Archive for the ‘history’ Category
In the fifteenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus Christ is confronted by the scribes and Pharisees who asked him this question:
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.
7 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:
- Pay tithing
- Accept callings in the church
- Do your home and visiting teaching
- Attend your meetings
- 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?
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.
Who is the man that is referred to in the book of Ether as the ‘brother’ of Jared? As far as I can find, there is no other instance where a righteous leader was known in the scriptures only as the brother of someone.
We are first introduced to Jared and his extended family in the first chapter of Ether. We discover that the brother of Jared was a ‘large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord.’ But we also discover that he was not the one to see the need for revelation. From verse 34, in chapter one, we find that Jared repeatedly petitioned his brother to approach the Lord with a righteous request. First, it was that Jared and his brother, then his family, finally his friends not be confounded. In each case the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord and received an answer.
Then, Jared again, asked his brother to inquire of the Lord regarding where they should go. I would suggest that Jared was not a spiritual weakling as he had discerned that the Lord could allow them to travel to a land which is ‘choice above all the earth.’ Again, the Lord responded with directions on where the ‘Jaredites’ should go.
Right in the middle of the dialog, Moroni stops and addresses the Gentiles who will someday populate is land that is choice above all other lands as found in chapter 2, verses 11 and 12:
And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.
Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written.
Here we find another warning to the Gentiles that they will face the wrath of God if they do not serve God. But I digress…
Soon, the brother of Jared, even though he was characterized as a righteous man, exhibited a lack of judgment. This man was a one who had discussions on a regular basis with the Lord; even to the point where later, the Lord would refer to him one of great faith – “never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast…” Yet, for the space of four years, this man failed to call upon the Lord.
And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.
And the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done, and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him. And the Lord said unto him: I will forgive thee and thy brethren of their sins; but thou shalt not sin any more, for ye shall remember that my Spirit will not always strive with man; wherefore, if ye will sin until ye are fully ripe ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
Here the Lord forgives the whole clan of their sins and cautions them not to sin any more. As I pondered this dialog, the question arose in my mind as to the circumstances presented here. Was this the remission of sins applied to the group? Perhaps.
I also find it interesting here that until we ‘sin until [we] are fully ripe, we are not completely cut off from the presence of the Lord. Until we have lost all desire to seek God, there is still a chance for us to seek His face. I draw some comfort from this because of my wanderings. I do strongly desire to repent and come unto Him. I have come to marvel at the love and patience of God, and His willingness to chasten us – helping us to make the change toward the light.
Why was it not until Joseph Smith, through revelation, identified the brother of Jared as Mahonri Moriancumer (George Reynolds, May 1 1882, Juvenile Instructor) that we came to know the name of this righteous man? As I pondered this dilemma, I asked the question: What is it what we can learn about a man who didn’t even ‘allow’ his name to be used in connection with the revelations and miracles?
I believe we are to use this righteous example to gain a perspective on how humility can work to bring us great faith and exceeding great revelation and would suggest that the lack of the use of his own name in this record is an indication of his humility. Isn’t it an act of humility to not take credit for events in this written record such as those display through the brother of Jared? Humility was also exhibited by the people of King Benjamin at the time of their baptism of fire. Alma expressed his desire to be a “penitent and humble seeker of happiness.”
We are to be humble, teachable and dismiss pride, envy and all such selfish ventures. This is what brought the brother of Jared to the point where he received the marvelous vision of the entire history of the earth; something repeated to Lehi, Nephi, and Enoch. Something available to each of us is we meet the same criteria.
As the brother of Jared was preparing the barges, he presented the Lord with 16 stones. These stones were to provide light during the long voyage to the land choice above all other lands. In the process of lighting the stones, the Lord’s finger became visible to the brother of Jared and he fell, being struck with fear. Here is the Lord responding to the situation:
And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger… (Ether 3:9)
Here we come to understand that it was the faith of the brother of Jared that allowed him to see the finger of God. Moroni then provides some commentary on the story:
And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.
Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him. (Ether 3:19)
In the very instant of seeing the finger of the Lord, I believe we are being told in this snippit from Moroni that the brother of Jared’s faith turned to knowledge. Because of this knowledge, the brother of Jared was given to see much more:
For behold, the language which ye shall write I have confounded; wherefore I will cause in my own due time that these stones shall magnify to the eyes of men these things which ye shall write.
And when the Lord had said these words, he showed unto the brother of Jared all the inhabitants of the earth which had been, and also all that would be; and he withheld them not from his sight, even unto the ends of the earth.
For he had said unto him in times before, that if he would believe in him that he could show unto him all things—it should be shown unto him; therefore the Lord could not withhold anything from him, for he knew that the Lord could show him all things. (Ether 3:24-26)
This entire history of the earth, from beginning to end, and all the inhabitants thereof, was contained in the vision presented to the brother of Jared. He was then told to write the vision down but was forbidden from sharing it with his people. The information was made available to King Mosiah who translated the plates. subsequently, this information was lost, however, and is found in the sealed portion of the plates from which the Book of Mormon was derived. Moroni describes the situation in Ether, chapter 4, verses 4 and 5.
Behold, I have written upon these plates the very things which the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared.
Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them. And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord.
We are told here that ‘there were never greater things made manifest’ than what was seen by the brother of Jared. Moroni was commanded to seal them up for a later time (verses 6 and 7).
For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.
And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.
Moroni speaks of us in these verses. What must be done to receive the sealed portion of the plates? We must repent and become clean before the Lord. We must exercise the same faith that the brother of Jared demonstrated. And here, also we learn that we must become ‘sanctified’ in Christ.
How important is it for all of us to strive to be acceptable for these ‘greater things.’ Would this information not be of high value? Here again we are presented with the need to be sanctified. How important is it that we clearly understand what it means to be sanctified and what we must do to achieve this condition?
Not much is pronounced from the pulpit these days about the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon. It has not apparently passed muster in these days of correlation. What is it that we should be striving for? Are we simply to be good, to be helpful, and be honest? Or are we commanded to apply the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives, to be filled with the Holy Ghost and to be sanctified?
I believe the promise we find here is that the presence of a community of the sanctified will be necessary to draw upon the promise of the Lord to reveal the contents of the sealed portion, to behold those things given to the brother of Jared in vision.
What does it take for us to demonstrate the same profound faith as the brother of Jared portrayed? What must we do to repent and become clean before the Lord? I believe the answers to these questions are found among the pages on the Book of Mormon that contain a fulness of the gospel. It is contingent upon a broken heart and a contrite spirit. It is made available to those who seek a remission of their sins. It is granted unto those who have their garments washed in the blood of Christ.
But, what more? Does this virtual gathering represent a glimmer of hope that a group of the sanctified sufficient to receive the revelations of God hidden from the rest of the world may be possible? One can only hope…
In summary, the brother of Jared is held in the scriptures as a model of faith and humility. The recorded vision he was afforded will be made available to us when we can become sanctified.
What think ye?
In the header to chapter 16 of Third Nephi, we read that “In the latter days the gospel will go to the Gentiles and then to the house of Israel.” As the discussion around the characteristics of the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost has touched on the rejection of the gospel identified in this chapter, I would like to share what I came to understand from these words spoken to the Nephites by Jesus Christ.
After reviewing the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord turned the discussion to the Gentile in the latter day. They were to be the recipients of the restoration of the gospel and will be responsible for the carriage of these truths to the remnant as described starting in verse four
And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer.
And then will I gather them in from the four quarters of the earth; and then will I fulfil the covenant which the Father hath made unto all the people of the house of Israel.
These writings were indeed manifest unto the Gentiles through the Book of Mormon and then, through the Gentiles, the remnant of the seed of those in Jerusalem is to come to a knowledge of the Savior. The Lord then goes on the praise the Gentiles and chastise the those of the house of Israel
And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father.
Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them.
The Gentiles will be blessed to receive a testimony through the Holy Ghost. This witness is found most predominately among those connected to the restoration of the Gospel.
There are also those among the Gentiles who are unbelieving:
But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles—for notwithstanding they have come forth upon the face of this land, and have scattered my people who are of the house of Israel; and my people who are of the house of Israel have been cast out from among them, and have been trodden under feet by them;
The unbelieving were, as described here, involved in the scattering of the house of Israel. While there are many tangents to this conversation around the house of Israel, I would like to focus on the fact that the Lord here described two groups:
The Unbelieving of the Gentiles
As we see, the Gentiles were given a witness of the gospel through the Holy Ghost, the unbelieving of the Gentiles, obviously did not accept the gospel. I would suggest that the Lord was purposeful in how he described these two groups as He now informs us of the destiny of the Gentiles, in verse 10:
And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.
First, He did not specify the unbelieving of the Gentiles as the perpetrators, rather, He used the more general term that He applied to those who had received a witness through the Holy Ghost. It is the Gentiles collectively, I would suggest both the believing and the unbelieving that will commit these acts:
They will sin against my gospel
They will reject the fulness of my gospel
They will be lifted up in pride
They will be filled with all manner of evil acts
The Lord states that when, not if, the Gentiles do these things And reject the fulness of the gospel, He will remove the gospel from their midst.
What does it mean to reject the fulness of the gospel?
I have come to believe, based on my studies of the scriptures, that the fulness of the gospel is inherently linked to the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost which represents the entry point to the strait and narrow path to eternal life. I have recently referenced two definitions of the gospel found in the Doctrine and Covenants, first in Section 33, verses 11-13 and secondly in Section 39, verses 6. which clearly position the baptism of fire as core to the gospel that was restored to us.
As I see it, a plausible way for us to reject the fulness of the gospel is to reject the true meaning of the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.
I also have concern about what it may mean to have the fulness of the gospel taken from us. Could that mean that the ordinance of the second baptism could not be found among us? I think we are seeing the day when this is true for the general population of the church.
In verse 13 we read,
But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.
Here is the call for those who will listen. We must repent and return in order to be numbered with the people of God. To repent, we must understand how we have sinned. We must feel the remorse that comes from offending Him and seriously humble ourselves. One other veiled reference we should pay attention to is found in verse 15.
But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.
How this treading down will occur, I have not pursued. The aspect of this verse that is important for this discussion is the reference to ‘salt that hath lost its savor.’ Another reference to consider is found in D&C 101:39
When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men;
Salt that has lost its savor could be considered as a reference to those who have rejected the call of the gospel and have not covenanted with God as a result of the gospel message.
As a summary, we are the Gentiles who received the fulness of the gospel, among the gentiles are the ones who have received a testimony of the gospel by and through the Holy Ghost. It is crucial for us to clearly understand the true meaning of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and apply it in our lives.
As a final thought, we are told to ‘liken the scriptures’ unto ourselves. I would ask you to consider the following thoughts. The Book of Mormon estimates that this verse cataloged the events around 43 B.C in Helaman 3:25-26.
And so great was the prosperity of the church, and so many the blessings which were poured out upon the people, that even the high priests and the teachers were themselves astonished beyond measure.
And it came to pass that the work of the Lord did prosper unto the baptizing and uniting to the church of God, many souls, yea, even tens of thousands.
Yet it was only approximately thirteen years later when this was recorded Helaman 4:23-24.
And because of their iniquity the church had begun to dwindle; and they began to disbelieve in the spirit of prophecy and in the spirit of revelation; and the judgments of God did stare them in the face.
And they saw that they had become weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites, and that the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples—
How long does it take to move from astonishing growth to a having the spirit of the Lord withdrawn? If there is one central message to the dialogue of the Book of Mormon, it is that apostasy can occur in a short time. I believe it is fostered by an effort to become accepted of the world, to change the covenants to be more convenient, and by replacing the core principles of the gospel a set of items developed by man.
For this post, I have chosen to return to one of my favorite themes – the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. While I have, in the past, cited a number of examples from the scriptures and have provided a forum for testimonies of this sacred spiritual rebirth, I have not presented all the examples of this event from the scriptures. This post is a feeble attempt to identify additional scriptural evidence as to the consistent example of the second baptism as an event rather than a undescernable process. What better place to start than with the first man – Adam…
The baptism of Adam is not found in the Old Testament. To gain an understanding of the performance of the ordinance for Adam, one must go to the Pearl of Great Price.
After Adam and Eve were put out into the lone and dreary world, the Lord gave them commandments. They dutifully fulfilled the dictates of the Lord, they bore children, they offered the first of their flocks as a sacrifice.
6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
7 And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
8 Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
9 And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.
10 And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
The first man was called upon to repent. He was told to pray in the name of the Son of God. I have found two aspects of this scripture reference that are interesting but not necessarily pertinent to the topic at hand. First, the Holy Ghost, in bearing record, spoke as if they were Christ. I don’t think I have come across a similar representation. Second, I like the idea that Adam blessed God and was then filled. How often do we ‘turn the tables’ and bless our Father?
Adam received the Holy Ghost and bore record that all mankind may be redeemed through the sacrifice of the Son of God. The experience of Adam and the Holy Ghost is expanded in the later description of the preaching of Enoch.
When Enoch received his call to preach unto the people, he bore record of the word of God; he was commanded to teach the people to repent and be cleansed. Here is the quote from Moses, chapter 6:
57 Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge, who shall come in the meridian of time.
58 Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:
59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
We are to be born again of water and of the Spirit through the ordinance of baptism. The final piece is that we must be cleansed by the blood of Christ – this is how we are to be sanctified. This passage is consistent with the definition of the gospel found in 3 Nephi, chapter 27:
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;
In some marvelous and miraculous fashion, the reception of the Holy Ghost purges all the shame from our being. It cleanses us spiritually. I find it interesting that this scripture reference in Moses suggests that we must be sanctified in order to ‘enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.’ I find this consistent with the guidance given in 2 Nephi 32 regarding the baptism of fire being a prerequisite to speaking the words of angels.
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.
This is reinforced in the next verses again from Moses, chapter 6:
60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;
61 Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.
Once we have been sanctified, we have the opportunity to have the Comforter, the truth of all things to abide with us. We can have the mysteries of the kingdom brought to us. Was Adam unique in the receipt of these great gifts? Does he alone receive the record of heaven? Did he alone receive all power? I would suggest we each ponder these questions. I think, many times, we sell ourselves short by not comprehending what the Lord would give us if we humbled ourselves and asked.
We then read that Adam fulfilled this commandment:
64 And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.
65 And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.
66 And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever;
67 And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.
68 Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen.
Adam was carried into the water by the Spirit of the Lord to receive the first baptism. He then had the Spirit of God come upon him and was born of the Spirit – the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. One could suggest, based on the content of verse 67, that Adam was then a recipient of the priesthood after the order of the Son of God. This baptism of water and spirit was also a prerequisite to being called a son of God.
We may all become sons and daughters of God by following this example. One must be baptized by water, receive the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost and be sanctified.
After the people of King Benjamin received a remission of their sins by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, the desired to enter into the covenant with the Lord and received the same blessing as Adam from Mosiah, chapter 5:
5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.
6 And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant.
7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
We all have the right and the opportunity to become sanctified, to be presented with ‘great views of that which is to come,’ to prophesy as did Adam, to see the whole history of the world as was presented to Adam, to Enoch, to Lehi, and Nephi. It is through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit that we are able to become the sons and daughters of God.
The first man, Adam, provides an example to each of us that we must be born of water and of the spirit, we must be sanctified before we can gain entrance to his kingdom.
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. (2 Nephi 31)
The gospel as presented to Adam is consistent to the gospel presented to us in the Book of Mormon. It is the definition of the gate that we must enter to be on the strait and narrow path to eternal life. Adam provides that example and adds to the testament of the purpose of the gospel, to bring us back into the presence of the Father. That this path requires baptism, first by water, then by spirit.
One can choose to believe that this blessing of the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost is the imperceptible change which is the result of a life of service and sacrifice. Or, one could choose to seek that gift today and enjoy the fruits of the spirit throughout the rest of one’s life. Which one is would be the most fulfilling? Adam has given us an example of what we can receive if we prepare ourselves and seek this baptism of fire today. There are sufficient examples in the scriptures to warrant a test. Would God honor us with this necessary blessing if we humble ourselves, as did the people of King Benjamin, and ask for it?
What think ye?
It is such an ‘inspiring’ scene. The proud father walks up to the podium with his young son. He hoists him up to the microphone and whispers in the boy’s ear.
“I live my mother and father. I know the church is true. I know that Thomas Monson is a prophet just like Joseph Smith. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I am thankful for my family and for my friends. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
They return to their seats where the mother beams with joy at the strength demonstrated by her child. The words tend to change slightly, but the pattern persists for the meeting, interrupted periodically by a rambling travel monologue. As the testimonies shift from the youth to the mature members of the ward, more often than not, the testimony contains expressions of gratitude for the church, for the gospel, for the restoration, for the prophets and apostles and other leaders. The list is fairly short.
As the next Fast and Testimony meeting approaches next week, I turn my attention to the scriptural basis for the expression of our testimonies.
If you ask an evangelical Christian about testimony, you will often be told their story of how they became a Christian. This typically describes the events around their personal ‘coming to Jesus.’ For Mormons, it is somewhat different. The testimony becomes more of a series of statements that has been more or less validated by their experience in the church. In the earlier example, our youth are taught that it is appropriate to stand before the congregation and recite a series of ‘knows’ even though there may not yet be a basis for the ‘knowledge.’ What should our personal testimony reference? Should it be based on a standard set of catechisms regarding the church, the gospel and the leadership?
I turn to the scriptures for examples of testimonies. In these first examples, we find the person accused of serious crimes and are called to defend themselves. Paul has been taken by the Jews and was brought before the Roman king for an audience. Here is what we read in Acts, chapter 26:
1 THEN Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:
2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:
3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.
4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;
5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:
7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.
8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?
9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.
11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judæa, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.
22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:
23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.
24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.
25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.
26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.
27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.
In this lengthy quote, Paul describes his early worldview and his diligent efforts to rout the Christians, followed by his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. His mission was then to bring people to Christ so that they could receive a forgiveness of their sins and be sanctified. Is that not what we are called to do also? Are we not to bring people to Christ where they can be joined with those who have been sanctified? Join with the Saints?
What Paul presented to king Agrippa was the gospel. The path by which we can be sanctified and return to the presence of God. He preached of the resurrection of the dead, Christ being the first. This was the testimony of Paul.
Let’s consider Abnadi as another example of testimony. While the entire dialog between Abinadi and King Noah’s court is found in Mosiah, I will pick several excerpts.
1 AND now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—
3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—
4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.
5 And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.
6 And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he shall be led, yea, even as Isaiah said, as a sheep before the shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
7 Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.
8 And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—
9 Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice. (Mosiah 15)
8 But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.
9 He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.
10 Even this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption, and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God, to be judged of him according to their works whether they be good or whether they be evil—
11 If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them, which is damnation—
12 Having gone according to their own carnal wills and desires; having never called upon the Lord while the arms of mercy were extended towards them; for the arms of mercy were extended towards them, and they would not; they being warned of their iniquities and yet they would not depart from them; and they were commanded to repent and yet they would not repent.
13 And now, ought ye not to tremble and repent of your sins, and remember that only in and through Christ ye can be saved?
14 Therefore, if ye teach the law of Moses, also teach that it is a shadow of those things which are to come—
15 Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen. (Mosiah 16)
Abinadi also testified of the redemptive power of the gospel – that Christ would provide the means of salvation to those who seek Him. Yes, Abinadi was called to preach repentance to King Noah; he did it be expressing to these men his testimony of the gospel and of Jesus Christ. Should this be a model for our testimony? Are we to use our meeting time to praise ourselves and our fellow saints or are we to use our testimony to convict and recommit one another?
Another source for testimony comes from the Doctrine and Covenants, section 76.
22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.
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;
43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.
44 Wherefore, he saves all except them—they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment—
45 And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows;
46 Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof;
These testimonies were all focused on Christ, His atonement, and the salvation that is afforded each and every one of us if we seek Him. Should this be used as an example of what a testimony includes?
There is one more example I wish to include from Alma, chapter 31.
12 Now, when they had come into the land, behold, to their astonishment they found that the Zoramites had built synagogues, and that they did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord; and they did worship after a manner which Alma and his brethren had never beheld;
13 For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person.
14 Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying:
15 Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.
16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.
17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.
18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.
19 Now it came to pass that after Alma and his brethren and his sons had heard these prayers, they were astonished beyond all measure.
20 For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers.
21 Now the place was called by them Rameumptom, which, being interpreted, is the holy stand.
22 Now, from this stand they did offer up, every man, the selfsame prayer unto God, thanking their God that they were chosen of him, and that he did not lead them away after the tradition of their brethren, and that their hearts were not stolen away to believe in things to come, which they knew nothing about.
23 Now, after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner.
Here the Zoramites demonstrated what not to include in a testimony. As Alma notes, they thanked God that they were elected to be saved while all others would be damned. They thanked God that they were a chosen and holy people. Should we exercise care when we offer testimony that we don’t follow, even slightly, the pattern of the Zoramites? Should we take care that we don’t use our testimonies to express exceptionalism?
But that is not all, we find that the poor were cast out of the synagogues because of the coarseness of their dress. Have you ever wondered if the poor investigator felt out of place when they came to a church meeting? Do we unintentionally express exceptionalism by the way we dress? These poor among the Zoramites helped build the synagogues that they were not allowed to attend. Do we blindly bar the poor from our midst with our fine clothing and pomp?
I fear that we have come to align more closely with the Zoramites than we do with those who bear testimony of Christ and salvation.
To me, just as in a court of law, a testimony must be based on our own true experience. We are not called to testify about events that we know not of. We must search our hearts and souls to understand explicitly what we have that rises to the level of a testament. We should avoid using testimony time to express how blessed we are and how were are a chosen people. We should testify only of those things which we have truly experienced.
And what of my testimony?
I can testify that the Book of Mormon is scripture because the Spirit bore an unquestionable confirmation to my heart and my mind.
I can testify that the Holy Ghost is real and can cleanse us of our sins for I have felt of this healing and sanctifying power.
I can testify that God does speak to men and women for I have heard His voice.
I wish to write of the situation I see regarding the Lord’s vineyard in these last days.
33 … There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
46 But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.
After the triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem described in Matthew, chapter 21, Jesus proceeded to cleanse the temple. We then read that ‘the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.’ It is noted in the scriptures that the chief priests and the elders were ‘sore displeased’ and were likely relieved to see Him leave.
When He returned the next day. It was apparent to them that they had to do something about this upstart that had won the hearts of a considerable number of people. It was in this environment that the chief priests and elders challenged His authority. When they could not answer the question posed by Jesus regarding the authority of the baptism of John, He proceeded to relate two parables, the second of which is found above.
The leaders of the church in that day were offended that Christ would characterize them as self centered murderers. It is ironic that they were indeed conspiring to have the Romans deal with Him. In the above parable, those in charge of the Lord’s vineyard saw His property as their own. They had long maneuvered the organization into one that provided them a life of ease and splendor. One that brought them the praise and admiration of the people. The warning that Christ delivered in Luke 20 is supportive of this same chastisement:
46 Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;
A modern day representation of this warning would read something like this:
Beware of the general authorities, which desire to walk in their dark business suits, who love speaking at the openings of banks and shopping malls, who sit in the high red seats in front of the masses of the conference center.
What is the modern equivalent of this scripture found in Mosiah, chapter 11?
11 And the seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon while they should speak lying and vain words to his people
Unfortunately, the description of a broad expanse of seats raised above the crowd with a pulpit made from a tree which one graced the lot of a prophet. Should we be concerned that there are similarities between the past representations of apostasy within the church and our situation today? Are these chief priests and elders in our midst today following the same path that those of earlier dispensations fell into? Whatever happened to the humble model that Christ used in the selection of the twelve disciples from among the Nephites – ”these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants…”
Does a servant sit in the high seats? Does one who ministers receive privileged parking and limousines? What is there that makes us think we are immune to the same vices that have brought down the past dispensations? Are we, in this generation, incapable of losing our way but with clarity point to the same weaknesses that destroyed the church of God in the past?
Tucked in the back of the LDS Bible is a section entitled the Joseph Smith translation. Little used and rarely quoted, this work by Joseph Smith, under direction of the Lord, was to clarify the writings of the apostles in the meridian of time. One of the more interesting is found here:
JST, MATTHEW 21:47–56 (compare Matthew 21:45–46)
(Jesus declared that he is the chief cornerstone. The gospel is offered to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. The wicked shall be destroyed when Jesus returns.)
47. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
48. And they said among themselves, Shall this man think that he alone can spoil this great kingdom? And they were angry with him.
49. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they learned that the multitude took him for a prophet.
50. And now his disciples came to him, and Jesus said unto them, Marvel ye at the words of the parable which I spake unto them?
51. Verily, I say unto you, I am the stone, and those wicked ones reject me.
52. I am the head of the corner. These Jews shall fall upon me, and shall be broken.
53. And the kingdom of God shall be taken from them, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof; (meaning the Gentiles.)
54. Wherefore, on whomsoever this stone shall fall, it shall grind him to powder.
55. And when the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, he will destroy those miserable, wicked men, and will let again his vineyard unto other husbandmen, even in the last days, who shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
56. And then understood they the parable which he spake unto them, that the Gentiles should be destroyed also, when the Lord should descend out of heaven to reign in his vineyard, which is the earth and the inhabitants thereof.
The italicized verses, 48 and 50 through 56, above were added to the original text of Matthew 21. I recall many years ago reading this section and being puzzled by the references to the Jews and the Gentiles. Now it comes with more clarity. It is easy to see the events of history fitting into the description in the verses describing the Jews – that the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to the Gentiles. But what of the subsequent reference to those who will be ground to powder? In verse 55, we find that the Lord will, at His coming, destroy the next group of miserable, wicked husbandmen – the Gentiles. This component of the prophecy is to happen when Christ descends out of heaven to reign on earth. I have to assume that this is the description of the circumstances which will be found before His coming – the latter days perhaps?
In this Joseph Smith translation, we find that the same description of the leadership of the Jews version of God’s kingdom on earth in the meridian of time can be applied to the leadership of the Gentiles version of the kingdom of God on earth prior to the second coming – miserable, wicked men.
Ahh, but you say, these verses speak of the nasty Gentiles among whom we righteous must live. I ask who are the husbandmen of the Lord’s vineyard in these latter days? Who is to be tending the church in preparation for His second coming? These verses speak of those who are charged with nurturing the church, not the non-believer.
Wake up to the awful situation we find ourselves in these last days. We are heretofore warned that the Lord’s vineyard will be given to other husbandmen in the last days due to our misery and wickedness. The scriptures are replete with warnings again pride, against building our belief on the arm flesh, against revering man rather than God, against worshiping the works of our own hands.
Just as Christ healed the blind after He cleansed the temple, so too will He heal the ‘blind’ of this day who seek Him out and ask Him the difficult questions about our circumstances.
What think ye?
The recent announcement regarding the purchase of the area around Haun’s Mill by the LDS Church brought back memories of my visits to Jackson County and the surrounding area. I reflected on the past perspective of the lands in that area and the significance they once held to the members of the church.
The resolve that the members of the church would one day march back and claim the lands of the center stake of Zion seems to have all but faded away. It is no longer cache’ to speak of returning to Missouri as we are now told to stay where we are to build up the kingdom of God where we reside. But what of the Lord’s direction that we hold off ‘for a season’ the reclamation of this sacred land? Are we left with only a few outliers (you know who you are.) to yearn for Zion?
A number of years ago, our ward held a leadership meeting on a cool fall Saturday morning. It was quite a sacrifice for the dozen people who gathered in the Relief Society room for several hours of instruction. It was nearly Thanksgiving and everyone had a lot to do. I would ask you to visualize yourself sitting on those nice padded chairs preparing mentally for the mundane instruction of the importance of your calling to the salvation of those whom you serve.
After the opening song and prayer, the bishop stands up and announces that the wards in the stake received a letter from Salt Lake. He turns to the first counselor, hands him the letter, and asks him to read it. Under the standard letterhead is the following:
November 13, 1998
To the Stake Presidents and Bishops of Ohio:
Brethren, we want to express our sincere appreciation for the service that you have rendered in your callings. As President Hinckley indicated in a recent conference, we are enjoying an unprecedented time of acceptance and accomplishment in the Church. Your efforts have contributed to that success and will be instrumental in moving the Church forward.
One hundred and fifty-four years ago, the Church was not cast in the same light. Due to unrighteousness, the Saints had been expelled from Jackson County and conditions were difficult at best. In February 1834, Joseph Smith received a revelation from the Lord regarding the situation. Found in the 103rd section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord called for 500 men to “Gather … together unto the land of Zion” The purpose being the redemption of the centerpiece of Zion. On May 24, the group, which became known as Zion’s Camp left New Portage, Ohio for Independence, Missouri. They took with them money to purchase lands, and food and clothing to assist their destitute brethren. It was also the determination of the camp to help their exiled friends maintain their possessions when the governor of Missouri re-instated them upon their lands. But en route to Missouri the brethren did not live up to the requirement made of the camp. Some of them were disobedient, even rebellious, towards the Prophet, and the Lord was not well pleased with them. Because the Saints were not able to follow the commandments, the Lord called for Zion’s Camp to be disbanded.
In the 105th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord declared that Zion might have been redeemed by that time, had it not been for the transgressions of his Saints. They had not been obedient to the requirements made of them. They had withheld their means, and in their hearts had said concerning the Saints in Zion, “Where is their God? Behold he will deliver them in time of trouble, otherwise we will not go up unto Zion, and we will keep our moneys.” Besides these evidences of a want of faith, they lacked that unity required by the law of the celestial kingdom, and it is only through the observance of that law that Zion can be redeemed. The Lord, therefore, commanded the elders to wait a season for the redemption of Zion.
My dear brethren. That season is now upon us. The Lord has instructed us that, in fulfillment of this revelation, Zion’s Camp is to be called out from among the stakes of Zion. This vanguard company will travel to Independence, Missouri to restore Zion and prepare for the return of the Saints. We ask you to identify worthy Melchizedek priesthood holders who are willing to accept a call for a period of two to three years. These brethren will be called to establish communities in Jackson County and the surrounding areas. New Zion’s Camp will leave from New Portage, Ohio on February 24, 1999; the 166th anniversary of the revelation. We will provide more information shortly, but plans need to begin immediately.
Our hearts and prayers are with you as we embark on preparations for this monumental return to the lands set aside by the Lord as the center stake of his Kingdom.
…. G. B. Hinckley, T. S. Monson, J. E. Faust
With great emotion, the first counselor read the words and then looking across those who had gathered together that morning, handed the letter to the Bishop. An eerie silence settled in the room as all pondered the words that landed in their ears and pierced their hearts.
What would your thoughts be if you were present in this situation? Would you be ready in three short months to uproot your lives and begin a journey into an unknown and likely hostile environment? What would your family do? How could you afford to disappear from your entwined life to take on such an assignment? How would this ‘invasion’ be treated by those who live there now. What would the media think of this outlandish scheme?
As it turns out, the letter and its attendant gravity were just a test. There was no second call for Zion’s camp, no frantic soul searching needed in the face of a call to fulfill your covenants to the Lord.
This was only a test.. you can now return to your regularly scheduled programming…
What it did provide was a momentary dis-ease and fertile ground for a truly frank discussion of our ‘true’ commitment to the restoration. I would have to say that all involved in the meeting came away with a little less confidence in the material world with which we have wrapped ourselves. It provided each of us a chance to search our souls for the ‘true’ commitment to the covenants to which we agreed. It is easy to say we are willing to give all to God. It is another thing to be asked to follow through on that commitment.
We live in a material world and cling to material things. We work hard six days a week to provide ourselves and any who depend on us with, at least, the basics of life if not much more. On the seventh day, we work hard to fulfill our callings, visit our families, teach our children, and a host of other thing now used to measure our commitment to the gospel.
If the call came today to return to Zion would you be ready?
Now, take it to a more personal level. Are you ready to forsake the material and worldly influences that govern your life and give room for the establishment of a personal Zion. Are you ready to be sanctified and become the ‘pure in heart?’
We will likely not see a call to physically return to Zion tomorrow, but each of us, individually, are called upon to prepare our hearts for the community called Zion – the text, this time, being Alma, chapter 5.
What think ye?
The kids are all raised and out of the house now. They are in various stages of establishing their own families and gaining that wisdom that comes from life’s experience. We brought our children up in the church. Our Sundays found us in the embrace of the Saints. The kids were taught to dress nicely and to be quiet in Sacrament. They attended Primary and were taught to follow the prophet, pay tithing, and prepare for missions. They went to Young Men’s and Young Women’s to learn how to tie knots, to create service projects. With the help of diligent parents they got up early and regularly attended seminary where they were presented with the correlated message of the restored gospel – to be happy you must avoid sin and faithfully attend to all your church assignments. You must prepare to enter the temple where you will be taught the keys to salvation.
Our children were taught that the true church was restored through Joseph Smith and that the truthfulness continued unabated to this present day. That the leadership of the church were prophets, seers, and revelators. That they would guide the church just as Christ will do when He returns. They were encouraged to bear their testimonies that the church was true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and (current prophet) was called by God to lead his people today.
The programmed message was repeated until the kids could recite it on demand. They learned what answers were expected of them and regurgitated them as necessary to make it through the current lesson.
There were occasional spiritual/emotional events such as a visit to Adam-ondi-Ahman or the Youth Conference testimony meeting. These seemed to be orchestrated to be inspirational and to reinforce the messages they received in their courses from Primary to seminary.
But, looking back there was something missing; something fundamental to the spiritual wellbeing of my children. They learned all the correct answers but had never been challenged to assemble the questions and seek the answers on their own. They were never given the opportunity to develop their own spiritual drive; their teachers and parents did that for them.
Today, I regret using the church programming that directed the religious upbringing of my children. I feel I missed the mark. When I was teaching them to follow the prophet, I should have been encouraging them to seek out the Savior because no religion is perfect. When they were learning to pay their tithing, I should have been teaching them the hazards of relying on the works of men as recognition of God’s assent. Instead of injecting them with pride as the ‘one true church.’ I should have taught them that God will commune with the righteous seeker, regardless of their church affiliation. The message of priesthood keys should have been wrapped in the scripure warning that pride would invalidate any man’s priesthood. When they were instructed about the continuous line of apostles and prophets, they should have been learning that they can receive revelation; that they are just as worthy of dreams, visions, and revelations as any one else.
I never questioned the program when we were in the middle of it. I, perhaps, sensed that the church had taken responsibility for the spiritual training of my children and obviated my responsibility in the matter. My children were fed a pristine view of the church and a distorted definition of the gospel that did not withstand scrutiny.
As a result, the kids grew up in the church and then grew out of it. At the time, we were so busy ‘living the gospel’ through its attendant outward ordinances and rituals that we didn’t learn to live the gospel – the message to come unto Christ.
I have to wonder if there aren’t other parents and children who have experienced the same thing. The correlated message of the church having left them with a number of answers to the requisite questions but without the spiritual backbone needed to stand up a true child of God.
What think ye?
I wonder who I should call upon to substitute for me?
The question asked by President Monson in the Saturday morning session of General Conference caused me to ponder upon an answer. What are the markers that one should use to identify those that are called to lead the church of Christ? How do we recognize the true leader versus a ‘substitute?’ What guidance do we find in the scriptures that can assist in our understanding of this role in God’s dealing with man?
There are fifteen men who were sustained on the first day of conference as ‘prophets, seers, and revelators.’ These men, the first presidency and quorum of the twelve apostles, represent the highest leadership of the organization tasked with the care and nurturing of the restored gospel. What have we sustained them to do?
Prophet – “The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will. The message was usually prefaced with the works “Thus saith Jehovah.” (LDS Bible Dictionany) Should a prophet be expected to prophesy? Should we expect those who claim to wear the mantle of a prophet to ‘forthtell’ the events of the future based on our actions today?
Seer – One of the callings of a seer is to bring forth knowledge through the use of translaters. In Mosiah 8 we read:
13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.
14 And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God.
15 And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet.
16 And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.
17 But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.
18 Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.
A seer can know of things in the past, as well as the future. It is the greatest gift that God can bestow upon a human. A seer has all things revealed through them and knows secret and hidden things. Have the men who have been sustained to these positions within the Church demonstrated this greatest gift of God – the seership? Should we assume a man is a seer if he is misled by one offering them forged documents? Should we assume a man is a seer if he does not reveal the hidden things of the future?
There is no definition of revelator in the dictionary of our scriptures. A good example of a revelator is found in the Bible. Revelations was given to us through John the Revelator. Should revelations should be the product of a revelator? Should we expect to see the body of scripture expanded by this act?
What of a prophet that does not prophesy, a seer that does not ‘see,’ or a revelator that does not reveal? Are we not to measure a person by their fruits? Is it the expectation that these men deliver on their calling or simply be satisfied that if God needs to say something, these men are ready to provide the conduit?
What other markers of this calling can we find in the scriptures? When Jesus Christ ministered among the Nephites at the meridian of time, He taught the twelve disciples that, in order for the church to be His, it must exhibit certain criteria. Among these we find this direction in 3 Nephi, chapter 27:
10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.
12 For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you.
What are the works of the Father, what are the works of men, and what are the works of the devil? Perhaps it is easiest to deal with these in reverse order. The works of the devil could encompass war, bloodshed, anger, strife, and any other action that destroys human life, dignity, or the right to choose. I would suggest that unrighteous dominion is akin to the works of the devil in that it restricts our ability to exercise free agency.
I would suggest that the works of men are represented by the things we can acquire or build with our own hands. Certainly the construction of shopping malls fit in this category, but I would also add the construction of temples and other material structures. The works of men would also encompass the financial ‘kingdom.’ found among men. Are these church leaders relying on the works of men, including the building of temples, to fortify their ‘right and privilege’ as representatives of God? If so, we shall see them enjoy their works for a season and then see them hewn down.
And finally, what are the works of God? When Christ spoke the words quoted above, he was only speaking to the twelve disciples; not the general membership. After defining His gospel in 3 Nephi, chapter 27, He gave the twelve this direction:
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;
The twelve disciples were to do the same things that they saw Christ do. Not only did Christ minister and preach to the congregation at large, but he healed the sick, caused the lame to walk and the deaf to hear. He healed many of their afflictions as recorded in 3 Nephi, chapter 26:
15 And it came to pass that after he had ascended into heaven—the second time that he showed himself unto them, and had gone unto the Father, after having healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them, and had ascended unto the Father—
These works of God continued after Christ ascended into heaven. The twelve continued to bless the people with miracles as recorded in 4 Nephi:
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.