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, " 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." ( )

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.