Wednesday, January 23, 2013

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The Sons Of God Continued

Under Adam's direction, angels were sent from heaven to give keys to the prophet Joseph Smith.  Joseph was an Elias sent to "restore these very glories."

In a revelation given through the prophet in Kirtland, the Lord revealed more concerning the Holy Priesthood.  The same elements that you see in JST Genesis 14 show up in this 1832 revelation.  Moses, who was an High Priest after this order, an Elias in his day, sought to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God.  Their story is one that is much like our own.    

“And without the ordinances [of this greater priesthood], and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;

For without this no man can see the face of God , even the Father, and live.

“Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;

“But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fullness of his glory.

“Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;” (D&C 84:19-25).

It should be apparent that the Holy Priesthood herein mentioned is the very same priesthood spoken of in the previous post.  It has to do with "the power of godliness" and the "face of God" being manifest unto men "in the flesh."  It has to do with "sanctification" and entering into God's "rest," which is the "fullness" of His Glory.

Your experience in the Lord's church - and it is His church - is different than the experiences Enoch and Melchizedek had with their God through the veil.  It is different than the experiences Moses had, and that Joseph Smith had.  Our experience has been more in the likes of the antediluvians who never entered the ark, and like the children of Israel who couldn't accept what Moses had to offer.  Indeed, as has been said concerning us, though not aptly explained to us, we live far beneath our privileges (most recently).

Joseph's revelation continues:

“For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.

“They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

“And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;

For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;

“And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;

“And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

“And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.

“Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.

“But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.

“And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you” (D&C 84:33-42).

You can become a son of God or a son of Perdition.  If you have been given power to become the one, it is within your capacity to become the other.  Most will not become either in this life.  Most will not ever reach such a height, or fall to such a depth.  Yet, receiving the knowledge of God should be the aim of every Latter-day Saint.

The Lord said that "all those who receive the priesthood" will receive an "oath and covenant of my Father."  Those who "break this covenant" and "altogether turn" therefrom, will not qualify for forgiveness in this world or in the next one.  This is a very serious matter.  The Lord is very serious about these things.  The Father doesn't hand out "this covenant" to his sons without proving them first in all things (HC 3:379-381).  More on this in the next post.  

Well, early in Joseph Smith's ministry, some saints made extensive efforts to connect with heaven and resultantly experienced many of the gifts of the spirit and the glories of God.  In time, however, many of the saints were filled with envy, strife, contention, jealousies, folly, and abomination.  They failed to comply with the Lord's instructions and hence to obtain Zion.  They were "moved out of their place."  Their failures brought cursings, wrath, indignations, and judgments (D&C 124:45-48).

The Lord is beginning again to put forth his hand and work among the people.  We have an opportunity to repent and come unto Christ, or be destroyed.  How is it that the Gentiles will choose the latter?

This is the last time that the Lord shall nourish his vineyard (Jacob 5:71).  The end is nigh at hand.  Those who repent and prevail upon God, in faith, to receive the blessings of the fulness of the gospel will be sealed in their foreheads (D&C 77:11).  

There will again begin to be "natural fruit" in the vineyard (Jacob 5:73).  The Lord will preserve the natural fruit to Himself against the season, which speedily cometh.  The bad will be cast away.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Sons Of God

When Adam gathered together his righteous posterity he blessed them, that he might bring them into the presence of God (TPJS, p. 161).  

“They looked for a city, etc., ‘whose builder and maker is God’ (Heb. 11:10).  Moses sought to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God, through the power of the Priesthood, but he could not.  In the first ages of the world they tried to establish the same thing; and there were Eliases raised up who tried to restore these very glories, but did not obtain them; but prophesied of a day when this glory would be revealed” (ibid.).

Eliases have been sent from God unto man since the beginning.  They are preparers and restorers, and point men to Christ.  Though they themselves are tried and tested while here and are vulnerable to failing, they were among the Noble and Great Ones, and have descended to the earth to test and prove others (Abr. 3:25).  

There have been continuous attempts at helping men obtain the presence of God.  Men have almost always failed to obtain what has been offered.  Perhaps there is no greater opportunity to obtain these glories than when these Eliases walk among men in the flesh.  After their deaths, however, men fall further and further from the truth.  They lose light through iniquity and through their unbelief; through disobedience and the traditions of their fathers (D&C 93:39).  As generations pass, blindness is no longer recognized, and sight into these things is no longer desired.  It is a pitiful state.  God sends more messengers to teach and redeem his children.

Some men and women have been successful in their efforts to obtain Zion.  When Melchizedek was among men, he and his people obtained peace.  They sought for Enoch and his city.  Joseph Smith's translation of Genesis 14 is fundamental in restoring an understanding of these things to those who receive his work.

“And Melchizedek lifted up his voice and blessed Abram.

Is this "blessing" the same kind of thing spoken of above, wherein Adam "blessed" his righteous posterity that they might be brought into the presence of God?  Is it the same blessing Adam gives to Enoch at age 65, a blessing he received long after his "ordination," who thereafter walked with God 365 years (D&C 107:48-49)?  What blessing is this?

“Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.

“And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,

It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by mannor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;

“And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.

Melchizedek's faith and righteousness is not common.  His life is unparalleled by men and women in our day.  He was approved of God, and received covenants from God.  God had made these same covenants with Enoch.  This order came not by man, but of God.  It came by the calling of God's own voice out of the heavens.  Melchizedek knows God, whom to know is Eternal life.    

For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;

“To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.

God swears with an oath to those who receive this Priesthood.  This oath does not come to recipients through the words of a book gathering dust on millions of peoples' bookshelves, but from His own voice.  Those who are after this order obtain the power of God.  They stand in the presence of God.  They do all things according to the will of God.  They are approved of him.  They obtain Heaven, and have communion with the angels of Heaven.  They become the sons of God.  

“And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.

“And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace.

“And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;

“And hath said, and sworn with an oath, that the heavens and the earth should come together; and the sons of God should be tried so as by fire” (JST Gen. 14:25-40).

As we take a look at a number of other passages of scripture you should look for these same elements to appear in the text.  It is startling to realize how many times these same themes and patterns show up in scriptures that we cavalierly apply to every male "Melchizedek Priesthood holder" in the church.  We're all mixed up.

God established his Holy Priesthood in the beginning.  This order of Priesthood that has been ever since the beginning will come again before the coming of the Son of Man (Moses 6:7).  The history of man, the Holy Priesthood, the presence upon the earth of men and women who walk with the God of Heaven, a Holy City, etc., are all a divine Chiasm.  That which has been shall be.  That which was in the beginning shall be in the end.  The course of the Lord is one eternal round.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Keeping Up Appearances

Nephi's brothers and their families had a difficult time perceiving the true condition of the Jews from whom they fled.  They insisted in their own hearts, even long after they had left, that the Jews were a righteous people.   

"And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words..." (1 Ne. 17:22).

What made it difficult for Laman and Lemuel to see clearly was the simple fact that the Jews were a religious people.  Many of them kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses.  Would not this appear to be a righteous people?  Laman and Lemuel were blinded by appearances.  Their erroneous perception of reality caused them to twice 'bear testimony' of something that was false - "we know" the Jews are righteous.  What they "knew" blinded them, because it was false.    

When Joseph Smith learned in 1820 about the prevailing religious culture of his day, the Lord explained that mens' hearts were far from Him.    

"I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were and abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: 'they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof'" (JSH 1:19).

Is it possible that the Jews, though keeping up outward appearances, had allowed their hearts to drift from God?  Is it possible that men in Joseph Smith's day, who had a form of godliness, possessed hearts not set on finding their Lord?  Is it easy for men to recognize when the commandments of men are taught as doctrine?  Do men wittingly deny the power of godliness?  

I continue to be astonished that latter-day Saints don't ever wonder whether we have fallen to such a condition.  We are not allowed to wonder such a thing.  We are full of fear, and know it not.  We claim God's priesthood, but we undertake to cover our sins.  We think we are chosen, but our hearts are set so much upon the things of this world.  We claim revelation, but reveal nothing.  The heavens have withdrawn themselves, and the Spirit of the Lord is grieved.  We should be ashamed, but are proud.  We should humble ourselves, but we cannot hear the voice of God because we are busy marching to the beat of Babylon.  Yet there are a few who are humble, who have not gone astray (2 Ne. 28:14).     

In teaching both the multitude and his disciples, Jesus said:

"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:

"All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.  

"For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

"But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

"And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,

"And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

"But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren" (Matt. 23:2-8).

The problem of which Christ spake is a condition of the heart.  The scribes' and the Pharisees' works were performed so as to be seen of men.  They loved the chief seats, and royal treatment.  They could not help but love their greetings in the markets, and to be called Rabbi.  They loved too much the glory of being the teacher, and not being taught by the Lord; of being the leader, not a follower of Righteousness.  They appeared to do the works of righteousness, but their hearts were not set upon Christ.  They were full of priestcraft (2 Ne. 26:29).  Because they exalted themselves they shall be abased (Matt. 23:12).

Christ's words struck at the heart of the whole matter (Matt. 23:13-39).  The leaders were blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel; who "make yourselves appear unto men that ye would not commit the least sin, and yet ye yourselves, transgress the whole law" (JST Matt. 23:21).  These guides made the outside of the cup appear clean, but within were full of excess and extortion.  

How is it that a man may keep up all outward appearances and yet be deemed "full of hypocrisy and iniquity" by Christ (Matt. 23:28)?      

Monday, January 14, 2013

Beholding The Heavens Open

At the baptism of Jesus the heavens were opened (Matt 3:16-17).  As a part of that experience the foreordained sign of the dove was given, and the voice of the Father out of the heavens was heard bearing record of His beloved Son.  

Nephi corroborates the account given in Matthew of Christ's baptism (1 Ne. 11:27).  He learned these things when he himself beheld "the heavens open" (1 Ne. 11:14).  In fact, the Book of Mormon begins with Lehi's experience in beholding "the heavens open," wherein he saw God sitting upon His throne surrounded by numberless concourses of angels (1 Ne. 1:8).  This is a key, given in the first chapter of the book.

Each account in scripture in which we read about the heavens opening gives to us only a small part of the experience that actually unfolded.  The words in scripture do not fully capture the experience.  The uninitiated are invited to come and partake, without having the mysteries unfolded to them in the words of a book.  We are to seek further light and knowledge. 

Were the sign of the dove and the Father's voice only seen and heard by Christ?  Was John also a privileged witness of these things?  Did he behold the heavens open?  If so, what does that mean?  What does it mean to behold the heavens open? 


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Heaven And Hell

I've recently enjoyed reading the experiences of Emanuel Swedenborg.  He claimed visions and spiritual gifts seldom enjoyed in his day or ours.  Some of his writings seem to verify his claim.  His visions apparently began Easter weekend on 6 April 1744 and persisted thereafter.  He was in his 50s at the time.   

Since I recently mentioned the ministry of angels, I thought I'd share something I read earlier today.  The following is from one of his books, originally published in Latin in 1758 and translated to English in 1886:  
 "I have seen a thousand times that angels are human forms, or men; for I have conversed with them as man with man, sometimes with one alone, sometimes with many in company; nor did I discover in their form anything different from the form of man; and I have repeatedly wondered that they were such. And lest it should be said that it was a fallacy, or a visionary fancy, I have been permitted to see them in a state of full wakefulness, when I was in the exercise of every bodily sense, and in a state of clear perception. I have also frequently told them that men in the Christian world are in such blind ignorance concerning angels and spirits, as to believe them to be minds without form, and mere thoughts, concerning which they have no other idea than as of something ethereal, in which there is somewhat vital; and because they thus ascribe to them nothing human except a thinking principle, they imagine that they cannot see, because they have no eyes; nor hear because they have no ears; nor speak, because they have neither mouth nor tongue. The angels said in reply, that they knew such a belief exists with many in the world, and that it is the prevailing belief among the learned, and also, to their astonishment, among the clergy. They also assigned as a reason for this, that the learned, who were the leaders, and who first broached such ideas concerning angels and spirits, thought of them from the sensual conceptions of the external man; And they who think from these, and not from interior light, and the general idea implanted in everyone, must of necessity adopt such fictions; because the sensuals of the external man can comprehend only what is within nature but not what is above it, thus nothing whatever of the spiritual world. From these leaders as guides, the false notion concerning the angels was communicated to others, who did not think for themselves, but from them; and they who first think from others, and make the things so thought matters of their faith, and afterwards view them as such from their own understanding, can with difficulty recede from them; wherefore they generally acquiesce in confirming them. They further said that the simple in faith and heart have no such idea concerning the angels, but think of them as heavenly men, because they have not extinguished by erudition what was implanted in them from heaven, nor can they conceive of anything without a form. Hence it is that angels are always represented in temples, both in sculpture and painting, as men. Concerning what is thus implanted from heaven, they added, that it is the Divine communicated by influx to those who are in the good of faith and life.

"From all my experience, which is now for many years, I can declare and affirm that the form of the Angels is in every respect human; that they have faces, eyes, ears, breasts, arms, hands, feet; that they see, hear, and converse with each other; in a word, that they lack nothing which belongs to man, except the material body. I have seen them in a light, which exceeds by many degrees the noonday light of the world; and in that light I observed all parts of their faces more distinctly and clearly than ever I did the face of man on earth. I have also been permitted to see an angel of the inmost heaven. His countenance was brighter and more resplendent than the faces of the angels of the inferior heavens. I examined him closely, and his form was perfectly human. It is, however, to be observed, that angels cannot be seen by man with his bodily eyes, but with the eyes of the spirit which is within him; because the spirit is in the spiritual world, and all things of the body are in the natural world. Like sees like, because from like. Besides, everyone knows that the organ of bodily vision, which is the eye, is so gross that it cannot see even the smaller things of nature except by the aid of optical glasses; much less, then, can it discern those which are above the sphere of nature, as are all things in the spiritual world: nevertheless, these are seen by man when he is withdrawn from the bodily sight, and the sight of his spirit is opened. This is effected in a moment, when it pleases the Lord that man should see spiritual things" (Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, pp. 49-51).