Come Follow Me: D&C 14-17
Mary and Peter Whitmer Senior had five sons: David, Peter junior, John, Christian and Jacob. Through Oliver Cowdery's close relationship with David, the Whitmers would become closely engaged in the early work of the Church.
Because of opposition in Pennsylvania, Oliver asked David if he and Joseph could move in with the family. Though the Whitmers never had met Joseph, they agreed. Before being able to fetch Joseph and Oliver, David had to finish plowing and preparing the spring fields. Miracles were employed, For as David found much of the work already done overnight, prior to beginning the work early in the morning.
This would be the first of many miracles for the Whitmers. Mary would be a witness of Moroni and the gold plates. Several of the Whitmer sons would physically handle the gold plates. David would be one of the Three Witnesses.
"And, if you my commandments and to the end you shall have , which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God." (D&C 14:7)For Joseph, Oliver and the Whitmers, the concept of eternal life was very different than what we now understand. Joseph Smith had yet to receive the vision of the Three Degrees of Heaven. It would be move than a decade before he taught that we could literally be sons and daughters of God, being Gods in the next life.
For David and the Whitmers, this statement meant that God had gifts to give, and eternal life (or heaven) was the best of the gifts. How has this concept of eternal life developed in your own life? What does it mean to you today? What other gifts has God shared with you that help prepare you to receive the greatest gift?
Some of the key points in these revelations are:
1. Seek to build and establish Zion
2. Ask and ye shall receive
3. Ask God for the Holy Ghost
4. The field is white, ready to harvest
5. Declare repentance and bring souls to God
For Joseph, Oliver and the Whitmers, this concept is in its infancy. Joseph has not received his vision of the City of Enoch. He hasn't received revelation on consecration. D&C 45 and other revelations are yet in the future. To them, it would possibly mean building a small community of good people that follow Jesus and the restored gospel. Imagine the excitement for them, as each succeeding revelation added to the growing understanding of what Zion really is.
Are we actively seeking to build and establish Zion? Over this year, we'll be reading many of the revelations regarding Zion and a Zion people. It is a time to ponder if our hearts are right, so when God again calls upon us to build Zion and her stakes into a true Zion people, we will be ready.
Ask God/the Holy Ghost
For Joseph, this was a very important concept. As we continue to see, many of the converts are going to Joseph for answers regarding their personal questions and desires (Oliver, Martin Harris, Joseph Sr, Hyrum, are included in this group of seekers).
Here, God again tells them to personally ask, to knock, to seek. Yet, as with the new converts, many of us still aren't sure if we are getting answers or not. We can't always tell when the Holy Ghost is trying to reach us. We do not have access to the living prophet to give us counsel on personal matters. While we can rely on advice from bishops, parents and others, it is imperative for us to receive our own inspiration and to be able to hear it. What are you doing to learn to listen to the Holy Ghost?
Are we actively praying for the Holy Ghost to be with us? In 3 Nephi, as the people prayed to Jesus, they all prayed to have the Holy Ghost with them. He is the third member of the Godhead. To have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion (or even a frequent companion) is to have a member of the Godhead walking with us on a daily basis. How amazing is that?
The Harvest/Declaring Repentance
"The field is white, already to harvest."
As Joseph found out, while there is much opposition to the work, there are many eagerly looking for the gospel, or at least portions of it. While not everyone will join the Church or remain with it once they've joined, we have the opportunity to share the amount they are ready to receive. The gospel brings hope in a world of trial and terror, hopelessness and horror.
Think of what has happened over the last generation: 9/11, Great Recession, Covid 19 pandemic, race riots, Capitol riot, wild fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, continuing wars and rumors of wars, human trafficking, and a global loss of freedom, among other things. Such things destabilize nations, peoples, families and individuals. Yet, there is hope in Christ.
While we currently are under Pandemic lock downs, temples are essentially closed, and missionary work is more online than face-to-face, there are things we can do to share the gospel with those around us.
Here I invite all my readers to share one or two of the following with family, friends, social media acquaintances, etc.:
1. Your Conversion Story
2. Your Experience opening your mission call
3. A neat experience from your mission or serving in a Church calling
4. A missionary moment you have had with someone else.
Let me share three of my own experiences.
In the Spring of 1975, my high school in Montana suffered several big tragedies. Students died or were seriously injured over a 2 week period in about a dozen incidents. In one event, friends went 4-wheel driving and turned over their Jeep, with 2 dying. In another, 4 friends went up a canyon and drank rubbing alcohol, with 3 of them dying, and the girl who survived ending up shriveled up and in a wheelchair. Then some kids took cow tranquilizers and were found dead at the fairgrounds. Other events occurred. It shook up our school back in a time when counselors were not sent to schools to help the students.
That summer, my grandfather died. I remember being a pallbearer with my brother and cousins. As we sat in the back of the car carrying us, one cousin noted that there had to be a better way. I agreed. I was shell shocked from all the death I'd seen in just a few months. That Fall, I met some new friends at school. Most of them were Latter-day Saints, and one of them invited me to play basketball on his church team. I accepted. Prior to playing that Wednesday night, the bishop invited me into his office. He explained to me that to be able to play in the future, I would have to cut my long hair and attend church on Sundays. Normally I would have refused, as my Dad could never get me to cut my shoulder length hair. But something happened in that bishop's office to me, which I would not understand until much later. The Spirit of the Lord was thick in the room and moved me to change my life. As I attended and studied the Restored Gospel, I began to understand the Atonement of Christ, salvation, eternal families, and the hope of a glorious resurrection that I did not understand when my friends were dying. Since then, I've always been ever grateful to my friend who invited me to play Church basketball, and to the bishop who introduced me to the Spirit.
From 1978-1980, I served a mission in Bolivia. On the southern border is a small town, named Yacuiba. In 1970, when there were no missionaries in the region, Orlando Bishop walked home in the rain. Looking down, he found a pamphlet in a puddle of water. He picked it up, took it home, dried it off and read it. He then turned to his wife , Juanita, and said, "I don't know what Church this is, but when it gets here, we're going to join it." The pamphlet was the Joseph Smith First Vision story. In 1979, the first missionaries were sent to Yacuiba. His was the fourth door they knocked on. By the time I arrived in Yacuiba a year later, he had become a respected businessman with his own logging truck. Not long afterward, he was called to preside over the congregation as its branch president. Today, he is a stake patriarch. While in Bolivia, I saw many such marvelous experiences of people being led to the Church of Jesus Christ by the Lord.
My third experience came when the Air Force stationed me in South Korea in 1985. A young man, who had a notoriety for being bad, was moved to my squad. Korea was very challenging for good people to live morally, as drinking and prostitution were a way of life outside of military bases. I avoided the scene directly outside the base, choosing to travel to other areas where I could get to really know the people. I knew the day would come when I would be assigned to work with this other young man, but did not look forward to it. When I saw we were being stationed together in a solitary post together, I prayed that I would survive what I expected to be an onslaught of obscenities and filthy talk, as this is how the man was described to me by others. Yet, when we arrived at our post, he said that he admired my standards and my life. He once had been active in a church and was happy, but fell far from his moral lifestyle. We spent the night talking about God and faith. By morning he wanted to talk with the missionaries. So, I contacted a missionary couple up in Seoul to come down once a week to teach my new friend. After a month, we took a trip to Seoul to see the temple, then under construction. As we walked around the temple, I showed him where the corner stone would be set on the first day of the dedication. He asked me if he could touch the sacred building, and I encouraged him to do so. "This is where I want to be married someday", he said. Within a few weeks, I baptized him in the base swimming pool, the temple being a key component in converting a man, whom I would never would have guessed to be wanting to change his life so drastically.
From these and hundreds of other experiences, my own testimony of Christ and his work have grown. It truly is a marvelous work. By the mid 1830s, Joseph Smith told the few members of the fledgling Church that they were not to only be a congregation, but that someday the Church would fill both North and South America, indeed, it would fill the world. As people throughout the world find that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has solutions to worldly problems and answers to spiritual questions, it will continue to grow, preparing the world for the 2nd Coming of Christ.
I invite you to share your testimony this week on social media, work and groups.