Come Follow Me: D&C 125-128
As we approach the last couple months of studying the Doctrine and Covenants for CFM, hopefully we've noticed some important themes that flow through the entire book. A short list of major teachings would include: Jesus as Christ, priesthood, the importance of continuing revelation, Zion and her stakes, and temples.
In this short section we learn, again, about Zion. The saints were driven from Missouri, and so could not build the center city of Zion in Independence. However, they could build new cities: Nauvoo, Zarahemla, etc., and establish stakes in those cities.
"...let them gather themselves together unto the places which I shall appoint unto them by my servant Joseph...." (vs 2)The Lord establishes his stakes and calls the saints to gather to them. At one time, the stakes were only in the American west, Utah territory. At that time, the saints had to travel from Europe and elsewhere to dwell in a stake. There wouldn't be a stake formed outside of North America until 1935, in Oahu (now a part of the state of Hawaii).
Today, there are approximately 3500 stakes worldwide. An example of growth can be seen in the South American country of Bolivia. When I was a missionary there over 40 years ago, with a membership of 18,000 members, they received their first 3 stakes (Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, La Paz). Today, there are 33 stakes, and more than 200,000 members.
As the saints are ready to gather, more stakes are created. This section notes that one reason for gathering is "that they may be prepared for that which is in store for a time to come" (vs 2). Zion and her stakes are refuges from the storms of the last days.
This is a short section given to Brigham Young, newly appointed as the president of the Quorum of 12 Apostles. Whereas the 12 were to be a "traveling high council," we find here that the Lord was now able to send others with the 12 to far off places. Brigham's work would be closer to home (Nauvoo), only serving occasionally in missionary work in the Eastern States. Much of this may be due to God's foresight. He would require Brigham close to Joseph, so that the Prophet could transfer knowledge and priesthood keys as needed to the president of the 12. After developing the initial endowment for the Nauvoo temple, a ceremony that lasted around 7 hours, Joseph told Brigham that the endowment was like a rough draft, and needed refinement. Joseph tasked Brigham with the assignment of improving on it, which Brigham set out to do, reducing the endowment down to about 2 1/2 hours in length.
Additional instructions are given for baptisms for the dead. Joseph established there be a "recorder" to write down the important information regarding baptisms, such as the dead person's name, dates, ensure there are witnesses, etc.
The idea of a recorder hearkens back to the importance of preserving records. To this day, the Church members can only speculate on the exact date of the First Vision, or when Joseph received the Melchizedek Priesthood, simply because such wasn't written down. Nephi recognized the importance of obtaining the Brass Plates for his people to remember God on their journeys. Between major battles, Mormon enscribed the spiritual history of his people on gold plates for our benefit today.
Records, whether historical or spiritual, can create important links. They link us to our ancestors in family history. They link us to our children, as we leave behind our journals, photos, videos, and memories. They are a testimony of testimonies, ordinances, covenants, and spiritual events.
We've been encouraged to leave behind our own record. Whether we write daily in a journal, or only blog the things of most importance to us, it is important to leave a witness. In fact, one of the reasons I blog the scripture study is to leave behind a record of some of the things I've learned, in hopes that someone will read something in it that will inspire and move them toward a closer loving relationship with God and Christ.
"And again, let all thebe had in order, that they may be put in the archives of my holy temple, to be held in remembrance from generation to generation, saith the Lord of Hosts." (vs 9)
I wish more of my ancestors would have left me information regarding their lives. Very few did, and then, only brief snapshots. We need to create records that will be "held in remembrance from generation to generation." These records should be spiritual, but often good description of events, landscapes, history, etc., can enhance a remembrance. What would it be like to find an ancestor's journal, which is written such that it transports you back in time and place?!
And this is a key point of records: to help us remember. In the new book, "Learning of the Jews" (ed Trevan Hatch and Leonard Greenspoon - I will soon be reviewing the book here), we find that the post-temple Jews learned to "remember" through their stories and holy events. In sharing the Sabbath meal, they don't just reenact Israel's experiencing God at Mt Sinai, they remember actually being there, transported through their ancestors' records to the foot of God's mount.
"That in all your recordings it may be in heaven; whatsoever you on earth, may be bound in heaven; whatsoever you loose on earth, may be loosed in heaven..." (vs 7)May I suggest that this not only applies to records kept for ordinances, but also for all records we create to move forward God's family.
Joseph shares more thoughts regarding baptisms for the dead, especially regarding the importance of properly recording the events and ordinances. In doing so, he expands our understanding on a passage in the Book of Revelation:
"And further, I want you to remember that John the Revelator was contemplating this very subject in relation to the dead, when he declared, as you will find recorded in Revelation 20:12—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 in the books, according to their works." (vs 6)People, all people, will be judged out of the books written here on earth. This includes official ordinance records, journals, history books, blogs, newspapers, etc. What we record here on earth will be remembered in heaven. This is especially true in the Internet Age. How easy it is to search on a topic and have dozens, if not hundreds, of documents and books immediately made available. On a similar note, the things we write on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc., will be among the books with which we are judged. When those things are opened in the last day, will the Lord note that we spent more time sharing our testimonies and knowledge with others, or that we primarily shared funny cat videos? Just what ARE we individually recording and sealing up in heaven?
In verse 14, we read:
"theof the kingdom, which consist in the key of ." (vs 14)
There is a priesthood key, a key of knowledge, which is found in the ordinances and covenants of the temple. This key is so important that the Prophet Joseph noted,
"...these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation." (vs 15)What are we doing to seek the "key of knowledge"? This key includes the mysteries of godliness (D&C 84) - what we need to know to be like God. It is inherent in records, as we are to "learn from the best books" (D&C 88). As it is, God knows all things. To be like God means to know all things. What are we doing in this life to begin to know what God knows? The ordinances and covenants are necessary for exaltation. However, without the key of knowledge, those ordinances are limited. This doesn't mean we must know all things now. It does mean that we need to seriously engage in learning to know, even as God knows. We develop the habits of learning and growing, so that we can learn and grow up to be like our Heavenly Parents.
"Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of ! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of out of the earth...." (vs 19)What do we hear? The key of knowledge. The voice of gladness is the voice that shares the good news that Jesus is Christ. The voice of mercy from heaven is revelation, beginning with God's merciful appearance to the boy Joseph Smith in 1820. The voice of truth out of the earth is the Book of Mormon.
These and a long list of other events noted by Joseph, detail many of the events that gave him and the Church ever greater knowledge. Whether from heavenly revelations or from a book, the Lord presents us with this special key. Today, we have billions of books and papers within our easy reach: Religion, history, science, social development, medical, music, art, math, languages, spiritual, economics, political, etc. There is no reason any of us cannot learn something new, which we can then use to move forth the kingdom of God. We have been blessed with an amazing key of knowledge in our day.
"Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward.Today, while so blessed with thousands of stakes, hundreds of temples, and the key of knowledge at our fingertips, we also face many challenges. People are confused as to their eternal (or mortal) identity. They don't know what to believe, as fake news floods in from all sides. With Pres Nelson, we need to seek "pure truth, pure doctrine of Christ, and pure revelation" (Oct 2021 General Conference). We can rejoice in the truths we've received, and move forward with courage, because even in our weakness, God will help us to bring to pass his great work. , brethren; and on, on to the victory!" (vs 22)