Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Finishing Up

The Spirit commended to me the beginnings of this blog and the reasons therefore, and it now invites me to end. 

We should each be trying to learn how to accomplish what the Lord requires of us.  I intend to teach the gospel of Christ to those who seek it.  I intend to teach the gospel to others in an effort to fulfil church obligations and callings.  I am willing to share my testimony with any man and all men, and intend to.  I intend to teach my family and to seek revelations for our guidance.

Remember what Joseph Smith taught:

“The things of God are of deep import, and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God." 

Last, I want to say this.  To be an apostle in the truest sense of the word, is to be sent forth by Christ to teach others.  There are those who have been sent by the Master who you do not sustain in your conferences and meetings.  They possess the words of Eternal life because they know Christ and have received his word.  They are possessors of Eternal life, though they dwell on earth as mortals.  We should pay attention to what these have to say. 

This is why the scriptures are so valuable to us.  They contain the words of Eternal life spoken by those who possess it.  Seek these.  All else is as chaff.  We don't have time to not be digging into the scriptures.  Our effort in seeking Christ must become paramount in our lives. 

My foremost duty now is to seek this Jesus, of whom the prophets have and do testify.  He is gathering his people. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

New Digital-Edition Of The Scriptures

The Church has just announced a new 2013 digital-edition of the scriptures.  Eight years of work have gone into the project.  I was eager to see just what had been done.  A side by side comparison of the 1981 and 2013 versions, demonstrating each change in the Doctrine and Covenants, and Official Declarations 1 and 2, is available here.  A summary of changes to the standard works can be found here

I read these documents last night and was happy to see some of the additions and deletions.  The majority of the changes to the D&C were to the section headings.  Where dates were incorrect, they were adjusted in the new addition.  Where further information has been made available through research done with the Joseph Smith Papers Project, additional context has been added for clarity.  

Though most of the changes are minor, some are helpful in understanding the text of the revelation that follows.  Reading both section headings for D&C 57 side by side made me laugh.  The additions to the D&C 85 section heading were insightful.  The deletion of the last sentence of the D&C 89 section heading was curious to me.  

Contextual introductions were provided for each of the Official Declarations.  A lot could be said about each of them.  The introduction of OD-2 was of interest to me.  The Church has included the fact that multiple black men were ordained to the priesthood during the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Additionally, one blatantly false statement was removed from the end of OD-1.  

The internet is a blessing to us when it is used to these ends.  The Church has gone to great lengths to present the changes in a clear manner.  I wonder how many members of the Church will become aware of what changes were made, and how many would be interested.  

Why Things Change

I just read a Dialogue article written in 1981 by Thomas Alexander about the development of the Word of Wisdom from being a "principle with promise" to a commandment.  Though not comprehensive it's a worthwhile read.  It's not lengthy and provides context for some of the decisions regarding Church policy that were being made at the time.

Diaries, journals, minutes of meetings, and contemporary news articles are great ways to trace the development of individual and group sentiment about matters pertaining to doctrine and policy in our history.  Much of the best information can be found in these sources, and yet it is unfortunately these sources that are underutilized in publications that most members of the Church would be familiar with.  Publications that have done a good job exhausting these resources are viewed by some as antagonistic to the Church.  These same publications, however, are usually the most accurate and thorough.    

Early leaders of the Church held varied personal opinions about the application of the Word of Wisdom.  It's fun to learn about them.  

Lorenzo Snow, for example, believed and taught that members of the Church ought to avoid eating meat, and that this prohibition was a more serious matter than other requirements of the Word of Wisdom.  

George Albert Smith took brandy for medicinal purposes later in his life, while years earlier he advised Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics to no "longer tolerate men in presiding positions who would not keep the Word of Wisdom."  

Wilford Woodruff and George Teasdale believed and taught that eating pork was a more serious offense than drinking coffee or tea.  Brigham Young often taught the same thing.  

Other prominent Latter-day Saints held other views and opinions about this revelation.  Some members even paid their tithing in homemade wine into the latter part of the 19th century, and these tithes were accepted and stored by the Church.  

Growing support of the prohibition of alcohol among Evangelicals and certain political groups influenced the feelings of LDS Church leaders after the turn of the century.  During this time of growing interest in the Prophet's revelation, leaders of the Church began to prevent members from being ordained to the priesthood, from serving in callings, and attending the temple based upon breaches of conduct pertaining to the Word of Wisdom in an effort to encourage compliance.  

Changes in the Church's policies were influenced by what was going on in the political and social world around them.  This was not the first time in our history that changes in policy were implemented because of shifting social opinions.  The Church's consideration of public opinion has only grown since that time.  

This is not to say that many of the decisions on policy aren't made with good intentions and by good men.  It is only to say that many decisions are made without regard for or reference to revelation. 

One thing in particular that caught my attention in his article was the following:

"Late in the 1920s Church leaders urged alternative anti-tobacco legislation, and  in  1927,  Elders  Richard  R.  Lyman  and  Melvin  J.  Ballard  asked  church attorney Franklin S. Richards for information  on the possibility of legislation preventing the advertising of cigarettes on billboards. Even though  Richards believed  that the Supreme  Court would  declare such a law unconstitutional, the  1929 legislature passed  one anyway. The Relief Society Magazine in May, 1929, said  it hoped  that  the courts would  uphold  the law and  regretted  that the Idaho legislature had not passed a similar law. In November,  1929, however,  Judge  David  W.  Moffatt  of  Utah's  Third  District  Court  ruled  the
billboard  law  unconstitutional."

I don't live in Utah, but have seen pictures spread around online of the many billboards advertising City Creek Center.  Some of those billboards portray the consumption of alcohol.  It's ironic to me that in 21st century Mormonism, at a time when the Word of Wisdom has evolved to be among the most defining practices and attributes of Latter-day Saints, we see billboards with alcohol advertising a mall to attract business - for the sake of popularity and gain.  Yet, a hundred years ago when Word of Wisdom adherence was barely in the stages of becoming a requirement to enter the temple under Heber J. Grant's presidency, there were laws being passed attacking the advertisement of the principles the Church claimed it was striving to uphold.  

Money is a powerful taskmaster.  

Political and Social influence have always been an enticement to men.  They influence more of our decisions than they should (1 Ne. 22:23).