condemnation by pointing proudly to the fact that we now have 15 million members across the globe and are building many fine structures? Do we, as a church, offer a pittance to the suffering around us while an investment in a shopping mall dwarfs decades of humanitarian efforts by the church?

I have seen how strongly the church values personal agency. I watched, a number of years ago, a good friend excommunicated for apostasy when the underlying issue was their belief and acquisition of personal revelation (and it repeats to this day). I watched the friends and associates of this person grilled and threatened with the same punishment. I saw a stake president abruptly released because he would not proceed with church discipline in one case. I listened to the father of one of these targets confide that the general authority who was leading the charge admitted candidly that this could have been a mistake.

This entire scenario is what prompted me to begin my search for truth. How was I supposed to rationalize what had transpired before me with the undeniable witness of the Book of Mormon and the existence of God I had received in my youth? In the process, I purchased a large library of literature touching on the topics of church history and doctrine. I read voraciously and studied all sources available to me. I sought the Lord in prayer and fasting to help guide me on this journey and felt the confirmation of His Spirit in my acquisition of knowledge.

I can say, Come, join with us, rings hollow when I contemplate the gap between the promise of Zion and the lesser law that the church has embraced this day. I seek to see Zion established. I seek to prepare myself spiritually and emotionally that I may be worthy to someday enter the gate to the community of God; to be in close association with His sons and daughters.

While I cannot attest that my path is the appropriate direction for anyone else to take; what I can say is that the Spirit has guided me to the place I now stand. I know not where this will lead but I can only express my gratitude to my Father for the knowledge and understanding I have received. I carry with me to this day a testament of the spiritual nuggets available to those who search the scriptures and seek to receive the words of Christ.

Sincerely,

Joe Jensen

Perrysburg, Ohio

I recently had a conversation with the bishop of our ward when we crossed paths at a community event. He was elated that the recent troop surge, sorry, missionary expansion, had increased the elders and sisters from a historical two pairs to five pairs of missionaries in the ward. He warned me that I, as a lost sheep, may be seeing more visits by these young men and women, as their efforts would include re-activation in addition to finding those who can be taught the gospel.

When I am visited by the missionaries, I usually have several simple questions that I ask them. They are questions that I would hope each one of us have answered, in the context of the latter-day scriptures.

  • Who are the Gentiles?

  • What is the definition of the gospel?

  • What is the definition of the doctrine of Christ?

  • What is the definition of the church of Christ and how does one become a member?

  • What does it mean to be ‘born again?’

Unfortunately, I have not met a single missionary that could answer these questions with specific scriptural references. One would think that those who are called to preach the gospel would be able to clearly define these answers, but to such end I have been disappointed. To me, these questions form the core of my spiritual worldview. They represent the crucial information for which the restoration occurred. Let me attempt to concisely answer these questions, based on my study of the scriptures.

Who are the Gentiles?

According to the title page of the Book of Mormon, the book was written to three specific groups – “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile” To which group do most of the current members of the Church belong? I would suggest the church today is made up of mainly Gentiles, as characterized in the Book of Mormon.

The house of Israel lost the truth because of their unbelief. The Gentiles will receive a testimony through the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 16:6-7)

The Gentiles are the ones that receive the ‘fulness of the gospel’ in the latter days (1 Nephi 15:13)

They are also the ones who sin against the gospel and have it taken from them. (3 Nephi 16:10-13)

What is the definition of the gospel?

I believe that operating under the correct definition of the gospel of Jesus Christ is critical to one’s stature with God. Paul told the Galatians that “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” It was the contamination of the gospel that prompted the restoration. Should we not make sure that we are, indeed, preaching the gospel that we have received?

Christ defined the gospel during His visit to the Nephites. (3 Nephi 27:13-21)

There are also three instances where the gospel is defined in the Doctrine and Covenants. (D&C 33:11-13, D&C 39:6, D&C 76:40-42) The essence of the gospel as I gleaned from these references is the we are to repent and be sanctified by baptism, first with water, then with fire and the Holy Ghost. These steps are necessary for us to enter His kingdom.

What is  the definition of the doctrine of Christ?

Paul told the Ephesians that we should not be ‘tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men.’ (Eph 4:14) We should be equally diligent with respect to the restored doctrine of Christ.

Nephi brings us the first specific reference to this doctrine of Christ. ( 2 Nephi 31:2 – 32:6) He also tells us that ‘there will be no more doctrine given’ until Christ is manifest in the flesh.

When Christ appeared to the Nephites, he added to His doctrine. (3 Nephi 11:31-41) In this treatise, Christ states that anyone who declares ‘more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil.’

I have often pondered what the impact is of this comment. Are we today awash with the doctrines of men rather than holding to the specific aspects of the doctrine of Christ found in the scriptures? What are the potential consequences of expanding the doctrine of Christ to include things that don’t belong?

Both the twelve selected from among the Nephites to be disciples as well as those of the current restoration were told to speak only the words that they received from Christ. “…of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 19:31)

In the tenth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord states:

67  Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.

68  Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.

Again we are told that we must not add to or take away from the doctrine of Christ.  I believe the warnings are very clear. If we do not adhere strictly to the doctrine of Christ in our teachings we are built on the sandy foundation and risk being washed away.  I wonder if this is not why we are seeing such an outflow from the church. We are to be firmly grounded on the doctrine of Christ if we are to maintain our ability to attract those who seek the truth.

What is the definition of the church of Christ and how does one become a member?

The above quotation from D&C, section 10, represents the specific definition of the church directly from the Savior. In light of the current ‘church,’ is there both a corporate and a spiritual church? What would our organization look like if the church consisted of only those who repented and came unto Christ?

I would suggest that Moroni, in the sixth chapter of the book that carries his name, gave us clarity on what it means to come unto Christ and the criteria for membership in his church. We must bring forth fruit as a demonstration that we are worthy to receive baptism. We must come forward ‘with a broken heart and a contrite spirit,’ and witness unto the church that we have repented of all our sins. We must take upon us the name of Christ, determined to serve him to the end. What does it mean to take upon us the name of Christ before we are baptized? There must be this level of commitment in order to be a candidate for baptism.

After one is baptized, they are to be ‘wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost’ before they are considered a member of the church of Christ. How should this apply to us today? The scriptures tell us that the gospel of Christ outlines the principle of a remission of sins through the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. This gate, as defined by the doctrine of Christ, is how we are to gain access to the ‘strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life.’ How many of us have entered the gate, being cleansed of our sins  – having them remitted by the second baptism? This is what is required of us to be considered members of His spiritual church.

What does it mean to be born again?

Nicodemus was told by Christ that we all must be born again and have been privileged to have more witnesses given us relative to this critical element of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Alma stated that “… the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters.” (Mosiah 27:25) We have the examples given us in the scriptures of the people of Benjamin, of Enos, of the three hundred Lamanites, of our father Adam. All of these stand as beacons of the gate to the strait and narrow path.

Among many of the Christian denominations, one is expected to become a new creature in order to be received into His fellowship. Many have used the opportunity at revival meetings to come forward with their commitment to Christ. Is this a legitimate baptism of fire? I will let God be the judge.

I regret that, for much of my life, I looked at those who claimed to be a ‘born again Christian.’ with pity. Oh, how sad it is that they have missed the mark. I now know that, for many years, the pride of my heart blinded me to the fact that the latter-day scriptures bear witness to the necessity of this second baptism – the one that cleanses of our sins and grants us access to the strait and narrow path and membership in His church.

Those are the five simple questions that set me on the path I am now treading. When I had my crisis of faith back in 2000, I had to rebuild my spiritual worldview. I had to sift out of my many life experiences those events which were ‘emotional’ and those that were incontrovertible expressions of the spirit. When I was done, I had only two that I was determined to build upon. I had received a strong witness that the Book of Mormon contained the word of God as a young man and I had my amazing experience at the age of 19 when I was lifted out of deep and dark despair and infused with indescribable joy and peace.

These two experiences confirmed to me that there was something outside this mortality. I could not deny the existence of some spiritual world even though I could not see, touch, or hear it within the context of my physical senses.  I began a quest to understand what I was supposed to do. I purchased and devoured hundreds of books containing the words of men. I sought the Lord in prayer and fasting for answers. These answers did not come quickly and easily. I came to realize that I was looking in the wrong place. I would not find my Lord through any other man, nor the words that are written by man. I would only find Him by reading the scriptures and applying them in my life.  I could only find Christ by coming unto Him.

I still struggle in my quest for eternal life, which is at the end of the strait and narrow path. I take solace in the words of Nephi when he said

O wretched man that I am!  Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.

Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time. (2 Nephi 4:17-23)

In spite of my sins and weaknesses, I have a full heart because of the bits of knowledge I have received. I do not yet know where my journey will take me. I am grateful for the opportunity to express the thoughts of my heart here and hope that I may have some sliver of influence on those who have walked a similar path.

To those who seek the truth, I can only offer my feeble example as a proposed course. Shed the words and works of man. Do not trust in the arm of flesh. Seek God with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Ask the simple questions.

What think ye?

I had the opportunity recently to hear Leigh Anne Touhy speak at a function recently. Her effort to rescue a young black man from the streets of Memphis was immortalized in the Michael Lewis book “The Blind Side” and a movie by the same name.

Leigh Anne saw a person walking down the street in shorts and no coat on a cold day in November. She turned the vehicle around and asked the young man if they could do anything to help him. He only wanted to be dropped off at the closest express bus stop. Later, Leigh Anne, not willing to be satisfied, went to the school where this young man, Michael Oher, had recently transferred. She was told repeatedly to drop her interest in the young boy as he was a lost cause.

You probably know the story – this lost cause, adopted by the Touhy family, played football at the University of Mississippi and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.

In her presentation, Leigh Anne also told the story of the father and son walking down the beach after a storm. The boy was busy throwing starfish that had been washed ashore back into the water. When his father asked the boy why he thought he could make a difference, the boy replied, tossing the starfish back into the water, “I made a difference to that starfish.”

starfish on beach

She also talked of her faith in God, relaying that we are not to be the judge of those in need. God will judge those who receive our help, and God will judge us for our help or non-help of others.

As she talked of this topic, I was reminded of the scripture in the sermon by King Benjamin regarding retaining a remission of one’s sins found in Mosiah, chapter 4:

16  And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

In this day, can we rightly assume that ‘the government’ will step in to help those who are in need of succor? With the great safety net provided to all who reside in our country’s borders, are there any truly needy?

17  Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

Did the person in need not try hard enough in school? Did they choose to be lazy? Were they not given the appropriate role models to understand how to be successful?

18  But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

No place in the kingdom of God if one does not help the needy? How much background information do we need before we should be willing to help?

19  For behold, are we not all beggars?  Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

What is really ours? We are born, we live, we pass away. We are not able to take any of our substance, our gold and silver and riches, with us when we move on.

20  And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins.  And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain?  Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

Does receiving a remission of our sins not bring joy into our lives? Does it ‘rewire’ our view of others? Being born again does fill our hearts with joy. It does change our view of our place in the world.

21  And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

Does becoming a son or daughter of God place us in a position of responsibility to help those around us who are in need?

22  And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

Does the beggar need to be in danger of perishing before we are obligated to help? How do we know when this is the case?

23  I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

Who, reading this, could not be considered ‘rich’ today when those considered poor have access to food stamps and free cell phones?

24  And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

25  And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

If one is poor relative to the things of the world and hates his neighbor who has more, they are equally condemned?

26  And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

27  And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.  And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

We are told in these verses that we are all beggars, that we are to share of our substance with those that are less fortunate without judgment. We cannot know what is in the heart of those people we see who are in need. As I pondered these things, my mind went back to those occasions when I was too busy to stop for a moment and provide financial help to those who are less fortunate. I asked myself if I would have taken the same steps as Leigh Anne Touhy and turned around to help a black youth on the streets of Memphis. I doubt I would have had the courage.

Rock Waterman, in his June post, http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2013/06/of-alms-and-offerings.html, hit the nail on the head. It is easy for many of us to make the assumption that we are covered because of our donations to the church. We give our tithing, fast offerings and other items by check each month and are absolved of any need to help? I believe that is not the case. We are, as instructed, in the passage above, to help those people in need that we encounter on a daily basis. We are to give of our substance to those people who are less fortunate. We are to do it without judgment

Leigh Anne told a story of her son at a gas station. The electronics at the pump were not working so all customers had to go inside to prepay. As her son, Collin, waited to pay, the man ahead of him gave the clerk a $5 bill. Questioning, in his mind, why someone would only ask for five dollars worth of gas, Collin reached forward and added a $20 bill to the man’s request.

Outside, the man came to Collin with tears in his eyes. He didn’t have enough money to pay for gas to get to work that week. Both the man and Collin went away from the event with joy in their hearts.

We are told in the scriptures that it is our obligation to help those in need. We cannot know the true circumstances of another person, only God does. I recall, years ago, going to catch a flight at O’Hare airport in Chicago. I came across a nicely dressed man who asked me for some change to make a telephone call (this is before the era of cell phones). I gave him several coins and went on my way. The next week, I saw the same man who made the same request. I challenged him on being there a week earlier and refused to give him any assistance.

I look back now on that experience. The man was not enhungered, he did not appear to be destitute, he was wearing nice clothes.  I judged him as being deceitful and did not give him of my substance. Is there an obligation on the part of the ‘poor’ to be honest? Was it judgmental of me to not give the man more money?

There is a lot of deceit in the world today. We see scams and viruses, derivatives and pyramid schemes. We see reports of the activity of greed swirling about us. There is a natural reaction to question the motives and real circumstances of anyone who approaches us. I can only hope to rely on the Spirit to guide me in these circumstances.

If we are to ‘retain a remission of our sins’ as promised by King Benjamin, we are required to give of our substance without questioning the motive of the poor. We are to feed the hungry, provide clothing to the naked and provide spiritual nourishment to those in need.  A giver and a receiver.

In the end, all my questions are moot. There is little room for self analysis. If we are to be about God’s work, we should be looking for ways, after the poor are clothed and fed, to seek to uplift them spiritually. To expand our vision beyond our little spot on earth is very challenging. There is much hunger and nakedness in the world at large, how are we to make a difference in this vast ocean of pain, misery, hunger, disease, malnutrition, and filth?

The physician we have chosen to use locally spends much of his time in places where people are in great need. He uses the income from his practice to participate in Doctors without Borders. He collects computers and has volunteers who help him prepare them for use in areas where he visits. He has adopted a school in Haiti that takes much of his time and energy. There are others that give of their time and talents to help those unfortunate enough to be born in the ‘wrong’ place.

Is doing good healthy? In a recent study conducted by scientists at UCLA and the University of North Carolina found that there were positive immune system affects from living a ‘purposeful’ life, while a hedonistic life style had an adverse affect at the genetic level. Here is a quote from BioscienceTechnology.com:

People who have high levels of what is known as eudaimonic well-being— the kind of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life (think Mother Teresa)— showed very favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells. They had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.

However, people who had relatively high levels of hedonic well-being— the type of happiness that comes from consummatory self-gratification (think most celebrities)— actually showed just the opposite. They had an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression.

Favorable gene expression equates to a positive health environment. So, charity is good for the immune system, as well as the soul.

What think ye?

Alma the younger, as we read in Mosiah, chapter 27, was ‘going about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church. Aided by the prayers of his father and others, Alma experienced the ‘mighty change.’ In Alma, chapter 36, he tells his son Helaman:

24  Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Alma took his charge to be bringing others to the same gate as he had passed through, ‘that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.’

This need to be born again. to experience the mighty change, to be baptized by fire and by the Holy Ghost is a charge that is laid upon each one of us as Alma tells us in Mosiah, chapter 27:

24  For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.

25  And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

26  And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

All of us are, by this scripture, to be born again as Alma was. We, all individually, or collectively are to shed our sins, and walk with God.

In describing what we should be doing once on the strait and narrow path, Nephi stated the following in Second Nephi, chapter 31:

20  Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

I believe that feasting upon the word of Christ is what we call today personal revelation. We are to seek knowledge and wisdom from the source of all knowledge. To reinforce this idea, I would point to the example of Lehi at the beginning of the Book of Mormon. We read in 1 Nephi, chapter 2, that ‘the Lord spake unto [Lehi] in a dream. Lehi was commanded to take his family into the wilderness and in verse 3, we find that Lehi was ‘obedient unto the word of the Lord.’ Lehi, in this instance, demonstrates that we can receive personal revelation in dreams. The word of the Lord comes to us in dreams, visions, and revelations.

I have no doubt that Lehi prepared for this revelation by mighty prayer as is recounted in the first chapter.

5  Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.

Prayer is the preparation for the receipt of revelation. If we do not ask, we shall not receive. We are to seek the word of Christ, just as Lehi and Alma have done.

Some ten years after Alma was born again, we find that he still thirsted after the knowledge and wisdom that the Spirit brings. He speaks here is his quest to understand these things:

45  And this is not all.  Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself?  Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true.  And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?

46  Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God.  Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself.  And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.

47  And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God.

Even with the great experience that Alma received, he was only at the beginning. He then applied himself to the acquisition of the knowledge and wisdom of God. The truth was made available to Alma through the Spirit of God as a result of many days of fasting and prayer. The spirit of revelation is knowledge given to us through the communion with this Spirit. The spirit of prophecy is the ability to gain the knowledge of the truth as recorded in the scriptures.

Should we not follow the example of Alma? Should we not be born again? Should we not crave, as he did, the truths available through the conduit of personal revelation?

Later, in Alma, chapter 40, this great man recounts another example of how we gain knowledge through revelation.

3  …  Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself.  But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know—that is concerning the resurrection.

Following this statement, Alma speaks of a mystery – that of the resurrection.  I have no doubt that Alma was prompted to share the knowledge he gained from seeking to know the mysteries of God. I believe this is an example of a mystery becoming a doctrine, in this case the doctrine of the resurrection. Should we not follow Alma’s example and seek to understand the mysteries of God? We find the following in Alma, chapter 12:

9  And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

10  And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

11  And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction.  Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.

If we will maintain a soft heart, we are promised here that we may receive knowledge of the mysteries of God in full. It is by diligent fasting and prayer that these things can be made available to us. The contrast is brought out in this scripture; we can choose to seek the mysteries of God and be brought into His kingdom or we can close off our minds and hearts to the mysteries of God and find ourselves in hell. What a choice… if anyone were to tell me that we should stay away from the mysteries, I would respond that such thinking is the path away from God.

We are promised that we will be filled with this knowledge. It is important to our salvation. It is critical that we strive to be born again and then seek to receive the mysteries of God. In what I consider to be one of the most meaningful scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants, we read of this promise:

5  For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.

6  Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.

7  And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.

8  Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations.

To those who fear and serve God in righteousness is given to opportunity to receive all the mysteries of God. We are given the same opportunity as Ether, Enoch, and other examples in the scriptures of those who reaped the benefits of seeking the knowledge of God. These great men were privileged to see the world from beginning to end. Nephi and Lehi also received this great revelation.

After Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received this revelation concerning the kingdoms of God, we read the following

114  But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion;

Again, we are presented with a mystery revealed. We are allowed to read of a portion of His word which can now be considered doctrine – a public statement of the knowledge of God imparted through revelation.

2  Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels?  And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?

3  Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.  Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

The words of Christ, received through personal revelation, through the spirit of revelation and the spirit of prophecy, open an avenue to us to receive all the mysteries of God. We are told that those who are not willing to seek the mysteries are not allowed into the kingdom of God. We are shown examples in the scriptures of great people  who have received personal revelation that has given them knowledge of things that were, that are, and that will be.

The gate to the strait and narrow, the mighty change, the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost gives us a ticket for an unbounded amount of knowledge and wisdom. The Lord delights in giving us these understandings. We should, individually and collectively, strive to gain all the knowledge and wisdom promised us, if we but seek it.

What think ye?

And it came to pass that he came unto me, and on this wise did he speak unto me, saying: Brother Jacob, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you; for I have heard and also know that thou goest about much, preaching that which ye call the gospel, or the doctrine of Christ. (Jacob 7:6)

For many years, I read this scripture as equating the gospel and doctrine of Christ, but as I pondered the question recently, I was led in a different direction. There were a couple of things that were of concern. First, these words were spoken by Sherem, a man who denied Christ. Should we be using the words of such a man to drive our thinking? Perhaps not.

Secondly, as I read the specific references to these two topics, the gospel of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of Christ, I came away with a different perspective. The gospel and doctrine are closely related but also different. One way to characterize the two is to consider that the gospel is the “what” of salvation while the doctrine adds the “how.”

We are told in Joseph Smith, History that the fulness of the gospel is contained in the words delivered to the Nephites by Jesus Christ.

He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang.  He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; (Joseph Smith, History 1:34)

As one reads of the Savior’s visit to the people of the Book of Mormon. I would suggest that the definition of the gospel is found therein. The following is from the twenty-seventh chapter of Third Nephi:

13  Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

14  And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

15  And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

16  And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

17  And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.

18  And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men.  And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.

19  And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

20  Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

21  Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;

If I were to summarize the gospel as presented in these words, I would suggest the following:

  • Christ came to draw all mankind to Him in order to be judged

  • Repentance and baptism followed by enduring to the end is necessary to be sanctified

  • We can have our sins washed away by faith, repentance and endurance. This is necessary if we are to participate in the kingdom of God.

  • It is through the reception of the Holy Ghost that we are sanctified

The fulness of the gospel, as defined by Christ, is to apply the atonement of Christ to our lives in order to abide the presence of God. We must exhibit faith, be baptized, and endure to the end to qualify for admittance to His presence.

There are three other places in the scriptures where the gospel is defined.

Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.

Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and remember that they shall have faith in me or they can in nowise be saved; (D&C 33:11-12)

Here we have the same formula, repentance, baptism and having our sins washed away.

And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom. (D&C 36:9)

The last specific reference to the gospel of Jesus Christ is found in section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants

40  And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—

41  That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;

42  That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;

The same theme is repeated here. It is through the application of the atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives that we are able to have our sins cleansed.

So, how does this line up with the doctrine of Christ? There are several places in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants that specifically refer to the doctrine of Christ. The first introduction is found in the words of Nephi beginning in chapter 31 of Second Nephi and continuing through the sixth verse of chapter 32. While it is long, I will quote it here:

2  Wherefore, the things which I have written sufficeth me, save it be a few words which I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ; wherefore, I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying.

3  For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men.  For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.

4  Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.

5  And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!

6  And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?

7  Know ye not that he was holy?  But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.

8  Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.

9  And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.

10  And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me.  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?

11  And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.

12  And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.

13  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.

14  But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.

15  And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful.  He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.

16  And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

17  Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter.  For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

18  And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

19  And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done?  Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

20  Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

21  And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.  And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end.  Amen.

 CHAPTER 32

1  AND now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way.  But, behold, why do ye ponder these things in your hearts?

2  Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels?  And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?

3  Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.  Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

4  Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.

5  For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.

6  Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh.  And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.

7  And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.

Here is how I would summarize these words:

  • Christ fulfilled all righteousness by being baptized by water and then having the Holy Ghost  descend upon him.

  • We are to follow the example of Christ and be baptised by water and by fire and the Holy Ghost

  • To follow Christ, we must keep the commandments of the Father – Repent and be baptized

  • We are to follow Christ with full purpose of heart, exhibit no hypocrisy or deception, repent and show a willingness to take upon the name of Christ through water baptism

  • We can then receive the Holy Ghost through the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost which will enable us to speak with the tongue of angels

  • After reaching this point where we can speak with the tongue of angels and then deny Christ, it will not be good.

  • We must endure to the end in order to be saved

  • The gate to the strait and narrow is repentance, baptism by water, receiving a remission of sins by the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost

  • We have followed the commandments by passing through this gate, now we must press forward with hope and love of God and all men.

  • We are to receive personal revelation through feasting on the word of Christ

  • We must endure to the end to have eternal life.

  • Chapter 31 contains the doctrine of Christ and the only and true doctrine of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost

  • Angels speak the words of Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost

  • By feasting on the words of Christ, we will be presented with all things that we should do.

In Third Nephi, chapter eleven, we have the further expansion of the doctrine of Christ. Nephi stated that there would be no other doctrine until Christ came in the flesh which is recorded here:

31  Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

32  And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

33  And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

34  And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

35  Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

36  And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

37  And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.

38  And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

39  Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

40  And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

41  Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.

Again to summarize the doctrine of Christ found here, I would suggest the following:

  • Salvation is available to those who repent, believe and are baptized

  • We must repent and be baptized and become as a little child

  • We should not expand the doctrine of Christ to contain anything else

In viewing the scripture references above, I would suggest that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the foundation and core of the doctrine of Christ. We are given the gospel and are told that we must follow the example of Jesus Christ. We are told what we must do once the gospel of Christ has sanctified us. We are told that we must continue to be humble and teachable, traits of a little child.  We are to strive to embrace the words of Christ and apply them in our lives. The doctrine of Christ explains how the gospel can be applied and how it can be the basis for our lives.

What think ye?

What is the purpose of the priesthood? As I pondered that question, my thoughts went back to the many times I sat in priesthood meeting or in a priesthood class and was taught that we are privileged to hold the power to act in the name of God. We have many stations in our organization today, deacons, priests, teachers as classes within the lower, or Aaronic, priesthood and elders, seventies, and high priests accounted in the higher, or Melchizedek, priesthood.

In Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we find this description of these two priesthoods:

18  The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—

19  To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.

20  The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments.

As cited here, a person holding the higher priesthood holds the “keys of all spiritual blessings of the church.” These spiritual blessings are associated with the knowledge which comes from receiving information relative to the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

In Alma, chapter 12, we are told that we are to seek after the mysteries of God:

9  And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

10  And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

Are these ‘many’ who are privileged to acquire knowledge of the mysteries of God fulfilling the directive of the Melchizedek priesthood? Should we not follow Alma’s direction as well as take advantage of the blessings associated with this priesthood?

The second spiritual blessing offered through the Melchizedek Priesthood is to ‘have the heavens opened to them.’ How many of us truly believe that we can have the heavens opened to us? That we could receive knowledge and wisdom directly from heaven? That we can receive visions and revelations from this spiritual blessing of the priesthood?

The next spiritual blessing comes from being able to associate with those who are of the church of the Firstborn. Speaking of those who would come forth in the first resurrection, Joseph Smith stated in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76:

51  They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—

52  That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;

53  And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.

54  They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.

55  They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—

56  They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;

57  And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.

I would suggest that the church of the Firstborn is made up of people who have been sanctified. Something of which we have had considerable discussion in this forum. Is this not one of the spiritual blessings of the priesthood? Are we not taught that we must be baptized by water and by the spirit to be washed and cleansed of our sins? The name of this blog, Just and True, is a reminder of this spiritual blessing offered to all who seek to receive the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t it make sense that those who have been blessed to receive the baptism of fire would seek to commune with others who have been given the same experience?

Finally we are told that the last spiritual blessing of the higher priesthood is to be able to commune with God and Jesus Christ. This promise is reinforced in the ninety-third section of the Doctrine and Covenants

1  VERILY, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;

It should be known to all that the spiritual blessings availed to those who are benefactors of the higher priesthood include the right and ability to converse with God. Are we prepared individually and collectively to have this occur? What we are offered here is the right and privilege to interact directly with heaven without any proscription by any priesthood leader.

The lesser or Aaronic priesthood hold keys also. The first key mentioned is relative to the ministering of angels. How many of us have sought to be taught the words of Christ? Do we individually or collectively have the faith to call down angels to minister and teach us?

The duty to administer the outward ordinances is the next blessing of the lesser priesthood. We are called by the scriptures to repent and be baptized as Mormon dictates in Mormon, chapter 7:

…if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior,

It is the duty of the lesser priesthood to make sure these outward ordinance are performed in accordance with  the ‘letter of the gospel.’ I would suggest that the phrasing here is to encourage that which is being taught to tightly concur with the gospel as is defined in the scriptures. Are we taught today based on the letter of the gospel? Do we hold tightly to what Christ defined as His gospel? Do we adhere with what has been clearly defined as faith,  repentance, and baptism?

What does it mean to ‘hold the keys’ as cited in Doctrine and Covenants, section 107? This should be a matter prayerful study for all who seek to understand the spiritual  blessings defined above. I would suggest that the answer is found in the scriptures. In one of the two chapters in the Book of Mormon that mentions ‘priesthood.’ we find the following from Alma, chapter 13:

6  And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—

While the entire chapter is certainly worth reading, I would want to focus on the definition of the ‘key’ as I understand it. The key is the knowledge that is to be given the seeker relative to how they may enter the rest of God. I would suggest that the priesthood key, in this case, represents knowledge to be shared. These high priests were selected only because they had themselves received of this blessing and had the ability to now communicate that path to others who sought the rest of God. These men held the keys to the spiritual blessings as described in Doctrine and Covenants, section 107.

What are we to make of these men who were called and ordained to this high priesthood?

10  Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;

11  Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.

12  Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.

It does not appear that these righteous individuals were called to preside and receive adoration of the masses. They were called to be servants and ministers of the people just as the disciples called from among the Nephites at the visitation of Christ.

1  AND it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

These twelve disciples were also given the keys of the spiritual blessings of the priesthood. They were to teach the gospel to those who sought the knowledge, they were to administer the outward ordinances in accordance to the letter of the gospel

8  And when they had ministered those same words which Jesus had spoken—nothing varying from the words which Jesus had spoken—behold, they knelt again and prayed to the Father in the name of Jesus.

These men understood that the key to bringing the multitude to the state of readiness for spiritual blessings was to teach them the words of Christ, and only those words.

11  And it came to pass that Nephi went down into the water and was baptized.

12  And he came up out of the water and began to baptize.  And he baptized all those whom Jesus had chosen.

13  And it came to pass when they were all baptized and had come up out of the water, the Holy Ghost did fall upon them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

14  And behold, they were encircled about as if it were by fire; and it came down from heaven, and the multitude did witness it, and did bear record; and angels did come down out of heaven and did minister unto them.

15  And it came to pass that while the angels were ministering unto the disciples, behold, Jesus came and stood in the midst and ministered unto them.

Here we have a representation of all the spiritual blessings of the priesthood. Thus we also see in these verses the purpose of the priesthood – to bring people to commune with heaven. Should it be any different in this day and age? Should we not expect and endeavor to acquire these spiritual blessings?

Finally, what manner of people should we see as the holders of these keys (knowledge)?

I would suggest that a concise reading of Doctrine and Covenants, section 121, would be appropriate

34  Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen.  And why are they not chosen?

35  Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

36  That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

Can a person have their hearts set upon the things of this world and be in a position to teach the appropriate knowledge of the spiritual blessings of the priesthood? I would suggest that this verse speaks otherwise. What are the things of this world that would qualify in leading them away from being able to exercise their priesthood?

37  That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

38  Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.

39  We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

40  Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

The moment a person succumbs to pride or ambition in the slightest degree; the moment that a person attempts to exercise any unrighteous control, or dominion or compulsion on others, the authority of that person is withdrawn. Is there any pride or ambition among the priesthood leadership? If so, they have no authority. Is there any who use their leadership to control and compel others? If so, they cannot exercise the true priesthood. Is this the situation with just a few, or is it the unenviable lot of almost all?

41  No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

42  By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

So these are the traits of those who have truly been ordained to the priesthood and can legitimately convey the keys to the spiritual blessings. They are long suffering, gentle, meek, and loving. They deliver the message of the letter of the gospel with kindness and pure knowledge. Such are those who truly called and chosen as we read from Alma, chapter 13:

11  Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.

12  Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.

I would suggest that the holy priesthood described in this chapter of Alma cannot be attained simply by reaching a certain age and having hands placed upon your head. To be called, and chosen, one must seek and receive that cleansing power of the baptism of fire and be sanctified. They are then called to provide the key to unlock this experience for those who seek communion with God. Having ones heart, even minimally, set upon the things of this world can invalidate one’s priesthood. Any attempt to coerce, compel, or dictate the path of another person will lead to the loss of the ability to exercise the priesthood.

May we all be able to recognize those who are called, ordained, and sanctified as ministers and servants to lead us into the rest of the Lord.

What think ye?