Sunday, June 27, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 71-75

 Come Follow Me: D&C 71-75

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D&C 71

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


D&C 72

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

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

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

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

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

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

D&C 74

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

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

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

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

D&C 75

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 67-70

 Come Follow Me: D&C 67-70


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D&C 68

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D&C 70

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to the Spirit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 64-66

 Come Follow Me: D&C 64-66 

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

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

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

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

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

D&C 64

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we preparing to be in Zion? 

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

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

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

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

D&C 65

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

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

D&C 66

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 63

Come Follow Me: D&C 63

 Along with Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith returned from Independence to Kirtland. While there, the temple site had been revealed by the Lord, and Jackson County established as the center of Zion.

My wife and I were just on vacation there this past weekend for a few days. In the center of the future Zion sets the temple lot. It is currently owned by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), a branch of Mormonism. Next to the temple lot is the sea shell designed temple of the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Kitty corner to the temple lot is the visitor's center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Primitive Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has their headquarters building on the opposite side of the Community of Christ's temple. Other early Restoration churches/persons have a foothold in the area. One of the more prominent of these is my friend John Hajicek (a member of the Strang branch of Mormonism ), who has the largest collection of Mormon historical items, books, papers, etc, bar none. Sadly, I wasn't able to meet with him this trip, as he is in Park City, Utah being interviewed for a documentary.  John is available on Facebook, and shares photos of many of his new historical finds.

The key is, Utah Latter-day Saints are not the only "Mormons." We are the major branch of groups that separated at the death of Joseph Smith. Each has interest in the city of Independence and especially the temple lot. We are not the only ones who reverence Joseph Smith as a prophet. We are not the only ones looking forward to Zion being built in Jackson County. You may say we are cousins in the Restoration, each with its own ties and claims to Joseph the Prophet.

Back to Joseph Smith's time.Upon arriving back in Kirtland, Joseph wrote in his journal:

“In these infant days of the Church, there was a great anxiety to obtain the word of the Lord upon every subject that in any way concerned our salvation; and as the land of Zion was now the most important temporal object in view, I enquired of the Lord for further information upon the gathering of the Saints, and the purchase of the land, and other matters.”

This is noted in the preface of section 63. It is such an important comment that I did not want us to overlook it. Many revelations were occurring. About half of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received before the Church was 2 years old! Yet, of all the important revelations thus far, Joseph noted that the most important temporal thing was to build the physical Zion as a gathering place. You will note I've mentioned the Gathering many times in the lessons I've shared to this point. Why?

Because to this day it is still the "most important temporal object in view" for all branches of the Restoration.

"Wherefore, verily I say, let the wicked take heed, and let the rebellious fear and tremble; and let the unbelieving hold their lips, for the day of wrath shall come upon them as a whirlwind, and all flesh shall know that I am God.

"And he that seeketh signs shall see signs, but not unto salvation.

"Verily, I say unto you, there are those among you who seek signs, and there have been such even from the beginning;

"But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe.

"Yea, signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God.

"Yea, signs come by faith, unto mighty works, for without faith no man pleaseth God; and with whom God is angry he is not well pleased; wherefore, unto such he showeth no signs, only in wrath unto their condemnation." (vs 6-11)

Again, the Lord warns the wicked. It is a continuous process in the scriptures. God continually must stir people up to repentance through threatening them with death, hell, pain and sorrow. As the saints in both Kirtland and Independence will find out, disobedience leads people away from God, turns them against the Lord's Prophet, and many become enemies of the Church. 

Some among the wicked (including rebellious members, like Ezra Booth) insisted on signs that Joseph Smith was a Prophet. In fact, some members insisted on continuous signs to keep them satisfied with the Prophet and Church. 

As with many more people along the line, who came to oppose the Church, they did not seek a testimony of faith. Instead, they sought signs to satisfy the flesh. Signs must follow faith, or they are of only temporary value. There is no foundation for them to build upon. As with Laman and Lemuel, when they saw the angel, it was a powerful experience at the time. But, because they had no faith, the sign did not last long for them. Soon, they were again accusing Lehi of being a visionary man, and Nephi as an usurper of their birth right.

Such signs without faith can only lead to a greater judgment against them for not using the experience to repent and develop true faith.

However, with faith, signs can lead to great miracles. The greatest miracle would have been founding Zion back when the Church was so little. Sadly, too many members were proud, arrogant, fighting amongst themselves and with non-members. Some, like Ezra Booth, did not like the idea of Zion being built in the wilderness of Missouri. Several, who belonged to the United Order, had broken their covenant. Even with frequent revelations, the upcoming Pentecost at the Kirtland Temple dedication and other miracles, the saints expected miracles and signs to make things easy for them, regardless of their lack of faith and disobedience.

Because of the lack of true faith, Zion could not be built back then. Because of a lack of faith and obedience, we are still awaiting the city of Zion to be built. When among the active members, less than half pay a full tithe. Many refuse to speak in Sacrament meeting, read their scriptures daily, pray intensely several times a day, etc., how can we ever hope to build Zion, unless the Lord were to first cleanse us with the refiner's fire? Such is the tale of the Latter-day Saints, being driven from place to place, which has helped to refine those generations. Sadly, many in the current generations do not ponder the great sacrifices made by the early saints, nor learn from these warnings of the Lord.

"Wherefore, I, the Lord, am not pleased with those among you who have sought after signs and wonders for faith, and not for the good of men unto my glory.

"Nevertheless, I give commandments, and many have turned away from my commandments and have not kept them.

"There were among you adulterers and adulteresses; some of whom have turned away from you, and others remain with you that hereafter shall be revealed.

"Let such beware and repent speedily, lest judgment shall come upon them as a snare, and their folly shall be made manifest, and their works shall follow them in the eyes of the people." (vs 12-15)

Signs should not be to satisfy our own curiosity, but to bring people to Christ. As the Lord warned in the Matthew 16:4, "it is a wicked and adulterous generation who seeketh for a sign." In section 63, the Lord expounds upon both the wicked and the adulterous. It seems both seek signs for the wrong purpose. Both must repent quickly, or stand in judgment.

Our hearts cannot be focused on the worldly things that will drive away the Spirit of the Lord. This especially includes lusting, which can drive away the Spirit, turn our focus away from God and onto our animal desires. Such turns us away from the vision of Zion, and onto the selfishness and dehumanizing feelings of Babylon. Instead of seeing women as daughters of God, they are viewed as things to possess and impose our selfish wills upon. Such can quickly destroy a Zion home, and exchange it with darkness and chaos.

"Nevertheless, he that endureth in faith and doeth my will, the same shall overcome, and shall receive an inheritance upon the earth when the day of transfiguration shall come;

"When the earth shall be transfigured, even according to the pattern which was shown unto mine apostles upon the mount; of which account the fulness ye have not yet received.

"And now, verily I say unto you, that as I said that I would make known my will unto you, behold I will make it known unto you, not by the way of commandment, for there are many who observe not to keep my commandments.

"But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life." (vs 20-23)

Yet, for those who build their faith, there will be an inheritance in the last days. Note that we are not talking about the inheritances early saints received in Zion. Perhaps these were to be temporary inheritances for their mortal probation. The eternal inheritances will be given at the time when the earth and all the righteous are "transfigured", or "translated" as we use the term today.

The Lord notes transfiguration in conjunction with the experience at the Mount of Transfiguration. This concept is introduced four years prior to the partial endowment (initiatory) given in the Kirtland Temple, and about 15 years until the Nauvoo Temple endowment. We can see here, as we do with the Book of Mormon and other early revelations, the beginnings of the modern endowment.

Some have suggested that the Mount of Transfiguration was the endowment given to Peter, James and John. The endowment back then was probably different from the modern endowment we have today. Yet the covenants and ordinances would have been similar. The key to the endowment then, and now, is the individual having a spiritual experience, where holy angels bring them into the presence of God.


"And now, behold, this is the will of the Lord your God concerning his saints, that they should assemble themselves together unto the land of Zion, not in haste, lest there should be confusion, which bringeth pestilence.

"Behold, the land of Zion—I, the Lord, hold it in mine own hands;

26 Nevertheless, I, the Lord, render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s."Wherefore, I the Lord will that you should purchase the lands, that you may have advantage of the world, that you may have claim on the world, that they may not be stirred up unto anger.

"For Satan putteth it into their hearts to anger against you, and to the shedding of blood.

"Wherefore, the land of Zion shall not be obtained but by purchase or by blood, otherwise there is none inheritance for you." (vs 24-29)

The Gathering officially begun, the Lord commands them to not hurry. Sadly, due to weickedness, the first group to be sent would be the Colesville Saints, who lost their lands in Kirtland when they were taken from them. More wickedness would cause many to ignore the guidance of the Prophet and other leaders, who told the saints to only gather to Zion when called upon to do so. Many would go in their poverty, expecting the bishop to give them lands. Jackson County exploded from 3000 inhabitants to 4500 in one year, due to the influx of members who didn't wait to be called to gather to Zion. The ensuing wars, persecutions, and dangers occurred because God's commands were not heeded from the very beginning.

Note that Zion could be obtained by purchase or war. God preferred the peaceful way, keeping peace with Caesar by slowly buying up lands. The saints' disobedience led them to obtaining lands by war, of which there were insufficient numbers of saints to go to war against the entire state of Missouri.

Even today, the Church is quietly buying up properties in Jackson and surrounding counties, preparing for the future of Zion. It is better to be a good neighbor and not gather in haste, than to drive others to be at war with us. That is not Zion.

"And if by purchase, behold you are blessed;

"And if by blood, as you are forbidden to shed blood, lo, your enemies are upon you, and ye shall be scourged from city to city, and from synagogue to synagogue, and but few shall stand to receive an inheritance." (vs 30-31)

In D&C 98, the Lord will tell us to "renounce war and proclaim peace." President Spencer W. Kimball once noted that we are a "warlike people." It is easy to justify war. America has been doing so for a long time. The Book of Mormon notes that war is only acceptable in self-defense. Many times, America has entered into wars of offense (Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, etc), leading to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. The Lord suggests in these sections that peaceful methods must be employed. We are "forbidden" to shed blood. As we will see, the saints were scourged from city to city.  The saints have yet to receive an inheritance.

"I, the Lord, am angry with the wicked; I am holding my Spirit from the inhabitants of the earth.

"I have sworn in my wrath, and decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man;

"And the saints also shall hardly escape; nevertheless, I, the Lord, am with them, and will come down in heaven from the presence of my Father and consume the wicked with unquenchable fire.

"And behold, this is not yet, but by and by." (vs 32-35)

The Lord, though angry with the wicked, is patient. Their destruction does not occur until they are ripened in iniquity. The disasters to come will be worse than all disasters we've seen to date. Even the saints shall hardly escape. The only escape will be Zion and her stakes, and then, the saints must fully decide to be true saints, otherwise they will be left out among the wicked in Babylon. As noted before in D&C 45, "those among the wicked who will not lift up their swords to fight, must needs flee to Zion for safety."

The question then is, shall we build Zion before such disasters occur, or will we be building it on the fly, during a time of great desperation? Note, it will not be the saints fighting the war with their weapons of war, the Lord will come down himself and defeat the wicked. Yet, how many members believe they will be building Zion with one hand on the trigger of their favorite rifle? 

Now, is the time to renounce war and declare peace. Now is the time to prepare to build Zion, so we aren't doing it in the middle of global catastrophe.

"Wherefore, seeing that I, the Lord, have decreed all these things upon the face of the earth, I will that my saints should be assembled upon the land of Zion;

"And that every man should take righteousness in his hands and faithfulness upon his loins, and lift a warning voice unto the inhabitants of the earth; and declare both by word and by flight that desolation shall come upon the wicked." (vs 36-37)

Not only do we need to prepare ourselves, but invite our friends and neighbors to prepare. How many of our friends laughed at our food storage, only to gather up food, cleaning supplies, masks, toilet paper and hand sanitizer over the last year (2020) during the Covid pandemic? Perhaps some may listen now to the importance of being both spiritually and temporally prepared for the days of chaos and destruction.

In speaking of this, I'm not wanting us to share conspiracy theories with our friends. There are plenty of conspiracy theories floating around about both Republicans and Democrats in the United States. Instead, teach them the doctrines, as I've shared them here.

Finally, the Lord pronounces blessings on the righteous, whether they live until the Second Coming or die beforehand. The living will be translated in a moment as the Lord descends in glory. The dead will resurrect and meet him.

At the last day, the servants/angels of God will divide the wheat from the tares, the righteous from the wicked. One way this will happen is that the righteous will flee to Zion, while the wicked remain in Babylon. There will be wise and foolish virgins, members of the Church and other Christians, who will not prepare, and will not be ready to enter Zion. They will suffer.

One thing to note is that God is often reprimanding the leaders of the Church. Even Joseph Smith is chastised occasionally. God chastens and humbles those whom he loves. Those who love God will humble themselves and accept the chastening. In return, they are more blessed for their meekness in following God.