Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Board Of Directors

The idea that continuity of organization determines the validity of the church is further propounded when Hunt describes the manner in which popes are selected.  When he makes mention of "authority" he means the priesthood.  He is fixed on the idea that priesthood comes with office.  On the selection of popes father Hunt says:

"The organization of the Church, as already noted, resembles a board of directors, one of whom is chairman or president.  When the chairman dies, the office does not die with him.  It remains to be filled by the other directors, most of whom continue to live.  They may act quicky or they may procrastinate. They may agree among themselves or disagree.  They may split into factions; they may indulge in quarrels.  They may lose prestige and influence.  But the one and all-important fact is that the organization continues to exist.  In time a new chairman is chosen, at which moment he acquires all the authority belonging to the office" (Ibid, p. 21).

The process Hunt describes for the selection of a new president is devoid of the voice of God.  He admits the process works more like a company, with its key leaders engaged in cordial discussion until a verdict is agreed upon.  If God is not found interceding, then their decisions are considered to be His will.  This is the logical way to work through a problem when the voice of the Lord cannot be obtained.  It is the very way in which the First Councils of Nicea and Constantinople proceeded and concluded, and is how all ecumenical and provincial councils have thereafter functioned.  As it turns out, their creeds are an abomination (JSH 1:19).  This is how the commandments of men become doctrine.   

Because we live in a telestial world, there is a tendency among even very good men to slide into darkness and away from the light of truth.  Without perpetual communion with God men resort to their own devices to resolve issues of organization and matters of doctrine.  Comparison to a board of directors is I think an apt description of how the process actually works

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Continuity Of Organization

Duane Hunt was a Catholic priest in Salt Lake City for many decades.  His continuous interaction with the Church and its members led him to write a pamphlet refuting our claims of a great apostasy, and attempting to demonstrate that the continuity of the Catholic Church is the measure of its validity.  

Hunt argued that because of "continuity of organization," from the time of Christ until the present day, the Catholic Church is the sole repository of keys and priesthood.  Though his work is not supported by the scriptures, his reasoning is an understandable attempt to justify his own faith.  The crux of his argument is as follows: 

"The continuity of the Church means, for one thing, institutional continuity, a continuous organization, linking in physical contact the officials of each generation with those of the preceding one and back finally to the Apostles themselves" (Hunt, The Continuity of the Catholic Church, p. 4).

As he continues, Hunt makes the tempting mistake of tying perpetuity of priesthood to the perpetuity of church office, and not to righteousness.  He assumes that because a man holds office he thereby holds priesthood.  He presumes the church lives on because there is a perpetuity of office holders.  To him, priesthood can only be lost from the church when all of the office holders cease to exist.  

Latter-day Saints understand that rights to priesthood are inseparably connected to the powers of heaven, and that a man connects to that power through righteousness (D&C 121:36).  Office in the church, in fact, has nothing to do with it.  When priesthood is lost the kingdom of God is not (HC 5:256-259). 

Hunt explains to his readers that being a Catholic provides comfort and assurance that no other church can provide:

"Every Catholic is sure that no matter what occurs, no matter how much the Church is maligned and persecuted, no matter how many mistakes are made by her own representatives, even by her clergy and higher officials, the Church will continue to live.  With this no other assurance known to man can be compared.  It is unique in all all human history; it is solid beyond all dispute" (Ibid, p. 10).

If it is the apparent continuity of an institution that matters to the Lord, then Hunt has a foundation upon which to build his argument.  However, devoid of priesthood, revelation, and the Holy Ghost, continuity of organization has only been crippling and blinding to mankind.  For it has been in the comforting assurance of continuous organizations that many have found themselves at ease, and lulled away into carnal security (2 Ne. 28:21-25). 

If the priesthood of God is indeed predicated upon connecting with the powers of heaven, continuity of organization is not the comforting link the priest was hoping it was.  Indeed, continuity of organization may not be the proper standard by which any man should attempt to measure the validity of a church that claims to be the Lord's own.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Christmas Quest

“Latter-day Saints have always been the greatest advocates of the Christmas spirit; nay, they have shocked and alarmed the world by insisting on recognizing as a real power what the world prefers to regard as a pretty sentiment. Where the seasonal and formal aspect of Christmas is everything, it becomes a hollow mockery. If men really want what they say they do, we have it; but faced with accepting a real Savior who has really spoken with men, they draw back, nervous and ill at ease.
“In the end, lights, tinsel, and sentimentality are safer, but a sense of possibilities still rankles, so to that we all continue to appeal. For by celebrating Christmas the world serves notice that it is still looking for the gospel.” (Hugh Nibley, “The Christmas Quest”)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On The Ministry Of Angels

Not all who have seen angels are saved, or even good men (1 Ne. 3:29-31).  But the scriptural pattern indicates all saved men have been ministered to by angels.  

While angels declare repentance, they are not the source of one's conversion.  That is the primary function of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Moroni Finishes His Record, Conclusion

Moroni's last recorded words include an exhortation to deny not the power or gifts of God.  God worketh by power according to the faith of the children of men (Moro. 10:7).  The gifts of God are given for the profit of man (Moro. 10:8).  Among these gifts, he once again mentions the necessity of the ministry of angels (Moro. 10:14).

These gifts will never be done away as long as the earth shall stand, for the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever (Moro. 10:19).  Unbelief will be the only cause for their ceasing (Moro. 10:19, 24).  If the gifts and power of God have ceased then there shall be none that doeth good, no not one (Moro. 10:25).

The Book of Mormon begins and ends with visions, angels, and the voice of God.  These bookends reveal a primary theme that runs throughout its story.  It is this: those who seek salvation, seek to know God and his Holy Son Jesus.  A part of that search for God is that true messengers come to instruct in the way of life and salvation.  They help prepare men for Christ.  They provide the sought after further light and knowledge.  They often declare repentance.  It has ever been thus.  The Book of Mormon is a witness that this is true.  It is an invitation for all men to come unto Christ.  It is a record of men who have walked the path.

Moroni spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, and with the tongue of angels.  If we cannot understand his words it will be because we seek not, nor ask.  If we reject his message we cannot be brought into the light, but must perish in the dark (2 Ne. 32:1-4).  He exhorts us to seek for every good gift, not excluding the ministry of angels (Moro. 10:30).  

To these angels is given power to seal men in their foreheads against the season which is to come (D&C 77:11).  They have power to prepeare men and women for the church of the Firstborn (ibid.).  They are a part of the process of sanctification.  You cannot be sanctified except it be by the grace of God, and unless you partake of His power (Moro. 10:33).  

The visitation of angels often seems unlikely and unbelievable to those who've not experienced them, and the messages shared by those taught by angels are often unpopular (Alma 21:5-6).  The religious who are proud are inescapably found fighting against God's messengers.  They would rather pride themselves in their sanctuaries, in their rites and culture (ibid).  They are angered by the truth.  This has been the pattern throughout history, anyway.  It's remarkably similar in our day. 

Eventually, God will show unto us all that the things this great prophet wrote are verily true (Moro. 10:29).

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Moroni Finishes His Record, Part 7

Mormon's sermon on faith, included in Moroni 7, enters the topic of the ministry of angels (Moro. 7:22).  Angels were sent to minister "unto the children of men" to teach them about Christ.  This statement about angels ministering unto men is general, not limited to a small group of leaders.  All men and women may and should receive angels, or true messengers.  These messengers are sent from the presence of God to teach them how to "begin" to exercise faith in Christ (Moro. 7:25).  This is the beginning of revealed religion.

It is by this faith that men are saved, and "become the sons of God" (Moro 7:26).  Mormon tries to convince his audience that miracles haven't ceased because Christ left and ascended into heaven.  Miracles haven't ceased, and angels haven't ceased to minister unto the children of men (Moro. 7:29).  They are subject unto Christ and are sent by him unto men (Moro. 7:30).

As long as there is one man left upon the earth to be saved, so long as time shall last, angels will be sent to minister unto that man (Moro. 7:36).  Does this not imply that the ministry of angels is in some way inescapably tied to your salvation?  Can you be saved without the ministry of angels?  In other words, can you be prepared in all things, and be brought to the veil to meet your Lord without the guidance of true messengers?  What does the temple teach about this?  Do the teachings of the temple validate Mormon's testimony?

It is by faith that angels come to minister unto man (Moro. 7:37).  If angels have ceased to minister unto men, it is because of unbelief, and their religion is vain (ibid.).  "For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name (Moro. 7:38).

Both Mormon and Moroni speak unto you as if you were present (Morm. 8:35).  In order for their message to have the intended impact, you must actually believe the text is speaking to you personally.  Many in the Church insist passages like this are not meant to be taken personally.  You should read the text carefully and ask yourself if you're willing to believe that.

Remember that you cannot justify your standing before God by a reference to Joseph Smith's own experiences with angels.  Joseph Smith's personal experiences are no more a fair assessment of your own standing before God than Moses' experiences were a reflection of the righteousness of the children of Israel.  Nor are Joseph's personal experiences a good determinant of the Church's present condition.  In fact, Mormon said our churches "have become polluted" because of our pride (Morm. 8:36).  "The holy church of God" has been polluted from the inside out (Morm. 8:38).  Hugh Nibley always said it was an inside job.

The things Moroni included for us as he finished his record should be more helpful to us than we tend to allow them to be.  His words are corroborated by the testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith.  In the vision of the telestial world he saw that those who were to be heirs of salvation would be ministered to by angels (D&C 76:88).  They receive instruction from true messengers if they seek redemption from the fall.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Moroni Finishes His Record, Part 6

"And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.

"And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done" (Moro. 6:5, 9).

My wife and I watched a news report from a Salt Lake City news station last night that discussed the growing number of discontents within the Mormon faith.  The reporter quoted the recent Marlin Jensen interview in which he stated that more members are falling away today than any time in the past 175 years.  Of our total reported church membership, there are as few as one-third that are active.  

As I considered why this was taking place, a number of reasons came to mind.  Among those reasons, my mind turned to the spirit of our meetings.  While it is not the root cause of this falling away, the dullness of our meetings is a reflection upon and outgrowth of Mormon culture at large.   

The ancient church met together oft to speak one with another about the "welfare of their souls."  Think on that for a moment.  What is the purpose of such a discussion?  What are you trying to figure out?  Does this mean they were actually concerned about the welfare of their souls?  Is the purpose of such a discussion to reassure one another that everything is going alright?  Did they wonder if their souls were acceptable before God?  Is it possible that they could have at times discovered that the welfare of their souls was in jeopardy?  What, otherwise, would be the purpose of speaking one with another about the welfare of their souls?

Do we discuss the "welfare of our souls" as much as we discuss our testimonies of the things we know to be true?  Is pontificating about everything that you know to be true the same as discussing the "welfare or your soul?"  What if a discussion of the welfare of souls requires more than soft words and messages of reassurance?  What did it mean to Nephi's brother Jacob to speak unto the people concerning the welfare of their souls (Jacob 2:3-11)?  What about Nephi with his brothers (2 Ne. 1:24-26).  My experience is that if the welfare of souls is mentioned in a meaningful manner in our congregations today, speaking plainly about our current situation, it leads to unease and resentment.  Yet it may just be what is needed to jump-start the waning spirituality of the many members who long for more.  Members need to hear about the awful situation they find themselves in if it's to be fixed.  We may ultimately discover that folks aren't interested in idle words after all.  And many shall discover they weren't as grateful for the message that 'all is well' as they once thought they were.  

We've been instructed to conduct our meetings as directed by the Spirit, just as was done anciently (D&C 20:45).  Yet, our meetings are often rote and unenthusiastic.  What if the church (locally) felt at liberty to conduct meetings after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, as is directed in the scriptures?  What if the power of the Holy Ghost led them to pray?  Would that be unacceptable?  What if the power of the Holy Ghost led them to sing?  Would this disrupt good order in the Church?  Would a Bishop feel at liberty to have his congregation pray and sing the entire meeting if directed by the Spirit?  Would the gifts of the Spirit be more greatly manifested if we were more sensitive to the Spirit's direction? 

The fact that the Church is "the same no matter where you go in the world" isn't necessarily complimentary.  If by "the same" we meant that all meetings were "conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit" then it may be worth mentioning.  Though it's always mentioned excitedly as a testimony booster by those who've traveled, to me it is evidence of strict adherence to the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1, that institutionalizes our culture.  Though Moroni 6:9 is mentioned there as a "general guideline" for meetings, a template follows illustrating how meetings should look and run, as well as other shoulds and should nots.  It is quite organized, and I'm sure very helpful in our worldwide church.  That template is followed with virtually no deviation, and perhaps to our handicapping.  It seems those who preside at our meetings have a challenging responsibility to seek after and act upon the guidance of the Spirit while honoring the intent of general leadership. 

There are those who would say I need to fix my attitude and then I might find fulfillment in boring meetings.  I don't believe that anymore.  If a meeting is boring, I have no problem feeling bored to death by it.  If a meeting is not edifying there's no sense in me wishing it lasted longer.  If the speaker doesn't care much for the gospel that I've come to love, or speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, I'm frankly not edified.  It doesn't mean I don't like that person anymore.  We've all got different feelings about the gospel, what it is and how it works.  We're the Church, after all, not Zion.    

Don't think for a moment that Joseph Smith would pretend to be edified by some of the drivel you sit and listen to.  I don't believe he'd much enjoy our regimented culture or our stale lessons.  He's actually been to meetings and firesides that were conducted "after the manner of the workings of the Spirit," and knows the difference between dull templates and the breathings of the Spirit of God.  

I still find satisfaction in my church experience.  I understand there are others who no longer do.  Where else can I meet and worship with a group of good people who believe in the restoration?  Though our views may diverge upon numerous issues (most often never voiced), they consider me a friend, and I them.  For those who increasingly consider themselves aliens in the Lord's church, my invitation is for you to seek the Spirit of God and bless the Church, and not to abandon it.   

Friday, November 23, 2012

Moroni Finishes His Record, Part 5

"In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a priest, (or, if he be a teacher) I ordain you to be a teacher, to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end.  Amen.

"And after this manner did they ordain priests and teachers, according to the gifts and callings of God unto men; and they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them" (Moro. 3:3-4).

Anciently, the offices of priest and teacher were given to men, not according to age or duration of church activity, but according to the gifts and callings of God unto men.  What if this is how ordinations were performed in the Church today?  Would it diminish our ability to preserve order in the Church?  Did the Lord intend things to be done differently in our day?   

"Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him" (D&C 20:60).

In instructions to the Church in our day, we are taught to ordain men "according to the gifts and callings of God," just as Moroni recorded was done anciently (Moro. 3:4).  Our ordinations are to be performed by "the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains," just as Moroni recorded was done anciently (ibid.).  What do these things mean?

When man elects to alter the manner of operation prescribed by the Lord in the scriptures he runs the risk of falling into error.  This is how, so often in history, the commandments of men replace the word of God.  Traditions are eventually established in place of the revealed word of the Lord.

For example, when you insist that a teacher be between the ages of 14-15, you run into the problem of teachers not being mature enough to grasp (let alone fulfill) their duties as outlined in scripture (Moro. 3:3; D&C 20:53-56).  A young man of 14 is commissioned to "see that there is no iniquity in the church" (ibid.)?  Since they are unable to perform the tasks spelled out for them by the Lord, they are given other duties so they can "practice using the priesthood."  We therefore employ our teachers and deacons to do a work they are not authorized in the scriptures (D&C 20:58).  If adult men, however, were ordained to such offices, according to the gifts and callings of God unto them, they may be successful in comprehending and performing in faithfulness the responsibilities devolving upon them.  This of course has been the tradition for many years, and we don't pay attention to what it says in D&C 20.      

If we understood and taught "the duty of the elders, priests, teachers, deacons, and members of the church of Christ," we wouldn't need to make up callings to help folks feel useful (D&C 20:38).  There are specific responsibilities tied to each of these offices  in the church of Christ.  We've all but discarded them and replaced them with programs, auxiliaries, callings, and sub-callings.  Instead of being busy doing what is required of us by the Lord, we tend to be persuaded to get busy doing what is required of us by men.

We insist upon a progressive structure, through which each man is able to climb a ladder of leadership, responsibility, keys, office, and power.  Today, a 45 year old priest would either be inactive, or a recent convert.  It would be embarrassing to allow him to remain a priest for any longer than was absolutely necessary; that would imply he wasn't worthy of being an elder.  In the present system there are many opportunities for priestcrafts, envyings, and strifes (3 Ne. 30:2).  These all result from pride.      

There are other similarities between the record Moroni left for us and what is revealed in D&C 20.  

- It is clear that it was elders and priests who administered the sacrament anciently, "according to the commandments of Christ" (Moro. 4:1).  This is consistent with the instructions that have been given to us in our day (D&C 20:38-50).  

- "And they did kneel down with the church" during the blessing of the sacrament.  This is consistent with the commandment in our own day (Moro. 4:2; D&C 20:76).  

- They administered wine anciently, as has been commanded in our day (Moro. 5:1-2; D&C 20:78-79).  

For those that don't know, this is how things were done in our church for many years - even long after the death of the Prophet.  While still resembling the ancient practices, we've since veered from the instructions the Lord has given us.  

These are small details.  Yet, it's amazing how small details and small changes can effect a culture.  I wonder, for instance, if we ever would have become lazy enough to decide it was no longer necessary to stand when making covenants before God and angels in our temples, had we continued kneeling as a church during the blessing of the sacrament as instructed by the Lord, and maintained greater reverence for that sacred ordinance.  Then again, I may be missing something.  Perhaps all these changes were not merely about convenience, as I suppose. 

If we would like to understand how things were done anciently, we should trust the text of the Book of Mormon as it stands and not read interpretations into the text that are based upon our own experiences.  Likewise, if we are to properly interpret the Lord's intent in "restoration," we should consider what he has given us in this ancient record.  He intended to restore an ancient religion.  The Book of Mormon should be a revelatory lens through which we can understand the revelations of the prophet Joseph.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Moroni Finishes His Record, Part 4

Moroni wrote a "few more things" at the end of his record, after finishing his abridgment of the record of the Jaredites.  The things he wrote were intended to be of worth unto "the Lamanites" in the last days, but are beneficial to us as well (Moro. 1:4).

The first thing about which he wrote was the manner in which Christ gave his disciples power to give the Holy Ghost.  He explains that Christ called them by name and said the following words as he laid hands upon them:

"Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles" (Moro. 2:2).

These were instructions specific to the disciples and not heard by the multitude who had gathered to view the Savior.  Before the disciples went about giving the Holy Ghost, they were to call upon the Father in mighty prayer, in order that they may receive "power."  Is "mighty prayer" a part of the receipt of this power in our day?  If not, why does it seem it was of primary importance anciently?  Are we to understand the phrase "for thus do mine apostles" as also applying to our day, or just the ancient apostles?

Moroni then gives the manner in which ordination was performed in that ancient church.  He explained how those disciples, who where called "elders of the church," ordained both priests and teachers.  They first prayed unto the Father in the name of Christ, and laying their hands upon them, said:

"In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a priest, (or, if he be a teacher) I ordain you to be a teacher, to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end.  Amen" (Moro. 3:3).

This was the manner of ordination.  Moroni makes the point that those ordained were done so "according to the gifts and callings of God unto men" (Moro. 3:4).  The offices of priest and teacher were given to men, not according to age or duration of church activity, but according to the gifts and callings of God unto men.  How do you suppose that was determined?

These ordinations were performed by the "power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them" (ibid.).  There is no mention of priesthood here.  Why does Moroni not say instead, that these ordinations were performed "by the power of the priesthood, which was in them"?  Does ordination to church office require priesthood?  Are the offices of priest and teacher offices of the priesthood, or offices in the church?  Is this manner of ordination of priests and teachers consistent with earlier ordinations in the Book of Mormon to those same offices?

Though the reader may assume these priests and teachers were given priesthood before or at the time of their ordination, there is no mention of conferral of priesthood authority prior to their ordination.  They are merely "ordained" to be a priest or teacher.  

Our practice is to first confer the authority of the priesthood, and then ordain to an office therein, the two being connected.  Wholly removed from our tradition is that the offices to which men are ordained are actually offices within the Church, not priesthood offices.  D&C 20 makes the original intent clear, though there is quickly thereafter conflation of church office and priesthood (this also makes me think on the early disputes between Heber J. Grant, Joseph F. Smith, and others about whether or not men needed to have priesthood "conferred" as a part of their ordination to offices.  Once Heber J. Grant became president of the Church he changed the manner of ordination.  That change remained in place for decades before being changed back).  

Here then is the dilemma we find in the text.  If you choose to interpret Moroni's words through the lens of Mormon tradition, and you think you thereby understand what is going on in this ancient church, you of necessity have to choose to ignore the specifics of the verses.  You must look at it as a whole and assume it is all just the same today as it was then, even though the wording and manner are different.  You convince yourself that, "even though the wording is a little strange, I know exactly what was going on back then."  You can take that approach, OR you can read the text exactly as it stands and ask yourself whether or not you're able to discover the truth about how things were done anciently.

We will get a more accurate look into the past taking the text at its word, than by insisting it looks and sounds exactly like modern Mormonism while ignoring the details.  This idea will be continued in the next post.    

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Moroni Finishes His Record, Part 3

"And it came to pass that in that same year in which [Ether] was cast out from among the people there began to be a great war among the people..." (Ether 13:15).

Moroni makes note of the fact that the war began in the very year that this prophet was cast out by the people.  The ensuing war never ceases until the consumption decreed makes an entire end of the Jaredites.  None of the "fair sons and daughters upon the face of the whole earth" repented of their sins, but persisted in a course that was contrary to the warnings of the Lord.  He had sent a prophet among them warning them.  This prophet taught them of "all things, from the beginning of man" yet the people chose to pursue their present course.

The perpetual war became so "swift and speedy" that there were none left to bury the dead (Ether 14:22).  They left "the bodies of both men, women, and children strewed upon the face of the land, to become a prey to the worms of the flesh" (ibid.).  The people who were left were tormented by the terrible scent upon all the face of the land, both day and night (Ether 14:23).  Millions were destroyed (Ether 15:2).  

"And thus we see that the Lord did visit them in the fulness of his wrath, and their wickedness and abominations had prepared a way for their everlasting destruction" (Ether 14:25). 

At last, when men were nigh unto death they "began to remember" the words of Ether and of all the prophets (Ether 15:1, 3).  Still, few chose to repent.  These were exceedingly sorrowful times (Ether 15:16-17).  The people could not pull themselves away from the fighting because "the Spirit of the Lord had ceased striving with them, and Satan had full power" over their hearts (Ether 15:19).

Ether had written an extensive record.  Moroni wants us to understand that he deliberately chose which items from Ether's record to include in the plates we were going to receive.    He explains that he gave not even "the hundredth part" to us (Ether 15:33).  It is all the more significant, therefore, that Moroni includes what he does in the record.  We must pay attention to those items he chose for inclusion in the record we have inherited.

Moroni saw the terrible scene of iniquity and destruction that will be poured out upon this land in our day.  It was revealed by the Lord to the prophet Joseph Smith.  The consumption decreed will eventually make an end of all nations (D&C 87:6; D&C 45:30-33).  All people will be at war one with another (D&C 45:33).  Disease will spread (D&C 45:31; D&C 29:14-21).  The only place of safety will be Zion.  The only promise of protection is to be clean from the blood and sins of this generation. 

What a sad state; Satan's will to rule and reign with blood and horror completely enacted upon the earth.  We should learn from history.  We should also learn from prophets the Lord sends declaring the message of repentance.  The Lord's victory seems too small.    

God's sword is bathed in heaven, and shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth (D&C 1:13).  The telestial world and its inhabitants are almost utterly wasted before and at his coming, all to begin anew.  The course of the Lord is one eternal round.  In great mercy, he will ever gather his children -worlds without end. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Moroni Finishes His Record, Part 2

Ether taught the people "of all things," and made clear all things from the beginning of man (Ether 13:2).  He taught the people that after this land had been baptized it became "a choice land above all other lands" (ibid.).  The Lord requires the inhabitants of this land to serve him, or be swept off and replaced by another people (ibid.).  

What is "this land" from and about which Ether spake and Moroni wrote?  These two prophets were separated by over a thousand years and yet appear to be writing from the same land.  Where is "this land?" 

"And that [this land] was the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, and the holy sanctuary of the Lord" (Ether 13:3).

"This land" is the place of the New Jerusalem.  This new Jerusalem is to come down out of heaven.  In spite of the meso-American insistence of many scholars and leaders as a setting for the Book of Mormon, where is it that the Lord taught the New Jerusalem is to be built?  Why the disparity? 

Ether had seen in vision the time of Christ and the Jerusalem from which Lehi came, and a future time when a different, new Jerusalem would be built upon "this land" (Ether 13:4-5).  He explained that the Jerusalem of Christ and of Lehi should be built up again, and "become a holy city of the Lord" (ibid.).  The New Jerusalem will be built up "upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph" (Ether 13:6).

"For as Joseph brought his father down into the land of Egypt, even so he died there, wherefore, the Lord brought a remnant of the seed of Joseph out of the land of Jerusalem, that he might be merciful unto the seed of Joseph that they should perish not, even as he was merciful unto the father of Joseph that he should perish not.

"Wherefore, the remnant of the house of Joseph shall be built upon this land; and it shall be a land of their inheritance; and they shall build up a holy city unto the Lord, like unto the Jerusalem of old; and they shall no more be confounded, until the end come when the earth shall pass away" (Ether 13:7-8).

The story of Joseph in bringing his father Israel out of Jerusalem into Egypt is a type of that which was to occur in the last days.  In mercy, the Lord brought "a remnant of the seed of Joseph" out of the land of Jerusalem to this land (typified by Egypt).  They have been scattered and trodden under foot, but not utterly destroyed.  It is upon this land that they have been "confounded."  They shall yet inherit this land, which is a land of their inheritance.  When they do, the Gentiles will be trodden under foot (3 Ne. 16:15).  The remnant will begin building the new Jerusalem where they "shall no more be confounded, until the end come when the earth shall pass away."

"And there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and they shall be like unto the old save the old have passed away, and all things have become new" (Ether 13:9).

After all things have become new, "then cometh the New Jerusalem" (Ether 13:10).  The Lord will bring again Zion, and "blessed are they who dwell therein" (ibid.).  Those who are this city's inhabitants are those whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb.  Repentant Gentiles will be numbered among the group (3 Ne. 16:13).  Then cometh the Jerusalem of old, whose inhabitants are also clean (Ether 13:11).

"And when these things come, bringeth to pass the scripture which saith, there are they who were first, who shall be last; and there are they who were last, who shall be first" (Ether 13:12).

Why is Moroni forbidden to write more at this point (Ether 13:13)?  The fact that the Lord instructed Moroni to not go any further than he already had invites inquiry.  For, he was "about to write more," but was forbidden.  

This indicates that the pattern of successive events laid out by Moroni in Ether 13:1-12 is very much worth our attention.  It means that the teachings of this prophet Ether were indeed "great and marvelous" (ibid.).  How is it then, that the people "esteemed him as naught, and cast him out"?   

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Moroni Finishes His Record

"And now I, Moroni, proceed to finish my record concerning the destruction of the people of whom I have been writing" (Ether 13:1).

Moroni has just bid farewell to his latter-day Gentile readers (Ether 12:38).  When Moroni finishes his record "concerning the destruction of the people of whom" he'd been writing, he brings a number of other things to our attention.  He knows his readers well and wrote that which would benefit their souls.  We should not overlook his message.  He does not draw his conclusions for his own sake, but for ours.  

"For behold, they rejected all the words of Ether; for he truly told them of all things, from the beginning of man; and that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof;" (Ether 13:2).

Why does Moroni begin with the words "For behold..."?  How do the words "for behold" tie the previous verse to the ideas he's about to put forth?  "For behold," the Jaredites rejected all the words of Ether (Ether 13:2).  Who was Ether (Ether 12:2-5)?  Why is it significant that the people rejected his words?  And what does that have to do with their destruction (Ether 13:1)?  Why does Moroni choose to make this point for our sake?  Have we had someone like Ether among us?  Someone like the brother of Jared?

Joseph Smith's message, which he received from God, was intended to fix the mess the Christian world had gotten itself into over centuries of unbelief.  How different are we from the Christian world today?  Are we the same as other Christians, just as the I'm a Mormon campaign tries to make us out to be?  How are we different?  It's been almost 200 years since this prophet was among us.  How well have we taken to heart his message?  

Are we warned today, as the Jaredites were by this prophet Ether, of the need to repent lest we be destroyed?  By whom?  That appears to be the very reason Moroni has included this warning in the text.  It is for our benefit and warning.  We must believe it was put there to teach us something.  If Moroni chose carefully which texts he would include in the Book of Mormon for our sake, we must ask ourselves what we can learn about ourselves from what he is sharing.  Do we find ourselves in a similar dilemma to what the Jaredites faced? Do we run the risk of rejecting the words of a prophet of God?

The record of the Jaredites begins with two prophet leaders - brothers - and their families; the brother of Jared being the mighty seer.  They both die (Ether 6:29).  Generations pass and the people are in need of repentance.  Some of their kings have been good men, and others not.  The Lord finally sends Ether among them, declaring repentance lest they be destroyed (Ether 12:3).  He "truly told them of all things" (Ether 13:2).  He prophesied unto them many great and marvelous things, but the people did not believe him (Ether 12:5).  

Monday, November 5, 2012

His Hand Is Stretched Out Still

The pre-eminent doctrine of the Book of Mormon is that only Christ can save you and that you must repent and seek his face for redemption from the fall.  It is the message of all the major prophet-writers.  It is the message of all true prophets.  It is the message of the Book of Mormon over and over again.  The Lord works with individuals to prepare them in all things to be presented at the veil and enter his presence.  In spite of that persistent message we, as a people, fail to see that book as an invitation to us personally.  We have no hope that this opportunity is available to us (Ether 12:32).    

This is an indictment of how sick our culture is, and how misleading our traditions are.  To bring up these ideas stirs up contention and discomfort among some of our best people.  Satan has great hold upon our hearts because we wrest the scriptures and do not understand these things (D&C 10:63).  Our misunderstanding, and non-acceptance of these ideas is the overarching reason we are condemned of God (D&C 84:54-57).  In these, if in no other principles set forth in the Book of Mormon, we are guilty of unbelief.  We must do according to that which is written (ibid.).

Our temple rites should inform our interpretation of the Book of Mormon message.  If you consider yourself the individual to whom the temple drama is aiming its instruction, it is clear that your commission is to persist on the path that leads back to the presence of the Lord.  That path will ultimately require you to consecrate your whole soul to God (Omni 1:26).  True messengers will come to instruct you how this is to be done.  When you fully comply, you will be prepared in all things and the Lord will make his abode with you (John 14:23).

Christ was commanded by the Father to prophesy concerning the rejection of the fulness of the gospel in the last days (3 Ne. 16:10).  To interpret this prophecy as somehow referring to those Gentiles who refuse to be baptized members of the Church is at best incomplete.  Rather, the way in which the Gentiles have rejected "the fulness of my gospel" is by a rejection of the doctrines that we must repent and seek the face of the Lord.  It is because of unbelief that the fulness is being rejected.  And yet strangely, the Gentiles "shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth" (ibid.).    

What is it about our heritage that has discouraged such a search for God?  Of all the people on the earth, we who have a knowledge of the restoration and the Book of Mormon should be seeking the face of God.  When in our history did our present mentality begin robbing us of truth?  Why have we somehow been conditioned to believe such a search is inappropriate or fanatical?  3 Ne. 16:10 contains some helpful ideas.  Satan surely looks with pleasure upon our traditions and laughs.

God be praised for extending to the Gentiles another opportunity to receive the fulness of the gospel (D&C 45:28-30).  If it will not be accepted, it will be because men remain blinded by the traditions of men (ibid.).  For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Upcoming Election

"Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.

"And I give unto you a commandement, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God" (D&C 98:10-11).

As I have considered the nearing election, this admonition from the Lord has been helpful.  It bestows a responsibility upon each of us to discern honest men from liars, good men from bad, and wise men from foolish.

Earlier today I read part of a letter from George Washington to Alexander Hamilton.  It was written a year prior to his acceptance of the presidency:  

"Every personal consideration conspires to rivet me (if I may use the expression) to retirement.  At my time of life, and under my circumstances, nothing in this world can ever draw me from it, unless it be a conviction that the partiality of my countrymen had made my services absolutely necessary, joined to a fear that my refusal might induce a belief that I preferred the conservation of my own reputation and private ease, to the good of my country.  After all, if I should conceive myself in a manner constrained to accept, I call heaven to witness, that this very act would be the greatest sacrifice of my personal feelings and wishes that ever I have been called to make.  It would be to forego repose and domestick enjoyment for trouble, perhaps publick obloquy; for I should consider myself as entering upon an unexplored field, enveloped on every side with clouds and darkness" (Bancroft, The Life of George Washington, vol. 2, p. 81, quoted in Awakening to our Awful Situation.).

Following his election Washington recorded in his journal:

"About ten o'clock, I bade farewell to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestick felicity; and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York, with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call..." (Ibid, p. 82.).

Our current two major presidential candidates appear different than Washington.  There is almost a clawing to get on top.  The candidates both utilize slander as a tool; tearing down to get ahead.  Then again, there is a lot to attack.  Who can blame them?

These are terrible times.  Now more than any time in our history we are "enveloped on every side with clouds and darkness."  Though we might soon lose control, the Lord never has.  Whoever ends up in office, our only hope for a better life is to come unto Christ.    

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Last Mention Of Gentiles

In giving to us the record of the Jaredites, Moroni left behind a record of invitation and warning.  

The history of the Jaredites began with a prophet who conversed with the Lord through the veil, entered his presence, and was given the vision of all (Ether 3:25).  He received these blessings because of his faith and because of his knowledge (Ether 2:15, 19-20; 12:20-21).  The story begins with intimate contact between God and man, and degrades over time to secret combinations, conspiracy, politics, envy, and wars.  It is reminiscent of our day.

Moroni's inserted warnings to the latter-day Gentiles throughout the Book of Ether are, in fact, the last time the Gentiles are mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  He finishes his warnings by saying this:

"And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles...until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall now that my garments are not spotted with your blood.

"And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;

"And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever.  Amen."

"And now I, Moroni, proceed to finish my record concerning the destruction of the people of whom I have been writing..." (Ether 12:38-39, 41; 13:1).

Moroni was a true prophet.  He knew Christ.  He wrote about other men who knew Christ.  He saw our day (Mormon 8:34-41).  He wanted to help us see clearly what our inheritance is, and discern the reality of the problems we face.  He tells us that our only hope for redemption is in Christ.    

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In Pursuit Of Revelation

In March 1904, Joseph F. Smith as president of the Church was summoned to the witness stand in the Reed Smoot hearings.  He was examined for three days.  During that examination he testified to the court that he "never pretended to nor do I profess to have received revelations" (Reed Smoot Case, Vol. 1, p. 99).  

If you read the text of the case, it appears he was sincere.  He chose not to overstate his own experiences.  He had the chance to falsely present himself in order to create the image that he was more revelatory than he really was.  He chose instead to be honest.  Notice, his right to guide and direct the Church as president remained intact.  Members' perceptions of him as president didn't seem to be diminished as a result of his honesty.  He was held in high esteem by those who worked closely with him, and by future generations.  Some of the text from the hearings follows: 

Senator Dubois - Have you received any revelations from God, which has been submitted by you and the apostles to the body of the church in their semiannual conference, which revelation has been sustained by that conference, through the upholding of their hands?

Mr. Smith – Since when?

Senator Dubois - Since you became President of the Church.

Mr. Smith - No, sir; none whatever

Senator Dubois - Have you received any individual revelations yourself, since you became President of the church under your own definition, even, of a revelation?

Mr. Smith - I cannot say that I have.

Senator Dubois - Can you say that you have not?

Mr. Smith - No; I cannot say that I have not.

Senator Dubois - Then you do not know whether you have received any such revelation as you have described or whether you have not?

Mr. Smith - Well, I can say this: That if I live as I should in the line of my duties, I am susceptible, I think, of the impressions of the Spirit of the Lord upon my mind at any time, just as any good Methodist or any other good church member might be. And so far as that is concerned, I say yes; I have had impressions of the Spirit upon my mind very frequently, but they are not in the sense of revelations (Ibid, pp. 483-484).  

In April 1904, President Smith issued the "second manifesto" regarding polygamy; this time with the intent not only of stopping the practice publicly, but privately as well.  It, like the previous manifesto, was a change in policy and not a revelation.    

Many years later, and just weeks before his death, he had a series of visions that became D&C 138.  

Now, here is a man that had chosen not to put up a facade.  He admitted to the truth of the matter about which he was questioned.  Significantly, he's the last president of the Church from whom we've received a written revelation that has been the result of direct communication from heaven.  His honesty is a good example. 

Perhaps the most valuable thing you or I can learn from section 138 is not about the world of spirits at all, but about the process Joseph F. Smith personally undertook to obtain revelation of God for himself (D&C 138:1-11).  Maybe if we choose to be honest about our standing before the Lord, and do not pretend to speak for him when we have no message from him, we can be brought into his trust.