Archive for May, 2009
In my last post, I discussed the baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost as a core component of the gospel of Jesus Christ. According to the scriptures, this second baptism is the GATE to the strait and narrow way to eternal life (2 Nephi 31:18). It is also the sanctifying power that is a prerequisite to being ‘numbered among the people of the church of Christ’ (Moroni 6:4). If one considers these two scriptures, they both point to the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost as an entry point, not the culmination of a long Christ-centered life. I believe accepting the idea that it is a gradual change over many years is a rejection of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every individual who yearns for a relationship with Christ should be earnestly striving to receive this glorious life-changing experience. Alma states that ‘all mankind … must be born again, 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)
But, what is to be our course after truly being ‘born again?’ The people of King Benjamin collectively experienced the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. In Mosiah, chapter 4, verse 3, we read:
” …the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience…”
There is no other ‘feeling’ in this life that compares to the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost. Joy and peace of conscience are the some of the fruits of being born again. The challenge King Benjamin then presented to his listeners was how to ‘retain’ their remission of sins.
“… 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. (Mosiah 4:11:12)”
The key points needed to retain a remission of our sins brought out here are:
- Remember the greatness of God
- Daily prayer
- Steadfast faith
But this is not the end of what we must do once we have received a remission of our sins. King Benjamin continues in the remainder of chapter 4 with a discussion of what our behavior should be like as those who have been born again. Here is how I would summarize this section:
- We will not have a mind to injure one another and live peaceably (verse 13)
- We will render to every man according to that which is his due (verse 13). I believe this means we are to be complete honest in our dealing with others.
- Nourish our children both materially and spiritually. (verses 14-15)
- Care for those in need without judgment (verses 16-26)
- Do all these things in wisdom and order (verse 27)
- Return what you borrow (verse 28)
- Avoid sin (verse 29)
- Watch our thoughts, words and deeds (verse 30)
- Observe the commandments of God
- Continue in faith until the end of our days.
Quite an easy list, wouldn’t you say? As a side note, I am intrigued by the comments found in verse 26 regarding how we are to live as a society:
” …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.”
To me, this strongly suggests that the law of consecration is a natural result of the collective experience of being born again. We, as a community, may not be able to truly live this higher law until we have received the same experience that the people of King Benjamin received. We know that it was after the Pentecost of the New Testament that we find ‘all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men as every man had need’ (Acts 2:44-45). The same can be found following Christs visit to the Nephites as found in 4 Nephi verse 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.”
We should be preparing ourselves to live as one by seeking and receiving the second baptism.
Continuing on with the born again experience of the people of King Benjamin, we find the king seeking feedback on the message the angel requested that he deliver. The people responded as found in Mosiah 5:2-3:
” And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things.”
The response from those who listened to the king was an affirmation that the ‘mighty change’ had come upon them. They were cleansed from their sins and were presented with other manifestations of the Spirit including visions of the future. The people then entered into a covenant with God ‘to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things’ (verse 5).
This fruits of this covenant are found in verse 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.”
The baptism by fire and by the Holy Ghost is how we receive a remission of our sins. This second baptism changes us from carnal to spiritual. It brings us great joy and peace. This ‘mighty change’ is necessary for successful participation in the law of consecration. It is the motivation necessary to enter the covenant that we may be called his sons and daughters. Upon receiving this gift, being born again, we should covenant to follow Christ. This allows our names to be taken as an indication of our belonging to the fold of Christ.
Speaking of the message to be given by the twelve disciples, Christ said to the Nephites in 3 Nephi, chapter 12, verse 2:
” …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.”
The remission of sins through the baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost should be the first priority of anyone who seeks to take upon them the name of Christ. It is truly the gate to the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life. We should follow the examples set by the people of King Benjamin, by Enos and Alma, by the 300 Nephites and by Cornelius.
No greater gift can we receive from Christ than the second baptism. Through its saving power, we can be truly the sons and daughters of Christ.
What is it that changes a person spiritually? What must we do to receive a remission of our sins? What does it mean to be ‘born again?’ What happened to the people at the time of King Benjamin who experienced “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually?” (Mosiah 5:2)
I believe these are core questions concerning the restored gospel of Jesus Christ; something every person should strive to understand and seek out in their own lives. I have come to believe that this second baptism is a vital step for all who consider themselves belonging to the church of Christ. In D&C 33:11-12 we read:
“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;”
This passage speaks of the first fruits of the baptism of fire, the remission of sins. There are two key points here that one should consider.
First, baptism by water must be accompanied by the baptism of fire to receive a remission of sins. This idea is reinforced in 2 Nephi chapter 31, verse 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.”
Receiving a remission of our sins sanctifies us and prepares us to enter the kingdom of God. It is clear to me from this passage that baptism by water is necessary but NOT sufficient to receive a remission of our sins. We must seek this second baptism to complete the process.
Now consider the definition of the gospel found in D&C 39:6:
“And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.”
The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost prepares us to become a conduit for the spiritual knowledge that God has offered us. If we adher to this gospel, we are promised that we can receive all things. I believe that the mysteries of God will be made available to all to seek them (see Alma 12:9-11). Does this knowledge come without effort? I say not. We read of the younger Alma’s conversion in Mosiah 27. Ten years later, Alma makes the following statement in Alma 5:46:
“…Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.”
Even after the baptsm by fire and by the Holy Ghost, we are still required to strive earnestly for understanding and knowledge. Just as Alma, to seek the mysteries of God, we must continue to fast and pray mightily.
I would suggest that the baptism by fire cleanses us of our sins and sanctifies us. The baptism by the Holy Ghost opens a conduit to the knowledge of God. Together they constitute the second baptism. This is the core of the restored gospel.
Let me now bring this discussion to a personal level. I do not relate this experience to boast of my situation; I do it because I have been prompted now to share it outside my own family as a means of encouragement to others. I had just started my second year of college. Many things were weighing upon me. I was concerned financially as my father had passed away the previous year. I was struggling emotionally in a relationship that meant very much to me. I was, perhaps most of all, struggling spiritually. These heavy burdens weighed me down and brought more agony and despair than I thought I could bear. As I struggled through a sleepless night, I was drawn to get down on my knees and seek God. I had not prayed for a long time but I found myself pouring out my heart is earnest supplicaton, speaking to God of my pain and the heavy load that I had placed upon myself.
As I pled with Him for help, I had what has come to be the most important event of my life. As I knelt in fervent prayer, I heard a voice as clearly and distinctly as if the person were sitting next to me. It was only one sentence but it gave me a direction that I was to go. As I heard the voice, an incredible energy coursed through my entire body. My entire burden had been lifted and I felt as though my soul had been freed of all my past weight. I felt an overwhelming joy and peace that is beyond description. It was as if someone had flipped a switch in my soul; and the light chased away every bit of darkness and despair. I carried this ‘lighter than air’ feeling for days after the event. I truly felt as if I were a new creature and set in place what I would need to do to follow the admonition I had received.
In retrospect, I didn’t completely understand what had happened to me. I naively knew that God had answered my prayer in a fashion well beyond my expectations but it was not until many years later, as another spiritual crisis came upon me, that I came to clearly understand what had happened to me; that I had been baptized by fire. I was brought to scriptures that I had read many times but never perceived the complete meaning. Through fasting and prayer, I have been able to gain small bits of knowledge and understanding. I have acquired a few grains of sand on the vast beach of God’s mysteries.
The scriptures are replete with the understanding that we must be ‘born again’ in order to enter the kingdom of God. The question that we must confront is one that, I believe, strikes to the very center of the gospel. Is my experience described above the norm or the exception? Can a baptism by fire be accomplished by a imperceptible changes over a long period of time? As Elder Christofferson stated in the April 2008 General Conference:
“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.”
In his address, Elder Christofferson cited the same scripture I did above from 2 Nephi, chapter 31 verse 17 regarding the remission of sins as a product of the baptism by fire and by the Holy Ghost. I feel it is very important to consider the next verse. This is found in 2 Nephi 31:17-18 together:
“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.“
According to this scripture, repentence, baptism by water, and baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost represent the gate to the strait and narrow path. A gate is more representative of an event rather than a process. I believe this clearly implies that the baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost is a necessary event. It is the gate to the strait and narrow path which we all should be on.
As further evidence, consider the following scripture from Moroni 6:4:
“And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.”
I believe that the reference to the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost is the same as a remission of sins received through the baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost. As this scripture states, we must receive a remission of our sins, or be cleansed by the Holy Ghost, before we can gain entrance to the ‘church of Christ.’ Being cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost is an event that must occur before we truly have membership in His spiritual church.
The terms, born again, sanctified, cleansed, and baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost all mean the same thing and reference the same event. As Alma described following his experience (Mosiah 27:24-25):
“…behold I am born of the Spirit. And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters…”
We are to seek the same experience that Alma, Enos, the people of King Benjamin, and the 300 Lamanites enjoyed. We are to petition God that he may grant us entrance to the strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life. We are to receive a remission of our sins through the baptism by fire and by the Holy Ghost that we may be numbered with the church of Christ.
What think ye?
I recently read a biography of Martin Luther by D’Aubigne entitled “The Life and Times of Martin Luther.” It is a good read for anyone interested in the Reformation. It certainly was a different time where one could find themselves at odds with the church hierarchy and be rewarded with not just excommunication, but death.
Of all the issues that Luther recounted in his 95 theses, the practice of indulgences elicited the most venom. Indulgences were long a practice of the Holy Roman Church where the time in purgatory could be reduced, either for one’s self or a relative. This was accomplished by purchasing a defined reduction in the time spent; paying for one’s sins prior to the entry into heaven and backed by the office of the Pope. The story is told of the wife of a shoemaker who purchased such a letter for a gold florin and died shortly later. When the shoemaker was accused of contempt of his religion for not causing a mass to be held for his wife, he answered by producing the indulgence letter stipulating that his wife, upon her death, immediately enter heaven. Hence no mass was needed. It seems that the sale of any product was enhanced by a jingle reminding the prospective buyer of its value. Such was the case with indulgences with this little ditty:
“ As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, The soul from Purgatory springs.” (page 100, Here I Stand by Roland H. Bainton)
During this time, the Holy Roman Church was working to rebuild the Church of Saint Peter. The original structure was built during the time of Constantine and had been condemned. Pope Leo, eager to continue the construction begun by his predecessor, pressed the use of indulgences to a greater level. The monies collected through the sale went to fund one of the greatest construction projects of that era.
In these enlightened times, it is easy to look back and make light of the logic of that time. The basic idea being that we could gain protection in the afterlife by putting money toward a letter which frees us from ‘purgatory.’ The money, in turn is used to support church building projects. Today, we seem to consider tithing in the same light. How many lessons have been given where tithing is characterized as ‘fire insurance?’ Certainly there is support for this idea from D&C 64:23, “…for he that is tithed shall not be burned at this coming.” This term was also used by the proponents of indulgences to induce fear into the potential buyer. The payment of tithes was used by President Hinckley as a marker of the condition of the church. Can the success of the church of Christ truly be measured by the money flowing into its coffers and the vast building projects that are completed? It seems to me that these are easily characterized as the works of men, not the works of God. There is, however, a more disturbing aspect to the focus of tithing in the today’s LDS church and culture. Tithing was formally defined in Section 119 which was an answer to a prayer by Joseph Smith where he sought to understand what the appropriate tithe should be. In the commentary of Section 119 we read:
“The Lord had previously given to the Church the law of consecration and stewardship of property, which members (chiefly the leading elders) entered into by a covenant that was to be everlasting. Because of failure on the part of many to abide by this covenant, the Lord withdrew it for a time, and gave instead the law of tithing to the whole Church.”
So, the law of tithing was instituted within the Church as a temporary substitute for the higher law of consecration which the members failed to observe. Perhaps, one way to view this situation is to present the law of consecration as the celestial law being supplanted by the terrestrial law of tithing. As we read above from Section 119, it was because the members of the church failed to live the higher law. Should we be satisfied that we are measured by this ‘inferior’ metric? Should we not be pleading with the Lord to make us worthy of the return of the law of consecration rather than using tithing as a marker of how well the Church is doing?
As we read in the New Testament, Acts 2:44:
“And all that believed were together, and had all things common”
This circumstance was also found in the church after the Nephites were visited by Christ as we read in Fourth Nephi 1:3:
“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.”
These two societies demonstrated aspects of the law of consecration, having all things in common. Are we, in our material world, setting our sights on the wrong goal? Has tithing become the end rather than a temporary way station as we move toward the higher law?
What think ye?
As I have often pondered the purpose of life, one of the contrasts that has beckoned my attention is the difference between spirituality and religion. I see it in a similar vein as the primary distinction between the ‘works of God’ and the ‘works of man’ as discussed in 3rd Nephi, chapter 27. Here is an attempt to draw out the differences that, I believe, help illuminate the characteristics of someone who is spiritual versus someone who is religious.
Being religious allows one to express righteous indignation when a visitor to church reeks of tobacco.
Being spiritual means that you feel sorrow for someone who carries the odor of their addiction.
Being religious means taking pride in the magnificent structures that are built through the donations of money and wealth.
Being spiritual is understanding that a mountain can bring us close to our Maker if our hearts are right.
Religion is the domain of those who feel a need to be seen and heard and is a necessary platform to conduct our charity.
Spirituality is found in the random acts of kindness that require no forethought and exhibit no ownership of the deed.
A religious person takes comfort in ritual.
A spiritual person senses when an act of reverence has become rote and seeks renewal.
A religious person can easily be satisfied with platitudes and has an answer for everything.
A spiritual person finds that every answer spawns another twenty questions.
Being religious means taking pride in heritage and success; easily and unknowingly classifying others based on clothes, address, and possessions.
Being spiritual acknowledges that the only true measure of a person is the spiritual dimensions of their heart.
A religious person understands that power and position are to be sought after but never publically acknowledged.
A spiritual person seeks only the happiness of others; knowing inside that we can only help ourselves by helping others.
Religion is based on the works of man while spirituality is the work that the spirit vests in one who maintains a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
What think ye?
The word ‘fulness’ is found numerous times in the scriptures; used to signify ‘completeness,’ ‘all that is therein’ and ‘full’ as identified in Strong’s Concordance. The Lord, for example, in Psalms 16:11 states:“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”representing the idea that the object could not receive any more joy.
The less pleasant use of the word can be found in 1 Nephi 17:35:
“…But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them…”
It is easily conceived that the ‘fulness of the wrath of God’ doesn’t leave much room in the ‘glass.’
The word is also used to signify that a period of time representing the completion as is found in Ephesians 1:10:
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”
The same can be said by the attribution to the gospel. The fulness of the gospel, as cited in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 20, represents all that is contained in the gospel. Speaking of the Book of Mormon, we find this recorded:
“…Which contains a record of a fallen people, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also…”
As such, the Book of Mormon contains all that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This idea is reinforced in 1 Nephi 15:13 which reads:
“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—“
As can be seen by the above references, both the Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon represent that the fulness of the gospel is contained in the Book of Mormon. The Joseph Smith History found in the Pearl of Great Price helps to zero in on the location of this information speaking of Moroni’s message to Joseph Smith in verse 34:
“He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;”
The visit of Jesus Christ to the ‘ancient inhabitants’ is found in 3rd Nephi; specifically between his descent from heaven in Chapters 9-11 and his subsequent departure found in Chapter 28 verse 12. It is made even easier since, rather than leaving it to speculation, the Lord was very specific on this topic. As with any good speaker, the Lord told us what he was going to tell us, told us, and then told us what he had told us. This is found in 3rd Nephi, Chapter 27 starting with verse 13:
“13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
17 And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.
18 And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.
19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;”
Based on the scriptures cited above, the fulness of the gospel, as delivered by the Savior, is:
- Christ is the author of our salvation and died on the cross to draw all men to Him
- All men will be judged of their works
- We must repent and be baptized and endure to the end
- To enter his kingdom, we must be cleansed by the by His blood through the atonement of Jesus Christ through faith and repentance to the end
- We are cleansed or sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost
The Lord summarizes this treatise of the fulness of the gospel in verse 20: Repent, come unto me, be baptized, receive sanctification through the Holy Ghost. The theme of ‘repent and come unto me’ is found throughout the scriptures. The message here is that we must repent of our sins and then seek Him out.
Again, we are specifically told that the fulness of the gospel is found in the words of Jesus Christ to the Nephites recorded in 3 Nephi. So, it is, perhaps equally important to understand what is is not. The fulness of the gospel is NOT the law of plural marriage. It is NOT the united order. It IS the path we must individually take to be admitted into the kingdom of God. It IS the way by which we are cleansed from sin and truly partake of the atonement of Christ.
Paul has warned us:
“If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:9)
I take this to be a warning that we are to pay attention to the specific meaning of the gospel of Christ. Allowing ourselves to accept and defend another version of the gospel or ascribe to the idea that the gospel is all knowledge given to man is not acceptable to the Lord.
To clearly understand what another gospel is, we should clearly comprehend that the fulness of the gospel contains. It is, indeed, the power of God unto Salvation.
The purpose of this blog is to explore aspects of the message of Jesus Christ. The intent is to focus substantially on the scriptures rather than the commentary of man. Topics such as the gospel and doctrine of Christ, the role of Gentile and Jew, and the scriptures of the restoration are all seen as material for discussion.