Sunday, July 25, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 84

 Come Follow Me: D&C 84


The Aaronic Priesthood was restored to the earth by John the Baptist on May 15, 1829.  Within a month, the Melchizedek Priesthood was also restored by the ancient apostles Peter, James and John. In the earliest years of the Church, the understanding of priesthood was clearly under development. By 1832, the Lord would reveal key concepts regarding priesthood. This revelation would open the door to temple work, the creation of the Quorum of 12 apostles, the First Presidency, and other major revelations and events regarding priesthood.

For other Christian religions, priesthood is a fungible concept. It is often received after attending a college seminary, obtaining a degree in religion. In most of Christianity, it is not so much an issue of authority, but a license to preach and run a church. This is the world that Joseph Smith and most early Latter-day Saints grew up in. This and other revelations would turn these traditional concepts on their head.

The restored priesthood provides three things: keys, power and authority.  Keys open the door to perform certain ordinances and activities (discussed more in D&C 109). Authority is given to govern the Church, perform ordinances, and organize the work.  As important as authority is, however, it is impotent without the power of the priesthood.  President Packer recently stated that we do well on distributing the authority, but need to improve on distributing the true powers of heaven.  

From the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, we learn:

" 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." (vs 33-40)

It requires us to be faithful to obtain the priesthoods. It requires faith and effort to magnify our calling in the priesthood. Once we are on this path, we are then on the path of being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

We often look at the priesthood as something reserved for men. This is not true. Priesthood power and authority is given to all those who are faithful. As parents, we use God's priesthood power and authority to teach and raise our children. Those set apart as Relief Society presidents and nursery leaders, are set apart by priesthood power and authority. They obtain the priesthood in these responsibilities. While men mayspecifically become the "sons of Moses and of Aaron," all may become the "seed of Abraham." Also, in the temple, we become the sons of Adam and of Eve through faithfulness to priesthood covenants and ordinances. We can become the "elect of God," a priesthood blessing.

 For women, priesthood is just as important as it is for men. President Boyd K. Packer noted,

"I include the sisters because it is crucial for everyone to understand what is expected of the brethren. Unless we enlist the attention of the mothers and daughters and sisters—who have influence on their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers—we cannot progress. The priesthood will lose great power if the sisters are neglected." (Ensign, April 2010, The Power of the Priesthood)


This power is not only for the men, but also for the women of the Church.  Why? Because of the ordinances and covenants attached to the priesthood.

 

Beyond what Pres Packer noted about the woman's role in priesthood, we get an expanded and better understanding of their role from President Dallin H Oaks:

"The power of the priesthood exists both in the Church and in the family organization. But priesthood power and priesthood authority function differently in the Church than they do in the family. All of this is according to the principles the Lord has established. The purpose of God’s plan is to lead His children to eternal life. Mortal families are essential to that plan. The Church exists to provide the doctrine, the authority, and the ordinances necessary to perpetuate family relationships into the eternities." (The Melchizedek Priesthood and the Keys)
The purpose of all priesthood is to exalt and bless individuals and families. Both men and women have responsibilities in the priesthood.

"Though women do not hold an office in the priesthood, they perform sacred temple ordinances under the authorization of the president of the temple, who holds the keys for the ordinances of the temple.Another example of priesthood authority under the direction of one who holds the keys are the teachings of men and women called to teach the gospel, whether in classes in their home wards or in the mission field. Other examples are those who hold leadership positions in the ward and exercise priesthood authority in their leadership by reason of their callings and under the setting apart and direction of the priesthood leader who holds the keys in the ward or the stake. This is how the authority and power of the priesthood is exercised and enjoyed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (ibid)
In another talk, President Oaks said,
"Priesthood keys direct women as well as men, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to women as well as men." (The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood)

The Priesthoods

The Aaronic Priesthood provides the outward ordinances, holding the keys of repentance, baptism and the ministering of angels (D&C 13). These are amazing keys. Without them, no one can fully repent or be cleansed by water. These are ordinances that lift us from a Telestial to a Terrestrial state, where we can speak with angels. Not only can we personally speak with angels, but through the power of the priesthood, men and women can ask God to send angels to assist others. As Alma the Elder prayed for angels to call Alma the Younger to repentance and to change, so too, we can pray for angels to assist others in many ways. 

On my mission, I knew a woman, who through the prayers of the elders who taught her, saw an angel, who testified to her of the Book of Mormon. I've seen many times when angels have helped people accept the gospel. I've also seen them help people in mundane matters: such as an investigator seeking employment. The missionaries prayed angels would help her. As she passed by a business, she felt someone literally push her into the business and she got a job. We can ask and hope for miracles, and yes, have angels assist us in our homes and in this great work.

The greater Priesthood of Melchizedek holds even greater power and promise:

"And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.

"Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
And without the ordinances thereof, 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 fulness of his glory. (D&C 84:19-24)


While the Aaronic Priesthood gives the power to have angels minister to a person and to have a remission of sins, the Melchizedek Priesthood holds the power to bring people into the presence of God, to have His mystery revealed to them, and to become not only cleansed of sin, but purified to a divine state!

Moses' goal at Sinai was to take Israel to the top of the mountain, where each one of them would see God personally.  They refused to go, fearing God's wrath and reluctant to give up their sinful ways.  God gave them the lesser priesthood as a preparatory power, to prepare them for the greater opportunities. If mankind was not ready to converse with God, perhaps they could be prepared to speak with angels.

The Melchizedek Priesthood, however, contains the power, primarily through the ordinances, of being in the presence of the members of the Godhead.

First, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is confirmed upon a person, giving that person access to the third member of the Godhead.  In the temple ordinances, which set us apart from the world both figuratively and literally, we learn to walk through the Cosmos and all of Creation, in a journey to return back into the full presence and glory of God.  This is not a journey that is accomplished alone.  It is a journey for both Adam and Eve, husband and wife, who share the power, authority and blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood within the temple. In the marriage sealing, husband and wife both receive together the Patriarchal Priesthood, the greatest role in the Melchizedek Priesthood.  Husband and wife are promised that as they are faithful to God, they will receive blessings in time and eternity, to stand in God's presence and be like Him.

This is the purpose of the priesthood in our day: to prepare a people to stand in the presence of God and be holy.  Through the ordinances the priesthood provides, men and women can enjoy the greatest blessings and opportunities of God in heaven.  These promises begin with baptism and climb to the summit as believers enter into the Celestial Room of the temple, symbolic of the day when they literally will walk into the Celestial Kingdom and into the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 81-83

 Come Follow Me: D&C 81-83

 

D&C 81

This revelation was originally given to Jesse Gause, calling him to be a counselor to Joseph Smith. Not much is known about Gause, but the Joseph Smith Papers Project notes a few things about him. First, he moved around a lot. He first joined the Quakers in his early adult life. After the death of his first wife, he joined the Shakers in 1829 and married again. He possibly joined the Shakers, because many of his in-laws were of that faith, and he needed assistance caring for his children from his first marriage. Moving to Ohio, he heard of Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints, and was baptized sometime before his appointment as counselor in 1832. Gause served for about a month as a scribe on the Joseph Smith Translation, and was sent on a mission, including to the Shakers, where he unsuccessfully attempted to convince his wife to join the Church. He left his mission companion, Zebedee Coltrin, in August 1832 - supposedly to return to his wife and the Shakers. 

Frederick Williams would soon be called to replace Gause in the First Presidency. By the time the Doctrine and Covenants was printed in 1835, Williams' name was placed in the revelation, as it applied directly to him as the counselor.

 The revelation establishes the First Presidency of the High Priesthood. There is no other quorum above the First Presidency. This quorum holds the keys of the priesthood, and as it developed, it became what it is today.

"Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees." (vs 5)

Interestingly, this is one of the major qualifications as a counselor in the First Presidency. However, it applies to all of us in our callings, whether Prophet of the Church or nursery leader. Our main purpose is not to administer, but to minister. We are to focus on relationships, not programs nor processes. 

This is especially true when dealing with people who are different from us: race, ethnicity, gender orientation, immigrant status, political leanings, etc. We aren't to view them as different, but as children of God, who go through difficult challenges. We are to strengthen them in their weakness. To do this means we must first know them. It is easy to see some of the needs of a person in a wheelchair. How do we determine the needs of a person who quietly is struggling with depression or anxiety? Unless we actually become a part of his/her life, how do we know what they need and want?


D&C 82

In conjunction with the command to succor the weak, we learn more on the requirements of consecration. 

"For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation." (vs 3)

This applies in both spiritual and temporal things. Americans, for the most part, have received much temporally. Even most of our poor are richer than the average person in Europe. We have air conditioning, cell phones, cars. Most of our homes are larger than 800 square feet, the average sized home in England. We are among the first in the world to get the Covid vaccine. 

Politically, while many of us wish for even more freedom and less government, we are among the freest nations on earth. We can say almost anything on social media, without government interference. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, the main Chinese government is apprehending journalists for opposing communist government overreach. That is the norm in most of the world. We often take our freedoms of speech, religion, free markets, etc. for granted.

On a spiritual level, Latter-day Saints are extremely blessed. We have received revelation upon revelation. We have the gift of the Holy Ghost. We receive great blessings by entering the temples of the Lord. We learn at the feet of a living prophet.

Much has been given to us. What are we giving back temporally and spiritually?

"I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (vs 10)
This is the verse my stake president invited me to memorize prior to my mission over 40 years ago. God has made promises to us, based upon obedience to his laws and commands. If we desire miracles, revelation, priesthood power, eternal life, then we must eagerly obey the laws connected to those heaven sent blessings. For me, it isn't just a matter of obeying out of fear of punishment, or obeying so we can receive blessings - although those can be motivating factors. Instead, we obey because we love God and wish to be like him. Perhaps there are different levels of motivation: good, better, best; telestial, terrestrial, celestial.

Consecration


"For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.

"Therefore, I give unto you this commandment, that ye bind yourselves by this covenant, and it shall be done according to the laws of the Lord.

"Behold, here is wisdom also in me for your good.

"And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just—

"And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church—

"Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God." (vs 14-19)

Zion and her stakes can only be fully established upon the principles of consecration. Until then, Zion will lack in glory. It cannot "arise and put on her beautiful garments." For this reason, Christ already spoke in this chapter about obedience. We are to bind ourselves to the covenant of consecration. 

We here learn that we have stewardships: our lands, our possessions, our knowledge, our talents, our wealth, our abilities, our callings, etc. These have been given to us by God, and they can be taken away and given to another, just as Jesse Gause lost his calling as Joseph Smith's counselor, and it was given to Frederick Williams. 

We are to be equal. For those of us with lots of stuff, are we ready to give up our excess? Are we willing to sell our expensive home, move to a modest home as our stewardship, and have the extra moneys given to the storehouse? The day could arrive when the Lord may command such from us via our bishops. 

The key is that we must be equal in temporal things, so that all will have the ability to improve upon his/her talents. Everyone should have the chance to go to college or learn a trade. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, a foreign language, a new skill. Everyone.

Everyone of us must be "seeking the interest of [our] neighbor." And who is my neighbor? The Lord's parable of the Good Samaritan answers that. We should be ready to assist anyone in need, including those different from us.

Since we do not live the law of consecration as a Church right now, it is given to us to individually and as families to consecrate ourselves and our things to God. While tithing is set at ten percent, there is no limit set for fast offerings and other donations to the Church. There is no limit set for donating to other worthy causes. There is no limit to helping our neighbors, near or far.  The only limitation is us.

Are we seeking to provide for others whatever there needs and wants are (as long as the wants are just)? The difference between this concept and communism, is that communism is forced upon all the people. Here, God is inviting all of us, of our own free will, to take of our excess and willingly share it with others. It isn't our stuff. It belongs to God. We are only stewards.


D&C 83

Again, we speak on consecration. Here it is mostly concerning the stewardships of fathers and parents in Zion. Husbands have the responsibility to take care of wife and children temporally. Period. Divorce does not change this scenario much. There is still a responsibility, based upon previously made covenants and promises. 

Today's divorces are a tragedy. Occasionally, they are necessary. Usually, they could be avoided if both spouses were to obey the commands of God. Even in a no fault divorce, the husband still holds responsibility to care for children and spouse. I do not understand how much infighting there is in arriving at a judge's decision to divide properties and determine support. I knew a man once, who when his wife divorced him, lived several years in his car, so he could ensure the children had sufficient for their needs. Everything he did was for them. He consecrated his time, money, and everything, so they could have a decent upbringing. Only after they were grown, was he able to again purchase a home of his own.

Sadly, this is a rare event. Instead, most divorces end in at least one side greedily seeking to keep the wealth, often at the expense of the children. In such an instance, the wealth is viewed as possessions, and not as a stewardship to bless and lift others (like the family).

Are we ready and willing to live the Law of Consecration, to build and establish Zion and her stakes, and to manage our stewardships in righteousness? If not, what can we now do to begin that preparation?




 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 77-80

 Come Follow Me: D&C 77-80

D&C 77

This revelation was given as part of Joseph and Sidney's work on translating the Bible. As mentioned before, Joseph didn't actually translate the Bible, as he never used ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. Instead, he used an English Bible purchased at the E. B. Grandin printing press shop. He possibly also used other materials available, such as a commentary, to go through the .Bible. Much of the process, rather than a translation process, was revelatory. The Bible and exercise, as with translating other documents, were catalysts for inspiration and revelation. This is evidenced by the fact that there are no examples of some writings in Joseph's translation of the Bible, such as writings on Moses, Adam, Enoch (Book of Moses), Melchizedek, Joseph of Egypt, etc. These writing do not exist anywhere, except in Joseph's translation of the Bible.

In translating the Book of Rev elation, Joseph had questions regarding some of the beings and events in the book. 

The earth will be a sea of glass. 

Joseph would expound further on this in D&C 130. We will find that the earth will become a giant Urim and Thummim, which will reveal the truths, facts, and information of the lower kingdoms. This suggests that all the kingdoms of heaven are in the same place, just not visible to one another, per se. In this way, telestial people could learn all the truths of the telestial kingdom, and those in the terrestrial world could learn the truths of both the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms. D&C 130 then notes that those in the Celestial realm will be able to view the truths of the lower kingdoms through the earth. Then, each will receive a personal seer stone, through which they will be able to see the higher things of the celestial realms.

The four beasts

Joseph is shown these and other beings as figurative. They are described in ways that are reminiscent of the Creation: heaven, paradise, both the spiritual and temporal creations, the goal of eternal happiness for humans and animals.

In this description, we learn that animals have spirits. They are eternal beings, just like humans. Many Christians do not think animals have a spirit, and so can be used however we choose to use them. However, LDS scripture often tells us that when we eat animals, it is to be done with thanksgiving and prudence (D&C 59; 89). How often, when we eat a hamburger or chicken fingers, do we think about the life of the animal we are consuming? Are we eating with thanksgiving for the sacrifice of God's creatures, so that we may live? How should such consideration guide us in our actions towards our pets, hunting for sport, farm animals, etc?

Sealed books

Again, we see something figurative. Sealed books are normal events in Latter-day Saint history. They represent the concept that not all things are made known to us yet. Some things are yet to be revealed in greater detail, especially when the events are ready to occur. Sealed books give us a glimpse to what has been and what will be. 

The seven thousand years is approximate. There is no celestial clock ticking away the precise moments when things occur. Scripture shows that things often overlap between the opening and closings of seals. For example, when the seventh seal is opened, Jesus does not come in glory immediately. Instead, there are still many things to occur that tie in directly to the ending of the sixth seal. 

144,000

Among those events that slop over into the Millennial period is what we call Adam-ondi-Ahman. Anciently, Adam in his old age gathered his faithful followers together and prophesied. Yahweh appeared and blessed him. (D&C 107). In Revelation, we find that 144 thousand high priests will be set apart for a mission. Even as we now send out young people on missions today, there will come a day when high priests will be sent forth for a final pruning. There is some evidence in the D&C that they may be sent to the "pagan nations" - India, China, Arab nations, etc., places that have not had a major missionary push previous to this time. They will be called out of Babylon and brought to Zion. These high priests may be the prophets that bring them across the ice and waters to the Americas (D&C 133). All this in preparation for Armageddon and the 2nd Coming of Christ.

D&C 78

This is one of the important revelations regarding consecration and the United Order. It would be started here in Kirtland and Independence, but would end only 1 1/2 years later, because the saints found it too hard to live. It would be replaced by tithing, a terrestrial law created to prepare people to live the Celestial law.


"For a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven;

"That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things.

"For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things" (vs 4-6)

The United Order, a form of the law of consecration, is an everlasting order. We give all our possessions to the Lord via his bishop, who then gives us a stewardship in return. The excess is used in the bishop's storehouse to take care of the poor and needy. 

In a world of capitalism, greed, and personal luxuries, we are commanded to be equal with those around us. We are a long way from there. For those not paying a full tithe, they have even further to travel on the path of change. In the Celestial Kingdom are many mansions, but they are all equal. On earth, we must be ready to do the same. I do not know if having a big mansion and expensive cars here on earth is a sin or not. It may depend on the person and his/her needs. However, I am certain God will ask us what we have done with our excess: have we used it for good, or have we used it to lavish ourselves with all the world would offer us?

When the young rich man spoke with Jesus on how to obtain eternal life, he congratulated himself on keeping the Ten Commandments. Jesus beheld him, loved him, but then challenged him with a higher law: sell all you have, give it to the poor, and "Come Follow Me."

Perhaps this is the difference between being honorable and valiant (D&C 76), terrestrial and celestial.

"And he who breaketh it shall lose his office and standing in the church, and shall be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption." (vs 12)

Over the following years, many members in Kirtland and Independence would break their covenants and lose their office: Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Thomas Marsh, etc. Because they failed to live consecrated lives, they could not muster up enough righteousness and heaven-sent power to rescue Zion and Kirtland from mobs. The saints would suffer the "buffetings of Satan" here on earth.

D&C 80

"Wherefore, go ye and preach my gospel, whether to the north or to the south, to the east or to the west, it mattereth not, for ye cannot go amiss." (vs 3)

Often we want God to command us in all things. Ever seek a priesthood blessing, wishing it would tell you exactly what you should do in the situation you find yourself in, but instead get blessed in other ways? It is often because God wants us to seek out the direction we go. Often, it "mattereth not" to God what we do. When it does matter, he still gives us agency to make our own choices.

That we are to preach the gospel, share the light of Christ, and invite others to Come unto Christ, is an eternal principle for all the saints. It often doesn't matter which road we go down, as long as we are active in seeking the humble and meek in spirit.

These missionaries could not go amiss, because their hearts and desires were in the right place. God will occasionally give us greater detail, or specific places to go, but often he leaves it up to us. Be ready for the times when God gives specific inspiration, but also be ready to do good works of your own accord.

In preparing for the last days and the Millennium, we need to prepare ourselves, so that we are always ready to speak and do the things the Holy Spirit directs. This is part of the covenant of consecration we make. We are to help others be equal to us in heavenly things, by sharing those heavenly things and inviting them to receive them.

It may be that we, our children, or friends may be called on full time missions right now. However, we are all called on eternal missions to help God save and exalt his children through Jesus Christ. In consecrating ourselves, we become equal with others - the rich voluntarily debase themselves, while the poor are blessed to be raised up by the charity of others. We share our temporal blessings, as well as our spiritual blessings, so that all may be equally blessed under God's hand in Zion.














Sunday, July 04, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 76 - The Vision

 Come Follow Me: D&C 76 - The Vision

 The Vision

In 1832, Joseph and Sidney received a remarkable Vision that lasted hours. They took turns describing the things they saw. D&C 76 was created from the revelation, covering many of the important truths they discovered.

The first thing to note is that BOTH Joseph and Sidney received the revelation. While many pretenders proclaimed they had revelations from God and/or angels, none had a list of others who joined in many of those revelations: the Three Witnesses, Oliver Cowdery seeing John the Baptist, the First Presidency seeing the Kirtland Temple in vision as they began plans to design and build it, members attending the Kirtland Temple dedication, etc.  

When it came to Christianity, the Vision was revolutionary. A few had previously suggested that heaven had several levels, but no one had given as much detail as this. For most of Christianity, only a few would be saved, the rest of the world would be damned - regardless of their opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ in this life. In fact, one leading dogma for many Christians is Calvin's TULIP, which includes a limited atonement, predestination to heaven/hell, and that most will not be saved.

The Vision turns all of that on its head. Instead of a limited atonement, Christ offers a near universal salvation to humankind. Instead of predestination, there is fore-ordination and free will.It is a Vision of hope and joy.

"We, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, being in the Spirit on the sixteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two—

"By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God—

"Even those things which were from the beginning before the world was, which were ordained of the Father, through his Only Begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, even from the beginning;" (vs 11-13)

 

 Theophany

As noted before, Joseph and Sidney received the revelation together. It lasted hours, but section 76 is not that long. Instead, we occasionally get glimpses of other things they saw. In this instance, they saw things "from the beginning before the world was," perhaps the Divine Councils in Heaven, maybe parts of the Creation itself.

"And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.

"And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness;

"And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever.

"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!" (vs 19-22)

Here, Joseph and Sidney have joined the Divine Council in heaven. It represents the councils held since the earliest times of Creation (Abraham 3), and include other prophets having important visions being with the Council (Isaiah 6, 1 Nephi 1, Revelation 4). Many key prophets, including Isaiah, Lehi and the apostle John, experienced the Divine Council. Joseph and Sidney join that special group.

In seeing God and Christ, they had a theophany. A theophany is where God appears before a human. The First Vision is a theophany. Scripture show Adam, Noah, Enoch, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Lehi, the brother of Jared, and many others experiencing a theophany. When the children of God prepare their hearts sufficiently, they are brought into the presence of God. They are, in that moment, redeemed from the Fall. 

"That he lives!" is one of the most important statements in scripture. Much of the world thinks, along with the philosopher Nietzche, "God is dead."  Joseph Smith proclaimed that while Nietzche may be dead, through the ever living Jesus Christ, even the philosopher will live again!

The Vision steps us through the various levels of heaven. This is similar to several ancient Judeao-Christian texts, most were not available in Joseph Smith's day. Included are the Ascension of Isaiah and the Apocalypse of Paul. In these visions, the prophets ascend through the levels of heaven, seeing the sufferings of the wicked, and the joys of the righteous.

 For active Latter-day Saints, we also experience such a practice theophany every time we attend the endowment in the temple. It is our version of the Vision.

 

The Telestial

In explaining the kingdoms, we get a glimpse of Outer Darkness, Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial glories. To see the glory and love of God, we only need consider that the wicked, which include murderers, will go to the Telestial Kingdom, which is a kingdom of salvation:

"These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit.

"These are they who are thrust down to hell.

"These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work.

"These are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial;

"And the terrestrial through the ministration of the celestial.

"And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation.

"And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding;" (vs 83-89)

The Telestial are wicked people, who barely repent of their sins, but not much more. They will suffer in hell, or Spirit Prison, for a time. As with Alma in his near death experience, they will suffer intensely, until they choose to repent (Alma 36), at which time they are released from the suffering. Note that it isn't God that causes the suffering. It is their own guilt that causes them to suffer, and the only escape is to repent.

Still, their glory and salvation "surpasses all understanding." That is how much God loves his children.

 

Progression

From these and other verses, a question opens up. Why are the Telestial administered to by the Terrestrial, and the Terrestrial by the Celestial? Is it a teaching/training to prepare these souls to ascend to higher kingdoms later on?  

There are two theories in the Church.

The current leading theory, pushed by Joseph Fielding Smith and others, is that there is no progression between kingdoms. There is only progression within a kingdom, but not beyond.

Meanwhile, other Church leaders, like James Talmage (who wrote, Jesus the Christ), suggested it may be possible to advance or progress through the kingdoms. (see quotes below)

Again, both of these positions are theory. We just do not know, yet.


Sons of Perdition

Only the Sons of Perdition will not be saved. Why not? Because they refuse to be saved. They reject God, Christ and the Holy Ghost. They refuse to submit themselves to the Godhead. Instead of attributes of love, patience, humility, charity, faith and hope; they are the antithesis of these things: hate, greed, selfishness, etc.

While we may look upon Outer Darkness as a terrible place, it is the only place where the Sons of Perdition will feel comfortable. It is where they will be happiest. (Mormon 9:4)


A Truly Loving God

Ours is truly a loving God. He gave us Jesus Christ to rescue us from Outer Darkness. Without Christ, we all would be subject to the devil (Jacob 3:11). Instead, we are offered near universal salvation in a kingdom of glory. The only requirements for this basic salvation are: faith in Christ and repentance. Nothing else is necessary for entering the Telestial Kingdom. 

This is called Justification. We are justified in the blood of Christ. We are made sinless in and through Him. 

Then, through Sanctification, we are made holy. Sanctification requires more than just faith and repentance on a basic level. It means putting forth effort to become holy. We exercise faith in Christ, we repent, we receive ordinances, we receive a greater portion of the Holy Ghost, then we endure. This is the Doctrine of Christ (3 Nephi 11). Using this as a pattern, we are able to go from grace to grace, receiving grace for grace, until we obtain a fullness of God's glory (D&C 93).

To the level of sanctification we reach, determines our kingdom in the resurrection. This offers salvation to almost all of God's children. He loves us. He wants the best for us. He gives us what we are ready to receive. We are His children.


Quotes on Progression Between Kingdoms


Boyd K. Packer,
‘Some years ago I was in Washington, D.C., with President Harold B. Lee. Early one morning he called me to come into his hotel room. He was sitting in his robe reading Gospel Doctrine, by President Joseph F. Smith, and he said, “Listen to this!”
“Jesus had not finished his work when his body was slain, neither did he finish it after his resurrection from the dead; although he had accomplished the purpose for which he then came to the earth, he had not fulfilled all his work. And when will he? Not until he has redeemed and saved every son and daughter of our father Adam that have been or ever will be born upon this earth to the end of time, except the sons of perdition. That is his mission. We will not finish our work until we have saved ourselves, and then not until we shall have saved all depending upon us; for we are to become saviors upon Mount Zion, as well as Christ. We are called to this mission.”
“There is never a time,” the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin.”’

(The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 18)

Brigham Young,
“None would inherit this earth when it became celestial and translated into the presence of God but those who would be crowned as Gods — all others would have to inherit another kingdom — they would eventually have the privilege of proving themselves worthy and advancing to a celestial kingdom but it would be a slow process [progress?].”
(Brigham Young, in Wilford Woodruff Journal, 5 Aug 1855)

Joseph F. Smith,
“Once a person enters these glories there will be eternal progress in the line of each of these particular glories, but the privilege of passing from one to another (though this may be possible for especially gifted and faithful characters) is not provided for.”
(Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era 14:87 [November 1910])

J. Reuben Clark,
“I am not a strict constructionalist, believing that we seal our eternal progress by what we do here. It is my belief that God will save all of His children that he can: and while, if we live unrighteously here, we shall not go to the other side in the same status, so to speak, as those who lived righteously; nevertheless, the unrighteous will have their chance, and in the eons of the eternities that are to follow, they, too, may climb to the destinies to which they who are righteous and serve God, have climbed to those eternities that are to come.”
(J. Reuben Clark, Church News, 23 April 1960, p. 3)

James E. Talmage,
“It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude, that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.”
(James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith [1899 edition] pp. 420-421)

John A. Widtsoe’s
Moreover our punishment stands, at least measurably, throughout the endless ages, because, as we go onward, those above us go onward also, and the relative positions remain the same..

(Widtsoe, “Fundamentals of Temple Doctrine,” 132.)

Orson F. Whitney
“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1929, p. 110)

Lorenzo Snow
“If you succeed in passing through these trials and afflictions and receive a resurrection, you will, by the power of the Priesthood, work and labor, as the Son of God has, until you get all your sons and daughters in the path of exaltation and glory. This is just as sure as that the sun rose this morning over yonder mountains. Therefore, mourn not because all your sons and daughters do not follow in the path that you have marked out to them, or give heed to your counsels. Inasmuch as we succeed in securing eternal glory, and stand as saviors, and as kings and priests to our God, we will save our posterity” (in Collected Discourses, comp. Brian H. Stuy, 5 vols. [1987–92], 3:364).


 

 

 

 












Sunday, June 27, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 71-75

 Come Follow Me: D&C 71-75

Simonds Ryder, a friend of Ezra Booth, was angry because his name was misspelled in a revelation given to Joseph Smith. Along with Booth, he set out to criticize and destroy the Church. 

So powerful were these critics, that the Lord told Joseph and Sidney to pause the work of translating the Bible and go out and preach the gospel for a month to quell the growing tensions with non-members and members alike.

Booth had seen a miracle. He had been present when revelations were given to Joseph. Yet, these two men could not accept the idea that prophets are regular people, just like you and me, doing their best to serve the Lord.

Having served with several bishops and stake presidents over the years, I can assure you that such issues continue today. If there is a bishop or other leader out there that hasn't offended at least one person, it is a rare thing. Our leaders do their best, but are asked to be instant experts in many things: finances, psychologist, judge, counselor, speaker, youth leader, etc. 

I once had a bishop who was a brick layer. Imagine the experience he had and now suddenly expected to guide hundreds of others, each with their own strengths and struggles. 

Once I was with a stake president at a stake function. A long time member walked up to us, pulled out his temple recommend and told the stake president that he could no longer sustain him and handed in his temple recommend. When asked why, the man explained that he had applied to be the custodian of his chapel, but someone else received the job. The stake president asked the man to visit with him after the function was over. Then he turned to me and said, "this is a sad thing. I don't decide who will get the custodial positions, I only submit the names."

Think for a moment about the Church leader(s) who have offended you. What do you know about him/her? Is the person old or young? Educated or not? Introvert or extrovert? A people person or book smart? Experienced in counseling or just learning? Large family or small? Rich or poor? Personal struggles that can be seen or are hidden? Family issues or not? Disabilities, fears, struggles, etc?

It is amazing how much good these leaders do for the Church and us. Often we do not see the endless hours they spend dealing with the struggles of the members, while also handling the struggles int heir own lives.

Yet Ezra Booth, Simonds Ryder and others would not give Joseph Smith such consideration. They expected Joseph and Sigdon to be perfect, having been set apart by God to an important calling and task.

D&C 71

"Verily I say unto you, proclaim unto the world in the regions round about, and in the church also, for the space of a season, even until it shall be made known unto you.

"Verily this is a mission for a season, which I give unto you.

"Wherefore, labor ye in my vineyard. Call upon the inhabitants of the earth, and bear record, and prepare the way for the commandments and revelations which are to come.

"Now, behold this is wisdom; whoso readeth, let him understand and receive also;" (vs 2-5)


.We are to take an occasional "season" to preach the gospel. While full time missionaries may travel the globe, we are to  serve in the regions round about our homes, and in the church itself. Why? Because many members fail in their testimonies on occasion, and we may be the tool the Lord uses to strengthen them.  Note that while this revelation was specifically for Joseph and Sidney, in verse 5 we see that we are to receive this counsel also for ourselves.

"Wherefore, confound your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest.

"Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against the Lord.

"Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you—there is no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper;

"And if any man lift his voice against you he shall be confounded in mine own due time." (vs 7-10)

We are not to contend with our enemies, but to confound them. We are not to shy away from having a discussion, based on reason. Note, this is how we are to deal with enemies, not with friends church members nor investigators. We should not seek to confound those seeking truth, but to guide them to truth.

The Church recently shared a video on how to naturally share the gospel with friends. I highly recommend it:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/broadcasts?lang=eng&video=17577214776362627563&mode=watch

 

D&C 72

 With the first bishop of the Church, Edward Partridge, living in Independence, a new bishop was needed for Kirtland. Newell K. Whitney would be their bishop. Some duties have changed since this early period, but the duties still include dealing with consecration and as a judge.

"And verily in this thing ye have done wisely, for it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity.

"For he who is faithful and wise in time is accounted worthy to inherit the mansions prepared for him of my Father.

"Verily I say unto you, the elders of the church in this part of my vineyard shall render an account of their stewardship unto the bishop, who shall be appointed of me in this part of my vineyard." (vs 3-5)

We, as stewards of personal callings, responsibilities, families, and tithing, render an account of our efforts to our bishops. This occur in tithing settlement and in interviews for baptism, callings, temple recommends, etc. This rendering of our works and efforts will follow us into the next life. The day will come when we shall each stand before the Judge of All, Jesus Christ, and part of the judgment will be given from these earlier accounts:

"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." (Revelation 20:12)

D&C 74

This is a revelation given in 1830 regarding baptism. Some viewed Paul's writings in 1 Corinthians as justifying infant baptism. However, the Lord reemphasized what is taught in the Book of Mormon.

The section discusses traditions the Jews held, which were being incorporated into early Christianity, such as circumcision. The Jews and others believed that children were born into sin, and so circumcision, and for the Christians, infant baptism would be necessary.

However, through Christ, little children are innocent before the Lord.


"But little children are holy, being sanctified through the atonement of Jesus Christ; and this is what the scriptures mean." (vs 7)


D&C 75

"Hearken, O ye who have given your names to go forth to proclaim my gospel, and to prune my vineyard.

"Behold, I say unto you that it is my will that you should go forth and not tarry, neither be idle but labor with your might—

"Lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, proclaiming the truth according to the revelations and commandments which I have given you.

"And thus, if ye are faithful ye shall be laden with many sheaves, and crowned with honor, and glory, and immortality, and eternal life." (vs 2-5)

For the past year, we have hunkered down due to Covid 19. Much of the world still is hunkered down, awaiting vaccination.

Yet, the call to share the gospel has not been postponed. It was adjusted to the times, as much of the work moved on-line. Here in America, we are now entering back into a period where we can now be with people face-to-face. It is time to renew our goals and energies towards sharing the gospel with our neighbors. We can no longer tarry, nor be idle. It is time to renew the work, while there is time to do it.

We do not know whether next year will bring another pandemic or war, which could again stop much of the missionary work in the world. It is time for members everywhere, as possible, to again share the gospel.

For those vaccinated, share it in person. For those awaiting safer days in their nations, share it on-line, over the phone and social media. If you do Facebook, Instagram, or any of a dozen other social media sites, how much of your interactions include sharing the gospel?

Are we doing only once a week in sharing the gospel, while spending hours on social media sharing other things? Why? Let's set a goal to increase our missionary efforts. I encourage each of us to share something inspiring at least once per day: preferably in person, but also on social media.

In the United States, Europe and other areas, Christianity is slowly dying. While people call themselves "spiritual," they are not connected to things of the Spirit. They are not connected to Jesus Christ and His atonement. Do your friends, coworkers and others in your life know you to be a dedicated Christian? Or do they wonder where you stand spiritually?

Many people seek the gospel and Jesus, but do not know where to look. They haven't found it yet. Are we part of their solution? Or are they still looking because we haven't been the light they needed?

Again, I encourage you to watch the Church's broadcast on how to naturally share the gospel. It is our reentry into this important work of the Lord, prior to the Second Coming.








 




Saturday, June 19, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 67-70

 Come Follow Me: D&C 67-70

D&C 

The Church was organized in April 1830. Nineteen months later, the Lord had given so many revelations that it was time to prepare many of them for publishing, so the members would have access to them. These revelations included issues regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon (such as the lost 116 pages), the Three Witnesses, sending missionaries to the West, establishing two church centers (Kirtland and Independence), laws and priesthood organization, the location for the city of Zion, etc.

"Your eyes have been upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and his language you have known, and his imperfections you have known; and you have sought in your hearts knowledge that you might express beyond his language; this you also know." (vs 5)

Several of the leaders were uncertain about witnessing to the revelations. They knew that Joseph Smith was rather uneducated and the wording in some of the revelations was not as polished as they would like. They wanted to rewrite the revelations to look and sound more educated.

Instead, the Lord recognized Joseph's weaknesses, and then gave the brethren a test: take the smartest among you and write a revelation that was as powerful as the smallest of the revelations Joseph had received. They tried and failed.

Yes, there are lots of flaws in the Book of Mormon and other revelations of Joseph Smith. Terminology, occasional anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, and grammar occasionally kept the revelations from being perfect. That said, they were good enough for God's purposes. The revelations were inspired, and carry the power of the Holy Ghost to witness of the truth of the teachings.


"And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.

"For no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God.

"Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God, neither after the carnal mind.

"Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected." (vs 10-13)

What is the purpose of the revelations? To prepare us to return into the presence of God. In 3 1/2 years, many of them would see the face of Jesus during the Kirtland Temple dedication. Even more would see angels. Sadly, we will also see that many will not stay humble, and their pride and jealousies would end up casting them out of Kirtland and Missouri.


D&C 68

"And, behold, and lo, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth—

"And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.

"And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.

"Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants." (vs 2-5)

All those ordained or set apart under the power of the priesthood have a mission. They are to act within their calling or responsibility as "moved upon by the Holy Ghost." 

Many Protestant churches believe the Bible to be "God-breathed" or perfect. To them, there are no mistakes nor errors. For Latter-day Saints, we learn some important things from D&C 67 and 68: Scripture is not perfect. Nor is it static, as is the Bible. It comes from God through the Holy Ghost to imperfect humans. Little of the scripture makes it into canon - revelations that the Church has embraced as applying to all members as a standard. 

Instead, whatever comes through the Holy Ghost IS scripture. When the bishop counsels a person through inspiration, it is scripture for that person. When a Sacrament speaker is moved by the Holy Ghost to share teachings with us, it is scripture for us.

As hearers, it is our responsibility to be in tune with the Holy Ghost, so that it can witness to us those thins which are scripture.

As doers, what are we doing to ensure we are speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost? Teaching truth is good, but only if it is taught by the power of the Holy Ghost. Are our children starving for spiritual experiences because we do not teach by the Spirit? Is the pulpit on fire during Sacrament meeting, because we are moved upon by the Holy Ghost?

If we are not preaching, teaching and doing by the power of the Holy Ghost, then by what power are we doing these things? 

This reminds us of God's teaching in D&C 50:

"Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?

"And if it be by some other way it is not of God.

"And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?

"If it be some other way it is not of God." (D&C 50:17-20}

What do we need to do to get the Holy Ghost continually in our lives? What are we willing to sacrifice to have the constant companionship of the Spirit? Are we spiritually starving ourselves, our spouses, our children, our classes, and others, because we are not doing things as moved upon by the Spirit?

Can we build Zion, or even live in it, if we do not learn to hear and obey the Holy Ghost?

"Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness." (vs 31)

As I noted above, are we spiritually starving our children? If we are not teaching them by the Spirit, they are learning some other way. If we are not seeking to establish Zion, what are we seeking? What takes up our time, money and talents? Are we seeking riches of Zion or Babylon?


D&C 70

The Lord gives more guidance regarding consecration. Joseph, Oliver, Martin Harris and John Whitmer are to begin their stewardships in earnest. They are to consecrate what they have and do, giving any excess to the bishop's storehouse. These "things" are not just money and physical things.

"He who is appointed to administer spiritual things, the same is worthy of his hire, even as those who are appointed to a stewardship to administer in temporal things;

"Yea, even more abundantly, which abundance is multiplied unto them through the manifestations of the Spirit.

"Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld." (vs 12-14)

Spiritual work is as important in Zion as any physical effort. When we "work in Zion," it doesn't mean raising money for our families (though that is important). Here, to work in Zion is doing whatever is necessary to build and establish Zion. 

In "temporal things you shall be equal" is necessary for Zion to be established. Right now, we live the law of tithing as a minimum to entering the temple. However, to live in Zion, we will have to live consecrated lives. The rich will be humbled by giving all but the necessaries for their stewarships. The poor will be exalted - not above anyone else, but to an equal status. This will not be forced, like we do with government taxation, but will be done voluntarily and "not grudgingly."

Have we pondered just what it will take for us to dwell joyfully in Zion? What are we doing to prepare? The early saints were not ready. They were jealous, greedy, proud. Their weaknesses caused them to be driven out. They could not bring forth enough faith and righteousness to bring the miracles of God to come down from heaven. 

In D&C 63, the Lord warns us that the "saints will hardly escape" the disasters of the last days. Why? Because we aren't taking the warnings and guidance seriously. Over half the church does not pay a full tithe. Many do not live the Word of Wisdom. Many more are not worthy to enter the temple. And of those worthy to attend, many do not take the time to attend frequently. Daily prayer and scripture study is easily forgotten on our rush to deal with work and world. Spending time to seek the Spirit, often runs second to social media time.

What can we do? Seek the Spirit. Let the Holy Ghost teach us what we are to do, day by day. 

Listen to the Spirit.








Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 64-66

 Come Follow Me: D&C 64-66 

The Lord sent Joseph Smith to Independence, Missouri where the Lord would reveal the center city of Zion and the site for its temple complex. Many were excited, including Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery. Others, like Ezra Booth was dissatisfied with the land, insisting the saints move to more favorable farm land about 30 miles away. Joseph insisted on establishing Zion exactly where God had told him to do so.

The Colesville saints, who had moved from New York to Kirtland, where lands owned by Leman Copley were consecrated to them long enough for them to make major improvements, only to have them taken away by Copley, as he decided to leave the church and keep his farm. Again homeless, the Lord told them to accompany Joseph to Missouri, as the first saints to settle in Zion.

While there, Joseph laid a stone for the temple and they dedicated the site. The return trip in August 1831 was difficult. In moving down the Missouri River, rapids and debris became difficult. Many of the men were grumbling about Joseph's lack of leadership and vision. Finally, Joseph ordered everyone off the river and to go on foot back to Kirtland.

In Kirtland, the complaining and arguing continued. Finally, Joseph invited all to a meeting, where he apologized along with most in the meeting. Ezra Booth, refused to attend, and began to become one of Joseph's biggest critics in Kirtland.

Under these troubling conditions, the Lord gave Joseph these three revelations. Some very important concepts are taught, of which we'll touch on a few here in relation to Joseph's day and how it impacts us today.

D&C 64

"For verily I say unto you, I will that ye should overcome the world; wherefore I will have compassion upon you." (vs 2)

From the arguing and complaining that occurred during the trip, we can see exactly what part of "the world" they needed to overcome. Contention is of the devil. It is his primary tool (see 3 Nephi 11) against the world. Yet, God is still wanting to show us compassion. God often delays final destruction long enough for the people to humble themselves and repent.

In our day, it seems like God is hastening some of his work, and yet abiding his time when it comes to destroying the wicked so that they perhaps will repent. And the wicked can often include the saints.

Contention in families, wards, stakes happen much more often than they should. I once lived in a stake that was divided by the bitter divorce of a couple whose families were prominent members in the stake. If a bishop was called from one family, the members of the other family would often go inactive for the term of that bishop. It would be years before the hatchet was buried in this family feud.

"Nevertheless, he [Joseph Smith] has sinned; but verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before me and ask forgiveness, who have not sinned unto death.

"My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.

"Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin." (vs 7-9)

There are many who become angry with a bishop, stake president or other leader, who "has sinned." Such led Ezra Booth to become a harsh critic of Joseph Smith. I've known some to openly criticize local leaders in the same way. 

In 1 Samuel 24-26, we find King Saul driven to madness and diligently seeking to kill David. On several occasions, the Lord delivered Saul into David's hands, but he let him go. Why? Because David would not speak evil nor harm the "Lord's anointed." David would do what he could to protect himself, but harming the Lord's anointed was something he would not do. 

Many of us get angry with our local "Lord's anointed." This is anyone who has been sustained (by us) and set apart by the priesthood to a holy calling. Whether bishop, stake president, elder's quorum or Relief Society president, etc. Those called are the "Lord's anointed." They will be judged by God for how well they perform their duties in their calling, and not by us.

The next time we become angry with a leader, remember that person did not ask for the calling. He/she is not being paid for the services they render. They often are placed in positions in which they have little training, and must begin serving from day one, hopefully receiving training and experience as they go along. Of course many of them will occasionally (or frequently) let us down.

Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the 70 once told me (in a large group) about his preparation to become a 70. He lived in a modest home with wife and children and a modest income. His bishop did not like him. When there was a lousy job to do, brother Featherstone was given the assignment. This was back in the days when wards had building assessments, to help pay for construction of chapels and temples. His bishop called him in and assessed him more than anyone else in the ward, including the several wealthy members. Brother Featherstone went home and discussed it with his wife. She agreed that the bishop was being unfair, but they prayerfully decided to obey the "Lord's anointed" without criticizing. They sold their television and other items, and paid the assessment. A few weeks later, the bishop was released and brother Featherstone was called into the First Quorum of 70. In his setting apart, he was told that because he was faithful, obedient and humble, he had passed his test of Abraham. Had he not humbly obeyed, he would not have been ready to be called a Seventy.

We will see more times, such as Zion's Camp, which tested the early brethren. From such experiences, Joseph learned whom he could trust with important tasks and responsibilities.

"I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." (vs 10)

 Here, perhaps, is the one of the greatest challenges for those of us seeking to build Zion: forgiving "all." How does one forgive his/her abuser? How does one forgive people in the other "evil" political party? How do we forgive our parents for ruining our lives?  How do we forgive our bishop? How do we forgive Hitler?

 We turn to God in humility and a repentant attitude, just as Joseph Smith did on many occasions.

 No, it isn't easy. But becoming holy and sanctified is not easy. It is a process of hard work. Without it, we cannot build Zion. There cannot be a city of Zion, a stake of Zion, or a home in Zion, without forgiving everyone. We cannot have a Zion for Democrats and another for Republicans. We cannot have a Zion for liberals and another for conservatives. There can only be one Zion: for those seeking diligently to be the pure in heart. Mercy, repentance, and forgiveness must be at the top of the list of requirements for living in Zion.

"Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.

"For after today cometh the burning—this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.

"Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called today." (vs 23-25)

Zion is built on the Law of Consecration/United Order. However, many members, including Leman Copley had proven they were not ready to live it. For this reason, the members in Kirtland were now commanded to pay a tithe. Tithing is a part of the law of consecration, just as the Aaronic Priesthood is a part of the Melchizedek Priesthood. It is a Terrestrial Law. To dwell in Zion, one must at least pay a full tithe - a terrestrial law. Those who will not pay a full tithe are living a telestial law, and are not  ready for Zion. They will be in Babylon, the world, when it is destroyed.

Today we must labor. Labor for what? While work to provide for our families is important, the work the Lord refers to is the work of Zion. We must work now to build and establish Zion. We will see the early saints build the Kirtland temple while in their poverty. They will try to build cities, be expelled and build again. They went on multi-year missions, even when their families were in poverty. 

Are we preparing to be in Zion? 

"And she shall be an ensign unto the people, and there shall come unto her out of every nation under heaven.

"And the day shall come when the nations of the earth shall tremble because of her, and shall fear because of her terrible ones. The Lord hath spoken it. Amen." (vs 42-43)

Zion will only allow the obedient and humble. All others will be cast out, to live in the harshness of Babylon. Yet, there will come a day when millions shall flock to Zion as a refuge (see D&C 45, 133). Zion is built upon massive immigration from among the wicked. There will not be walls built around the city of Zion and her stakes to keep righteous immigrants out. Only the wicked will be kept out. All the righteous who immigrate will be welcomed with open arms. Regardless of whether they are rich, poor, white, black, brown, free or slave, all the humble will be welcomed and given an inheritance in Zion.

The wicked will fear Zion. It isn't because Zion has lots of AR-15s. It is because God's power and glory will reside in the city and its stakes, causing the wicked to fear and stand afar off.


D&C 65

"The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth." (vs 2)
In the early days of the Church, Zion was a congregation. It now would be a city in Jackson County Missouri. Here, quoting Daniel, the gospel would roll forth and become so great as to fill the entire earth. Zion will someday be the entire planet. Right now, we are to prepare for the building of Zion by wisely using the "keys of the kingdom" to strengthening its stakes, preaching the gospel, and bringing others unto Christ. The section teaches us to pray for all mankind that they may repent, embrace Christ's gospel and be prepared for the 2nd Coming of Christ.

In the past few years, the prophets and apostles have referenced the 2nd Coming several times in General Conference talks. Many of the new programs and teachings are designed exactly for that: new goal-oriented program for youth and adults, Home centered gospel learning, more responsibility given to quorum presidents, etc.


D&C 66

"Seek not to be cumbered. Forsake all unrighteousness." (vs 10)

William McClellan was sent on a mission with Samuel H. Smith, the prophet's brother. He was given counsel which answered several questions he had, but kept to himself.

It is easy to overlook this guidance. What does it mean to be "cumbered?" Financially? Spiritually? Emotionally? Today, we have Self Reliance classes which can help us learn to not be cumbered. Personal Finance, Emotional Self Reliance, Educational programs, etc.

Yet, we are to ensure we are not cumbered with the things that will keep us from accomplishing God's great work. God warned William to avoid adultery, one of the things that could keep him from being worthy to preach the gospel. 

Joseph Smith stated, ""Immorality [will] be the source of more temptations, more buffetings, and more difficulties for the [Latter-day saints] than any other." 

Today, we see this prophecy coming to fruition. Not only do bishops have to deal with fornication and adultery, but so much more. One bishop once mentioned to me during the Clinton administration that he had to teach the youth that oral sex was still sex. 

With the current generation, marriage is no longer an important thing. Sex is just a common activity. Beyond sex, is the confusion many have on gender and other sexual factors. Immorality IS a key sign of the last days, as the world turns upside down regarding traditional male/female gender, and the sanctity of the traditional family.

As it is, it is not for us to judge people. It is for God to judge them. We are to love, show mercy, forgive. We are to invite people to Christ, teach them of their true nature as children of God, and let the Holy Ghost teach them what they must do to receive eternal life.