Lesson 47: “To Keep Them in the Right Way”
Moroni now comes to his third and final farewell. In his first farewell, he shared the writings of his father, Mormon. In the second, he shared his abridgement of the Book of Ether. Now, he really has come to the end of his writings, and provides teachings in two major sections, with the first being dealt with in this lesson. In this lesson, Moroni deals with important teachings regarding ordinances of the gospel.
He notes in chapter one that the Lamanites are killing those Nephites, who will not deny the Christ. This is 40 years after the destruction of the Nephites as a people. Obviously, Moroni is not exactly alone among the survivors. However, they are a continually dwindling group, and it seems that at this point, they are being actively searched for and destroyed. Moroni must now be constantly on the move to preserve his life. Most LDS scholars believe the Nephites’ final battle was in Central America, and that the original hill Cumorah (where the final battle occurred) is there. Moroni would then have wandered off and on for decades, eventually arriving in what is now New York State, and burying his few plates on the modern hill Cumorah.
These writings are for the future Lamanite descendants. They need to know how to recognize the proper forms and ordinances.
The Holy Ghost
So, what is the first and most important ordinance Moroni shares? It is receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those with Christ’s authority. Without the Holy Ghost, the other ordinances are meaningless, as they cannot sanctify us or make us holy. Yes, we can repent and become guiltless through Christ’s atonement. However, with the power of the Holy Ghost, no one can become holy enough to be exalted. It is by the power of the Holy Ghost that angels speak, and without the Holy Ghost, we cannot speak with the tongue of angels.
In chapter three, we see how ordination of priests and teachers occurred. These were not priests and teachers as we know them now: young men in the Aaronic priesthood. Rather these were positions in the Melchizedek Priesthood among the Nephites. Note that the 12 disciples were known as the “elders of the Church”, much as Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were known as the first and second elders of the Church, when it was first organized. We do not read specifically how other elders were chosen and ordained, but can imagine it was similar. The key here is the importance of authority. There is a hierarchy to God’s work upon the earth.
In the Lord’s visit to the Americas, he and his disciples provided the Sacrament on more than one occasion. We were taught the importance of partaking it worthily, as a covenant between us and Christ.
Now, in chapters 4 and 5, Moroni will teach the future Lamanites the sacramental prayers. These are very important for us, otherwise Moroni would not have included them in his final words. The sacrament is a renewal of our covenants. All of our covenants. We do renew our baptismal covenant, but it goes beyond to reflect our receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, the priesthood, and the temple ordinances. While baptism by water tends to be viewed as an individual’s ordinance and covenant with Christ, the Sacrament is a communal experience. It is here that we recognize not just our own covenant as an individual, but as a people. It strengthens Nephi’s teachings regarding the baptismal covenant as becoming one as a people in Christ. It is here that we become a holy people together, as we join to renew the covenants of baptism, priesthood and temple.
While the prayers on the bread and water are similar, there are some significant differences. Why is it that the prayer on the bread includes, “keep his commandments which he hath given them”, while the prayer on the water/wine does not?
One reason may be that the bread represents and focuses on the body or flesh. We are symbolically made of two parts: flesh and water. The body is bound to the temptations of the flesh, and as with the law of Moses, requires law to control it. The water or wine would possibly represent the blood that gives life to the body. There is no law required with the blood, especially regarding the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ cleanses our blood, or us, of all sin through repentance. Of course, flesh and blood do not live alone, except they are revivified by the Spirit, which is promised to all who willingly subject their flesh to the commandments, and their life blood to the cleansing blood of Christ.
In chapter 6, Moroni speaks of baptism. This is a very important discourse, as short as it is, because it speaks of what is required of a person prior to baptism.
“Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins. “And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end” (Moroni 6:2-3).
Then, we become numbered among the saints, once baptized and received the Holy Ghost. Baptism is a covenant of the people, not just of the individual. Moroni then explains what they, as a covenant people do to strengthen each other and become a Zion people. The Holy Ghost was the key to them becoming one people, whether praying, preaching, or singing. So it is with the Church today.