Archive for June, 2009

I would like to propose a little self-administered quiz. Here we go:

From the title page of the Book of Mormon we read: “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile.” So we have three groups identified as targeted recipients of the Book of Mormon:

  1. Remnant of the House of Israel, or the Lamanites
  2. Jews
  3. Gentiles

Now for the question: To which one of these three groups do you belong?

[please proceed when you have completed the test]

If you are a native American, a Pacific Islander or other similar lineage, there is a traditional answer; that being number one. But what if you are a white of European descent? The only two options left for you are Jew or Gentile. Perhaps a couple of scriptures may help to point you in a direction of an answer.

First, from 2 Nephi 33 verse 8:

“I have charity for the Jew—I say Jew, because I mean them from whence I came.”

Also, in 2 Nephi, chapter 15, first in verse 17 and again in verse 20, Nephi seems to be comfortable interchanging two groups, Jews and ‘house of Israel.’:

“for the very cause that he shall be rejected of the Jews, or of the house of Israel.”

In the context of the Book of Mormon, a Jew represents those that were of the house of Israel who lived in the area around Jerusalem.

So, I would suggest that you out there of European descent don’t qualify as Jews.

The only answer left is… guess what????? Yes, Gentile.

The members of the LDS Church, who have long pointed at the world and said, ‘eeww Gads, Gentiles’ are actually pointing at their own brothers????? Could Mormons actually be Gentiles according to the Book of Mormon?

My answer is an emphatic yes. Fortunately, I am not alone. In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith stated the following:

“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

So what does being identified with the Gentiles mean? I suggest it means we are part of that group.

Prefer something of a little later vintage? How about Boyd K. Packer’s statement in a 2007 speech at BYU?

Wherefore, O ye Gentiles [and the term gentile in that place in the Book of Mormon refers to us in our generation], it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you. . . . ” Ether 8:23

 

Boyd K. Packer, devotional address was delivered on January 16, 2007

This certainly begs the question, how do you tell when the use of the term ‘Gentile’ in the latter day scriptures refers to us as members of His church? I would suggest that throughout the Book of Mormon, we are identified with the Gentiles. We are part of that group. We, therefore, should be paying close attention to the messages and warnings contained in these scriptures that were delivered by way of the Gentile because the messages and warnings are to US! I will elaborate further on this topic in the next post.

Going back to the title page of the Book of Mormon, we find that this record was ‘to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile.’ Since the Book of Mormon contains the ‘fulness of the Gospel,’ it is only appropriate that Nephi would assert that ‘the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the gentiles unto the remnant of our seed.’ So, it is through the Gentiles that the remnant of the house of Israel is to receive the Book of Mormon. We, Gentiles, are the recipients of the Book of Mormon, just as the title page suggests and it is our responsibility to take the fulness of the Gospel, as contained in the Book of Mormon to the remnant of the house of Israel. That I will leave to further explore also in another post.

Assuming that you have even read this far, I would suspect that a significant majority of you are muttering something about the patriarchal blessings, the tribe of Ephraim and Joseph Smith being a descendent of Joseph of Egypt.

So how can Joseph Smith (and the rest of us) be both of the tribe of Ephraim and a Gentile? Actually, we should expect that we could carry both titles given the blessing Ephraim received at the hands of his grandfather, Isaac, as found in Genesis 48:

“And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him.

And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.

And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day.

The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head.

And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.

And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.”

Here is where a little Hebrew comes in handy. The blessing of Ephraim states that ‘his seed shall become a multitude of nations (male hagoyim).’ If you have a Strong’s concordance, you will find that ‘goy’ is translated just as easily as Gentiles rather than nations.’ So, Isaac’s blessing is a prophecy that Ephraim will produce a multitude of Gentiles, or a fulness of nations, or even the fulness of the Gentiles. So, we can be both a descendent of Ephraim AND a Gentile. The point I want to make here is that it is entirely credible that the Gentiles described in the Book of Mormon are us. Yes, Gentiles-R-Us.

Perhaps one of the most demonstrative of the scriptures that point to Gentiles being composed of both believing and unbelieving is found in 3 Nephi, chapter 16.

First, let’s read verses 6 and 7:

“And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father.

Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them.”

Here we have Gentiles who have received a witness of Christ and the Father ‘in and of the Holy Ghost.’ Who else could that be? The unbelief of the house of Israel also leads God to give the fulness of the gospel to the Gentiles. Again, who else could this refer to? We, indeed, claim to have the testimony of the truthfulness of these things ‘in and through the Holy Ghost.’ We, positively, claim to have the fulness of the gospel. We, as gentiles, have received these things.

Believers who have received a witness by the Holy Ghost can still be considered Gentiles, but not all Gentiles are believers as we read in the verse 8:

“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;”

So, here we clearly see that there are unbelieving Gentiles as well as believing Gentiles. In these verses, Christ identified both the believing and unbelieving of the Gentiles.

In summary, The restoration and the delivery of the Book of Mormon occurred to the Gentiles. We, being identified with the Gentiles, are the recipients of the fulness of the gospel.

What think ye?


In second Nephi, we find the last messages Lehi left with his sons before he passed away. His message to Jacob carries a lot of meaning to me. Of course, the most often quoted phrase from the second chapter is likely to be:

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25)

In my opinion, there is much more in the message to Jacob than this simple phrase. I also believe that it is the formula for the joy and happiness that Lehi referenced.

As Lehi talked about the necessity of the creation, here are some of the points that continue to inspire me to seek a better understanding of the purpose of life and the joys and sorrows it brings:

  • By the law, no flesh is justified (verse 5)
  • Redemption comes through Jesus Christ to those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit (verse 7)
  • No flesh can dwell in the presence of God except through the mercy and grace of Christ (verse 8)
  • We will be judged by Him (verse 10)
  • Opposition in all things (verse11)

All of this is leading up to what I consider a key learning that I have taken away from this scripture. Without opposition, good/bad, there would be nothing. So we all should expect face opposition in our lives; the continual battle between self and God, the seeking of happiness or the reaping of sadness. In this drawing of contrasts in these verses, one that has taken on much meaning is found in verse 14:

“…for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.”

Being one of God’s creations, we also either act or are acted upon. As I look back on my life, I recognize that I have, in large part, received joy when I have acted while sadness has come when I have let other things act upon me. The conflict comes because, as Lehi said, in verse 11, ‘all things must needs be a compound in one.’ Sometimes, I act, and sometimes, I am acted upon.

We have, in this day, many conveniences; one that stands out in my mind is the much maligned remote control. Pushing a button on the remote produces an immediate and well-defined response. I push the ‘on’ button and the TV turns on; push it again and it turns off. This stimulus/response is ‘hardwired’ into the equipment.

If we allow it, we have buttons also. Certain conditions, words, images, or circumstances that trigger the expected response. What are the triggers for your addiction/character flaw? What is your response to being cut off in traffic? Ever have a ‘bad day?’ Have you ever said: ‘you make me so mad?’ This statement is typical of the perspective of life when we allow the stimulus from our environment to determine our response. In traffic, do we allow another driver to determine our happiness? Do we let our friends or family members to ‘make’ us mad and by so doing remove our ability to decide if we want to be mad or not?

Our ability to inject analysis in between the stimulus and response is what allows us to control our response. We are not hardwired unless we allow ourselves to be, unless we are acted upon. This idea is not new and is well covered in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey.

I would suggest that allowing ourselves to be ‘acted upon’ detracts from our ability to acquire joy. As in the 13 step programs around us, one of the keys is the recognition of triggers and consciously redirecting our thoughts and actions away from our ‘programmed’ response. As it states in verse 26, God has given man the ability to ‘act for themselves and not be acted upon.”

One of the stories the found in Covey’s book is about Victor Frankl who lived through the second world war. He was a psychiatrist and a Jew who was imprisoned in the death camps of Nazi Germany, where he experienced things that were so repugnant to our sense of decency that we would shudder to even repeat them. His parents, his brother and his wife, all died in the camps. Except for his sister, his entire family perished. Frankl himself suffered torture and innumerable indignities, never knowing from one moment to the next if his path would lead to the ovens or if he would be among the temporarily saved who would clean up.

Frankl writes:

“Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him — mentally and spiritually. . . . It is this spiritual freedom–which cannot be taken away–that makes life meaningful and purposeful.
An active life serves the purpose of giving man the opportunity to realize values in creative work, while a passive life of enjoyment affords him the opportunity to obtain fulfillment in experiencing beauty, art, or nature. But there is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior: namely, in man’s attitude to his existence, an existence restricted by external forces. A creative life and a life of enjoyment are banned to him. But not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.
The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity–even under the most difficult circumstances–to add a deeper meaning to his life.” (From Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor L. Frankl. Revised edition)

One day, alone in a small room, Victor began to develop this concept of the “last of the human freedoms” They could control his entire environment. They could do what they wanted to his body, but Victor Frankl himself could decide how all of this was going to effect him. Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose that response.

What is the simple lesson we can learn?

Just as Victor Frankl had the ability to determine his response to the events around him, so we can determine our response to the events around us. We have been given the gift to choose, whether we act or be acted upon.
This gives us the opportunity to analyze our own situation. What are stimuli or “buttons” that we encounter in our day to day activities that we allow to control us? Can we begin a transformation, to break that automatic reaction that binds us to a particular behavior or attitude? It can be as simple as recognizing when one of our buttons is pushed and refusing to allow it to control our actions.

I would submit that we can find as much joy in this life as we allow ourselves. Joy comes from our ability to not react to our environment but to decide how, if at all, the stimulus will affect us.

What think ye?

“When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19)

The scriptures recount the Lord’s promise to Simon Peter regarding the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Keys represent a significant item not only in the current LDS Church but also in the Catholic Church. I was reminded of this fact in a recent trip to Rome. An easy way to recognize a statue or painting of Peter, the apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, is to look for keys in his hand.

For example, in this statue located in Saint Peter’s Basilica, we see Peter holding the keys in his left hand. I have included an inset of a closeup of the keys.

The Apostle Peter holding the keys of the kingdom of God

The keys of the kingdom also adorn other aspects of Catholic life. The coat of arms of the Pope has, for centuries, included the keys. This view, also from St. Peter’s Basilica,  shows the coat of arms of Pope Leo X who was instrumental in the construction of the basilica.

Papal Coat of Arms

Today, the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI, continues the tradition. One gold key representing the power in heaven and one silver key representing the power on earth. These two keys are linked by the papal cord signifying the connection between the actions on earth and heaven.

Coat of Arms of Pope Benedict XVI

Even the floor of the entry to Saint Peter’s Basilica is decorated with the keys.

Entry way floor of the Basilica of Saint Peter

The message is clear. Peter received the keys from Jesus Christ and the Pope still retains them today. Catholicism contends that there has been an unbroken chain of authority from Peter, the first ‘bishop’ of Rome through to the current Pope. As early as Bishop Clement in A.D. 88, the Catholics demonstrate that the bishop of Rome held sway over the church through his letter of correction to the Church in Corinth.

While there is no solid proof that the power vested in Peter by the Lord Jesus Christ was transferred to the subsequent bishops of Rome, this transfer is inherent in the position occupied by Peter and those that followed him in the Holy Roman See. Such is the Catholic contention. A defense of the Catholic position is found in the this letter by Art Kelly.

Did Peter, as an apostle, transfer the keys of the kingdom of God to the titular bishop of Rome? Did the Lord no longer need the apostles that represented personal witnesses of His resurrection? Did the less than Christ-like demeanor of some of the popes negate whatever power and authority that was given to them by God?

Now, shift forward a few centuries. The restoration of the fulness of the gospel and the keys of priesthood authority contend that the keys given to Peter were lost. Without the organization as constituted by the Lord Jesus Christ, the church was left to the wiles of men who used it to gain power and wealth. The restoration of the organization of the original church with it’s twelve apostles and the ordination of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey to the higher priesthood represent that these powers to seal on earth and in heaven are again upon the earth. Elder Bateman expressed the following support in October 2003 general conference:

“The priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man. Priesthood keys are the right to direct the use of that power. The President of the Church holds the keys necessary for governing the entire Church. His counselors in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also hold the keys of the kingdom and operate under the President’s direction.”

These keys are passed on by ordination from generation to generation. But, does the simple passage of these keys through the laying on of hands constitute the only condition by which the keys of the priesthood can be exercised? In Doctrine and Covenants, section 121, further conditions are identified relative to the conduct of a bearer of the priesthood:

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

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—

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.

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.” D&C 121:34-37

As the scripture states, the rights or keys of the priesthood can only be exercised when the principles of righteousness are present. Any degree of unrighteous control or compulsion can negate a leaders authority. This admonition is not restricted to any class or position.

But what constitutes ‘unrighteous control?’ In earlier times during the Spanish Inquisition, Jews who would not renounce their belief and join the Holy Roman Church were drug through the streets by their feet or hanged. I would say that is a clear case.

Would the excommunication of a person because they promote the belief in a heavenly mother  constitute unrighteous dominion? Where does striving for the purity of the faith cross over into unrighteousness?

Were the keys of the priesthood lost in the earlier dispensation? Can the keys of the priesthood be lost in this dispensation? The Lord tells us that:

“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.
Hence many are called, but few are chosen.” D&C 121:39-40

What is the definition of ‘almost all men?’ How easy is it ‘to cover our sins, to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion’ on others from a position of authority?

Does it gratify our pride when we accept accommodations in a multi-million dollar penthouse suite? Or a car and driver? Or an unlimited expense account?

Do we contribute to the problem when we extend adulation and bestow public honors upon those Christ called to ‘minister unto us and to be our servants?’ (See 3 Nephi 12:1)

What think ye?