Archive for the ‘priesthood’ Category

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

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

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

Bruce McConkie characterized it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What think ye?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Miracles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Law of Consecration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gathering to Zion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mysteries of God

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

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

What think ye?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What think ye?

Dear President Uchtdorf,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Joe Jensen

Perrysburg, Ohio

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

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

  • Who are the Gentiles?

  • What is the definition of the gospel?

  • What is the definition of the doctrine of Christ?

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

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

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

Who are the Gentiles?

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

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

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

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

What is the definition of the gospel?

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

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

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

What is  the definition of the doctrine of Christ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does it mean to be born again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What think ye?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

40  Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What think ye?

The scriptures recite stories of both success and triumph as well as failure and futility. One such contrast is described in Matthew, chapter 17 where Peter, James and John are taken by Christ up a high mountain where Jesus was ‘transfigured before them.’ They were then presented with Moses and Elias conversing with the Savior and heard the testimony of the Father, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” (Matt. 17:5). I can only imagine what these men thought as this scene was rolled out before them. They fell down and were ‘sore afraid.’ To me, this kind of experience would bolster my faith and eradicate any fear yet upon their success, their return from the mountain, these disciples were presented with their own futility, as found in the same chapter

14  And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,

15  Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.

16  And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

17  Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?  how long shall I suffer you?  bring him hither to me.

18  And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

19  Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?

20  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

21  Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

The disciples, including Peter, James, and John,  found that their lack of faith prevented them from healing the child. That faith would give them the power to move mountains and make it possible for them to do anything. What is this faith and how does one obtain the power to be a conduit of heavenly power?

After the last supper, Christ told Peter that he was sought as a prize by Satan. He was given the assurance by the Lord in Luke, chapter 22,

31  And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:

32  But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Here again, the necessity of faith was brought to the forefront in the discussion between Christ and Peter, who was told that he had not yet been converted. We know, of course, that Peter still had to pass through the trial of denying his relationship with the Savior, one that caused him to weep. The question, in my mind, is how this conversion and the acquisition of faith to transpire? How does Peter become ‘converted?’

One can, of course, point to the day of Pentecost, where the disciples were baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost, as described in Acts, chapter 2,

3  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

4  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The narrative continues with the following statement, “And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” Of particular note, found at the beginning of Acts, chapter 3, was the following,

1  NOW Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.

2  And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;

3  Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.

4  And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.

5  And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.

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

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

8  And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

9  And all the people saw him walking and praising God:

As I pondered this specific miracle, among the many miracles done by the apostles, the questions were formed: How did the lack of faith demonstrated by these disciples of Christ give way to the faith and demonstration of priesthood power following their baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? What is the linkage between the two? What did Peter’s baptism of fire unleash that then allowed him to be successful in healing the lame when before He could not heal the lunatik?

I would suggest that the conversion of Peter, the second baptism, the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, unlocked his ability to exercise the priesthood power in healing the lame man. The remission of sins and the sanctification of that experience allowed Peter to become a conduit for the powers of heaven in strengthening his brethren. Likewise, it was the collective event of the baptism of fire that preceded the demonstration of ‘wonders and signs’ by the apostles documented in the description of the day of Pentecost.

This same baptism of fire was experienced by the disciples of Christ during His visit to the Nephites following his resurrection, as described in 3 Nephi chapter 19:

7  And the disciples did pray unto the Father also in the name of Jesus.  And it came to pass that they arose and ministered unto the people.

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

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.

The disciples that Jesus had chosen were the first to be re-baptized with water and were then baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost. They were also part of the miracle of the sacrament where the multitude was filled by the few loaves brought by the disciples. These same disciples were responsible for greater works of God as described in 4 Nephi,

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

Did this baptism of fire unlock the disciples’ ability to perform the works of God? I would suggest that the answer is ‘yes.’ In some incomprehensible way, the second baptism was a prerequisite to the apostles’ ability to heal the sick and perform the other miracles recorded in the scriptures. The baptism of fire carries with it the sanctification of the body, all sins are put in remission, and the person is clean. It is then, in this sanctified condition, that the apostles were able to channel the powers of heaven in the performance of miracles.

In the meridian of time, both among the Jews and the Nephites, the twelve were shown to experience the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost prior to their miracles and healings. Could it be that, just as the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is the gate to the strait and narrow path (2 Nephi 31:17-18), that the same baptism of fire is the gate to the demonstration of the works of God by His apostles?

What does our modern leadership say about the second baptism? Here is one example from the general conference address by Boyd K. Packer in October 2007:

To my great surprise, I was called to meet with President David O. McKay. He took both of my hands in his and called me to be one of the General Authorities, an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

A few days later, I came to Salt Lake City to meet with the First Presidency to be set apart as one of the General Authorities of the Church. This was the first time I had met with the First Presidency—President David O. McKay and his counselors, President Hugh B. Brown and President Henry D. Moyle.

President McKay explained that one of the responsibilities of an Assistant to the Twelve was to stand with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as a special witness and to bear testimony that Jesus is the Christ. What he said next overwhelmed me: “Before we proceed to set you apart, I ask you to bear your testimony to us. We want to know if you have that witness.”

I did the best I could. I bore my testimony the same as I might have in a fast and testimony meeting in my ward. To my surprise, the Brethren of the Presidency seemed pleased and proceeded to confer the office upon me.

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).

Next year, in the General Conference held in April 2008, Christofferson added this clarification:

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.

As I read and re-read these recitation of the church’s apostles experience, I came away with several points of his presentation. One, a simple testimony is all that Packer believes is needed to be an apostle. Apostles shouldn’t expect any great, unusual, or different spiritual power. Two, Packer has wrested the scriptures in 3 Nephi to support an incorrect conclusion. The 300 Lamanites, as referenced in 3 Nephi 9:20, weren’t the recipients of some long term imperceptible change as suggested by Packer and Cristofferson, rather they could not understand what was happening around them and had to be instructed as to what they were experiencing. The event is recorded in Helaman, chapter five. I would note that in the footnotes associated with verse 45, there is a pointer to 3 Nephi 9:20. This reinforces the point that the idea that “they knew it not” should not be used to support the idea that the baptism of fire is a process rather than event. Rather, they needed to be ‘coached’ as to what was happening. They knew it not because they understood it not.

If our modern apostles don’t believe that the baptism of fire is integral to the gospel, and what I would consider a prerequisite to extending the power of the priesthood, how can we expect them to perform the miracles attendant to this position? If the church is a ‘true’ restoration of the past organization, should we not expect the apostles to exhibit the same attributes as those twelve selected by Christ among the Jews and the Nephites? Should they not be the conduit through which the powers of heaven rain down miracles upon the members?

I believe that we all can have faith work in our lives. We each can be the recipient of miracles based on our individual faith. However, I believe that the scriptures puts a specific emphasis on the performance of miracles by those twelve who are called to serve in the position of apostle. They are to demonstrate the works of God rather than the works of men.

Following His exposition of the gospel in 3 Nephi, chapter 27, verse 21,  Christ told the twelve what should be done in His church:

…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;

What works was Christ referring to? According to 3 Nephi 26, verse 15, He ”healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them…”

These are the works of God. These are the miracles and wonders performed by Peter and the apostles among the Jews. These are the healings performed by the twelve apostles among the Nephites. These are the works of God that should be demonstrated by those who are called to the same position in the modern church.

Why is it not happening? It is because the church is in apostasy. It is because the leadership of the church has changed the everlasting covenant which is the fulness of the gospel (D&C 66:2). Without a correct understanding of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, the gospel is not that which was defined by Christ, and the works of God cannot be demonstrated in His church. This is the message of the 27th chapter of 3 Nephi.

We are all called upon to repent and return. I suggest we get moving in that direction.

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?

If you don’t know this already, I am driven to question many aspects of my religious life  that I had heretofore regarded as a basic assumptions. Much of my search over the last few years has been driven by a need to re-affirm and re-validate my spiritual worldview in strict accordance with the scriptures. It has not always been easy. Many times I have had to stop my reading and study to make sure I was not making a incorrect assumption or simply accepting the definition of a word or phrase based on how it presented in the lessons of the church. Such is the case with baptism by immersion.

Baptism is an essential aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is used to mark the entry into modern day membership of the LDS Church. During my life, I have attended many baptisms, converts and children, men and women. I had the privilege several years ago of conducting the baptism of the man who now stands as bishop of the local ward in which we reside.

As with many of the meetings of the church, the baptismal ceremony has been become a standard issue with a talk about baptism followed by the administration of the ordinance. Many of the baptismal talks I have heard clearly make the point that the person accepting baptism is now free from sin; that the water had washed away the sins of the candidate as they came forth from the water. In the priesthood manual, we are taught that:

When we come out of the water we are washed clean of sin. With our past sins washed away, we receive greater spiritual power to change our lives and become more like Heavenly Father. (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B)

It presents a striking visage, we enter the ceremony laden with the sins that accompany our mortal frame, we exit clean and pure. Water baptism is promoted as the means to receive a remission of our sins.

The fourth Article of Faith states:

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The passage clearly states that baptism by immersion, as conducted by a legitimate priesthood holder, is sufficient to receive a remission of sins, to be cleansed of sin, to be sanctified. Or does it? Is baptism by water necessary and sufficient to receive a remission of sins? Do we truly emerge from the baptism font sinless?

I would suggest otherwise.

First, let’s look at what I consider the scriptural definition of baptism. The first reference comes from Mormon, chapter 7, verse 10:

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.

To be truly baptized, one must receive both the baptism of water and the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. I would also suggest that both these baptisms are by immersion. We are immersed in water and, in a similar manner, are immersed in spirit.

Joseph Smith concurred with this concept when he stated:

You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost (History of the Church, 5:499).

After Christ selected the twelve disciples from among the Nephites, He gave this admonition to the people:

… Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am… Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins. (3 Nephi 12:1-2)

While the twelve disciples were given the power and authority to baptize by water, the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost was conducted by the Lord. It was this second baptism, in conjunction with the baptism by water, that is the source of a remission of our sins. Without the second baptism, the first is without consequence relative to our sanctification. The same is true in our lives today. The scriptures give us clarity on the twofold nature of baptism. Here is how Nephi expresses this dual nature:

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.

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 31:17-18)

It is not until we have received this second baptism of fire that we are on the strait and narrow path to eternal life. As I have expanded on this topic in an earlier post – The Strait and Narrow Path, indeed, as we read in this scripture, baptism by water and by fire and the Holy Ghost is the gate. It is the entry point for our journey back to our Father in Heaven. It is the beginning our trek, not the culmination of a long life of obedience and service.

This idea is reinforced in the description of the process of gaining membership in the church as found in Moroni, chapter 6:

AND now I speak concerning baptism.  Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.

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.

And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.

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.

It is not until after one is baptized by water AND sanctified by the Holy Ghost that the person is ‘numbered among the people of the church of Christ.’ This sanctification is achieved by the through the granting of the remission of sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. We are cleansed by the spirit in preparation for membership in His church.

Is this sanctification a prerequisite for membership in the LDS church?  Contrary to scripture, we have assigned a remission of sins solely to the baptism of water. We have also redefined the second aspect of baptism. It is now a confirmation and an admonition to ‘receive the Holy Ghost.’ While the current procedure may be sufficient for membership in the corporate church, it may not be sufficient for membership in the body of Christ.

Section 20, verse 37, of the Doctrine and Covenants also describes the process for baptism:

And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.

It is interesting to note that the criteria defined here is closely aligned with the passage from Moroni, chapter 6. In each case, one must be imbued with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, witness that they have repented of their sins. They must take upon them the name of Christ and determine to serve Him to the end. In a slight deviation, this latest scripture required that the candidate ‘manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins.’ In the earlier quote from Moroni, we find that the candidate must be sanctified by the Holy Ghost prior to entry into the church. How many members would be on the rolls of the church if this criterion of sanctification were strictly enforced? What is required to truly manifest by our works that we have received a remission of our sins? Perhaps our entry into the corporate church is different than the entry into the spiritual church.

I would suggest that one seriously consider what we have morphed the baptismal event into relative to entry into the church. Succinctly stated, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins has two parts, water and spirit. One must receive of both of these baptisms to truly receive a remission of sins. One must demonstrate by their works that they have received a remission of their sins.

In the October 2000 General Conference, Elder Bruce D. Porter presented this story:

Several years ago, while I was serving as a bishop, a sister came to me for a temple recommend interview. She was an adult convert to the Church who had been a faithful member since her baptism more than a decade earlier. She qualified for the temple recommend, but I sensed she was somewhat dispirited. When I asked what was troubling her, she said, “Bishop, is there any way a person can be baptized again?” Surprised, I asked her why she thought a second baptism would ever be needed. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said, “I just wish I could somehow feel as clean and pure as the day I was baptized.”

I am sure many Latter-day Saints have had similar feelings. Even when we are temple worthy, the accumulated daily weight of our weaknesses and shortcomings can become a burden to our souls, weighing us down with feelings of inadequacy and guilt. It is difficult sometimes to feel spiritually refreshed, pure, and acceptable before God. As I spoke with this sister, I felt great sympathy for her dilemma. There was no doubt in my mind that she was a good-hearted, worthy Latter-day Saint whose place in the Lord’s kingdom would be assured if she continued on the course that had begun with her baptism. But I wondered if she appreciated the power of Christ’s Atonement, the magnitude of His mercy, and His readiness to forgive her of daily transgressions as she made her way through life.

“You do not need to be baptized a second time to be as pure as when you were first baptized,” I said. “You can renew your covenant of baptism each week when you partake of the sacrament. As you live that covenant, exercise faith in Christ, and repent of your daily transgressions, the Holy Ghost will bless you with the assurance that your sins are forgiven. It will cleanse your soul of guilt and bring peace to your heart. In this way, you can feel as pure and clean as the day you were baptized.”

What must one do to retain a remission of their sins? This is the heart of the question that was posed to then Bishop Porter by one who seriously sought to remain clean. Is the partaking of the sacrament sufficient for this? As I read the sacrament prayer in Moroni, chapter 4, the only item that is sanctified through the administration of this ordinance is the bread. As such the sacrament contains no explicit re-application of the sanctification by the spirit received upon entry into the church. But what must one do to retain a remission of their sins?

When the people of King Benjamin received a remission of their sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, he gave them this guidance in Mosiah 4:11-12:

And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so 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.

King Benjamin’s instruction relative to retaining a remission of our sins emphases the need to remain humble. He tells us the we need to pray and remain faithful. I would incourage all to continue reading in this fourth chapter of Mosiah. It contains what I would consider guidance relative to how one should act while retaining a remission of sins.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple and profound. We are invited to ‘come unto Him’ and receive a remission of our sins. We are told that this is the entry point of the path to the kingdom of God.

So the sacrament prayer is to remind us of the activities in our lives that are necessary to retain a remission of sins. It does not give us any explicit renewal of our entry onto the strait and narrow path.

In summary, baptism is made up of two components. water and spirit. Both are needed to legitimately gain entry to the strait and narrow path to eternal life. The sacrament prayer is a reminder of the state of mind and activity that must be present to retain a remission of our sins.

What think ye?

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?