Archive for April, 2011
The visitations of Christ did not happen over the sequence of a few days. As we read in Third Nephi, there was some time interval between his appearances:
“1 AND it came to pass that as the disciples of Jesus were journeying and were preaching the things which they had both heard and seen, and were baptizing in the name of Jesus, it came to pass that the disciples were gathered together and were united in mighty prayer and fasting.”
The twelve disciples had come back together after taking the message out to the people and were likely discussing the results and where the message could be strengthened. I find it interesting that the main question they apparently had was in regard to the name of the Church.
“3 And they said unto him: Lord, we will that thou wouldst tell us the name whereby we shall call this church; for there are disputations among the people concerning this matter.”
Christ reinforced the idea that the church, the message, and their efforts should be focused on Him.
“5 Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day;
6 And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.”
Besides carrying His name, the Church must be based on His gospel. This gathering was also an opportunity to restate the core of the message – the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“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—”
Christ was crucified that he ‘might draw all men unto [Him].’ This, I believe, is the core message of this Easter season as well as the central theme of any organization that is called by His name and is based on His gospel. The entire focus of His church is to bring souls to Christ. Any efforts or programs or activities that detract from that message should not be sanctioned by his Church.
Are there messages in the church today that direct our focus to another person? Are we told to follow some person rather than be drawn to Christ? If so, we should repent and restore our line of sight to Him who carries the ability to ‘wash our garments in [His] blood’ and cleanse us of all sin. It is Christ alone that should be the center of our devotion and action. No other person or program will bring the desired outcome.
Our efforts in His church should be, first, to bring ourselves to activate these words in our lives:
“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.”
The second effort should be to assist Christ in bringing all men to Him. We cannot allow a bureaucracy and a mile long list of ‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt nots’ cloud our perception of the real meaning of the message of Christ. We are to do as the disciples of old were told. Take only the words they were given and instruct those willing to listen.
As this Easter season wanes and is again replaced by the standard program I encourage all of you to re-evaluate your ‘program.’ Do my activities, spiritual and religious, fulfill the directive to bring people to Christ? Do we think we can accomplish this by attracting people’s attention to beautiful buildings or tons of relief, or by some other work of man? The challenge to each of us is to live a Christ-centered life and to do the works of God.
One of the themes of this past April conference seemed to be the concept of sanctification. As I scanned back over the last 20 years of general conferences, no other occasion found more references to being sanctified. Here are some of the occurrences.
In speaking of service, M. Russell Ballard stated:
“I believe there is one simple but profound—even sublime—principle that encompasses the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we wholeheartedly embrace this principle and make it the focus of our lives, it will purify and sanctify us so we can live once again in the presence of God.”
Can we be sanctified through our service to others?
H. David Burton seems to agree stating in his conference address that
“The work of caring for one another and being “kind to the poor” is a sanctifying work, commanded of the Father.”
Silvia Allred expresses the same idea.
“Helping one another is a sanctifying experience which exalts the receiver and humbles the giver.”
What is the role of sanctification in our lives and how do we accomplish it? Is it truly the result of service to others that can bring us sanctification?
According to Dictionary.com, ‘sanctify’ means to
1. to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate.
2. to purify or free from sin: Sanctify your hearts.
The scriptures note that sanctification is a key element of the gospel. In third Nephi, chapter 27, we find the Lord’s on definition of the gospel:
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;
As you can see in the final three verses, we told that no unclean thing can be admitted to the kingdom of God, in order to gain entrance, we must repent, come unto Christ and be baptized and be sanctified by the Holy Ghost. Sanctification through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is a necessary prerequisite to entry into the kingdom. I see no mention of the works of men or service to others as warranting sanctification.
In section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we find another definition of the Gospel:
40 And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—
41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;
Again, it is through Jesus Christ that we receive sanctification. What kind of a message is it to members of the Church that you don’t need to worry about coming unto Christ, just do lots of service and you will be cleansed from sin. Is that the message of the quotes from general conference cited above? How can one change the gospel to mean something it is not. Paul told the Galatians that anyone preaching another gospel should be cursed.
Another important reference to sanctification can be found in the book of Moroni:
1 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.
2 Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.
3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.
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.
Here we find the criteria for membership in the church of Christ – baptism and being cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost were the conditions upon which one could be numbered with the people of the church of Christ.
I feel it is important to defend the purity of the Gospel. Having relegated sanctification to the fruits of service strikes at the heart of the restored gospel. It is tantamount to rejecting the Savior as the source of our sanctification when we promote the ‘sanctifying’ experience of service to others.
The scriptures teach that sanctification is provided by the Holy Ghost. It is not something that we can accomplish on our own. In order to be accepted into the kingdom of God, we must be cleansed and sanctified – to have our sins remitted. That is the condition the scriptures put on sanctification.
Here are some thoughts from the Saturday afternoon session
Every year as the financial report is given, I am reminded that for the first 100+ years of the church, the financial reports included detailed statements regarding the financial state of the organization. Then, I believe, it was in the early 50’s that stopped abruptly without any explanation. So why was it OK to provide detailed financial records then it was not Ok?
As Elder Cantwell noted, the report is based on Section 120, which reads:
“1 VERILY, thus saith the Lord, the time is now come, that it shall be disposed of by a council, composed of the First Presidency of my Church, and of the bishop and his council, and by my high council; and by mine own voice unto them, saith the Lord. Even so. Amen.”
The first presidency, presiding bishopric, and the council of the twelve is to determine the financial direction of the church, but this is also supposed to be by the voice of the Lord. I would dearly love to see the revelations associated with the Lord’s voice regarding the financial actions of His church.
When the church announces some big project, the statement is usually accompanied with the statement that no sacred funds were used for the project. Assuming that this means the funding was derived from the investments by the church not from tithing and donations, I must ask: How did the church originally acquire the assets which generated the funding? Many of the original investments appear to be the properties which were in the United Order. When that activity collapsed, the many enterprises from ZCMI, to banks to sugar beet farms were simply rolled into the wallet of the church. I would submit that those activities that generated funds were sacred then. Why not now? The idea that the church can bankroll everything from security to legal retainers to massive reconstruction of the downtown SLC area without the use of funds that are considered sacred is beyond me. I would suggest that a true perspective would be that ALL money held by the church is sacred. I would also submit that the church financial activities should not be hidden behind a veil of secrecy. It seems antithetical that a church claiming to be the church of Jesus Christ would be so embroiled in the art of mammon.
Elder Packer quoted from the 27th chapter of 3rd Nephi in reference to the Church of Christ as follows:
“4 And the Lord said unto them: Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing?
5 Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day;
6 And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.
7 Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.
8 And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.”
The question that the above scripture leaves us with is what is the gospel necessary to validate the church? What is the gospel of Christ? Later in the chapter, Christ defines His gospel. But first, let’s look at the rest of the criteria the Lord gives for an organization to carry His name. Again from chapter 27:
“9 Verily I say unto you, that ye are built upon my gospel; therefore ye shall call whatsoever things ye do call, in my name; therefore if ye call upon the Father, for the church, if it be in my name the Father will hear you;
10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.
12 For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you.”
Here are the conditions I would suggest are needed for Christ to accept the church:
The church must be called the church of Christ
It must adhere to the gospel of Christ
The works of the Father will be shown in the church
Two key questions: Does the church operate according to the gospel of Christ? Does it ‘show forth’ the works of God?
I would submit that we should accept the definition of the gospel of Christ, as found in the 27th chapter of Third Nephi. I would further submit that the gospel as taught by the church is significantly different from the treatment of this verse. Joseph Fielding Smith, for example, defined the gospel as all the true knowledge and wisdom ever received by man. We have many books that purport to contain gospel principles from the Word of Wisdom to the church service activities. What is the correct definition of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
If this is the Lord’s church, the works of the Father should be demonstrated. As I noted in my comments from the first session, the twelve disciples performed many miracles as a demonstration of the veracity of the Church. What about today?
Elder Packer admonished us who carry some burden, to forget it. Let it alone. Wouldn’t this same guidance be appropriate when considering the likes of the September 6?
Russel M Nelson
We do not need to let our fears displace our faith. Fear is the opposite of faith. Just as Peter discovered as he tried to walk on water.
We must keep all the commandments of God – what are those commandments? How do we know which commandments are of God and which are of man?
Priesthood holds the key to all the spiritual blessing of the church – but only if there is no unrighteous dominion.
Cecil O Samuelson
Quoted from his sermon: “A mighty change of heart often occurs gradually rather than instantaneously or globally.”
Can we find in the scriptures where the specific event associated with this ‘mighty change of heart’ occurred? The key examples are Alma the younger, Enos, and the people of King Benjamin. None of those could be considered examples of a gradual process. The might change of heart is achieved by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost – an event just as real and tangible as the associated baptism of water.
Dallin H. Oaks
Importance of desire
Desires -> priorities -> choices ->actions-> changing, achieving , becoming
Enos get what he wanted because of his desire, faith, and labors. And I would add that Enos is an example for all of us who desire to receive a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.
M. Russell Ballard
So busy looking for large nuggets that you are missing filing your pouch with these flecks which brought great wealth
According to Elder Ballard, the principle that encompasses the entirety of the gospel – is love.
Great commandment of the law – love God, second love they neighbor.
Love found in simple acts of kindness and service.
While the concept that love is central to the actions of true followers of Christ, I would again submit that redefining the gospel as love God and love your neighbor does not reconcile with the scriptures.
L. Tom Perry
The comment regarding the Savior’s dual citizenship, both heaven and earth, speaks to an interesting concept. Do we claim dual citizenship also? As I pondered this topic, I was reminded of what Christ taught Nicodemus. We have to be been born both of the earth and of heaven. The baptism of water can represent the earthly baptism while the baptism of the spirit can be viewed as being ‘born’ from above.
I know of only one place in the scriptures where the idea of what clothing is worn is identified as important to the Sabbath observance. The Zoramites dressed in their fine clothing on this day. The following is Alma’s response to the situation.
“Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish.” Alma 31:28
Do we indirectly cast people out of our places of worship but placing artificial constraints on what people can wear?
Elder Perry indicated that the young priesthood holders prepare and bless the sacrament in the same way as the Savior did. I beg to differ. I have outlined my thoughts on how the church has deviated from the way that the sacrament is administered by the Lord in Third Nephi.
Is our justification for the differences sufficient?
What can we learn from children – humility, obedience, and love… I would have hoped that Sister Stevens could have linked this directly to the doctrine of Christ as found in Third Nephi, chapter 11:
“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.”
We are told that this is the doctrine of Christ and that declaring more or less than this is unsatisfactory.
Walter F. Gonzalez
Followers of Christ are loving people and make covenants – sacrament and temple attendance. I find it interesting that the Book of Mormon, which contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, speaks clearly on the need to perform the ordinance of the sacrament according to the example of the Savior but says nothing regarding the need to attend the temple. Has this ‘covenant’ been placed by man or by God?
Kent F. Richards
No pain is wasted – adds to our understanding. That is much easier to say after the pain is over…
Elder Richards quotes from the definition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ found in Third Nephi, chapter 21:
“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.”
Is there any conflict between the gospel definition of the purpose to draw all men unto Christ and the dictate to ‘follow the prophet?’ Shouldn’t the mission of the church be to bring people to Christ rather than swear allegiance to a man?
Healed by the power of the lamb of God – where is that healing today? We read in Fourth Nephi, that the church that was established by Christ among the Nephites was led by twelve disciples who performed the miracles as a sign of the veracity of their organization.
“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.”