Archive for the ‘mystery of God’ Category

As JR pointed out in a comment to the last blog, the question keeps coming back to the definition of the second baptism – the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Here are his words:

“Each time, there is a debate about the “slow, steady increase in testimony” versus the one-time-oh-my-gosh-spiritual-electrocution-of-the-BAPTISM OF FIRE AND THE HOLY GHOST version.

If God is no respector of persons, and I believe HE is not, then why would HE favor some of HIS children with a spectacular display of Spiritual fireworks while others HE would only dribble a testimony on like drizzling chocolate syrup on a hot fudge sundae?”

I have asked myself this same question many times in the past. In a response to this question, I decided to retrace the path I took to the answer I found. Certainly your mileage will vary.

On one side, you have the statements from recent general authorities such as these. This is Packer’s explanation regarding his becoming a general authority.

That puzzled me greatly, for I had supposed that someone called to such an office would have an unusual, different, and greatly enlarged testimony and spiritual power.

It puzzled me for a long time until finally I could see that I already had what was required: an abiding testimony in my heart of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, that we have a Heavenly Father, and that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. I may not have known all about it, but I did have a testimony, and I was willing to learn.

I was perhaps no different from those spoken of in the Book of Mormon: “And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20; emphasis added).

Over the years, I have come to see how powerfully important that simple testimony is. I have come to understand that our Heavenly Father is the Father of our spirits (see Numbers 16:22; Hebrews 12:9; D&C 93:29). He is a father with all the tender love of a father. Jesus said, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:27). (2007 October General Conference, The Weak and the Simple of the Church, Sat. Morning Session – Boyd K. Packer)

Bednar also clarified an earlier reference to the idea of being baptized by fire in April of the same year.

The spiritual rebirth described in this verse typically does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process—not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience.

A cucumber only becomes a pickle through steady, sustained, and complete immersion in salt brine. Significantly, salt is the key ingredient in the recipe. Salt frequently is used in the scriptures as a symbol both of a covenant and of a covenant people. And just as salt is essential in transforming a cucumber into a pickle, so covenants are central to our spiritual rebirth.

We begin the process of being born again through exercising faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, and being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins by one having priesthood authority.

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

And after we come out of the waters of baptism, our souls need to be continuously immersed in and saturated with the truth and the light of the Savior’s gospel. Sporadic and shallow dipping in the doctrine of Christ and partial participation in His restored Church cannot produce the spiritual transformation that enables us to walk in a newness of life. Rather, fidelity to covenants, constancy of commitment, and offering our whole soul unto God are required if we are to receive the blessings of eternity.

“I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26).

Total immersion in and saturation with the Savior’s gospel are essential steps in the process of being born again. (2007 April General Conference, Ye Must Be Born Again, Sat. Morning Session – David A. Bednar)

And finally, Cristofferson added to the following to the discussion.

You may ask, Why doesn’t this mighty change happen more quickly with me? You should remember that the remarkable examples of King Benjamin’s people, Alma, and some others in scripture are just that—remarkable and not typical.  For most of us, the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality. (2008 April General Conference, Born Again, Sun. Morning Session – D. Todd Christofferson)

Packer takes the approach that the referenced quote from the Book of Mormon supports his idea that this ‘conversion’ or baptism of fire can be found in the strength of a simple testimony and the long life of service that proceeds. That we can be ‘baptized with fire and ‘know it not.’

Here is what I have found relative to that Idea. In the editions of the triple play before the 1981 edition, there is a footnote linked to the phrase “their conversion”  in 3 Nephi 9:20 that points back to Helaman 5:45. This is a reference to the time when Nephi and Lehi are in the Lamanite prison and are miraculously saved. There were 300 Lamanites who were present at that time and experienced the following.

44  And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.

45  And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.

By reading the entire chapter, you will find that Aminadab, a man who had dissented from the Nephites, was there to instruct the Lamanites as to how what was happening.

37  And it came to pass that this man did cry unto the multitude, that they might turn and look.  And behold, there was power given unto them that they did turn and look; and they did behold the faces of Nephi and Lehi.

38  And they said unto the man: Behold, what do all these things mean, and who is it with whom these men do converse?

39  Now the man’s name was Aminadab.  And Aminadab said unto them: They do converse with the angels of God.

40  And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us?

41  And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.

42  And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed.

43  And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.

In my mind, this is a narrative that is not describing the baptism of fire as a long process, rather it is describing an event where the people involved did not understand what was happening. They were then coached by a former Nephite church member as to how to apply what they  were seeing. They were then caught up in a marvelous dispensation of the spirit which turned the three hundred into missionaries.

I might add that while the reference to 3 Nephi 9:20 was removed from the current 1981 version of the scriptures, there is a companion footnote reference from Helaman 5:45 that points back to, you guessed it, 3 Nephi 9:20. I would suspect that this footnote will not survive that next editorial effort on the LDS scriptures

I would suggest that the use of the scripture in 3 Nephi, chapter 9 where the Lamanites “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” means that they did not understand what was happening to them, not that it wasn’t noticeable.

Why, though, is this story in the scriptures? Here we have a group of Lamanites that had likely come to the prison to kill Nephi and Lehi yet left profoundly changed by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Why is it that people like this can receive such a momentous spiritual experience while the rest of us struggle?

I would suggest that they came to a moment that significantly changed their entire being. They were in fear of their lives, they had no way out other than to turn their attention to God and plead with him.  For some, the process to come unto God “with a broken heart and a contrite spirit” takes a long time of divesting ourselves of our pride and selfishness. For others,  there is a turning event that comes in a desperate moment, where there is no other way out except to remove all of our reliance on the arm of flesh and seek God.

For Alma, the younger, it was the same situation. Alma, was the wayward son of the high priest, who was confronted by an angel, as described in Mosah 27.

14  And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.

15  And now behold, can ye dispute the power of God?  For behold, doth not my voice shake the earth?  And can ye not also behold me before you?  And I am sent from God.

16  Now I say unto thee: Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them.  And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.

Alma was struck dumb and could not move for several days. During this time, his ‘soul was racked with eternal torment.’ He was in the ‘darkest abyss.’

He describes the event to his son Shiblon in Alma, chapter 38

7  But behold, the Lord in his great mercy sent his angel to declare unto me that I must stop the work of destruction among his people; yea, and I have seen an angel face to face, and he spake with me, and his voice was as thunder, and it shook the whole earth.

8  And it came to pass that I was three days and three nights in the most bitter pain and anguish of soul; and never, until I did cry out unto the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, did I receive a remission of my sins.  But behold, I did cry unto him and I did find peace to my soul.

It was not until he sought out Christ that he was relieved of his pain and anguish. Is this not some clarification the requirement, again, that we must approach him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit? I know that it is very difficult to do so. Each individual is different but we each have that point where we can no longer rely on our own strength and have no recourse but to turn to God. Alma did it.

The people of King Benjamin had to reach a similar place where they had nowhere else to go but to look to God

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.

I believe that the baptism of fire is not the long process, rather, it may be our long process to reach the point where we have cast away all of our pride, all of our reliance on the flesh, to be able to call upon God with that broken heart and with that contrite spirit. It is that point where we have to, as the father of King Lamoni expressed, be willing to ‘give away all our sins’ to be given that profound experience.

In Alma’s time, there were many who had received the same experience as he had, as he recites in Alma, chapter 36.

26  For because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been born of God, and have tasted as I have tasted, and have seen eye to eye as I have seen; therefore they do know of these things of which I have spoken, as I do know; and the knowledge which I have is of God.

Why are there not more people who have been ‘born of God’ in today’s church? Why do some get a spritz while others get the whole enchilada? This is the question that JR asked. I do believe that God is not a respector of persons. We are all able to receive the prize if we follow the rules.

I would suggest it is because we, generally, are not willing to pay the price. We are not willing to view ourselves as ‘the dust of the earth.’ That we are not inclined to leave ourselves vulnerable with a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ The experience does not come because we are not prepared and we do not ask. We are not willing to give away our sins and our safety to achieve a remission of our sins. For some it may take a lifetime, for others it come in an instant. For many today, it never comes at all and they are placated with the idea that a simple testimony is sufficient.

There are plenty of scriptures that tell us we must be born again just as the Lord told Alma

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.

We can only, as described in Mosiah, become his sons and his daughters by retaining a remission of our sins received through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost and by making the covenant with God that we shall be obedient to His commandments in all things (Mosiah 5:5-7).

I must reiterate, the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost is the beginning of our sojourn on the strait and narrow path the eternal life.

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

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

It is not until we have crossed through the gate, the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, that we are able to tread upon the path to eternal life. Is a gate symbolic of an event or a long process?

It is also the beginning of our journey where we learn line upon line, and precept upon precept. Do you think that Alma was done once he had been born again? Here is what he stated several years after his conversion.

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.

Even after his incredible experience, Alma was still learning item by item. Here he tells us that he fasted and prayed many day to understand the words of eternal life.

So, what must one do to be born again? as Nicodemus asked. I can only speak of my experience. I had to reach such a low point that the only way out was to reach out to God. I didn’t have it easy as Enos did. I didn’t spend days in fasting and prayer. It came to me because it became my entire focus, just as the Lamanites found themselves in impenetrable darkness, to seek God in fervent prayer to release us from the abyss.

As the scriptures indicate, though, there is no single path to being born again. Some will strive, as did the people of King Benjamin, to receive the blessing after some period of attempted righteous living. Some will, as Enos did, pray until it is given. Others will find themselves in a very dark and miserable condition and finally reach out to Him who has the power to sanctify them.

If being born again is a process more often than an event, why aren’t the scriptures replete with descriptions of this gradual change. It is one thing to talk about learning and receiving a witness of the truth of all things. It is quite another to lump the conversion experience into it. The two are separate and distinct items.

I can only say that it is worth striving every moment of every day of our lives to receive it. I fear that many will simply adopt the idea that ‘the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event’ as Christofferson proposes and miss out on what, in my experience, was the most profound and elevating experience of my entire mortal existence.

What think ye?

For this post, I have chosen to return to one of my favorite themes – the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. While I have, in the past, cited a number of examples from the scriptures and have provided a forum for testimonies of this sacred spiritual rebirth, I have not presented all the examples of this event from the scriptures. This post is a feeble attempt to identify additional scriptural evidence as to the consistent example of the second baptism as an event rather than a undescernable process. What better place to start than with the first man – Adam…

The baptism of Adam is not found in the Old Testament. To gain an understanding of the performance of the ordinance for Adam, one must go to the Pearl of Great Price.

After Adam and Eve were put out into the lone and dreary world, the Lord gave them commandments. They dutifully fulfilled the dictates of the Lord, they bore children, they offered the first of their flocks as a sacrifice.

6  And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?  And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.

7  And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.

8  Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.

9  And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.

10  And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.

The first man was called upon to repent. He was told to pray in the name of the Son of God. I have found two aspects of this scripture reference that are interesting but not necessarily pertinent to the topic at hand. First, the Holy Ghost, in bearing record, spoke as if they were Christ. I don’t think I have come across a similar representation. Second, I like the idea that Adam blessed God and was then filled. How often do we ‘turn the tables’ and bless our Father?

Adam received the Holy Ghost and bore record that all mankind may be redeemed through the sacrifice of the Son of God. The experience of Adam and the Holy Ghost is expanded in the later description of the preaching of Enoch.

When Enoch received his call to preach unto the people, he bore record of the word of God; he was commanded to teach the people to repent and be cleansed. Here is the quote from Moses, chapter 6:

57  Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge, who shall come in the meridian of time.

58  Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:

59  That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;

We are to be born again of water and of the Spirit through the ordinance of baptism. The final piece is that we must be cleansed by the blood of Christ – this is how we are to be sanctified. This passage is consistent with the definition of the gospel found in 3 Nephi, chapter 27:

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

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

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

In some marvelous and miraculous fashion, the reception of the Holy Ghost purges all the shame from our being. It cleanses us spiritually. I find it interesting that this scripture reference in Moses suggests that we must be sanctified in order to ‘enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.’ I find this consistent with the guidance given in 2 Nephi 32 regarding the baptism of fire being a prerequisite to speaking the words of angels.

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

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

 This is reinforced in the next verses again from Moses, chapter 6:

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

61  Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.

Once we have been sanctified, we have the opportunity to have the Comforter, the truth of all things to abide with us. We can have the mysteries of the kingdom brought to us. Was Adam unique in the receipt of these great gifts? Does he alone receive the record of heaven? Did he alone receive all power? I would suggest we each ponder these questions. I think, many times, we sell ourselves short by not comprehending what the Lord would give us if we humbled ourselves and asked.

We then read that Adam fulfilled this commandment:

64  And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.

65  And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.

66  And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost.  This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever;

67  And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.

68  Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons.  Amen.

Adam was carried into the water by the Spirit of the Lord to receive the first baptism. He then had the Spirit of God come upon him and was born of the Spirit – the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. One could suggest, based on the content of verse 67, that Adam was then a recipient of the priesthood after the order of the Son of God. This baptism of water and spirit was also a prerequisite to being called a son of God.

We may all become sons and daughters of God by following this example. One must be baptized by water, receive the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost and be sanctified.

After the people of King Benjamin received a remission of their sins by the baptism of  fire and the Holy Ghost, the desired to enter into the covenant with the Lord and received the same blessing as Adam from Mosiah, chapter 5:

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

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

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

We all have the right and the opportunity to become sanctified, to be presented with ‘great views of that which is to come,’ to prophesy as did Adam, to see the whole history of the world as was presented to Adam, to Enoch, to Lehi, and Nephi. It is through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit that we are able to become the sons and daughters of God.

The first man, Adam, provides an example to each of us that we must be born of water and of the spirit, we must be sanctified before we can gain entrance to his kingdom.

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

18  And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive. (2 Nephi 31)

The gospel as presented to Adam is consistent to the gospel presented to us in the Book of Mormon. It is the definition of the gate that we must enter to be on the strait and narrow path to eternal life. Adam provides that example and adds to the testament of the purpose of the gospel, to bring us back into the presence of the Father. That this path requires baptism, first by water, then by spirit.

One can choose to believe that this blessing of the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost is the imperceptible change which is the result of a life of service and sacrifice. Or, one could choose to seek that gift today and enjoy the fruits of the spirit throughout the rest of one’s life. Which one is would be the most fulfilling? Adam has given us an example of what we can receive if we prepare ourselves and seek this baptism of fire today. There are sufficient examples in the scriptures to warrant a test. Would God honor us with this necessary blessing if we humble ourselves, as did the people of King Benjamin, and ask for it?

What think ye?

I wish to write of the situation I see regarding the Lord’s vineyard in these last days.

33  … There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:

34  And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.

35  And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.

36  Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.

37  But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.

38  But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.

39  And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.

40  When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?

41  They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.

42  Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

43  Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

44  And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

45  And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.

46  But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.

After the triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem described in Matthew, chapter 21, Jesus proceeded to cleanse the temple. We then read that ‘the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.’ It is noted in the scriptures that the chief priests and the elders were ‘sore displeased’ and were likely relieved to see Him leave.

When He returned the next day. It was apparent to them that they had to do something about this upstart that had won the hearts of a considerable number of people.  It was in this environment that the chief priests and elders challenged His authority. When they could not answer the question posed by Jesus regarding the authority of the baptism of John, He proceeded to relate two parables, the second of which is found above.

The leaders of the church in that day were offended that Christ would characterize them as self centered murderers. It is ironic that they were indeed conspiring to have the Romans deal with Him. In the above parable, those in charge of the Lord’s vineyard saw His property as their own. They had long maneuvered the organization into one that provided them a life of ease and splendor. One that brought them the praise and admiration of the people. The warning that Christ delivered in Luke 20 is supportive of this same chastisement:

46  Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;

A modern day representation of this warning would read something like this:

Beware of the general authorities, which desire to walk in their dark business suits, who love speaking at the openings of banks and shopping malls, who sit in the high red seats in front of the masses of the conference center.

What is the modern equivalent of this scripture found in Mosiah, chapter 11?

11  And the seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon while they should speak lying and vain words to his people

Unfortunately, the description of a broad expanse of seats raised above the crowd with a pulpit made from a tree which one graced the lot of a prophet. Should we be concerned that there are similarities between the past representations of apostasy within the church and our situation today? Are these chief priests and elders in our midst today following the same path that those of earlier dispensations fell into? Whatever happened to the humble model that Christ used in the selection of the twelve disciples from among the Nephites – ”these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants…”

Does a servant sit in the high seats? Does one who ministers receive privileged parking and limousines? What is there that makes us think we are immune to the same vices that have brought down the past dispensations? Are we, in this generation, incapable of losing our way but with clarity point to the same weaknesses that destroyed the church of God in the past?

Tucked in the back of the LDS Bible is a section entitled the Joseph Smith translation. Little used and rarely quoted, this work by Joseph Smith, under direction of the Lord, was to clarify the writings of the apostles in the meridian of time. One of the more interesting is found here:

JST, MATTHEW 21:47–56 (compare Matthew 21:45–46)

(Jesus declared that he is the chief cornerstone. The gospel is offered to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. The wicked shall be destroyed when Jesus returns.)

47. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.

 48. And they said among themselves, Shall this man think that he alone can spoil this great kingdom? And they were angry with him.

 49. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they learned that the multitude took him for a prophet.

 50. And now his disciples came to him, and Jesus said unto them, Marvel ye at the words of the parable which I spake unto them?

 51. Verily, I say unto you, I am the stone, and those wicked ones reject me.

 52. I am the head of the corner. These Jews shall fall upon me, and shall be broken.

 53. And the kingdom of God shall be taken from them, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof; (meaning the Gentiles.)

 54. Wherefore, on whomsoever this stone shall fall, it shall grind him to powder.

 55. And when the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, he will destroy those miserable, wicked men, and will let again his vineyard unto other husbandmen, even in the last days, who shall render him the fruits in their seasons.

 56. And then understood they the parable which he spake unto them, that the Gentiles should be destroyed also, when the Lord should descend out of heaven to reign in his vineyard, which is the earth and the inhabitants thereof.

The italicized verses, 48 and 50 through 56, above were added to the original text of Matthew 21. I recall many years ago reading this section and being puzzled by the references to the Jews and the Gentiles. Now it comes with more clarity. It is easy to see the events of history fitting into the description in the verses describing the Jews – that the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to the Gentiles.  But what of the subsequent reference to those who will be ground to powder? In verse 55, we find that the Lord will, at His coming, destroy the next group of miserable, wicked husbandmen – the Gentiles. This component of the prophecy is to happen when Christ descends out of heaven to reign on earth. I have to assume that this is the  description of the circumstances which will be found before His coming – the latter days perhaps?

In this Joseph Smith translation, we find that the same description of the leadership of the Jews version of God’s kingdom on earth in the meridian of time can be applied to the leadership of the Gentiles version of the kingdom of God on earth prior to the second coming – miserable, wicked men.

Ahh, but you say, these verses speak of the nasty Gentiles among whom we righteous must live. I ask who are the husbandmen of the Lord’s vineyard in these latter days? Who is to be tending the church in preparation for His second coming? These verses speak of those who are charged with nurturing the church, not the non-believer.

Wake up to the awful situation we find ourselves in these last days. We are heretofore warned that the Lord’s vineyard will be given to other husbandmen in the last days due to our misery and wickedness. The scriptures are replete with warnings again pride, against building our belief on the arm flesh, against revering man rather than God, against worshiping the works of our own hands.

Wake up…

Just as Christ healed the blind after He cleansed the temple, so too will He heal the ‘blind’ of this day who seek Him out and ask Him the difficult questions about our circumstances.

What think ye?

I want to belatedly express my thanks to James for his willingness to share his testimony on the topic of the baptism of fire and to QB and JR for adding their perspective. I firmly believe that the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is a life-changing event and one that every person of faith should seek.

As I pondered the comments, I thought it would be important to re-emphasize several scriptural concepts associated with this marvelous experience.

Let me first quote from 2 Nephi, chapter 31, versus 17 and 18:

“For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate;”

We have, on occasion, had visitors to this site who suggest that the baptism of fire can also be a result of a long life of service and devotion to the gospel; that it can be the outcome of a quiet imperceptible change over a long period of time. The question that I must ask: Is the symbolism of a ‘gate’ consistent with this suggestion of unnoticeable change over time? If we are not on the ‘strait and narrow path’ until we have passed through this gate, how can one justify a long life of service and faithful performance of one’s duty as this gate? If both baptism by water and baptism by fire are required to be on the strait and narrow path, how many people are there?

“for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it;” (3 Nephi 27:33)

One may feel justified that their stalwart service in the church warrants this type of blessing, but what if this is NOT the case? What if this ‘mighty change’ is, indeed, THE GATE to the path to eternal life? Would you not, as JB and Enos did, be willing to pray as long as it took to get an answer?

Receiving the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost does not mean that we are ‘saved.’ Nephi poses the question in 2 Nephi, 31:19 as “…after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done?” The answer follows:

“…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.

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.

And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.”

As I read this, we are told that we received this blessing by relying on the word of Christ and by expressing ‘unshaken faith’ in God. I would first note that twice in the same sentence, we are told to rely on Christ. This gift does not come through our bishop or stake president or an apostle, it comes directly from Christ. As Christ explained to the Nephites, the disciples which he chose would baptize them with water but He reserves the right to bestow the second baptism…

“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;” (3 Nephi 12:1)

Now returning to the doctrine of Christ as described in 2 Nephi, chapter 31. Here are the things found in verse 20, that we must do after receiving the baptism of fire:

  1. press forward with a steadfastness in Christ

  2. have a perfect brightness of hope,

  3. and a love of God and of all men

  4. feast upon the word of Christ

  5. endure to the end

Just as Lehi, Sariah, and Nephi were depicted in the dream of the tree of life, we are told to latch on to the iron rod, which we know to be the word of God – and what I believe to be personal revelation. That is the essence of the strait and narrow path, guided by the iron rod.

We are to exhibit hope, there are no circumstances on earth that should distract us from the attainment of our goal – eternal life. Hope is not allowing our focus to move away from our target.

Those that are on the strait and narrow path should exhibit the love of God and love of their fellow men.

If you look at the index in the back of the triple combination, the entries for ‘word of God’  or ‘word of the Lord’ begin with 1 Nephi 2:2-3 where Lehi is told in a dream to leave Jerusalem. Lehi was ‘obedient unto the word of the Lord.’ This tells me that personal revelation is important as we continue along the strait and narrow path.

The race goes to those who finish. We are told that we must endure to the end to claim the ultimate prize.

In the first chapters of Mosiah, King Benjamin brought all the believers together to hear the words that he was commanded by an angel to deliver. They took his message into their hearts and offered mighty prayer unto God. They were blessed with a remission of their sins – they were baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost.

” 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 4:4

King Benjamin then reiterated to them what was necessary to retain a remission of their sins; what they must do to carry this baptism of fire with them going forward. This is found in verse 11 of Mosiah, chapter 4:

“… I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.”

To retain a remission of our sins, we are to remain mightily humble, there should not be a shred of pride in us. We cannot allow our experience and perceived gift as giving us any position relative to others around us. Just as with the disciples selected by Christ, those who have received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost must be servants to all.

To retain a remission of our sins, we must pray often. This second baptism, I believe, is what is necessary to have a true relationship with Christ. We are to commune with Him regularly, daily, moment by moment.

” Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” D&C 88:63

We are also called upon in the above scripture to ‘stand steadfastly in faith.’ We are to shed doubt and mistrust. We must continually look to Christ and Him only.

What should life be like among a group of those who wish to retain a remission of their sins? This is what is found in a continuation of chapter 4 of Mosiah:

” And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.

And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.

But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

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

What better description of Zion is there than what is found here in the admonition to those who desire to maintain the fruits of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? We are to live in peace, we are to care for one another, we are to love and serve, we are to care for those in need. Such is the kingdom of God, such is Zion.

” And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.” Mosiah 4:26

The experience of the people of King Benjamin can be applied to us in this sphere. We are to seek the remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, we are to retain a remission of our sins be continuing in faith, prayer, and in the service of our fellow beings. In this are we able to remain justified, in this are we able to be called Saints.

Ending his words to the people, King Benjamin stated the following:

” And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.

But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish.  And now, O man, remember, and perish not.”

The warning to the people was that they had to continually be on guard lest they should lose their justification, that their state of having their sins remitted cease. There is value in the words that caution us to remain prayerful, vigilant, and humble. Having received a remission of our sins does not mean that we cannot fall to sin. It does mean that we can carry forward this remission of sins by humble performance of our duty to God and to our fellow man.

So… what happens if we ‘fall of the wagon?’ What if we allow ourselves to be once again enveloped in the darkness of sin? I would suggest we turn to the experience of Joseph Smith as found in D&C 20, verses 5 & 6:

” After it was truly manifested unto this first elder that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world;

But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness;”

Joseph found himself in this situation, he had allowed himself to be ‘entangled in the vanities of the world.’ He had to return to God in deep humility and faith to reclaim the gift given him through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.  This should be of some comfort to those, like me, who found themselves to have suffered because of the things of the world.

First and foremost, my message to all is to seek this baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, to receive a remission of your sins, to receive of the unspeakable joy that comes from this purging of sin. We are called to be Saints, we are called to be baptised by the Holy Ghost. It is truly the gate to the strait and narrow path to eternal life. May we find ourselves among kindred spirits who share the love of God and our fellow man through the prism of the second baptism.

What think ye?

Posted by James

I was living in Australia. Heavenly Father wanted me and my family to move there. My wife is Australian, so when we first moved there I stayed at my father-in-law’s house. I had a terrible time trying to find a job. My wife was pregnant, I couldn’t find work, it was a really humbling experience. I became best friends with a Mauri brother in the ward. He was extremely spiritually gifted. One day as we were talking about spiritual things the spirit was really strong and he suggested we should take advantage of the spirit and pray. After our prayer he said to me “the spirit says you’re going to have a spiritual experience in the next few days.”

I wanted a spiritual experience, so I prayed and fasted the next day, Sunday. I broke my fast because we were invited to eat at someone’s house that night.  On Monday I decided to do as Enos and Nephi and fast and pray all day. I went out into a bungalow and prayed vocally for as long as I could. When I couldn’t think of things to pray about I read my scriptures. I prayed until the afternoon, but nothing happened. I was really discouraged. That night I went to my Mauri friend’s house to talk about things. He gave me a blessing.

The next day was Tuesday. I was unemployed at the time, so I decided to give it another go. I broke my fast and went out to the bungalow to pray again. I prayed for about an hour and this happened:

From my journal:

I knelt down and was praying to the Lord with all   my heart that I might receive evidence that what I was doing was right.    I could feel the spirit in my chest and my face was tingling.  While   feeling this I pleaded that I might have greater evidence.  All of a   sudden I felt power come into my body.  As Nephi said it consumed my   flesh.  So much so that I felt that my hands were out stretched and my   chest was pulled up and power surged through me like I have never felt in all   my life.  It was so powerful that I could hardly control myself.  I   felt like I was being shocked with energy.  I knew it was the energy of   God.  I felt His power!

 

At the time I wasn’t sure what had happened, but it wasn’t long after that Heavenly Father began to help me understand that I had experienced the baptism of fire. Here are a few things that I learned.

 

1. The baptism of fire is indeed a baptism or immersion in the spirit. For me it was a powerful experience, but it may come in a serene, peaceful way. Both Adam and Jesus received the baptism of fire immediately after baptism

Moses 6

64 And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.

65 And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.

Mark 1

9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.

10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:

2. The baptism of fire does make a change to the body

Mosiah 27

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.

3. The baptism of fire is instigated and performed by Jesus

3 Nephi 9:20

And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost…

4. The baptism of fire changes your disposition

Mosiah 5:2

2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

5. The baptism of fire can happen right after baptism, or it may take years. When we are confirmed members of the church we are asked to “receive the Holy Ghost.”  This is an invitation to us. I didn’t experience it until I was 33. Notice that Alma is asking members of the church if they have experienced it.

Alma 5
14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

6. The earth follows the same pattern of being saved through the ordinances of the gospel. The earth was baptized by water during the times of Noah and will be baptized by fire upon Jesus return to usher in the millenium.

7. There is a difference between the gift the Holy Ghost and the baptism of fire. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost based on righteousness. The baptism of fire is the actual reception of the Holy Ghost. 3 Nephi 19 is a great example of how the baptism of fire is receiving the Holy Ghost.

3 Nephi 19

9 And they did pray for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them.

10 And when they had thus prayed they went down unto the water’s edge, and the multitude followed them.

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.

16 And it came to pass that he spake unto the multitude, and commanded them that they should kneel down again upon the earth, and also that his disciples should kneel down upon the earth.

17 And it came to pass that when they had all knelt down upon the earth, he commanded his disciples that they should pray.

18 And behold, they began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God.

19 And it came to pass that Jesus departed out of the midst of them, and went a little way off from them and bowed himself to the earth, and he said:

20 Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.

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?

Should our testimony of the spiritual aspects of our lives be an ‘all or nothing’ situation? As a missionary many years ago, I challenged investigators engage in the promise of Moroni 10:4-5 and pray about ‘these things’ to arrive at a testimony of the truthfulness of the message; not just the Book of Mormon, but the whole package. Is that how things should work? Here is a similar comment from a recent conference:

After I read, pondered, and prayed, the Lord gave me the assurance that Joseph Smith was His prophet. I testify to you that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and because I have received this answer from the Lord, I know that all of his successors are prophets too. (Carlos Costa, Oct 2010 General Conference)

Does a testimony that Joseph Smith is a prophet automatically give us the knowledge that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet? In a similar vein, does a knowledge that Peter, the apostle, was called to lead the church in the meridian of time automatically lead to the conclusion that the keys were passed down to Pope Benedict XVI?

I think not.

Paul taught the Thessalonians:

Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good. (1 Thess. 5:21)

According to Strong’s Concordance, the word ‘prove’ could also be translated as ‘test’ or ‘examine.’ The message here is that we should examine all aspects of what is presented as truth and only keep what is validated.

In the 28th chapter of second Nephi, we read a series of ‘woes’ starting with ‘wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion. Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well.’ What I find that is pertinent to this topic is the following warning:

Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 28:29-31)

I would suggest that one should read this scripture from an individual perspective in consideration of the development of a testimony. The word of God, just as it was used by Lehi (1 Nephi 2:3), is most appropriately considered as personal revelation. God will give us answers ‘line by line, precept by precept.’ We should ‘prove’ all things and not assume that one answer applies to all. In other words, the development of a testimony should require us to test each and every concept or idea presented, not just assume that because part of the message is true, it all must be true.

I think it is also important to note that God promises us in 2 Nephi that if we continue to seek knowledge and testimony, He will give us more. If we deem that we have enough, that which we think we have will be taken away. Wo be unto him that assumes he needs no more revelation.

This is the same message that is found in Alma:

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.

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.

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. (Alma 9:9-12)

Here the Lord refers to those who no longer seek revelation as having ‘hard hearts.’ We must break our hard hearts and exhibit a spirit of contrition in order to receive the word of God. This must happen line upon line, precept upon precept; we are called upon to examine all things, not blindly assume that A equals B equals C.

While this is very important on the way in to a testimony, I feel that it is equally important when our testimony is challenged. Stories abound of good members of the church who, upon being presented with aspects of uncorrelated church history, lose their testimony and walk away. I sincerely believe that having an ‘all or nothing’ testimony as proposed by Carlos Costa, increases the chances of a person rejecting ‘the church’ when difficulties arise. On the other hand, building a testimony line by line, allowing the person to reject aspects that are not revealed as true should preserve those aspects of revealed truth.

My message here is: Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. When I had my ‘crisis of faith,’ I went through a process of evaluating my options. Do I reject all of my testimony because one part of it turned sour? Or, do I attempt to reconstruct my testimony based on ‘line by line’ of those items where I did receive revelation?

I chose the latter. At the beginning of my journey, I began asking simple questions and seeking simple answers. Because of past experiences, I knew that God was there; mainly from my second baptism event cataloged earlier in this blog. I also had a revelation on the truth of the message of the gospel in the Book of Mormon (this last sentence was carefully constructed). I made sure that each step I took, each precept I considered, was stripped of any assumptions and preconceived notions. As I read and studied the scriptures, new perspectives developed that I had not previously considered. These were taken to the Lord through prayer and meditation.

Today, my ‘testimony’ is significantly different from what I held a decade ago. I have tried to build my belief system line by line, proving each item through study and meditation. My testimony is no longer ‘all or nothing;’ I hold fast to that which is good and look to continue the path in understanding the mysteries of God.

What think ye?

Before moving on to day two, I should touch on the evening priesthood session. I hadn’t planned to address this session because I thought I could not access the session on line to verify what I heard. Lo and behold, the priesthood session is now archived on line along with the other sessions.

I found the priesthood session to have some good moments and some questionable items. The first of which was Elder Maxwell’s reference to the gathering of Israel. He noted that the Book of Mormon will be the instrument to gather scattered Israel. While on the surface this comment seems to be recognition of the goal of the restoration. As I thought about it, I would suspect that Maxwell was using the redefined gathering which simply means bringing people into the church where ever they are.

Of all the conference talks, I felt that Elders Uceda’s and Uchtdorf’s treatment of humility and pride were well worth the price of admission. How powerful are the simple words, “I’m sorry?” So much effort is expended to defend at all costs our right to always be right. It would surely be a different world if humility were a prerequisite to leadership.

I was encouraged by Maxwell’s story of his trip with Elder Faust. Elder Faust told him that the members treat GAs very well; they extend great kindness and admiration. Faust told Maxwell to ‘be thankful for the kindness but don’t inhale it.’ It would be very easy for men in this position to use this adoration to inflate their egos and vacate the spirit.

Elder Maxwell clearly dealt with the idea that humility does not mean self deprecation. “We don’t discover humility by thinking less of ourselves; we discover humility by thinking less about ourselves.

Elder Eyring sought to differentiate between the gift of the Holy Ghost and companionship of the Holy Ghost. I was heartened to hear his words of encouragement to the members to not just study, but ponder the scriptures, by which we invite the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

Does President Monson believe that theatrics make up for a lack of the spirit? His talks in both the priesthood and Sunday sessions seemed to affirm this idea.

On Sunday morning, Elder Eyring talked of examples of faith and the lack thereof. I have long held the example of Peter walking on the water as an example of our need to rely on the Savior. This painting by Edmond Oliveros captured the moment from a unique perspective.

“Lord, save me” by Edmond Oliveros (www.edmondoliveros.com)

However, I was also disappointed that he chose to link a spiritual confirmation of Joseph Smith to a confirmation that all prophets since that time are called as such. As I have indicated in past posts, this sort of automatic extension is not something I consider spiritually healthy. I have a testimony that Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet; that doesn’t automagically equate to a testimony that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet today.

Elder Packer enlightened us as to modern revelation. He announced that the proclamation on the family was indeed revelation. Is this purported revelation one that will stand the test of time or will it become another statement by a dead prophet? If it is indeed revelation, why is it not included in the canon of scripture?

I have to wonder if Mary Cook is long in the Primary General Presidency. She stated that we must be an example that our children will imitate. Does that include going on a mission before one make the statement that all young men are obligated to serve a mission?

Elder Oaks treated the subjects of a personal line and a priesthood line of revelation. Yes, Martin Luther did espouse the idea of a priesthood of all believers but he did that because the established religion to which he belonged denied that revelation could exist outside the pope. Elder Oaks stated that personal revelation cannot exist if it is at odds with priesthood revelation. I counter that when priesthood revelation does not exist or has morphed into the precepts of men, all an individual can depend on is personal revelation.

I also take issue with the idea that rejecting organized religion is rejecting Jesus Christ. As I have read, studied and pondered the narrative of Christ’s visit to the Nephites. I see a completely different approach to that of ‘organized’ religion. The emphasis in Third Nephi was that the organization that could be loosely defined as the church had a singular mission – to facilitate the individual’s efforts to come unto Christ.

We, today, have this bloated bureaucracy which employs full time ‘administrators.’ These administrators spend their time solving the problem for which they were created. It is in their best interests to maintain the problem; if it goes away, so does their position and livelihood. I am talking about the corporate church, not the U.S. government although it could apply to both.

So… President Monson’s widow count is now up to 102?

Elder Perry also was following a theme set earlier in the conference. Elder Christofferson redefined the law of consecration as items of personal progress and Elder Perry followed this up with a redefinition of the meaning of the ministering of angels. What I heard was the description of deacons collecting fast offerings, and a priest helping a disabled person partake of the sacrament as examples of the ministering of angels. That is not the case. Elder Perry has taken what is the potential for a personal sacred experience and turned it once again into the works of men.

How long, O Lord, must we be confronted with the holy and sacred being reduced to the precepts of man? Will the general membership blindly absorb these changes? What hope can we have when living prophets can and do wrest the words of the scriptures?

While I could go on about hollow trees, bloated cows and artificial flies, let me end with some limited positive insights. Several years ago, I was heartened by Elder Bednar’s words about the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. It was, I felt, a core component of the gospel that had rare mention from the pulpit of general conference. He continued with that topic in the afternoon session of conference.

I do believe, as Elder Bednar stated, that the words we hear in confirmation, “receive the Holy Ghost,” is a priesthood admonition. It is not an automatic dispensation. We must work to receive what he characterized as the companionship of the Holy Ghost. There is nothing of greater consequence in our mortality than the baptism of the Holy Spirit and it’s continued companionship. As Elder Bednar stated, all we do in the church is to bring us to companionship with the Holy Ghost. At least that is what the church is supposed to do…

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 Webster’s definition of apostasy is 1) renunciation of a religious faith and 2) abandonment of a previous loyalty. Tracing the word back to its original Greek, one finds that an apostate could be defined as ‘one who stands apart.’ There are many great men and women who, based on their conscience or on revelation, were called to stand apart from their religious traditions. I would like to consider a few of these great souls both within and without the Mormon sphere.

Martin Luther

I have truly enjoyed reading on the life and works of Martin Luther. For many years, I simply placed him in the realm of a predecessor to Joseph Smith. This is still a valid statement but I believe we can learn much more from his life and struggles. He was born 8 years before Columbus discovered America. He grew up in the home of his parents who looked forward to their son becoming a lawyer and supporting them. While returning to school after a visit home, he was knocked down by a lightning strike. Fearful for his life, he pledged at the spot to enter the service of God. Two weeks later, he entered the monastery at the age of 22 never having read the Bible. When it was presented to him, he devoured it spending many days and months reading the word of God. Continually, through fasting and prayer, he sought to be acceptable to God. In 1510, Luther had the privilege of spending a month in Rome. He returned to Germany disillusioned by the crassness of the priests and the singular focus he saw there on money and excess.

While much of his life in the monastery was filled with the anxiety of a sinful soul, Martin struggled to find peace with God. Something, he realized, that could not happen until the whole man had been changed. With this challenge he struggled for many months. In 1513, he was assigned the chair of the Bible. Teaching from the Psalms brought him to the realization that Christ had indeed taken upon him our sins. It was an epiphany for the man who came to realize that he had did not have to rely on the myriad of acts demanded by the Holy Roman Church but only upon the merits and mercies of Jesus Christ.

This awakening caused him to rethink all that he had come to accept within the church and quickly led to the 95 Theses hanging on the door of the church in Wittenberg. His path took him before kings and princes. He was thrice excommunicated and condemned to death for his efforts to reconcile the actions of the church with the scriptures. His writings were burned and his life was only spared by the help of friends.

While he did not initially intend to break from the Catholic Church, he succeeded in crystallizing the German efforts to separate themselves from the Italian papal domination.



“Here, I stand” Words Martin Luther is said to have uttered as he stood before Emperor Charles V who was awaiting a recantation of all the ills that Luther had brought out upon the church. Luther did not recant but branded himself an apostate. One who stands apart.

(Here I Stand, A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton and The Life and Times of Martin Luther by J. H. Merle D’Aubigne’)

Lehi

What would you call a man who deserted his home and struck out into the wilderness with his family without telling anyone? What would you think if this same man sent his sons back to kill one of the leaders of the church, kidnap his assistant and steal the sacred records of their faith?

I have often wondered what Lehi must have endured to follow the word of God into the desert. In this day, I would liken it to someone fleeing out of Salt Lake only to return, kill a church official and steal one of the original copies of the Book of Mormon.

Here is a man who, based on a dream, packed up a few possessions and disrupted the lives of his family in a major way. I don’t think Laman and Lemuel ever got over it as they stated in 1 Nephi 18:

21 Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy.

22 And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words…

Lehi was called to leave his comfortable surroundings and his family, friends and church at the request of God. He was to separate himself from the life and environment that, undoubtedly, was comfortable and appealing. Wouldn’t Lehi have been considered an apostate by the leaders of the Jerusalem community? What kind of faith would it have taken to leave behind the comfort of orthodoxy for a tent in the desert?

Lehi, the visionary man, was willing to stand apart from what had been his entire life and livelihood. He caused his family and selected friends to leave the known and comfortable for the unknown and painful. While he may have been an apostate to the elders of Jerusalem, he was the father of a new nation to us… all because he hearkened to the word of God given him in a dream.

Alma the Elder

Alma had things going quite well. He had recently been elevated to a high priest position under great King Noah. He, perhaps along with his wives and concubines, were likely living large as we read in Mosiah 11:

14 And it came to pass that he (King Noah) placed his heart upon his riches, and he spent his time in riotous living with his wives and his concubines; and so did also his priests spend their time with harlots.

15 And it came to pass that he planted vineyards round about in the land; and he built wine-presses, and made wine in abundance; and therefore he became a wine-bibber, and also his people.


That is, until he heard Abinadi preach of Christ and was convinced that something was seriously wrong with what he was seeing. Unable to convince Noah of the error being committed, Alma was forced to flee for his life. He found refuge in the wilderness and was led by God to form a community based on principles that set him apart from his former life and position.

Given that King Noah was the ruling secular and religious authority at the time, I am sure that Alma was branded as an apostate; one who has abandoned his previous loyalty. To us, Alma was responding to the promptings of the spirit – first, seeking to give a man of God a wide berth but ultimately to re-establish the church of Christ in the wilderness.

Good Apostate or Bad Apostate?

The message here is that there may be times when being an apostate is doing the right thing. If the existing religious framework has become disconnected from the original mission of the church, it may take an apostate or two to bring some, perhaps a remnant, back in alignment with the will of God. Samuel the Lamanite stood on the wall and delivered a message to the Nephites that God was not pleased. Some people heard his words and repented. Most times, it seems these outliers are given the task of taking the message of repentance to the majority and are then encouraged to flee for their lives.

In D&C Section 112, we are told that ‘vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth’ and ‘upon my house shall it begin.’ The meaning here to me is that latter day church is to encounter a correction or cleansing. Several times in the Book of Mormon, we Gentiles are told to ‘repent and return’ to the gospel. We are told that only we Gentiles who repent will participate in the building of New Jerusalem (3 Nephi 21:14-24). I believe there are many scriptural signs that dictate we, as a people who profess to have taken upon them the name of Christ, will need to repent and return or be left behind.

Have our hearts been so focused on riches that we are ripe for the message of Samuel the Lamanite to be delivered to us? Could it come from someone who was branded by the hierarchy of the church as an apostate? Time will tell.

What think ye?