Archive for the ‘keys’ Category

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:16)

We are given, by virtue of the Book of Mormon, insight  into the meaning of this verse in the New Testament. Christ taught those at Jerusalem that they were not the only ones who were of the House of Israel. After the Savior finished teaching the Nephites that which He taught His followers in Jerusalem, He elaborated on the meaning of these ‘other sheep.’

But, verily, I say unto you that the Father hath commanded me, and I tell it unto you, that ye were separated from among them because of their iniquity; therefore it is because of their iniquity that they know not of you.

And verily, I say unto you again that the other tribes hath the Father separated from them; and it is because of their iniquity that they know not of them.

And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (3 Nephi 15:19-21)

It was because of the iniquity of those in Jerusalem that they were not told of these other tribes. The twelve disciples of the Savior were given the knowledge that there were others beyond them who were to receive a visit from Him.

AND verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister. (3 Nephi 16:1)

We learned that Christ was to visit these other sheep after His sojourn with the Nephites. That they, no doubt, would also record their experiences with the risen Lord. Is it because of our iniquity that we, ourselves, do not know of these other sheep? Have we not been told that we would receive these records if we were ready/righteous? Where are they?

Christ taught the Nephites that the record of this scattered people will be made available to the seed of others of the house of Israel, who were scattered,

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. (3 Nephi 16:4)

I would submit that we, today, could take advantage of this same promise: If we ask the Father, we will receive a knowledge, by the power of the Holy Ghost, of the existence of the progeny of those to whom the Lord spoke, as well as those others who were led away. We have not received this information collectively, but I would expect this could be received individually.

We also learn in this passage that it is through the Gentiles that the remnants of these scattered members of the House of Israel will receive this knowledge. This idea is reaffirmed in several places in the Book of Mormon.

And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive-tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.” ( 1 Nephi 10:14)

We also find this later in the same narrative in first Nephi.

And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed—

And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved. (1 Nephi 15:13-14)

The fulness of the Gentiles is noted in these passages. The Gentiles, the same ones who fought against the mother Gentiles to establish this land of freedom would receive the fulness of the gospel. The Book of Mormon was  “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile.” (Title Page) Of these three groups, to which do you belong?

I would suggest that most who read this should consider themselves Gentiles. This is the Gentile church, which received the gospel of the Messiah through the restoration. We are blessed with a knowledge of the fulness of the gospel.

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. (3 Nephi 16:6)

We, again, are blessed to receive a confirmation through the Holy Ghost of these things. Who else could the Lord be talking about? WE are the recipients of the fulness of the gospel as contained in the Book of Mormon; we are the ones who are promised that we can receive a testimony of these things in and through the Holy Ghost.

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. (3 Nephi 16:7)

In this latter day, are we the believing Gentiles or the unbelieving house of Israel?

For it shall come to pass, that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled; for I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel. (D&C 42:39)

Do you find yourselves among the rich Gentiles who have embraced the gospel or are you among the poor of the house of Israel?

In the dedication of the Kirtland temple, Joseph Smith characterized our situation in this way:

Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles. (D&C 109:60)

In the context of the Book of Mormon, and, as cited here in the Doctrine and Covenants, are we not these ‘believing Gentiles?’  Are we not these Gentiles who have received the fulness of the gospel through the Book of Mormon? Are we not the ones, as Gentiles,  who are supposed to take the message of the gospel to those who are of the house of Israel?

Now, returning to the Book of Mormon, we can read more regarding the Gentiles.

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; (3 Nephi 16:8)

How can we accept this reference to the ‘unbelieving of the Gentiles’ if we do not have the ‘believing of the Gentiles?’ It is here we find that those who did not believe in the restoration; those who did not receive a confirmation in and through the Holy Ghost are responsible for the scattering of the house of Israel in this land.

And because of the mercies of the Father unto the Gentiles, and also the judgments of the Father upon my people who are of the house of Israel, verily, verily, I say unto you, that after all this, and I have caused my people who are of the house of Israel to be smitten, and to be afflicted, and to be slain, and to be cast out from among them, and to become hated by them, and to become a hiss and a byword among them— (3 Nephi 16:9)

The events which transpired were to, one, stand as a blessing to the Gentiles, as they came to possess the land and , two, a judgment against those who were of the house of Israel who were smitten because of their unbelief.

But, what is to become of these Gentiles, both believing and unbelieving?

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. (3 Nephi 16:10)

The Gentiles, both believing and the unbelieving, are prophesied to sin against the gospel and reject the fulness of the gospel.

How does one ‘sin’ against the gospel? I would suggest that the sin comes from accepting membership in His church but not seeking to understand, and receive a confirmation on what is the gospel as defined in the scriptures. Could it be this same reason that we are still under condemnation?

And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—

Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.

And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written— (D&C 84:55-57)

What is the new covenant described here? I would suggest that it is none other than the covenant we make when we receive the gospel.

Verily I say unto you, blessed are you for receiving mine everlasting covenant, even the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have life and be made partakers of the glories which are to be revealed in the last days, as it was written by the prophets and apostles in days of old. (D&C 66:2)

Here the Lord equates the everlasting covenant with the fulness of the gospel. Participation in the glories that are to be revealed to us is contingent on the reception of this everlasting covenant which is the fulness of the gospel. We are told in the history of Joseph Smith that the fulness of the everlasting gospel and covenant is found in the words of the Savior to the Nephites ( Joseph Smith – History 1:34)

The Lord, Himself, defines this gospel in the 27th chapter of third Nephi. He came to draw all men unto Him. The last verses of this discussion are repeated here:

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.

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.

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.

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; (3 Nephi 27:18-21)

This covenant has us repenting and coming unto Christ. He, in turn, will sanctify us through the Holy Ghost.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we find the Lord rehearsing, again, the definition of His gospel:

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

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

Both these baptisms are essential to our salvation, as was conveyed to the Lamanites by Mormon.

And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and 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, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment. (Mormon 7:10)

It is through this baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost that we receive a remission of our sins (see 2 Ne. 31:17) and are sanctified. This is the everlasting covenant, even the fulness of the gospel. This is the two-way covenant that we are called to make in order to be numbered with his people.

Now let me return to the discussion of the verses in third Nephi. How will we, as Gentiles, reject the fulness of the gospel? I would suggest that by rejecting the true meaning and process associated with the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost as it pertains to the fulness of the gospel, we are rejecting the fulness of the gospel. If we reject the scriptural definition of this sanctification through baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, we are rejecting the fulness of the gospel. It is incumbent upon each of us the study and understand the meaning of the fulness of the gospel. The Book of Mormon was expressly delivered to us in this latter day so that we could be given the chance to receive this fulness.

In third Nephi, chapter 16, verse 10, we read that, not only will we, Gentiles, reject the fulness of the gospel, but that we will ‘be lifted up in the pride of [our] hearts above all other nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and deceits, and of mischief’s, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret combinations.’ This speaks to all Gentiles, but one must ask the question. Are we as the ‘believing’ of the Gentiles guilty of these same things?

Do we have pride? Do we practice lyings and mischief’s and hypocrisy? Do we practice priestcraft and whoredoms and secret combinations? This prophecy suggests that we do. If so, then the outcome is the loss of the fulness of the gospel; the Lord states that he will take it from among us.

Does that mean that we will lose the ability to receive a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? Is that true individually as well as collectively?

To avoid this situation, we must follow the Lord’s admonition found in this passage:

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.

And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father.

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.      (3 Nephi 16: 13-15)

We have an opportunity to return and repent. If we do so, we can be numbered with the house of Israel. How can we return if we were never there? If we choose not to repent, we will be treated as the salt that has lost its savor. This has direct connotation to the loss of the covenant and the gospel.

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;

They are called to be the savor of men; therefore, if that salt of the earth lose its savor, behold, it is thenceforth good for nothing only to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. (D&C 101:39-40)

The scriptures warn us against being complacent; we should not be at ease in Zion. The scriptures warn us that we are under condemnation; we should individually and collectively seek to remove this burden. The scriptures warn us that, because of our pride and practices, we are to lose the fulness of the gospel and its covenant. If we are to regain that which is lost, we must take these warnings to heart, repent and seek the Lord.

We must all cast off our sleepy rituals and awaken to the duty that must be ours. We must seek in the scriptures the true meaning of the fulness of the gospel. We must each be willing to approach the Father for the knowledge and confirmation of our path. We must, collectively, be willing to make the same covenants as did the people of King Benjamin.  We must prepare ourselves to be a Zion people, individually then collectively.

What think ye?

The kids are all raised and out of the house now. They are in various stages of establishing their own families and gaining that wisdom that comes from life’s experience. We brought our children up in the church. Our Sundays found us in the embrace of the Saints. The kids were taught to dress nicely and to be quiet in Sacrament. They attended Primary and were taught to follow the prophet, pay tithing, and prepare for missions. They went to Young Men’s and Young Women’s to learn how to tie knots, to create service projects. With the help of diligent parents they got up early and regularly attended seminary where they were presented with the correlated message of the restored gospel – to be happy you must avoid sin and faithfully attend to all your church assignments. You must prepare to enter the temple where you will be taught the keys to salvation.

Our children were taught that the true church was restored through Joseph Smith and that the truthfulness continued unabated to this present day. That the leadership of the church were prophets, seers, and revelators. That they would guide the church just as Christ will do when He returns. They were encouraged to bear their testimonies that the church was true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and (current prophet) was called by God to lead his people today.

The programmed message was repeated until the kids could recite it on demand. They learned what answers were expected of them and regurgitated them as necessary to make it through the current lesson.

There were occasional spiritual/emotional events such as a visit to Adam-ondi-Ahman or the Youth Conference testimony meeting. These seemed to be orchestrated to be inspirational and to reinforce the messages they received in their courses from Primary to seminary.

But, looking back there was something missing; something fundamental to the spiritual wellbeing of my children. They learned all the correct answers but had never been challenged to assemble the questions and seek the answers on their own. They were never given the opportunity to develop their own spiritual drive; their teachers and parents did that for them.

Today, I regret using the church programming that directed the religious upbringing of my children. I feel I missed the mark. When I was teaching them to follow the prophet, I should have been encouraging them to seek out the Savior because no religion is perfect. When they were learning to pay their tithing, I should have been teaching them  the hazards of relying on the works of men as recognition of God’s assent. Instead of injecting them with pride as the ‘one true church.’ I should have taught them that God will commune with the righteous seeker, regardless of their church affiliation. The message of priesthood keys should have been wrapped in the scripure warning that pride would invalidate any man’s priesthood. When they were instructed about the continuous line of apostles and prophets, they should have been learning that they can receive revelation; that they are just as worthy of dreams, visions, and revelations as any one else.

I never questioned the program when we were in the middle of it. I, perhaps, sensed that the church had taken responsibility for the spiritual training of my children and  obviated my responsibility in the matter. My children were fed a pristine view of the church and a distorted definition of the gospel that did not withstand scrutiny.

As a result, the kids grew up in the church and then grew out of it. At the time, we were so busy ‘living the gospel’ through its attendant outward ordinances and rituals  that we didn’t learn to live the gospel – the message to come unto Christ.

I have to wonder if there aren’t other parents and children who have experienced the same thing. The correlated message of the church having left them with a number of answers to the requisite questions but without the spiritual backbone needed to stand up a true child  of God.

What think ye?

In a regional multi-stake conference beamed in from Salt Lake City this month, Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke about his experience on board a cruise ship. He talked about the fine accommodations, food and entertainment available to the participants. However, one of the nightly shows was deemed to be too risqué, so he and his wife left the performance. He noted that this episode had relevance in the church experience. Just because one of the events on board the ship didn’t meet with their satisfaction, they didn’t jump off the boat. In a similar vein, he stated that just because something doesn’t go the way we expect in our church experience, we should not abandon the Mormon mother ship. His message to the listeners in this conference was repeated several times: Don’t get off the ship; it will take you to many venues and complete its journey.

I assume that message was prompted by the number of members who are leaving the church. Is this true for the 64 stakes involved in this regional conference or is this message going out to the broader church?

As I pondered his comments, I decided that the analogy of the ship and a cruise is relevant but I don’t think he took the idea far enough. A cruise will take you and its passengers to many destinations but will not be able to carry you to past the port. In other words, a cruise ship to Rome won’t get you to the Coliseum. To accomplish that objective, one must get off the ship and proceed on their own to the chosen venue.

In a similar manner, the church can only take you so far before you have to put on your walking shoes and move under your own power. Elder Eyring, later in the same conference, noted that no apostle, stake president, or bishop can save a person; this must be accomplished by the individual.

While the church can get us close to the destination and provide instructions on how to complete the journey, it does not have the power to carry each of us to the final objective. The fundamental purpose of the church is to teach us how to come unto Christ. It is not the end but a means to an end. We must each learn to ‘walk by faith’ and apply the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. No leader from the president of the church down to the local bishop can carry us to that final destination – our personal sanctification. We must accomplish this under our own power.

In the definition of the gospel given by Christ to the Nephites found in Third Nephi, chapter 27, we read:

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

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

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

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

If our ultimate goal is to ‘stand spotless’ before Christ, we are instructed to apply this gospel in our lives. We are told we must repent and come unto Christ. We are to be baptized and receive a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, which sanctifies us in preparation for the presence of our Redeemer.

The purpose of those who guide this church, I believe is found in D&C 19:

31  And 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.

32  Behold, this is a great and the last commandment which I shall give unto you concerning this matter; for this shall suffice for thy daily walk, even unto the end of thy life.

The more the leadership of the church tries to go beyond this simple admonition, the less effective they will be. Instead of telling us ‘Don’t get off the ship,’ the message should be ‘here are the things you need to know so that you can be prepared to leave the ship and finish your journey under your own power.’

Both Paul (Philippians 2:12) and Mormon (Mormon 9:27) told us that we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, or as I would suggest, a broken heart and a contrite spirit. The more that church correlation and programs detract from this objective, the less relevant the church becomes.

So… my message is simple. Use the church as a vehicle to bring you closer to your ultimate destination, but at the same time, prepare to leave the ship and move forward on your own.

What think ye?

Here are some thoughts from the Saturday afternoon session

Robert Cantwell

Every year as the financial report is given, I am reminded that for the first 100+ years of the church, the financial reports included detailed statements regarding the financial state of the organization. Then, I believe, it was in the early 50’s that stopped abruptly without any explanation. So why was it OK to provide detailed financial records then it was not Ok?

As Elder Cantwell noted, the report is based on Section 120, which reads:

“1  VERILY, thus saith the Lord, the time is now come, that it shall be disposed of by a council, composed of the First Presidency of my Church, and of the bishop and his council, and by my high council; and by mine own voice unto them, saith the Lord.  Even so.  Amen.”

The first presidency, presiding bishopric, and the council of the twelve is to determine the financial direction of the church, but this is also supposed to be by the voice of the Lord. I would dearly love to see the revelations associated with the Lord’s voice regarding the financial actions of His church.

When the church announces some big project, the statement is usually accompanied with the statement that no sacred funds were used for the project. Assuming that this means the funding was derived from the investments by the church not from tithing and donations, I must ask: How did the church originally acquire the assets which generated the funding? Many of the original investments appear to be the properties which were in the United Order. When that activity collapsed, the many enterprises from ZCMI, to banks to sugar beet farms were simply rolled into the wallet of the church. I would submit that those activities that generated funds were sacred then. Why not now? The idea that the church can bankroll everything from security to legal retainers to massive reconstruction of the downtown SLC area without the use of funds that are considered sacred is beyond me. I would suggest that a true perspective would be that ALL money held by the church is sacred. I would also submit that the church financial activities should not be hidden behind a veil of secrecy. It seems antithetical that a church claiming to be the church of Jesus Christ would be so embroiled in the art of mammon.

Boyd Packer

Elder Packer quoted from the 27th chapter of 3rd Nephi in reference to the Church of Christ as follows:

“4  And the Lord said unto them: Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing?

5  Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name?  For by this name shall ye be called at the last day;

6  And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.

7  Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.

8  And how be it my church save it be called in my name?  For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.”

The question that the above scripture leaves us with is what is the gospel necessary to validate the church? What is the gospel of Christ? Later in the chapter, Christ defines His gospel.  But first, let’s look at the rest of the criteria the Lord gives for an organization to carry His name. Again from chapter 27:

“9  Verily I say unto you, that ye are built upon my gospel; therefore ye shall call whatsoever things ye do call, in my name; therefore if ye call upon the Father, for the church, if it be in my name the Father will hear you;

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

11  But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.

12  For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you.”

Here are the conditions I would suggest are needed for Christ to accept the church:

  • The church must be called the church of Christ

  • It must adhere to the gospel of Christ

  • The works of the Father will be shown in the church

Two key questions: Does the church operate according to the gospel of Christ? Does it ‘show forth’ the works of God?

I would submit that we should accept the definition of the gospel of Christ, as found in the 27th chapter of Third Nephi. I would further submit that the gospel as taught by the church is significantly different from the treatment of this verse. Joseph Fielding Smith, for example, defined the gospel as all the true knowledge and wisdom ever received by man. We have many books that purport to contain gospel principles from the Word of Wisdom to the church service activities. What is the correct definition of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

If this is the Lord’s church, the works of the Father should be demonstrated. As I noted in my comments from the first session, the twelve disciples performed many miracles as a demonstration of the veracity of the Church. What about today?

Elder Packer admonished us who carry some burden, to forget it. Let it alone. Wouldn’t this same guidance be appropriate when considering the likes of the September 6?

Russel M Nelson

We do not need to let our fears displace our faith. Fear is the opposite of faith. Just as Peter discovered as he tried to walk on water.

We must keep all the commandments of God – what are those commandments? How do we know which commandments are of God and which are of man?

Priesthood holds the key to all the spiritual blessing of the church – but only if there is no unrighteous dominion.

Cecil O Samuelson

Quoted from his sermon: “A mighty change of heart often occurs gradually rather than instantaneously or globally.”

Can we find in the scriptures where the specific event associated with this ‘mighty change of heart’ occurred? The key examples are Alma the younger, Enos, and the people of King Benjamin. None of those could be considered examples of a gradual process. The might change of heart is achieved by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost – an event just as real and tangible as the associated baptism of water.

Dallin H. Oaks

Importance of desire

Desires -> priorities -> choices ->actions-> changing, achieving , becoming

Enos get what he wanted because of his desire, faith, and labors. And I would add that Enos is an example for all of us who desire to receive a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.

M. Russell Ballard

So busy looking for large nuggets that you are missing filing your pouch with these flecks which brought great wealth

According to Elder Ballard, the principle that encompasses the entirety of the gospel – is love.

Great commandment of the law – love God, second love they neighbor.

Love found in simple acts of kindness and service.

While the concept that love is central to the actions of true followers of Christ, I would again submit that redefining the gospel as love God and love your neighbor does not reconcile with the scriptures.

The hallmark of this blog is the reliance on the Book of Mormon to provide clear guidance and instruction as to the ‘fulness’ of the gospel. In Joseph Smith – History which contains the recitation of his encounter with Moroni, Joseph Smith said the following:

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

The fulness of the everlasting Gospel is contained in the words describing the visit of Jesus Christ to the Nephites. For many years, the first thought of this account was the recital of the Sermon on the Mount. I now have studied the significant doctrinal aspects of this section of Third Nephi and hold it to be critical in our understanding of the message of Jesus Christ in this dispensation.

If these pages do, indeed, contain the fulness of the gospel, what status should we assign to the words and ideas expressed? I would hope you would consider these as very important to each of us. In today’s blog entry, I would like to specifically deal with the Savior’s words on the Sacrament.

First, a little on the events that led up to this topic. After Christ delivered the equivalent of the Beatitudes to the Nephites, he instructed them to

go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again. (3 Nephi 17:3)

We should do the same thing; ponder and pray to understand these words and prepare our minds for the wisdom and knowledge that God will to us impart.

Before Christ left, he was ‘filled with compassion’ for those around him and asked that they bring their sick and afflicted to Him. Along with healing the sick, he blessed each and every child. These children were then ministered unto by angels. By this, Christ stated that His ‘joy was full.’

The two thousand five hundred men, women, and children that were present at this event experienced the change of heart associated with being born again. They were to be re-baptized and receive the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. They were instructed by Christ how they should conduct themselves and how the disciples were to administer the church in their midst.

I would submit that the principles and direction given by the Lord in this setting are timeless, just as the gospel is everlasting. We should continually measure ourselves against the fundamental precepts taught by Christ in this account.

As we read the description of events around the institution of the sacrament, ‘Jesus commanded his disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine.’ (3 Nephi 18:1) They then left to retrieve these items.

3  And when the Disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the Disciples and commanded that they should eat.

4  And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.

5  And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the Disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.

6  And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.

I think it is important to note that Christ, Himself, blessed and administered the bread to His Disciples. Christ gave the bread to the disciples and they ate until they were filled. There is something significant in this symbolic exercise. We are to come unto Christ and be filled. Does this same symbol apply to today’s postage stamp size chunk of Wonder Bread? Are we indeed filled by the current version of the sacrament or by the way knowledge and wisdom is dispensed by the Church?

In his book, The Heavens Resound, Milton Backman, noted the use of the sacrament in the School of the Prophets (page 265):

The students usually fasted during the day and broke their fast before leaving for home by partaking of the sacrament together, eating some bread (often freshly baked, about the size of a man’s fist according to Zebedee Coltrin), and drinking a glass of wine, in harmony with the pattern practiced by Jesus and his disciples.

When the sacrament was administered at this time, 1833, the pattern was according to the example of the Savior among the Nephites. Should not this practice be followed today?

Just as Christ taught the disciples in chapter 12, verse 1, they were chosen to minister and to serve those who attained membership of the Church. Christ also designated ONE of the disciples who would have the authority to administer the bread.  Who should administer the sacrament to the members of the Church?

In the twentieth section of the Doctrine and Covenants we find the following verses:

38  The duty of the elders, priests, teachers, deacons, and members of the church of Christ—An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize;

39  And to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons;

40 And to administer bread and wine—the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ—

46 The priest’s duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament,

49  And he is to take the lead of meetings when there is no elder present;

50 But when there is an elder present, he is only to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize,

58  But neither teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands;

It is my basic assumption that to administer the sacrament is to bless and provide the sacrament to those partaking of it. As is the case, the direction here is that the apostle is to administer the sacrament. In verse 46 we find the list of duties of a priest when there is no elder or apostle present.  In verse 50 we find the list of duties of a priest when an elder is present. Look at the difference between verses 46 and 50. As is shown in the verses selected above, the priest is to administer the sacrament ONLY when an elder or apostle is not present. Again, a priest is not to administer the sacrament when there is a senior priesthood holder.  It is also important to note that verse 58 prohibits teacher and deacons from participating in the administration of the sacrament. Why do we today allow a teacher or deacon to participate in the administration of the sacrament when they are expressly denied that ‘right’ in the above scripture? What possible value is there in disobeying the commandments of God in something so sacred as the administration of the sacrament?

Is this sufficient to qualify for the warning in Doctrine and Covenants, section 1?

15  For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;

Have we, over the decades since the restoration of the gospel, strayed from the original structure of the ordinances, such as the sacrament?

Returning to the administration of the sacrament by the Savior to the Nephites we find in 3 Nephi, chapter 18:

8  And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his Disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it.

9  And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.

10  And when the Disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.

11  And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me.  And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.

It is interesting to note that Christ, in His administration of the sacrament in this case, did not bless the wine independently of the bread, yet we have separate prayers recorded in Moroni for the bread and the wine. Should these two prayers be offered before the administration of the sacrament? –  Interesting alternative to the procedure of today. The Disciples drank of the wine until they were filled, just as they did with the bread. Is our tablespoon of water sufficient to ‘fill’ us?

This brings us to the issue of the use of water in the sacrament which is based on the revelation to Joseph Smith found in Doctrine and Covenants, section 27:

2  For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.

3  Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies;

4  Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.

This revelation seems to allow the use of other substances for the sacrament besides bread and wine. Joseph Smith was specifically told that Saints were to use only wine of their own make in the administration of the sacrament. More than two years later, this same pronouncement was reinforced in section 89 – The Word of Wisdom:

5  That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him

And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.

Yet, today, while we have sufficient means to produce wine of our own make, we are still using water as a substitute for the wine prescribed in the scriptures.

As Christ concluded His administration of the sacrament among the Nephites, He added this specific direction:

12  And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things.  And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.

13  But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.

We are commanded to do the things that Christ demonstrated among the Nephites. The Savior added the warning that if we should do more or less than what he showed us, we are building on a sandy foundation with the gates of hell in the offing. This is one on only a few places in the scriptures where we are warned to not add or take away from the topic. Have we modified the ordinance of the sacrament by changing what can be used as the emblems? Have we changed the administration by allowing priests, to administer the sacrament even when elders and apostles are present? Why are teachers and deacons involved in the administration of the sacrament even though this action is proscribed by the Doctrine and Covenants?

The sacrament, as defined by Christ, is an opportunity to demonstrate our willingness to follow His commandments (3 Nephi 18:10) What have we demonstrated by allowing these changes to be made with respect to this sacred ordinance? Are we, as a result, building on a sandy foundation?

What think ye?

I am a child of God,
And he has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.

I am a child of God,
And so my needs are great;
Help me to understand his words
Before it grows too late.

I am a child of God,
Rich blessings are in store;
If I but learn to do his will
I’ll live with him once more.

Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.

The Children’s Songbook, p. 2

Perhaps, like many of you, I grew up singing this song in Primary. It speaks of our need, as a child, to learn what must be done to return to live with God. The lyrics of this song paint a picture of a ‘child of God’ who is not acquainted with the steps needed to gain our salvation. One who must be taught the gospel and learn what must be done to return to God.

The scriptures, on the other hand, suggest that a ‘child of God’ is in a different place in the quest to return to God. In the first chapters of Mosiah, the people gathered to hear King Benjamin deliver the sermon he received from an angel. As he finished the delivery, the people fell to the earth and prayed that they could be forgiven of their sins.

2  And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth.  And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.

3  And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them. (Mosiah 4)

These people were blessed to receive a remission of their sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. The Spirit “wrought a mighty change” in them. They had been taught a critical lesson in the path to salvation and had accepted the invitation to move in the direction of God.

As they reveled in this new experience, they expressed a desire to enter into a covenant with God

5  And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.

6  And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant.

7  And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. (Mosiah 5)

As one can see in verse 7, it was because of the covenant into which they entered that they received the name of ‘children of Christ.’  These people went through a radical transformation, repenting and receiving a remission of their sins. They experienced the mighty change and were no longer disposed to do evil. This newfound spirit prompted them to covenant to follow the commandments of God for the rest of their days. It was not until after they had entered into this covenant that they were called ‘children of Christ.’

After Alma was cast out of the court of King Noah, he hid at the waters of Mormon and began to gather a willing group of people to re-establish the church of God. He presented these people with a similar request for commitment.

10  Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you? (Mosiah 18)

With this commitment, Helam and Alma, who received his authority from God, baptized each other in the waters of Mormon. As they came out of the water, they were ‘filled with the Spirit.’ He then baptized all those who had been willing to enter the covenant and they, too, were ‘filled with the grace of God.’

These instructions then followed:

19  And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets.

20  Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people.

21  And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.

22  And thus he commanded them to preach.  And thus they became the children of God.

(Mosiah 18)

These people were commanded to preach only faith and repentance. They were to live in unity and have no contention. By doing so, they could be called the children of God.

Being a child of God is not something, apparently, that comes automagically with our birth into this environment. This title, according to the scriptures, is conferred upon those who have been filled with the Spirit (baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost) and covenant to follow, explicitly, the commandments of God. They are to live in unity and not allow contention to reside in their midst.

So… are we preaching false doctrine when we encourage our children to sing this song? Is being ‘cutesy’ and ‘inspiring’ sufficient to disavow the scriptural definition of a ‘child of God?’

What think ye?

We shall soon again sit at the feet of the prophets, seers, and revelators to receive inspiration. According to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, the word inspiring means “having an animating or exalting effect.” I take this to mean we should feel good as we listen to the conference talks. We talk of being uplifted by the messages and stories. I have to say that in most cases, this is true. We are uplifted by the words of inspiration. The talks are well prepared and delivered with the seasoned experience of a master elocutionist.

The question lingers in my mind. Is this what we are supposed to gain from conference weekend? Are we simply spending the time to be elevated in our minds and commit to being a better person?

I want to draw a distinction between ‘inspiration’ and “prophecy and revelation.” When King Limhi sought Ammon’s advice on how to translate the record that his people found, Ammon expounded on this topic. We read in Mosiah, chapter 8:

16  And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.

17  But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.

18  Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.

I would suggest that a seer should be able to tell us what happened in the past, reveal hidden secrets in the present, and speak of the things in the future. Ammon concludes by telling us that it is through revelation that man can benefit others.

Have we, as a church, traded revelation for inspiration? Do we choose to hear things that make us feel good as opposed to the things that are true yesterday, today, and tomorrow?

Regarding the children of Israel, Isaiah has weighed in on the matter in chapter 30:

9  That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:

10  Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:

Are we in danger of having the same pronouncement placed upon us? Do we, as a people, choose to avoid the mysteries in favor of hearing what wonderful condition the church is in? Do our leaders fill the lack of revelation with smooth things that are simply inspiring?

Next week, keep a tally of these things:

  • What was delivered that can be defined as prophecy?

  • What was delivered that can be defined as a vision?

  • What did we hear that can be defined as revelation?

  • What words did we receive that can be considered inspiring or uplifting?

  • How many times are we called to repentance and for what reason?

As I see it, we are either moving in the right direction or not. Are we closer to having the sealed portion (for real) delivered for translation? Are we closer to living the law of consecration? Are we moving toward a Zion community?

Are we choosing inspiration or revelation?

What think ye?

The Confession by Pietro Longhi

The Confession by Pietro Longhi

In this painting by Pietro Longhi, we see the penitent waiting patiently for a turn at the confessional. Confession is a component in our spiritual development and is the topic of my random thoughts in this post. Perhaps a good place to start is the Church Handbook of Instruction, the authoritative guide  to church management:


Two types of confession are identified here. We are to confess our sins to the Lord. The second, reserved for more serious sin, is confession to their presiding church leader. In my study of the scriptures, however, I came upon a third version of confession – confessing our sins to each other or to the church.

Here are some of the scriptures in support these three confessional choices:

Confession to the Lord

From Romans, chapter 14:

11  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

12  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

From Alma, chapter 17

4  And they had been teaching the word of God for the space of fourteen years among the Lamanites, having had much success in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, by the power of their words many were brought before the altar of God, to call on his name and confess their sins before him.

From Doctrine and Covenants, section 64:

7  Nevertheless, he has sinned; but verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before me and ask forgiveness, who have not sinned unto death.

We receive, through the blood of Jesus Christ, a cleansing and sanctification that we cannot do for ourselves. No matter how we try to live and no matter how much good we do in the world, it will not wash away our sinly stains. Confessing our errors to the Lord can bring a peace to the heart. The prompting can also help us understand what we can do to protect us from further attacks.

Confession to an ecclesiastical leader

From Helaman, chapter 16

1  AND now, it came to pass that there were many who heard the words of Samuel, the Lamanite, which he spake upon the walls of the city.  And as many as believed on his word went forth and sought for Nephi; and when they had come forth and found him they confessed unto him their sins and denied not, desiring that they might be baptized unto the Lord.

From Doctrine and Covenants, section 42

88  And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled.

89  And if he or she confess not thou shalt deliver him or her up unto the church, not to the members, but to the elders.  And it shall be done in a meeting, and that not before the world.

90  And if thy brother or sister offend many, he or she shall be chastened before many.

91  And if any one offend openly, he or she shall be rebuked openly, that he or she may be ashamed.  And if he or she confess not, he or she shall be delivered up unto the law of God.

92  If any shall offend in secret, he or she shall be rebuked in secret, that he or she may have opportunity to confess in secret to him or her whom he or she has offended, and to God, that the church may not speak reproachfully of him or her.

93  And thus shall ye conduct in all things.

I couldn’t find a good scripture supporting confession to a leader in the New Testament but one probably exists. We are told to first take our offense to the person that was involved. If there is not penitence, the complaint should be taken to the elders (that should spice up quorum meetings). This is done to apparently avoid embarrassment on the part of the parties involved which seems to run counter to the need for humility and a broken heart.

It is interesting to read in verse 90 regarding what audience is involved in the chastening. A crime against the community should be dealt with in front of the community. While this may take place in the community at large, it doesn’t seem to be the process within the church. When was the last time you heard someone chastised from the pulpit? I guess we are now much more socially correct than in the past.

Confession to the members

From James, chapter 5

16  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

From Moroni, chapter 6

2  Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.

From Doctrine and Covenants, section 59:

12  But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.

This last option of confession to others seems to have lost favor within church today. As is stated in Moroni, chapter 6 above, there is an expectation of new members to witness before the church regarding their repentance. This practice has not been implemented in the church today. Perhaps this is too much of a shock to the system for new members, especially when one is more concerned with the numbers rather than the salvation of the individual.

We, as James indicates, should confess our weaknesses to each other. This idea seems somewhat contrary to the direction given in D&C, section 42, where we are to deal with offenses in secret so that the person involved does not suffer from the scorn of the other members.

Confessing our faults one to another can be a real blow to the ego. One who comes forward with a broken heart and a contrite spirit would likely be humble enough to be willing to witness to their fellow saints of their repentance.

Confession is good for the soul. It gives us the opportunity to lighten the burden that sins bring. Christ has offered to make our burdens light if we but give them to Him. I believe we, in our confessions to the Lord, can achieve that soul cleansing benefit.

When we have dealt wrongly with our friends or neighbors, we should expect to be confronted and use the opportunity to seek forgiveness. Some day, I would expect the confessions to be shared among ourselves as we strive to establish that which was lost – Zion.

What think ye?

If you look around in a typical LDS ward, you will see people who are striving to do the right thing. We come to church in right attire, men in white shirts and suits, women in modest dresses. We present the right image of being clean and pure. On occasion, we talk of repentance as a necessity, but something done in private away from the prying eyes of our fellow saints who distain evil and vice. We speak of shunning sin as though we have accomplished the feat. But how accurate is the public image we have chosen to present?

Aren’t we all broken? Do we not all have sin and evil in our lives? Not all of us wear the odor of our addiction on our clothes as smokers do. But what if this was the case? What would our environment be like if the addiction to pornography, or to drugs, or even to material possessions and worldliness generated an odor that could be sensed by those around us? What would our church be like?

What would the recognition of the fact that we “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) do to our religious community?

In Ether 12:27 we read that we, all, have weakness:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

The Lord tells us that we are given weaknesses, the inability to withstand all sin and temptation, in order for us to be humble. In my opinion, pride is the antithesis of humility. Humble is not having anything hidden. Humility is not doing anything that we place ourselves above another.

Nephi demonstrated this openness when he told us in 2 Nephi, chapter 4:

17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

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

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

What would our reaction be if one of our leaders today were to make a similar statement?

Pride means we must project and protect our image; whether it is a fine home, an SUV or a lifestyle. Self righteousness is a blatant form of pride. We can easily fall into a mode where we become proud of our circumstances or accomplishments and look with distain upon others who are not at the same ‘level.’ Christ referred to people who wear an external appearance of good but were rotten inside as ‘whited sepulchres”

We read in D&C 121 what impact this has on one who holds the 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.

A priesthood holder can lose his priesthood authority by covering his sins. Does this mean that any attempt to keep our sins secret negates our priesthood? Is this why Nephi was so candid? How many truly hold priesthood authority if the simple act of sinning and hiding the fact disconnects them from the priesthood?

This type of candid self assessment by anyone in the church is almost shocking. What if the Lord expected us to be this open to those of our religious community?

In Moroni 6:2 we read:

Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.

How many of our new members have stood before the church and witnessed that they have repented of all their sins before they were baptized? Moroni states this as a prerequisite to baptism. What would the atmosphere be like if we all witnessed unto the church of our degree of sinliness? I will let you go first…

After King Benjamin delivered his sermon at the temple, the people had this reaction found in Mosiah, chapter 4:

1 AND now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.

2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.

How much of our own pride would we need to dismantle before we would see ourselves as ‘less than the dust of the earth?’

The people of King Benjamin were blessed with the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost and were sanctified because they reached this state.

3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.

These people received a remission of their sins as a group of the followers of Christ. They had the burden of sin removed from them and had received great joy. They did it as a collective membership of the church. What would it take to have this same experience among us today? Would we be willing as a ward to lay ourselves open to all, to be stripped of all pride and view ourselves as nothing? The prize would be to truly receive a remission of our sins.

This is the same result as defined by Moroni regarding the prerequisites to church membership.

4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.

As we read here, it was not until AFTER the person had been baptized by water and cleansed and sanctified by the power of the Holy Ghost that they were admitted into the membership of the church.

This is the same result as the people of King Benjamin. They also were cleansed of all sins. I believe this is significantly different from coming out of the waters of baptism and immediately having a confirmation where we are told to receive the Holy Ghost. This simple act does not garner a remission of sins. It is not until we have had the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost that we can be truly clean, that we can be truly sanctified.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that if we desire to have membership in his spiritual church (as opposed to the corporate church) and administer with true priesthood authority, we must be willing to bear our souls. We must be willing to leave no sins hidden. We must strip ourselves of all pride and ambition in any degree of unrighteousness in order to be cleansed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

Are we individually and collectively willing to truly approach God with a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit,’ to bear our souls as an open book, and seek to be cleansed by the Holy Ghost as required in Moroni 6?

What think ye?

I would like to spend some time on the expectations the Lord has put upon those who are called lead His church. By what authority do I speak of these things? None, other than the promptings of the spirit and the word of God as recorded in the scriptures. Based on my own study and the comments of others, I seek to understand what one must do to be chosen. We find this in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 121:

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.

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.

If I were to summarize one of the key points of these verses, I would say that the ‘rights’ of the priesthood can only be maintained by exercising the ‘principles of righteousness.’ I find it interesting that right is the root word for righteousness so we have somewhat a circular statement. Our rights represent our legitimate claim or privilege, in this case, to exercise the priesthood. Our ability to do so is based on righteousness, which represents adherence to a code of conduct defined as righteous. Said another way, if we want to have the right (claim or privilege), we must be right.(operate in a correct manner).

We read here that there are specific items that are not ‘right’ or correct which inhibit our ‘right’ or privilege. The existence of these traits in our personal behavior can block our ability the exercise the rights of the priesthood.

If our hearts are set upon the things of this world, we will not be chosen. I believe that there are at least two aspects of this idea that we should consider. The first is associated with the desire for material possessions. Are our hearts set upon the acquisition of worldly things like homes, cars, big screen televisions and the like? If so, we should consider that these desires may inhibit our ability to exercise the priesthood. This is quite a blow to me, and perhaps many others, who have enjoyed the ‘gospel of wealth’ that hovers over our activities inside and outside the chapel. The second aspect one should consider is the dependence on the things of the world as a demonstration of our correctness. I speak specifically to our apparent need to build magnificent buildings, such as the conference center, the renovation of downtown Salt Lake City, and other fine structures to exhibit our righteousness. These works of man, as cited in 3 Nephi 27:11, will bring us joy for a season but are of no value.

A second aspect of this focus on the things of the world deals with the more personal and intangible aspects of our lives. Do we assume that being anxiously engaged is necessary and sufficient for our claim on righteousness? Do we toil in our callings, in our home/visiting teaching, in priesthood assignments and other physical activities and assume these are sufficient to demonstrate our righteousness? In ancient Israel, the people were required to do many things in order to be considered as righteous. Have we adopted a modern version of Israel’s 615 do’s and don’ts and hope that this proves our correctness? Could this be considered having our hearts set upon the physical things of this world?

These verses tell us that seeking the honors of men inhibits our ability to exercise the priesthood. Do we aspire to the honors of men? We are told repeatedly that we are not to seek positions in the church but is this sufficient? How much of what we do in the church is done for the benefit of being seen by others? We may tell ourselves that we are doing things for the glory of God but how easy is it to acquire a little personal benefit along the way? Do we assume that our calling, whatever it may be, brings with it privileges and perks? Any amount of pride or ambition can turn off our priesthood rights. Who has not been drawn to this irresistible flame of positions of power and prestige; and, in the process, lost their power to lead?

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.

What is this ‘disease’ called unrighteous dominion that ‘almost all men’ have? What is this trait intrinsic to most of us that causes us to lose our ability to act in God’s name? In the middle ages, the Holy Roman Church placed themselves between man and God. The pope had assumed the authority to dispense forgiveness of sins and used this to enrich the coffers of the church. This, to me, is as example of unrighteous dominion. Do we have some flavor of this in the modern church? Do we establish man-made rules of conduct that insert the church between man and God?

In the above reference from Doctrine and Covenants, Section 121, we read that in order to have a legitimate claim to the authority of God or to the priesthood, a man must be righteous, and must also demonstrate that righteousness through the traits of persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, and must be without guile.

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—

43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

When Christ called the twelve disciples during His visit to the Nephites after His resurrection, he instructed them to be ministers and servants. Have we lost something in the modern church due to our near adoration of the general authorities? Do these men truly act as servants or have they assumed ‘star’ status among the members of the church? Could it be that, as Joseph Smith indicated, almost all men have lost the ability to exercise the priesthood through pride, vanity, and the need to feel important?

Those that are not chosen have fallen victim to the needs of the things of the world – possession, wealth, and power. Those who are chosen will be those who shed themselves of a focus on material possessions, shun all pride and vanity; who humble themselves as servants and who dismiss the trappings of position and rank.

What think ye?