Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 49-50

 Come Follow Me: D&C 49-50

D&C 49

Joseph Smith's time was a period of many new churches springing up. The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, or Quaking Shakers, as they are known because of the ecstatic behavior during worship, came from England to America in 1774. Their beliefs included: celibacy, revelation, communalism, equality of the sexes, and pacifism. They also believed the 2nd Coming had already occurred, with Jesus returning in the form  of Mother Ann Lee, one of the founders of the religion. While in the mid-19th century they had 15 communities, due to celibacy practices and few converts, today they only have one community in Maine.

Leman Copley, a new convert who previously was a Shaker, was called to reject his old beliefs that were not in concert with the revealed truths of the Restored Church. This included the concept that Christ's 2nd Coming would be one in power and glory, not another person born on the earth. Christ would bring a Millennium across the entire earth, which would last one thousand years; not create a few small congregations.

We see a major difference in the religions in this thing. The Shakers were a good people, but were not missionary-minded. As with the Amish today, they do not seek to convert and change the world, only develop and maintain their own little communities.

Meanwhile, the Lord was teaching Joseph Smith that the Restored Gospel was revolutionary. While beginning small, it would someday fill the earth. Revelations regarding Zion were already providing great insight into the small Church. 


"Behold, I say unto you, that they desire to know the truth in part, but not all, for they are not right before me and must needs repent." (vs 2)

This is how much of the world is today. They want only the parts of truth that sound good to them. Changing our will to match God's will, shifting our beliefs to match God's truth, is hard.  Today, we hear many people seeking to speak their "truth." Suddenly, truth is whatever a person believes or feels. Beliefs and feelings are important things, but they do not necessarily equal truth.

When we choose our own truth, rather than God's truth, we are fall into error and sin. We are called to be "agents unto themselves," who will choose God and His truths. Instead, much of the world now seeks their own truths, becoming free of God, whose laws and truths often are not comfortable to lifestyles and ways of thinking.

"And my servant Leman shall be ordained unto this work, that he may reason with them, not according to that which he has received of them, but according to that which shall be taught him by you my servants; and by so doing I will bless him, otherwise he shall not prosper." (vs 4)
The world is full of the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. Even Latter-day Saints, like Leman Copley and us, can be heavily influenced by such beliefs. It isn't easy to distinguish between God's truth and the philosophies of men, especially when they quote scripture, as did the Shakers. To minimize being influenced by the world (either by men or devils, as discussed in the last lesson), we can generally rely on two things: the Holy Ghost and the teachings of living prophets. It requires a combination of these two guides to believe the things of God and to do the will of God.

Why the two? First, we do not always listen well to the Holy Ghost. As with Martin Harris and Joseph Smith regarding the 116 manuscript pages, we often ask God to bend to our will, and continue to beg until God gives in, allowing us to learn from our mistakes, because we would not truly listen to God. We allow our will and the philosophies of men and devils to replace our bending our will toward God.

Second, even prophets can make mistakes. Brigham Young is a good example of this. While he did some very incredible things as a prophet, he was wrong on a handful of teachings, such as blood atonement, Adam-God, the reasoning for the priesthood ban, and plural marriage required for exaltation. 

Combined, the Holy Ghost and the guidance from prophets and other servants the Lord has given us (stake presidents, bishops, etc), keeps us close to God's will and truth. With time, we can then receive revelation upon revelation, until we know all truth (D&C 42:61).

D&C 50

When Joseph first arrived in Kirtland, he found members who had confused the Holy Ghost with deceiving spirits. As mentioned in a previous lesson, some members thought the Spirit was leading them into strange actions: scooting along the ground, making weird noises, even acting like a baboon. Some believed they were receiving revelations, which were received from the wrong source. Hiram Page, with his seer stone, was not the only person being deceived.

This section gives us a guide on how to determine which spirits are of God and which are not. It can help us to determine if we are really listening to the Holy Ghost, or some other source. Again, we find the deceiving spirits can include devils and men. The section calls the men, "hypocrites" and "deceivers," who are leading many astray. The Lord promises that those who have been deceived shall eventually be reclaimed, once they realize the truth. However, judgment awaits those who actively teach false doctrines in order to deceive.

Our world is currently filled with deceivers, many of whom are true believers in the things they teach. We should not follow any human, whether famous actor, politician, or intellectual, without deeply pondering and considering what the person is teaching.

The Lord offers to reason with us, as men reason one with another. This gives us a guide in how we should consider the teachings of men around us. Use our heads. Don't take anything for granted. Consider every little bit, because we need to know if some, all, or none of it is true.

"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." (vs 17-18)

In a series of question and answers, God discusses the role of teacher and listener. In each case, he asks if the teaching is from the Spirit of truth or some other source. While the thing may be taught is a political, scientific, medical, religious, or other teaching, if the Holy Spirit confirms it to both the teacher and listener, then it is from Him.

In addition, for those of us having received a testimony of living prophets, we can rely upon their teachings and examples to help us determine truth from error. Recently, they have discussed political events, black lives matter as an eternal principle, immigration, and Covid 19 vaccinations, among other important guidance.

With so many philosophies sweeping around the world today, it is important for us to find God's truth whispering on the wind. We can no longer turn a blind eye to these things, or stand firm on our own philosophy, or a philosophy taught us by our favorite talk radio show host. We will need to be pliant enough to change our minds when the Spirit guides us to a higher truth. We will also need to stand firm on the things the Spirit and prophets have reaffirmed.

Without using these guides, we can easily get lost and confused by the deceiving spirits that are all around us today.







Monday, May 03, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 46-48

 D&C 46

This section discusses the importance of allowing people into most of our meetings. There were some who felt that only members should attend the Sacrament meeting. In this, the Lord clarified that peaceable people should be invited and welcomed into our open meetings.

"But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils." (vs 7)

Note that there are doctrines of God, men and devils. (see also 3 Ne 27:11). Only the doctrines and commandments of God can bring us eternal life and joy. As Jesus notes in 3 Ne 27, the doctrines and commandments of men and devils will bring temporary happiness, but eventually bring us down into misery. The world is swirling today with various beliefs. Whether they be political, social, emotional, or intellectual, if they are not based on the teachings of Christ, they will fail.  

It isn't that these things are necessarily devoid of truth. They lack the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For example, there's nothing wrong with the concept of evolution, as long as it is connected with God and Creation. However, when God is taken out of the equation, suddenly evolution lacks an important and key element: the power of God that initiated the process.

So it is with any other doctrine or teaching. If God did not inspire it, it is not from Him. It is incomplete at best, and devilish at worst. While the Pharisees taught the Mosaic Law, their teaching was incomplete without the Messiah. Christ warned that the Pharisees were stopping others from entering heaven by their corrupt teachings.

It is very important to separate out our personal beliefs from actual doctrine of Christ. There is not much core doctrine in the Church. Most of what we believe is actually speculation. Christ is our Redeemer is doctrine. HOW that redemption occurred exactly, falls into the realm of speculation. Christ created the world is doctrine. HOW he created the world is in the realm of speculation. The same holds true in politics, where there currently is a battle in the Republican party for where it is going: does it hold onto Donald Trump, or does it accept Mitt Romney as a good Republican conservative? The same goes with the Democrat party, which is battling between being moderate and socialist.

"Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;

"For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts." (vs 8-9)

How many of us are deceived by the doctrines of men or devils? Do we really believe that a politician can save us? Do we really believe that some actor or rock star can bring us eternal happiness. It isn't that these are necessarily bad, but they can deter us from what is Celestial. President Dallin H. Oaks noted the difference in his talk, "Good, Better, Best."

D&C 46 then speaks of the Gifts of the Spirit. Each of us is given at least one gift, if not more. At times, we may have one gift and other times another. 

Are we seeking out the "best gifts?"

Brigham Young’s counselor, George Q. Cannon noted this about the gifts of the Spirit:

” We find, even among those who have embraced the Gospel hearts of unbelief. How many of you, my brethren and sisters, are seeking for these gifts that God has promised to bestow? How many of you, when you bow before your Heavenly Father in your family circle or in your secret places, contend for these gifts to be bestowed upon you? How many of you ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to manifest Himself to you through these powers and these gifts? Or do you go along day by day like a door turning on its hinges, without having any feeling on the subject, without exercising any faith whatever; content to be baptized and be members of the Church, and to rest there, thinking that your salvation is secure because you have done this? I say to you, in the name of the Lord, as one of His servants, that you have need to repent of this. You have need to repent of your hardness of heart, of your indifference, and of your carelessness. There is not that diligence, there is not that faith, there is not that seeking for the power of God that there should be among a people who have received the precious promises we have.....

“I feel to bear testimony to you, my brethren and sisters, ... that God is the same today as He was yesterday; that God is willing to bestow these gifts upon His children.... If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. Have I imperfections? I am full of them. What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections. If I am an angry man, it is my duty to pray for charity, which suffereth long and is kind….So with all the gifts of the Gospel. They are intended for this purpose. No man ought to say, "Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature." He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them. If a man lack wisdom, it is his duty to ask God for wisdom. The same with everything else. That is the design of God concerning His Church. He wants His Saints to be perfected in the truth. For this purpose He gives these gifts, and bestows them upon those who seek after them, in order that they may be a perfect people upon the face of the earth, notwithstanding their many weaknesses, because God has promised to give the gifts that are necessary for their perfection.” (Millennial Star, 23 Apr. 1894, 260)

The prophet Mormon noted the greatest gift is charity, and explained:

"But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:47-48)

Seeking the gifts of the Spirit is one of the key things to prevent us from being deceived by men or devils. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is guided by revelation - a very important gift of the Spirit. President Nelson has frequently encouraged us to seek for personal revelation. Are we actively seeking gifts, like revelation and charity, or are we just a door swinging on its hinges? 

Are we willing to give up many of our current beliefs, so that God can reveal his higher truths to us? Are we willing to change, so that God can work his mighty work within us? Are we ready to have God reveal himself to us? Just what are we seeking most in life? How much effort do we give to seeking God and his kingdom through the gifts of the Spirit?










Thursday, April 29, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 45

 Come Follow Me: D&C 45

 This section is a powerful revelation containing much information about the destructions and blessings of the Last Days. When studied along with Matthew 24 (JST), D&C 87, 88, and 133, we get a lot of information regarding the events preceding the Second Coming.

Verses 1-15 is a clarion call from Jesus Christ to the Saints, telling them again and again to hearken unto his words. In this portion, we see many of the names by which the Lord is called: Advocate, Creator, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, Light and Life of the world, etc.

Jesus goes through the history of the world briefly in these verses: the Creation, the Atonement of Christ, Enoch's people, the Restoration, and the Second Coming. All of these periods and events are interconnected. Each is a powerful event  in and of itself, but together they become the true epic story of the world and how it is saved by Christ, one soul at a time.

Starting in verse 16 through verse 24, Jesus references his experience with the apostles as found in Matthew 24. He discusses the Desolation of Abomination that would occur in their day. In 70 AD, the Jewish Zealot attacks on the Romans, as they sought to drive the foreigners out, caused the Roman Emperor to send out vast armies to end the uprising. Jerusalem was put under siege for over a year. The siege began at Passover, when the city was filled with pilgrims. It is likely that over 1 million people were in the city when the siege began. Starvation soon became a serious problem. One story in the Apocrypha talks of a woman who killed her child and divided it in half - so she could share with the violent robbers who would undoubtedly storm her house as soon as they smelled cooked food. Finally, the Romans rushed the city, slaying thousands who fled to the Temple grounds, believing God would rescue them. The temple was destroyed, stone by stone. Eventually, most Jews would be carried off to other regions of the Roman Empire, in an attempt to destroy them as a people.

In verse 25, the Lord notes that the Jews will return to Jerusalem in the last days, when the days of the Gentiles are being fulfilled.  This would be a very important event for Latter-day Saints. Within a decade, Joseph Smith would send apostle Orson Hyde (of Jewish descent) to Jerusalem to dedicate the land for the return of the Jews.  In 1800, only about 6500 Jews lived in Palestine. By 1890, the desire of Jews in Europe and Russia to return to their homeland was so strong, that Jews had become a majority in Jerusalem. In 1948, the Jewish homeland of Israel was reestablished by the British. This was just a little more than a century after Orson Hyde dedicated the land for the Jews to return. (History of the Jews - Wikipedia)

 The Restoration and the Time of the Gentiles

 

"And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth.

"And the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound.

"And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my gospel;

"But they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men.

"And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (D&C 45:26-30)

These times for Restoration and the Gentile Times Ending are not specific time/date events, but with other major events (like the Second Coming events), they extend over a period of years and even generations. The Restoration continues today, even though it began in 1820. The fulfilling of the times of the Gentiles continues. It is the story of the wheat and tares, which will be covered later in section 45. The righteous and wicked grow up together as wheat and tares. Eventually, they are easily distinguishable, just as it is easier to see wickedness in today's world than it was just a generation ago, when compared to the righteous. This section will explain how the wicked and righteous will be segregated in the last days, so that the righteous can be preserved and the wicked prepared for the burning.

Scourge of Desolation - Standing in Holy Places

"And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.


"But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die. (vs 31-32)

It may be that the Covid 19 pandemic is a warning shot to the world in regards to the upcoming desolating scourge. It is possible that this virus could mutate into something ten times as deadly, if we fail to vaccinate the world. It is also possible that the overflowing scourge will come sooner or later, as we again are not prepared for such a sickness to come again.

Note, that those standing in holy places "shall not be moved." Anciently, the "holy places" were all connected to the temple or a sacred space: Garden of Eden, Mount Sinai, the City of Enoch, Noah's Ark, Melchizedek's City of Salem (Peace), the Tabernacle, The Temple.

Today, we understand through modern scripture that "holy places" can be any place made sacred by God and his disciples: modern temples, Zion and her stakes, the homes of righteous people. For D&C 45, the holy places especially is tied to the city of Zion and her stakes.

Devastating Earthquakes

"And there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations; yet men will harden their hearts against me, and they will take up the sword, one against another, and they will kill one another." (vs 33)

Earthquakes AND many desolations will occur. Often, people tend to repent and return to God when things become tragically hard. After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, Americans and many people throughout the world humbled themselves. Believers of many faiths gathered together in brotherhood, to pray and repent. Such actions will not occur during the times mentioned above. Instead, "...at that day shall he (Satan) rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good." (2 Nephi 28:20)

What is the response of wicked men to these disasters? Declare war on one another. Economics is often a reason for war. When Germany was economically devastated by the debts it owed to France and England after World War I, it had no recourse but to renounce the debt and seek to defeat those who economically oppressed them. So difficult was it for Germany, that in the 1920s, it took billions of German Marks to equal one American dollar. It led them to war against Europe.

We will see this again, as the economies of the world are devastated by disease, plagues, earthquakes and other desolations. People will become angry, seeking for others to blame for their poverty and suffering, and they will destroy one another. The Germans blamed the Jews. Serbians blamed Croatians. 

In 1994, over a 100 day period, in the African nation of Rwanda, angry Hutus slaughtered over 500,000 Tutsis, using machetes.

These examples given will seem mild compared to the violence of the last days.

The Remnant

"And it shall come to pass that he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.

"And they shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath.

"And they shall behold blood, and fire, and vapors of smoke.

"And before the day of the Lord shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood, and the stars fall from heaven.

"And the remnant shall be gathered unto this place;

"And then they shall look for me, and, behold, I will come; and they shall see me in the clouds of heaven, clothed with power and great glory; with all the holy angels; and he that watches not for me shall be cut off." (vs 39-44)

Remnants are important in latter-day scripture. In the Book of Mormon, Captain Moroni notes that a remnant of Joseph's many colored coat remained after his supposed violent death (Alma 46:24). 

The term is used 85 times in the Old Testament, but only 6 times in the New Testament. However, in the Book of Mormon, it is found 54 times and in the Doctrine and Covenants 8 times. In the Doctrine and Covenants, it is used to denote Lamanites as remnants of Israel, that Israel would be scattered, that the remnant of Israel would be gathered, and a separate remnant of slaves that would rise against the Gentiles in the last days (D&C 87 - I'll discuss this when we get to the Prophecy on War).

The remnant of the righteous shall see terrible disasters, including some event that will cause the Sun and moon to go dark. This seems to be a final sign for the righteous to gather.  As I've noted in the last couple posts, the Gathering is an important part of the Restored Gospel, in preparation for the Second Coming. Again, we see the Gathering as one of the key things that will preserve the remnant from the final disasters, scourges, and desolations prior to the Second Coming.

The 2nd Coming - Dead will Arise (vs 44-46)

When Christ returns, he will come in great power and glory. Let no one confuse you by claiming they are the Messiah. They aren't.

A trump will sound - whether those on earth will hear, we do not know. But at the sound of the trump, the righteous dead will arise and be caught up to meet Christ in the air. The righteous living will also be caught up to meet him.

This is symbolic of an ancient practice. When the king would return triumphant from battle, the city would empty out and meet the king on the road home. They would celebrate his return, and bring him into the city.  At the 2nd Coming, Christ will approach the earth and the New Jerusalem with his armies. The righteous will be caught up to meet him and bring him to the earth.

The Jews converted, Satan bound (vs 47-55)

Prior to Christ's return, the nation of Israel will be in the fight of its life. Millions of soldiers from the Arab nations and other states will have a war of extermination against the Jews. It will last 3 1/2 years. Near the end, half of the city of Jerusalem will have fallen, and the Jews will have their backs up against the Mount of Olives. It will be at this moment that Jesus comes in power. He will step upon the Mount of Olives, which will split in two in a giant earthquake. The Jews will retreat into the new valley, just as they retreated anciently from the Egyptians into the divided Red Sea. There, the Jews will see Christ and realize he is their Messiah.

The armies of the enemy will be destroyed by Christ and his angelic army.

"And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them." (vs 54)
It will be at the 2nd Coming that the heathen nations, which include China, India, and other nations that do not have a majority belief in Christianity, will be redeemed. The gospel will be preached to them. It is possible that the 144,000 high priests mentioned in Revelation 14, will be in the key role of missionary work to the heathen nations.

"And then cometh the day when the arm of the Lord shall be revealed in power in convincing the nations, the heathen nations, the house of Joseph, of the gospel of their salvation.

"For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ." (D&C 90:10-11)

"Q. What are we to understand by sealing the one hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel—twelve thousand out of every tribe? 

"A. We are to understand that those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel; for they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn." (D&C 77:11-12)

It appears that these will be the key missionaries at the 2nd Coming to preach the gospel to the heathen nations, among others who will preach the gospel.

The Gathering to Zion

"Ye hear of wars in foreign lands; but, behold, I say unto you, they are nigh, even at your doors, and not many years hence ye shall hear of wars in your own lands.

"Wherefore I, the Lord, have said, gather ye out from the eastern lands, assemble ye yourselves together ye elders of my church; go ye forth into the western countries, call upon the inhabitants to repent, and inasmuch as they do repent, build up churches unto me.

"And with one heart and with one mind, gather up your riches that ye may purchase an inheritance which shall hereafter be appointed unto you." (D&C 45:63-65)

Again, the Lord calls for the gathering to the New Jerusalem and her stakes. It begins with a warning of "wars in your own lands." Later, in D&C 87, the Lord would specify one of those wars, foreseeing the Civil War. This would give a reason to move out west, although the saints at the time of this revelation would not have read it that way. Had they stayed in Missouri, they would have been in the center of the war on the western front. Major skirmishes occurred between the Missourians and those living in the neighboring states, like Kansas. Being in Utah allowed the saints to miss the bloodshed and disease that slew hundreds of thousands.

Safety in Zion

"And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God;

"And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion.

"And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.

"And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another.

"And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand.

"And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy." (vs 66-71)

New Jerusalem is the center city of Zion. Zion and her stakes will be a land of peace. It is a refuge. In D&C 133:26-34, we find that millions will come from "the north countries" as immigrants to the Americas, where they will be blessed in Zion. America is a land for immigrants. The Lord seems to think there is plenty of room for millions to come here as refugees from the lands of Babylon. Perhaps these scriptures should influence our views on immigration.

Zion will not have to be protected by guns and weapons. God will be its protector. He shall fill Babylon with fear, so they do not dare attack it. All those people living among the wicked who tire of the violence, who will refuse to fight - choosing to bury their weapons of war even as the Ammonites did in the Book of Mormon, will be forced to flee to Zion for safety.

Zion is an immigrant people. They are leaving Babylon to join the people of God. None are kept out, as long as they renounce war and are obedient to the commandments of God. People who did not listen before, now are forced to repent and believe, or continue dwelling with the wicked in never ending violence - much like the Jaredites' last days.

Building Zion

 Are we busy building Zion? Are we living with one foot in Babylon and the other in Zion? Or are we creating Zion in our homes? How dedicated are we? Will we be among the first to consecrate ourselves and build Zion, be among those who must flee Babylon for refuge, or choose to dwell among the wicked?

Will we rely on the arm of flesh, or on the arm of the Lord? Just what is it that is keeping us from being a Zion people? What "debris", as President Nelson calls it, is keeping us from building our part of Zion? Are we a people of peace? Are we a people who embrace immigrants? Are we a people who embrace the Lord and his prophets?

 









 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 41-44

Come Follow Me: D&C 41-44

 

Kirtland, Ohio. It was the first gathering place for the Saints in these last days. Joseph Smith was promised in revelation that if the Saints gathered there, they would receive the Law and an endowment of power. In this lesson, we see the fulfillment of the first.

When Joseph Smith arrived, Kirtland was the wild west. Many members did not understand revelation, the workings of the Spirit, or the rules by which to live. In the Church's new history book, Saints, we read the following:

"Some of the Saints in Kirtland took their beliefs to wild extremes, reveling in what they took to be gifts of the Spirit. Several people claimed to have visions they could not explain. Others believed the Holy Ghost made them slide or scoot across the ground. One man bounced around rooms or swung from ceiling joists whenever he thought he felt the Spirit. Another acted like a baboon." (Saints, chapter 10, Gathered In)
Perhaps the biggest point in section 41, is the call of Edward Partridge as a bishop. He was the first bishop called in the Church. From this revelation would begin the evolution of the office of bishop to what it is today. He would be responsible for the tithes/consecrations given tot he church, among other things. The Lord explained why he chose Partridge for this calling:

"And this because his heart is pure before me, for he is like unto Nathanael of old, in whom there is no guile." (D&C 41:11)

Bishops require two things: to have a pure heart and to be without guile. These are key points for anyone wishing to deal with finances and the heavy burdens of  the members of a congregation. Compassion, empathy, and understanding come from these two attributes.

D&C 42 is the Law.

Interestingly, the first thing we read in the Law is our calling to go forth and preach the gospel. We cannot escape the concept that the Church is a True and Living Church. It is true, because of continual revelation. It is living because it continually receives new life blood through conversion. Today, we would expand this preaching to both sides of the veil, with family history and temple work as part and parcel of this work of Gathering. Nonetheless, we are to share our testimonies with the world, regardless of whether they embrace the gospel or not.

For those wishing to know how to share the gospel, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a great talk on this recently in General Conference: Missionary Work, Sharing What is in Your Heart.

Next, we learn that we are to preach the principles found in scripture, but then also preach what the Holy Spirit moves us to say. Interestingly, this counsel gives us a foundation upon which to work, but then allows revelation to determine which part of the scriptures to emphasize in the moment. At times, the Spirit may also allow us to expand upon scripture with greater knowledge and insight.

Commandments, obedience, and healing the sick through the priesthood are also discussed.

Finally, the Lord notes that the center stake of Zion would soon be named:

"If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.

"Thou shalt ask, and it shall be revealed unto you in mine own due time where the New Jerusalem shall be built." (vs 61-62)

 Again, the Gathering is forefront in the Lord's revelations for the Saints. Tied to the Gathering is revelation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a True and Living Church, true because of continuing revelation, and living because of the Gathering, which brings spiritual immigrants into its fold continually.

D&C 43

As mentioned above, the Kirtland members struggled with several receiving false revelations. Church revelations come only through the living Prophet of the Church. It is only through the Prophet we receive new commandments governing the entire church. All others can receive revelation for themselves and their responsibilities, but can give these teachings to others as guidance, and not commandments.

Even today, we hear of members who claim revelations and seek to guide others to stop listening and believing the teachings of modern prophets. Denver Snuffer is one recent example of this. Sadly, many listen to such people, because they have itching ears, bored with the current teachings of the prophets, they want something exciting to dig into. They do not understand that they can receive their own personal revelation, which must be guided by scripture and the living prophet's teachings. Otherwise, it is very easy to be led astray. Don't get your revelations from other members - learn to Hear Him for yourself.

Interestingly, President Russell M. Nelson continually encourages us to seek personal revelation. It is only in gaining personal revelation that we can come to know Christ face to face, and to have the faith necessary to withstand the evils and deceptions in our own day. Personal revelation brings us to knowledge of mysteries and the peaceable things, joy and eternal life.


D&C 44

The Saints are called to hold a conference:

"And it shall come to pass, that inasmuch as they are faithful, and exercise faith in me, I will pour out my Spirit upon them in the day that they assemble themselves together." (vs 2)

Gathering, whether temporarily at a Conference or in bringing converts permanently unto the Lord, is again the topic. Here, the elders are to return from their missions to gather for a conference. 

What is the difference between being faithful and "exercise faith?" I believe that being faithful is gauged by our actions to obey and endure to the end. Being obedient in our missions and callings, is necessary for the work to be accomplished. Meanwhile, exercising faith seems to be a mental and emotional effort. We believe and increase our faith, so that God can bring greater goodness and even miracles. In this case, the Lord specifically promises to "pour out my Spirit upon them." The Lord will "pour" or give generously, based upon our faith and obedience.

Finally, the Lord encourages us to take care of the poor. While our fast offerings help in this effort today, we should prayerfully consider whether our current offerings are sufficient. As we seek out others to share the gospel with, perhaps we should also seek out the poor, in order to bless and lift them up. The Gathering is not complete, if there are poor among us. Future lessons in the Doctrine and Covenants will teach us more about the Law of Consecration and the United Firm/Order. In this, we will learn how charity and stewardship lead us to being a people with no poor. We will become a Zion people.


 

 




Sunday, April 11, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 37-40

 Come Follow Me: D&C 37-40

 

For Joseph and many of the saints, the restoration initially meant just building up a small little set of congregations. Never did any of them consider the vast work that was ahead. In D&C 37, the saints, most living in New York prior to the missionary work to the Lamanites by Oliver Cowdery, were called to the Gathering. 

The concept of Gathering partially came from Joseph reworking the book of Genesis. While we call it a "translation," it really isn't. Joseph didn't use ancient Hebrew and Greek documents in his rework of the Bible. Instead, he used an English Bible purchased at the Grandin book store. Joseph was less concerned with the language and grammar, and more focused on finding the "plain and precious" things that had been lost out of the Bible. Rather than a translation, it would be a series of refining revelations. Some sections he would revisit several times, improving and enhancing the information. In addition, for basic corrections, Joseph heavily borrowed from Methodist theologian Adam Clarke's commentary of the Bible. 

Still, for most Latter-day Saints, the truly important additions are the revelatory sections that teach us more on Cain and Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and important doctrines and teachings that are not found in our standard Bibles today. In adding these sections, Joseph added concepts that are now found in ancient pseudepigrapha (ancient texts whose provenance is questionable)) regarding Enoch, Abraham and others. 

One example of Joseph hitting the mark comes from the Book of Moses, part of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. In this, Enoch travels to a place called Mahujah and is questioned by a man named Mahijah (Moses 6:40). It happens that among the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947, a parchment of a book of Enoch that has a man, Mahujah, questioning Enoch! Ancient Hebrew did not have vowels, so Mahujah and Mahijah are basically interchangeable.

In writing about Enoch, we learn about Zion and gathering out of the world to places of refuge and safety. Joseph's little church was told via revelation to begin the Gathering in our day. While D&C 37 told the saints to gather to Kirtland, it would be the first step in gathering. Later, God will reveal the modern Zion to be established in Independence Missouri. Then, the gathering will move to Far West, Nauvoo, and Utah. In our day, we are to gather in stakes of Zion, understanding that the center of Zion will one day be established in Independence. At one point, Joseph's understanding of Zion would expand to the point where he would declare that ALL of North and South America would be Zion. But it begins with the gathering to Kirtland happening barely 8 months after the establishing of the Church.

The revelation in D&C 38 came during the final conference of the Church in New York prior to moving to Kirtland Ohio. In it, the Lord warns the saints of the dangers coming. Not only would there be dangers elsewhere, but dangers nearby. Perhaps here is the greatest danger:

"I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear." (D&C 38:30)

Imagine in Joseph's day, being warned about men's wickedness being shouted in the ears. Today, we can see the technology that often drowns out the sane voices  Recently, the Church added a section to the handbook on “Seeking Information from Reliable Sources” which warns about conspiracies and false information that screams across social media.

Hitler was the first to use modern microphone technology, which was clear enough to note every inflection and intonation. The technology entranced the German people into believing his rhetoric, which included Aryan white supremacy and racism against Jews, black people and others. Today, the megaphones on the Internet, whether on Twitter, Facebook, podcast, or other social media, insist on pushing false conspiracies and theories. Frequently we see in April 2021 stories of evil intent regarding Covid 19 vaccine shots, the evils of the other major party, and stolen elections (disproven and rejected by 50 courts).

On the opposite side of the cacophonous voices that "shake the earth," we find the "still, small voice" of the Holy Spirit. 

In this recent General Conference (April 2021), President Russell M. Nelson noted four things we've learned through the Covid pandemic. Number four is this: "We hear Jesus Christ better when we are still."

"We live in a time prophesied long ago, when “all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.” That was true before the pandemic, and it will be true after. Commotion in the world will continue to increase. In contrast, the voice of the Lord is not “a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but … it [is] a still voice of perfect mildness, [like] a whisper, and it [pierces] even to the very soul.” In order to hear this still voice, you too must be still!

"For a time, the pandemic has canceled activities that would normally fill our lives. Soon we may be able to choose to fill that time again with the noise and commotion of the world. Or we can use our time to hear the voice of the Lord whispering His guidance, comfort, and peace. Quiet time is sacred time—time that will facilitate personal revelation and instill peace.

"Discipline yourself to have time alone and with your loved ones. Open your heart to God in prayer. Take time to immerse yourself in the scriptures and worship in the temple." ( https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/04/36nelson?lang=eng )

Joseph Smith found that even in the persecution, lies, and trials of life, there would always be time for quiet reflection, peace, and revelatory experiences. It is still true today.




Sunday, March 21, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 29

 Come Follow Me: D&C 29

 

This revelation was given almost six months after the Church was founded in 1830. A conference would soon be held in Fayette, New York, where a branch of the Church was quickly growing.

Perils follow after sins

We begin to see Joseph's revelations become more complex, often covering several issues, but also discussing new doctrines and ideas in preparation for the Second Coming.

 

"Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that at this time your sins are forgiven you, therefore ye receive these things; but remember to sin no more, lest perils shall come upon you." (vs 3)

 Here is a forewarning that will plague the young Church for the next several decades: "sin no more, lest perils shall come upon you."  Within a year, most of the saints will be forced from New York to Kirtland. Then, driven from Kirtland by apostates to Missouri. From Missouri, mobs will imprison Joseph Smith for six months and drive the members out of the state. In Nauvoo, they would soon experience the martyrdom of the Prophet, and expulsion from the United States. In Utah, they would struggle with locusts, famine, and military invasion.  Much of the perils would come at least partially due to their own sins. Arguments, contention and apostasy from the Church would suffer one privation after another - usually because the saints were not yet ready to be Saints of God. They would not be united in all things, and so the Destroyer was able to tear them apart.

The 2nd Coming and Unity

In this revelation, the Lord shows important concepts regarding the 2nd Coming. More would follow in other revelations (including D&C 45, 87, 133).

"And, as it is written—Whatsoever ye shall ask in faith, being united in prayer according to my command, ye shall receive..

"And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts;

"Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked." (D&C 29:6-8)

Again, we are to be united. United in prayer, united in desire, united in effort, united in Christ. If we are not united, then Satan's doctrine of contention can overtake the Saints and destroy them. 

Here, though the Church isn't quite 6 months old, it is given a very huge responsibility: to find the elect in the world and bring them to build Zion. This is the same work Enoch was called to do in his day, though he had more time to accomplish it. He was to gather the elect out from among the wicked and perfect them prior to the end of the world (in Enoch's case, the Flood of Noah).

They are to be prepared (their hearts and in all things) prior to the coming tribulations and desolations. If we do not prepare ourselves, are we not ourselves among the wicked? Whether the great tribulations predicted are the American Civil War, world wars, plagues, Covid 19, or other greater disasters, the only escape is to build Zion and a perfected people. No other place will be safe.

"For I will reveal myself from heaven with power and great glory, with all the hosts thereof, and dwell in righteousness with men on earth a thousand years, and the wicked shall not stand."(vs 11)

"For a trump shall sound both long and loud, even as upon Mount Sinai, and all the earth shall quake, and they shall come forth—yea, even the dead which died in me, to receive a crown of righteousness, and to be clothed upon, even as I am, to be with me, that we may be one." (vs 13)

There are some religions that believe Jesus already came in the form of a man/woman. Others that believe Jesus doesn't have a 2nd Coming. This clearly states, as does the New Testament that Jesus' Second Coming will be in power and great glory. It will be a day when the wicked are destroyed. It is a thrilling thought to have the Lord dwell with us on earth for a thousand years. However, first comes the times of great tribulations. As noted above, if we are not united and righteous, the plagues and disasters will overcome all the members of the Church. Only in establishing a Zion people will we be able to have a holy place, a safe place, to withstand the great destructions of the last days.

The righteous dead will be resurrected. They will be clothed in holiness, so that they may be one with Jesus. Only in unity, in this At One Ment (of one mind), in Oneness, can Zion endure the last days and be ready to be presented to Christ as the jewel it needs to be.

Great Destruction prior to the Coming of Christ

While the great earthquake will bring for the dead, imagine the destruction to the world....

Prior to the glorious day of the Lord's coming, there will be signs in the heavens and on earth. The Sun and Moon will stop shining. Huge meteor storms will seem like the stars are all falling from the sky. All that the wicked can do is weep and wail. It will be even like the weeping and wailing of the Jaredites, just prior to their final destruction. 

A great hailstorm will destroy the earth's crops (vs 16). Do you have your food storage and more to spare?

In verse 17, the Lord will take his vengeance upon the wicked "for they will not repent." They choose wickedness and destruction over salvation. Pride will destroy the wicked. There will be no salvation, because they refuse to accept the salvation that Christ offers.

Flies will come forth and eat men's flesh, leaving maggots to feed on them. Is this literal? Metaphor? Or is it both literal and metaphor? Plagues of flies often follow mass death, disease, and bloody wars. Thnk about the next description. Such will be the disease and plagues that their tongues will be stopped, flesh fall from their bones, and eyes from their sockets (vs 18). This has reference to Zechariah 14:12, which states:

"And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth."


The New Living Translation calls them "walking corpses." Here is your Zombie Apocalypse.

In the previous verse in Zechariah, the Lord proclaimed that Jerusalem would be a safe place:

"And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited." (Zech 14:11)
So, as we compare this with D&C 29, we can see the true importance in building up a Zion that the Lord will see fit to protect.


Whore of all the Earth

Verse 21 tells us that "the great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth," will be cast down and destroyed. Some Protestants and Latter-day Saints think this is the Catholic Church, but in the Book of Mormon, Nephi tells us that this wicked church fights against Jesus and his apostles. The Catholic Church may have problems, but it is not the "whore of all the earth."  Instead, when the apostle John spoke of the whore of the earth, he was referring to the Roman Empire of his day, probably under Nero (who wore the mark of the beast, 666). In our day, it would be an Empire that fights against Christ, the agency of man (vs 35}, and righteousness. Will this empire include churches? Probably. Any group or organization that will embrace the "abominable church" or empire will be part and parcel of its wickedness.

After the Millennium

D&C 29 jumps forward then, beginning in verse 22. 

"And again, verily, verily, I say unto you that when the thousand years are ended, and men again begin to deny their God, then will I spare the earth but for a little season;

"And the end shall come, and the heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth." (vs 22-23)

At the end of the Millennium, a period of peace, love and unity, Satan will be loosed again. He will tempt the Saints, leading many to believe in him and reject the Savior. They will become Sons of Perdition, knowing the resurrected Christ, but choosing the dark instead. There will be one final battle of good versus evil, where the wicked will be finally destroyed off the earth. Then the consumed earth will be changed from its Terrestrial to a Celestial state: a new heaven and earth.

"But, behold, verily I say unto you, before the earth shall pass away, Michael, mine archangel, shall sound his trump, and then shall all the dead awake, for their graves shall be opened, and they shall come forth—yea, even all.

"And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own before the Father;

"Wherefore I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (vs 26-28)

Archangels

Michael is noted as an archangel. Michael is the heavenly name for Adam. An archangel is an angel of high rank. It comes from Greek, meaning "chief angel." They are a key part of God's divine council. We read about them in Isaiah 6,

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.

"Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

"And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

"And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke." (Isa 6:1-4)


In this instance, the seraphim are (or include) the archangels. We also see the "holy angels" in the Vision, D&C 76,

"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." (D&C 76:19-21)

The sanctified are the martyrs from all ages, those who have died for the cause of Christ. Again, the holy angels are those before God's throne as part of his divine council.

By tradition, there are usually seven archangels. Seven is a number meaning completeness, and is important in the Bible and in the Restored Church today. Seven days in the week, Seventh day is the Sabbath, Quorum of Seventy, etc. 

Today, most religions definitely recognize three of the archangels:

Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Michael and Gabriel are noted in the Bible, while Raphael is found in the Apocrypha. Other possible archangels include: Metatron (often identified as Enoch), Uriel,  Raguel, and Remiel. Some groups have 10 archangels, some less.

Sons of Perdition

We get almost a comparison between the holy angels and the sons of Perdition, those who decide to be the enemies of Christ.

"And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own before the Father;

"Wherefore I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

"And now, behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from mine own mouth that they should return, for where I am they cannot come, for they have no power.

"But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit." (vs 27-30)

Remember, the Lord has yet to reveal to Joseph Smith his teachings on the Three Degrees of Glory. It is still a concept of heaven and hell. Those on his right hand, do they include telestial beings who will receive a level of salvation? Yes, but only because they barely repent and accept the atonement.  It seems strange to include them on Christ's right hand. But where else would we put them? All those on the left are sons of Perdition.

"Everlasting fire" as we learned in D&C 19 is not fire that lasts forever. "Everlasting" is one of God's names. "Everlasting fire" is God's fire. The Lord leaves us wondering in these verses about the long term final fate of the wicked. They cannot come to the Lord's kingdom, "for they have no power." Only Christ has such power for any of us. Only through repentance, faith in Christ, and changing to a level of righteousness, can the power of Christ ransom any of us from everlasting fire. The only question is: do sons of Perdition have the ability to repent and believe in Christ? Can they, worlds down the road, soften their hearts and believe enough to merit a kingdom of glory?  God does not reveal this to us. Instead, we are left to speculate. We simply do not knowgod's. Saying they can never repent and be saved is as much a speculation and saying they can. Again, "all [God's] judgments are not given unto men."

The Fall and Redemption

Beginning in verse 34, the Lord discusses the Premortal Existence,  Adam, the Creation, agency and the Fall. Lucifer used his agency to rebel against God. After being thrust down, Satan used his agency to destroy God's plan, first in the Garden with Adam, and later with all mortals. He is the one that God allows to bring much terror and tragedy into the world. 

God lays out for us two choices: Zion or the wicked world, Christ or Lucifer. We are agents to ourselves to decide what we will become and whom we will follow.