Archive for the ‘keys’ Category

As I pondered the messages of the October 2016 general conference, one talk that stood out to me given my current spiritual worldview was that given by M. Russell Ballard. I found that it spoke to a number of the issues with which believers struggle today. To start, I heartily agree with his plea to those whose faith is ‘faltering.’

Never abandon the great truths revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Never stop reading, pondering, and applying the doctrine of Christ contained in the Book of Mormon.

Never fail to give equal time to the Lord through honest attempts to understand what the Lord has revealed. As my dear friend and former colleague Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, “We should not assume … that just because something is unexplainable by us it is unexplainable.”

Not only should one study the ‘truths revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith,’ but should also seek to understand how those truths are held today by the church and the general administration. Are those truths prominent today in the discourse of the church or are they, as the doctrine of the Doctrine and Covenants (also known as the Lectures on Faith) been excised from the focus of the church and replaced by the traditions of men?

Is the doctrine of Christ as contained in the Book of Mormon truly central to the message of the modern day church? Is the necessity of the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost as prominent in church teachings today as it is in the ‘doctrine of Christ’ found in Second and Third Nephi? The doctrine of Christ presented by the Savior as He taught the Nephites after His resurrection included this warning:

…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.

Does the doctrine of Christ stand in clarity as the doctrine of the church of Jesus Christ or does it have elements of the traditions of men injected into it or the core components of salvation removed from it? One must study this out and seek the direction of the Spirit or answers.

Elder Ballard then proceeded to ask some important questions that each of us must answer, my response follows:

Where will you go to find others who share your belief in personal, loving Heavenly Parents, who teach us how to return to Their eternal presence?

Are there others outside the Church,  (some by their own choice and some who had no choice) who share a belief in a Father and Mother God? Are there those who literally believe that the doctrine of Christ and other important information found in the scriptures teach us explicitly how to return to their presence? I would offer an emphatic yes. While the church offers a socially supportive environment, it does not place personal salvation in the forefront. Rather, one is called upon to support the brethren, attend the temple, pay tithing and, is time is left, do your home teaching. None of these activities are specifically mentioned in the doctrine of Christ from the scriptures.

Where will you go to be taught about a Savior who is your best friend, who not only suffered for your sins but who also suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” so “that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities,” including, I believe, the infirmity of loss of faith?

The scriptures speak of our opportunity to know Christ at a personal level. The promise found in D&C 93 encourages us to enter His presence and receive of His comfort. Is the church placing itself as the gate for this privilege? The role of His church should be to help members to establish this relationship on their own efforts and not rely on an intermediary for any communion with Heaven.

Where will you go to learn more about Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness and peace, a plan that is filled with wondrous possibilities, teachings, and guidance for our mortal and eternal lives? Remember, the plan of salvation gives mortal life meaning, purpose, and direction.

Go to the scriptures, go to your Father in Heaven, seek to fulfill the promise of the doctrine of Christ found in chapter 32 of Second Nephi that after we have ‘entered in by the way,’ we have the ability to speak with the tongues of angels and be guided in all we do. No apostles or general conferences are necessary. The authority to baptize historically given to the church does not extend to all communications with God.

Where will you go to find a detailed and inspired Church organizational structure through which you are taught and supported by men and women who are deeply committed to serving the Lord by serving you and your family?

Where is the inspiration recorded that authorizes this Church organizational structure in the first place? Where does the Lord establish a salaried bureaucracy under His name? Which aspect of the three-fold mission of the church supports the billion plus dollar expenditure of sacred funds for the construction of an upscale mall? Where are we told to only seek instruction from these leaders? Where are we told allegiance to this organizational structure is a pre-requisite to other benefits, such as temple attendance? The traditions of men have taken precedence over the doctrine of Christ. His organization, as characterized in Third Nephi, is made up those who acted as ministers and servants, not as rock stars deserving of the highest of obeisance.

Where will you go to find living prophets and apostles, who are called by God to give you another resource for counsel, understanding, comfort, and inspiration for the challenges of our day?

Recorded in the Old Testament is a story of a gardener who was called as a prophet to preach repentance to the established religious organization. I am sure you recall his famous saying: ‘Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.’ Is it any different today? Should we expect prophets to appear preaching repentance to those who have erred. The secret that Amos carried was that nothing short of sincere repentance would suffice for those to whom he was sent; otherwise the Lord would withdraw His protection. Are there prophets, outside the establishment, among us today who are brought before us by the Lord to preach repentance? I would offer an emphatic YES!

Where will you go to find people who live by a prescribed set of values and standards that you share and want to pass along to your children and grandchildren?

What are these prescribed values and standards that we are encouraged to live by? Do you speak of the Word of Wisdom? Do you speak of white shirts and ties required to meet the community standard? Do these values and standards bring anything other than a feeling of exclusivity to the proponents? While the church may pride itself on teaching values, it is simply not pertinent to the doctrine of Christ. There are good people outside the church who have similar values and standards without the baggage.

And where will you go to experience the joy that comes through the saving ordinances and covenants of the temple?

Which covenants and ordinances of the temple are you referring to – the Joseph Smith version, the Brigham Young version, the pre-1990’s version or today’s version? Each carries with it differences in covenants. True joy comes from the same source as Alma received it. It comes from being born again. It comes from having our sins purged and our hearts changed. No temple is necessary for that profound and life changing experience.

Brothers and sisters, accepting and living the gospel of Christ can be challenging. It has always been thus, and it ever will be. Life can be like hikers ascending a steep and arduous trail. It is a natural and normal thing to occasionally pause on the path to catch our breath, to recalculate our bearings, and to reconsider our pace. Not everyone needs to pause on the path, but there is nothing wrong with doing so when your circumstances require. In fact, it can be a positive thing for those who take full advantage of the opportunity to refresh themselves with the living water of the gospel of Christ.

I would suggest that the church can be likened to a bus that will carry you part of the way on your journey. To climb that steep and arduous trail, one must put on their own shoes (faith) and tread the trail. No bus will take you up the steep incline. I would encourage all to pause on the path they are on. Seek the Lord in humble prayer and receive of His Spirit. There is no value in relying on an organization to save you. There is no value in completing the checklist. The Lord calls upon your heart to be changed. He invites you belong to His church by repenting and coming unto Him. No more, no less.

I join Elder Ballard in this component of his testimony:

I testify that there is “no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ… I further testify that the Lord “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … and all are alike unto God.”

What think ye?

As I contemplated the recent passing of both Elder Perry and Elder Packer, I was reminded of the council given to the leaders of the church regarding their function and purpose. That thought led me back to the scriptures, the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Doctrinal History of the Church.

Here is what the Doctrine and Covenants states regarding the officers of the Church:

22  Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.

23  The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.

24  And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.

25  The Seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.

26  And they form a quorum, equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles just named.

27  And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other— (D&C, section 107)

Do we today have three quorums that are equal in authority and power? Does the body of sanctioned officers known as the Seventy, represent, in their unanimity, an equal weight, in terms of their decision, to what comes from the First Presidency or the Twelve traveling apostles? Where is the revelation that changed this order of things?

Of course, it gets better:

37  The high council in Zion form a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the councils of the Twelve at the stakes of Zion.

Are the standing high councils in a stake today equal in authority to the Salt Lake based ‘general authorities?’

39  It is the duty of the Twelve, in all large branches of the church, to ordain evangelical ministers, as they shall be designated unto them by revelation—

So, the traveling High Council, the Twelve, here have the duty to manage the affairs of the branches? What about the organized stakes? Here is what is found in the history of the church within weeks of when section 107 was penned:

President Smith proposed the following question. What importance is there attached to the calling of the Twelve Apostles, different from the other callings or offices of the Church?

After the question was discussed by Councilors Patten, Young, Smith and M’Lelllin, President Joseph Smith, Jun., gave the following decision:

They are the Twelve Apostles, who are called to the office of the Traveling High Council, who are to preside over the churches of the Saints, among the Gentiles, where there is no presidency established; and they are to travel and preach among the Gentiles, until the Lord shall command them to go to the Jews. They are to hold the keys of this ministry, to unlock the door of the Kingdom of Heaven unto all nations, and to preach the Gospel to every creature. This is the power, authority, and virtue of their apostleship (TPJS, page 79, DHC 2:200, Feb. 27, 1835)

The second quote is also from TPJS entitled Items of Instruction to the Twelve and the Seventy Order of Councils:

President Joseph Smith stated that the Twelve will have no right to go into Zion, or any of the stakes, and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof, where there is a standing high council, but its is their duty to go abroad and regulate all matters relative to the different branches of the Church. When the Twelve are together, or a quorum of them, in any church, they will have authority to act independently, and make decisions, and those decisions will be valid. But where there is not a quorum, they will have to do business by the voice of the Church. No standing High Council has the authority to go into the churches abroad, and regulate the matters thereof, for this belongs to the Twelve. No standing High Council will ever be established only in Zion, or one of her stakes. When the Twelve pass a decision, it is in the name of the Church, therefore it is valid.

It is amazing to me how broad a change has been instituted in the Church (with a capital C) and the impact it has had on the churches (with a small c). What would the worship environment if this directive were carefully followed in the intervening years between 1835 and the present? If the standing High Council had jurisdiction over the organized stakes of Zion, there would be no central coordination and no uniform direction from Salt Lake City. The Twelve would be focused on the less developed areas of the spread of the gospel and would be helping the branches grow and strengthen. The stakes would be largely autonomous entities focused on the spiritual growth and well-being of the saints.

No official member of the Church has the authority to go into any branch thereof, and ordain any minister for the church, unless it is by the voice of that branch. No Elder has authority to go into any branch of the Church, and appoint meetings, or attempt to regulate the affairs of the Church, without the advice and consent of the presiding Elder of that branch.The Twelve and the Seventy have particularly to depend upon their ministry for their support, and that of their families; and they have a right, by virtue of their offices, to call upon the churches to assist them. (TPJS, page 74)

What kind of a world would it be if those in leadership positions within the Church were expected to be ‘ministers and servants’ as the Lord directed the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 12:1). The twelve apostles would have to rely on the branches for their financial support? Wow, I would think the line for applications would shorten considerably if this were the case. But, on the other hand, what humility would be spawned when those who serve in the highest of church callings were to rely on the branches for their physical needs?

So what am I to make of this? Obviously, the Church is directed by revelation. That any directive found in the scriptures can be overridden by the inspiration of the leaders of the church. I just thought that when such things were to occur, the changes were to be ratified by the body of the church. Surely, I must have missed the ratification vote for the Church Handbook of Instruction.

What think ye?

1 Hearken and listen to the voice of him who is from all eternity to all eternity, the Great I Am, even Jesus Christ

How long has it been since we were privileged to hear the voice of the Lord? I have heard  the refrain many times regarding the paucity of revelation in this generation. Rightly so, we should desire to have prophets in our midst giving us the mind and will of the Lord. Many times, however,  the words spoken by these messengers were calls to repent if scripture is any indication of the true calling of a prophet. Are we, as participants in the restoration that is now nearly 200 years old, of such caliber that we have no need for warnings and hard words? I think not.

On the other hand, should we not take the examples of prophetic voice in the scriptures as a pattern we should establish in our own lives and develop our own, our individual, conduit to heaven? Should we not cleave to the circumstance where our sons and our daughters shall prophesy, our old men shall dream dreams, our young men shall see visions? We should be looking for the fulfillment of this prophecy found in the second chapter of Joel.

The children of Israel, when confronted with the terrifying prospect of coming face to face with God opted rather to have Moses operate as an intermediary. In Exodus, chapter 19, we read of the Lord’s request that the people be sanctified in preparation to meeting their God face-to-face. Instead of preparing for this event, the people collectively chose another course. “And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (Exodus 20:19) Is today’s mantra of ‘follow the prophet’ any different? Are we, as the earlier children of Israel, comfortable with concept allowing our leaders to speak with God and listening to them? If so, we are going to face the same result as the people of Moses – we will be given the lesser law and will forfeit the opportunity to live with God in our midst.

There could also be those who fear the idea of individual revelation. What does one do when two or more receive contradictory ‘revelation?’ Does this not have the potential to breed chaos and confusion? There are examples in the scriptures of those who, like Hiram Page, claim they were the recipients of revelation.  The explanation was given that they were not tuned to the correct source. I have come to believe that we must find a way to reconcile divergent personal revelation to reach the point where we are of one mind and one heart – the definition of Zion.

We are not all on the same path and, therefore, are not likely to receive the same direction from the Lord. But how do we, as members of communities who are seeking to be equal in all things, reconcile the opportunity for individual inspiration with the need to collective agreement. We must become skilled at understanding the difference between individual and collective inspiration and apply it in our spiritual community.

2 The light and the life of the world; a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not;

3 The same which came in the meridian of time unto mine own, and mine own received me not;

4 But to as many as received me, gave I power to become my sons; and even so will I give unto as many as will receive me, power to become my sons.

In these verses, Christ speaks first of those who rejected His message. They did not comprehend the light contained in the message of the Savior. As a result, they did not accept the invitation to walk into the light preferring rather to remain in the comfort of their own manufactured darkness.  Is there a light attempting to be shown today? Having been there, I realize now how difficult it is to perceive the darkness within which we reside. We can easily convince ourselves that our favorite rituals, such as home teaching, temple attendance, paying tithing, and attending our meeting block, represent the light when it is the opposite. Such items, once they become rote, impede rather than impel our sanctification. I could do all these things and still be ‘in the dark.’ It is our challenge to break out of the ritual observance of our religion and seek to imbue ourselves with that light that is being offered.

I would suggest that, just as we find in the Book of Mormon, pride is the major contributor to the inability to see the light. I have come to recognize that the public relations campaign is a misdirected activity which only attempts to gratify our pride and to stoke our vain ambition, believing that the church will eventually ‘fill the whole earth.’ When we slide into the belief that the works of men have built the kingdom, we are in for an unpleasant surprise.

And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.

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. (3 Nephi 27:10-11)

It is pride that contributes to the idea that we can build the kingdom of God ourselves.

Those who receive the light are given the power to become His sons and daughters. I find the phrasing of keen interest. It was after the people of King Benjamin had received a remission of their sins through the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost and accepted the covenant of the Lord that they became the sons and daughters of God. (see Mosiah, chapter 5) Now back to section thirty nine.

5 And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me.

6 And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.

We either receive or reject the Lord by receiving or rejecting His gospel. As described in these verses, we must accept a gospel that requires us to repent, be baptized by water and by fire and the Holy Ghost. Clearly we must understand each of these components and apply them correctly in our lives. We must understand what we are doing that is incorrect or not conducive to the spirit and turn (repent) from these practices. We must demonstrate our willingness to be obedient to the commandments and seek a baptism that is acceptable to the Lord, and of great importance, we must develop a correct understanding of the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost and seek this sanctifying power directly from Him who is the administrator of this ordinance, even Jesus Christ. (3 Nephi 12:1)

7 And now, behold, I say unto you, my servant James, I have looked upon thy works and I know thee.

8 And verily I say unto thee, thine heart is now right before me at this time; and, behold, I have bestowed great blessings upon thy head;

9 Nevertheless, thou hast seen great sorrow, for thou hast rejected me many times because of pride and the cares of the world.

I often find myself in the same position as James Covel – realizing that I, also, have frequently ignored the promptings of the spirit and, instead, chose actions that gratified my pride or satisfied desires that are described by the world as acceptable, even necessary.

I can only hope that I can receive the assurance from the Lord that he finds my heart acceptable to Him. I long to be as stalwart was James Covel was at that particular time and be the recipient of the promise of a great blessing from the Lord. At the same time, I fear that I could fall victim to the same call to abandon my familiar and comfortable connections for the unknown, as did Mr. Covel, if I am not focused on the Lord.

10 But, behold, the days of thy deliverance are come, if thou wilt hearken to my voice, which saith unto thee: Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on my name, and you shall receive my Spirit, and a blessing so great as you never have known.

11 And if thou do this, I have prepared thee for a greater work. Thou shalt preach the fulness of my gospel, which I have sent forth in these last days, the covenant which I have sent forth to recover my people, which are of the house of Israel.

I believe that the charge to preach the ‘fulness of the gospel’ circumscribes the same message today as it did in 1831. In Joseph Smith – History, verse 34, we find that the fulness of the gospel is found in the narrative of  Christ’s visit to the Nephites as found in Third Nephi. Chapter twenty seven contains the definition of the gospel as it came from the mouth of the Lord. It is the means by which we can become Saints – sanctified by His blood and prepared to enter His presence.

12 And it shall come to pass that power shall rest upon thee; thou shalt have great faith, and I will be with thee and go before thy face.

13 Thou art called to labor in my vineyard, and to build up my church, and to bring forth Zion, that it may rejoice upon the hills and flourish.

We have the same charge today; to labor in His vineyard, build up His Church, and to bring forth His Zion. We will not be given power from on high unless this direction from the Lord is our agenda also. I am certain that building up His church has no reference to buildings and land. It has reference to what the Lord has defined as his church, they that repent and come unto Him. Zion can only be brought about  collectively when we have been prepared individually.

14 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, thou art not called to go into the eastern countries, but thou art called to go to the Ohio.

The message to James Covel was that he would not be called to the familiar lands of the east, rather, he was to go to the Ohio. We are not always called to serve where our own skills assessment would place us. We are on this journey to develop the talents and abilities needed to further the cause of the Lord.

Also, I am convinced that we must carry in our hearts that the greatest of all is the servant of all. Seeking position is counter to the message of the Savior.

15 And inasmuch as my people shall assemble themselves at the Ohio, I have kept in store a blessing such as is not known among the children of men, and it shall be poured forth upon their heads. And from thence men shall go forth into all nations.

16 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that the people in Ohio call upon me in much faith, thinking I will stay my hand in judgment upon the nations, but I cannot deny my word.

What is our Ohio? Where are we called to gather? The same is true today, if we are prepared, a blessing will be poured out upon our heads while the judgments of the Lord await those who cling to the world.

17 Wherefore lay to with your might and call faithful laborers into my vineyard, that it may be pruned for the last time.

18 And inasmuch as they do repent and receive the fulness of my gospel, and become sanctified, I will stay mine hand in judgment.

The fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ is critical to our salvation and sanctification. Those who repent and are cleansed of their sins, just as described in the Lord’s presentation of the gospel in 3 Nephi, chapter 27 have received the gospel and therefore, have received Christ. In my opinion, the gospel is the core of the message we have been given; the gospel is encompassed by the doctrine of Christ which in turn is surrounded by the mysteries of God. Could it be that each of these components expand as our knowledge and wisdom expands? Or is the gospel and doctrine of Christ delivered in its fulness and we are to expand in all directions and topics from the gospel and doctrine into the mysteries? One of what I consider choice examples of this idea is the description of a mystery that Alma gives to his son Corianton in Alma, chapter 40:3

Behold, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead.  But behold, my son, the resurrection is not yet.  Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself.  But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know—that is concerning the resurrection.

So… is the resurrection of the dead a component of the gospel or is it a mystery of God? I would suggest that Alma should be taken as a witness; he gives us all an example of a mystery that is now available to those who diligent seek them. Again, back to section 39:

19 Wherefore, go forth, crying with a loud voice, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand; crying: Hosanna! blessed be the name of the Most High God.

20 Go forth baptizing with water, preparing the way before my face for the time of my coming;

21 For the time is at hand; the day or the hour no man knoweth; but it surely shall come.

22 And he that receiveth these things receiveth me; and they shall be gathered unto me in time and in eternity.

I may be the stranger in a strange land but I truly believe that it is not correct to ‘reformulate’ the commandments of God into something that is palatable to our current worldview. We cannot simply state, for example, that the church welfare system is today’s equivalent of the law of consecration. It just doesn’t work that way. We who are awakened need to fulfill the commandment, here, now, to prepare the way for His coming.

The gathering of those who receive Him is still a commandment. I believe that this is a requirement both spiritually and temporally. As I have traveled around the fringes of Mormonism, there is a constant need expressed to come together with those who are like-minded; to have a community with which we can ‘commune.’ I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but I do know that the Lord is expecting his people to gather. There will be false starts, there will be attempts to develop a power structure. I can only say that those who wish to be a part of the eventual gathering must maintain a soft heart. We must learn that we are only there to serve others. We must learn to look past the human imperfections that plague us all. Zion will come as we embrace the fulness of the gospel and have, individually, had that change of heart that represents the gate to the strait and narrow path to eternal life.

23 And again, it shall come to pass that on as many as ye shall baptize with water, ye shall lay your hands, and they shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and shall be looking forth for the signs of my coming, and shall know me.

24 Behold, I come quickly. Even so. Amen.

I have been drawn to these verses several times this week as I pondered my weaknesses and contemplated the need to strip myself of pride and the cares of the world. It is so difficult to retrain my mind to act instead of allowing myself to be acted upon. I will continue to exert all the effort I can muster to prepare myself spiritually that my heart may be right before the Lord

We are, in these last verses, again presented with the promise that if we embrace the gospel of repentance, baptism by water, and baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost, we will come to know Christ. It is through that same path that we will come to understand and watch for the signs of His coming. That was the message that James Covel abandoned. That is the message that each of us must stitch into our hearts and support with all our might, mind and strength.

What think ye?

Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)

Who is this Amos? What do we make of the message of this man whose words we use as proof that a prophet is needed among the people of God? His story began as a simple shepherd from Tekoa during the time that Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam was king of Israel (Amos 1:1). When challenged by those who kept the temples, he simply stated that he was no prophet nor could he claim to be one by lineage until the Lord called him out of the fields while he tended his flock.

Then Amaziah the priest of Beth-el sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.

For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.

Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there:

But prophesy not again any more at Beth-el: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.

Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:

And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. (Amos 8:10-15)

As one could expect, the leadership, in the form of Amaziah the priest, told him to take his message elsewhere, that it wasn’t wanted or needed among Israel. But Amos did not acknowledge his request, rather he proceeded to relay the message that the Lord had given him to deliver. It was a message of warning, not just to the people of Israel, but also to their leadership.

Why is it that we, today, are willing to use a sound byte from Amos to support our misguided characterization of the voice that is held to speak for God but ignore the context and the message he was called to deliver? What is the secret that the Lord would share with His prophet Amos? Was it one regarding how to administer the organization that was called in his name? Was it a message on how to care for the flock? Was it an epistle on the doctrines to use in the government of His church? It was none of these; the message was a call to repent directed at both the leadership and the membership. A careful reading of the message of Amos would suggest that, rather than saying that the Lord would guide and direct his church through a prophet, the message was that He would not chastise His people until He would send a warning voice among them to call them back to Him. Perhaps another more modern interpretation of the often used quote from Amos would be:

Surely the Lord God will not destroy his church until He shares His plan with His prophets and commands them to warn the people.

The secret that Amos was deliver was that the Lord knew the sins of Israel and that he, Amos, was sent to call Israel to repentance. He was called to warn them of the consequences of their idolatrous pattern of living. Here are some elements of his message:

HEAR this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying,

You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. (Amos 3:1)

Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes;

That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name:

And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god. (Amos 2:6-8)

WOE to them that are at ease in Zion. (Amos 6:1}

Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them.

For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. (Amos 5:11-13)

The message was for the entire house of Israel. The Lord outlined the failings of the people; they were guilty of turning away the righteous and the poor. They did not hold sacred those things which were given by God. And finally, what is it the Lord wanted them to do:

Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.

Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5: 14-15)

What should we, as modern Israel, take as a learning from Amos? Should we not liken ourselves to ancient Israel and learn from their mistakes? Are we not warned, as they were, that we cannot assume all is well in Zion? Are we safe in assuming that God will not chastise us as he did to His previous chosen people?

The message of Amos 3:7 is clear to me. When correction is needed, God will call prophets and share His counsel with them. They will be called to preach repentance to those that, in their pride and arrogance, dismiss the warnings of the words of the prophets recorded in scripture. The prophets will call His people to repentance and warn them of the removal of God’s protection that will be their lot if they choose not to soften their heart.

Surely the Lord God will not leave us in the midst of ignoring His commandments without warning. When we see a prophet come among us that is not ‘called’ by the organization, that doesn’t have the required pedigree, that isn’t recognizable as a sanctioned authority, should we request that he take his message elsewhere as Amaziah did? What would Amos look like today? What would his message be? What are the consequences of ignoring his words of warning?

What think ye?

One can only assume that this week, somewhere in the halls and spacious offices of the Church Office Building, concerned voices echoed with the sound of anxious conversation subsequent to Denver Snuffer’s final lecture in Mesa this week. Well, he has gone and done it now. He is calling for a new church. He says that the Lord has wrested the last vestiges of the priesthood from the church and he is stirring up the saints to follow him into this egregious error he calls communities. He is telling these poor misguided followers that men can actually perform baptisms upon receiving permission from the WOMEN in the community as long as the man has also received authority directly from God. He reaffirmed his call to those who listened to him to hold their tithes and offerings and spend them on the poor, how dare he challenge our use of the sacred funds donated to the church?!!

He had the audacity of telling people to conduct the sacrament in their own homes regardless of whether they have sought permission from the bishop or not. He has finally showed his true colors and ego as he applied the Lord’s warning to himself that He would bless them that bless Denver and curse them that curse him. He has been divorced, we all know that God would not call such a damaged individual to speak for Him. He is just another Jim Harmston, you’ll see.

The fury of the orthodoxy was quickly manifest as these attacks were launched in the blogosphere against both the message and the messenger. Blog sites, such as Tim Malone’s Latter-day Commentary, were bombarded with naysayers spewing criticism of both the supposed inconsistencies of the message and the deviance of the man claiming to be on a mission from God.

Putting the anticipated cacophony aside, what did I hear as I sat in that Mesa hotel ballroom Tuesday morning? I heard more about how to become a Zion people than I have heard in twenty years of general conference platitudes. I heard words of compassion for the poor. I heard a man speak who demonstrated a strong interest in defending those who have been spiritually and socially abused by an organization claiming to represent the Lord Jesus Christ. I heard a call for transparency in the operation of God’s organization and a need to refocus on the core objectives of the restoration of the gospel.

As I pondered the events of this week, questions formed in my mind such as the one I have used as the title for this blog post:

How many malls do we need to construct to bring again Zion?

Billions of dollars have been spent on high end shopping malls in Salt Lake and now another project has begun in Philadelphia. Is it even conceivable that when the Lord returns, He will stop off a Burberrys to pick up an overcoat in case of inclement weather? How does this major economic effort driven by the church bring us closer to being a Zion community? What were you thinking???

How is it that the Church has drifted so far away from the original intention of the restoration that it is now shunning those people who yearn for Zion? As I see it, the purpose of the restoration was to prepare a people to live in the city of God. Instead of threatening those who still hold to that objective, why can’t the leadership recognize the shift that has occurred and find an accommodation? Are we not still under a commandment to both individually and collectively establish Zion?

I am reminded of an event recorded in the New Testament:

And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. (Mark 9:38-41)

Be it casting out devils or preaching preparation for Zion, can we not recognize ‘he that is not against’ the church mission is on our part? The cup of water that I received on September ninth was regenerative. It was pure and cool and satisfying. Even at the time of Christ, there were others who were blessed with the ability to cast out devils who were not linked to the disciples gathered to the Savior but used His name. The Lord’s reaction to John’s rebuke should tell us something about how those people should be treated today who are eager to apply the message of the Book of Mormon.

When Brigham Young attempted to establish the United Order as preparation for Zion, he met with failure. Perhaps his top-down approach contributed to the demise of the effort. Is there not room to try a ‘bottom-up’ approach to building a Zion people? That is what I see in the message of communities; let us organize ourselves. Let us prepare our hearts and practice the principles of a Zion community.

And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practise virtue and holiness before me. And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself. For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just? Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine. (D&C 38:24-27)

This is wise council at many levels. If I esteem my brother as myself, I give room for my brother to express his devotion, just as I expect him to honor my practice of worship.  How many of the sons and daughters of the church have been told to sit elsewhere? If we cannot figure out how to love and support one another, how can we possibly claim to be on the Lord’s side, to be one? If not, then we must separate to become one.

Excommunicating people, like Will Carter, for seeking to adhere to scripture and promoting the cause of Zion is a travesty. Forcing people, like Tim Malone, to choose between affiliation with the church and their allegiance to God is a damaging blow to the inspired model of the church of God.

Today we are not ‘one.’ Tomorrow, may we be one, that is my hope and prayer.

What think ye?

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

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

  • Who are the Gentiles?

  • What is the definition of the gospel?

  • What is the definition of the doctrine of Christ?

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

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

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

Who are the Gentiles?

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

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

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

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

What is the definition of the gospel?

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

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

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

What is  the definition of the doctrine of Christ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does it mean to be born again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What think ye?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What think ye?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

40  Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What think ye?

The strait and narrow path to eternal life has a gate. The scriptures attest that anyone who wishes to be found on that path must enter through this gate, which is “repentance and baptism by water; then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.”

Nephi asks the question: …after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? He answers his own question with the following found in 2 Nephi, chapter 31.

19  Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

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

As we journey on this strait and narrow path, we are told that we must feast upon the words of Christ and endure to the end, after which we are promised we shall have eternal life.

In the next chapter, Nephi continues to provide additional information until the spirit stops him. Where do we find the words of Christ?

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.

What a tremendous promise, after receiving the baptism of fire, we can speak with the tongue of angels. I believe this could mean that, after our entry onto the strait and narrow way, we are able to understand the language of the heavenly beings. The Holy Ghost has given us the power to communicate with angels. These same heavenly beings are able to provide us with the words of Christ. It is this personal revelation that will service as our personal ‘iron rod.’ leading us to our goal.

As stated above, one must have unshaken faith in Christ; one must press forward; one must endure to the end.

As I read and reread these words, my thoughts were redirected to the definition of the gospel of Jesus Christ found in 3 Nephi, chapter 27:

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

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

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

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

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

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

22  Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

In verse 16, Christ tells us that if we repent and are baptized, we shall be filled. I believe this is the reference to the baptism of fire that should be our first goal. Following reception of the Holy Ghost, when we are filled, we must now endure to the end; the message is consistent with what was described in the doctrine of Christ as expounded by Nephi.

What is at the ‘end?’ What is it that greets us if we endure? The fruits of this endurance, according to the gospel defined by Christ, is that we will be found guiltless at the last day. We are told that no unclean thing can be found in His kingdom. The only way to enter is to have our garments washed by the blood of Christ. The prize at the end of this path is sanctification.  We are sanctified by the Holy Ghost in order to be without sin. We have the atonement applied to our garments and are pronounced holy and without spot.

In Moses, chapter 6, we are told what we should be teaching our children:

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;

60  For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;

Before we can teach, we must learn for ourselves. We must be baptized of water, we must born again of the spirit, and finally we must  endure to the end and be cleansed by the blood of Christ.

Two gates are portrayed in this gospel, the first gate is the baptism of fire – justification, the second gate is the washing in the blood of Christ – sanctification.

But…. when is the end? Is it the end of our lives? Or is it when we have reached the point where we are fully immersed in the gospel? Is it when we have reached that point, because of our steadfast faith, where the Lord can say to us, as He did to Abraham in Genesis 18:19

For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment.

In Alma, chapter 13, we can read of men who were ordained to the priesthood.

8  Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end—

9  Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth.  And thus it is.  Amen.

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

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

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

13  And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.

These men were ordained high priests because of their exceeding faith and repentance. They were called and sanctified. Their garments were washed in the blood of Christ and were allowed to enter the ‘rest’ of God.

These men were not ordained as they passed from this life, rather they were ordained and received this sanctification in order to teach others how it must be done.

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

We are told here in this chapter that there were an ‘exceedingly great many’ who were offered this great privilege.

What is it that restrains us in this day? Where are these high priests who have been sanctified and are tasked with teaching us how we can also enjoy the rest of God and how we can have our garments ‘washed white through the blood of the Lamb?

Why are these words not taught to the people who call themselves saints?

Or was it taught but has been lost? I would posit that this ‘sanctification’ is also known by other names including having one’s ‘calling and election’ made sure.

In summary, the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is the gate by which we enter the strait and narrow path. This path allows us to open communications with the angels and, through steadfast faith and enduring to the end, we will be sanctified through the atonement of Christ. When we receive this second blessing, we are to teach others how to navigate to the rest of God.

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 Gentiles

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.