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.