Sunday, November 28, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 137-138

 Come Follow Me: D&C 137-138


These are the final two sections in the Doctrine and Covenants. They are closely related in theme and the reason for receiving them was the same: a desire to know what happens to those loved ones who have died.

D&C 137

Joseph Smith often pondered regarding the final disposition for the sould of his brother Alvin. Alvin was a stalwart believer in the gold plates and visions Joseph had received, even though he didn't live long enough to see or feel the plates. Joseph looked up to his eldest brother for strength and support, especially during the three years following the First Vision. The angel Moroni, in fact, told Joseph that he would be able to take the plates from the hill in 1824 if his brother Alvin were with him. Alvin died in Nov 1823, and so Moroni did not give up the plates on Joseph's second visit to the hill. Instead, Moroni would later require Joseph to take Emma with him.

As Joseph translated the gold plates, he learned of baptism and the confirmation of the Holy Ghost. He knew Alvin had not received these ordinances. According to many in the Christian world around Joseph, no one could be saved without baptism. Was Alvin to be consigned to hell for eternity?

In January 1836, final preparations were being made for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple that March. Much was on Joseph's mind, as he knew the Saints would be receiving an endowment of power, washings and anointings, and the hopes of a Pentecostal experience (see here). 

This revelation would, indeed, be the first Pentecostal experience received by anyone in the nearly completed temple. It opened up a season of revelation, as Saints saw angels, spoke in tongues, prophesied, and even beheld God and Jesus.

In the vision, Joseph beholds the Celestial Kingdom, even describing the gate that stands at the entrance as 'circling flames of fire." Joseph notes seeing Adam, Abraham, and his brother Alvin in celestial glory.

And marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.

Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God (vs 6-7)

The Kirtland Temple became the site for the restoration of keys by Moses, Elias and Elijah. Keys that in temples would soon seal people to God and families.

The prophet Mormon insisted that all little children were saved in Christ. Now, continuing revelation would extend that promise to all those who died without the chance to hear the gospel of Christ and receiving saving ordinances. How thrilling that must have been for the early Saints to know that God reached out his hand to everyone, and not just a select few, for salvation.

Even today, much of the Christian world is trapped in the devilish creed of Calvinism, which teaches a limited atonement that only saves a few. Under this belief, God cruelly chooses whomever he will to save, and all others will rot in hell. If one has never had the chance to know of Christ, they are eternal worm bait. There is no free will/agency under Calvinism. God made you a certain way, and you cannot choose to repent nor change, so as to choose God and eternal life. There is no purpose to such a life, where one is forced into the rat maze, and either God shows you the way through to heaven or to hell, and there is only the one eligible path. That is Calvinism.

Under Calvinism, Alvin didn't stand a chance for salvation. 

Because of the Restored Gospel and continuing revelation, God affirmed:

For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts. (vs 9)

D&C 138

JFS First Presidency 1905 large.jpg

Joseph F. Smith had seen much death in his life. As a 5 year old child, he saw his murdered father Hyrum and uncle Joseph's bodies laid out for burial. He saw the misery in the tears of the Saints around him for their beloved Prophet. His mother, Mary Fielding Smith, would die not long after arriving in Utah territory. As a young father, a beloved daughter of his died in childhood. 

These and other deaths along the way would bother him greatly throughout his life. He wouldn't stop pondering just what exactly was happening to these loved ones. Then, as an aged prophet during the time of the First World War and the great Flu Epidemic of 1918, he saw millions die.

Again, he pondered the afterlife. He studied scripture passages that discussed Christ's role in the Spirit World, verses he had read hundreds of times before.  Two weeks prior to his own death, Joseph F. Smith received his great vision of the Spirit World.

In the Vision, he saw the righteous rejoicing over their anticipated release from the Spirit World and into the glorious resurrection.

While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful;

And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance. (vs 18-19)

The "vast multitude" that converses and rejoices are reminiscent of the holy seraphim/angels who surrounded God's throne in Isaiah's vision (see Isa 6), conversing among themselves about the greatness and wonders of God. 

Interestingly, even though this congregation included all the righteous (including Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah, and others), they still had to have the gospel preached to them. It seems clear that there were many portions of the gospel they had not received yet, had understood only a portion of it in their lifetimes, or had some closely held wrong beliefs that needed to be corrected. I would imagine that as we die and enter the Spirit World, there will be many wrong beliefs we will also have to shed, and relearn anew, what President Nelson calls "pure truth, the pure doctrine of Christ and pure revelation."

Joseph F. Smith saw both Paradise and the Spirit Prison/hell. Among the wicked, he saw:

Where these were, darkness reigned, but among the righteous there was peace;

And the saints rejoiced in their redemption, and bowed the knee and acknowledged the Son of God as their Redeemer and Deliverer from death and the chains of hell.

Their countenances shone, and the radiance from the presence of the Lord rested upon them, and they sang praises unto his holy name. (vs 22-24)

We can get a glimpse of Spirit Prison and Paradise in Alma's Near Death Experience in Alma 36, where he is in darkness and in pain, until he repents and then is instantly brought to Paradise, where he has peace and great joy. In Alma's experience, as he saw God's throne in the distance, he saw many rejoicing, and we see the same here. 

As he noted, Christ did not personally go among the wicked. Instead, he organized his great work and sent forth others.

But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead. (vs 30)

Just as our missionaries are sent out "clothed with power and authority" with a commission to preach, so it is in the Spirit World. The work of salvation is a vast effort. Unlike the Calvinist god, Christ loves all people and puts forth every effort to save each and every one of them. For this reason, we are a temple building people. And, hopefully, we are a temple attending people, so that we can renew our own covenants and ordinances, and help to save and exalt all of mankind. 

So great is the love of God, Elder Holland recently noted that the first great commandment of the universe is to love God, and that the first great TRUTH of the universe is that is exactly how God loves us - with all of His heart, might, mind and strength. God pours all of his energy into saving and exalting us.

And he asks us to help rescue those dwelling in hell, whether as mortals upon this earth, or in the Spirit World through saving temple ordinances and covenants.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 135-6

 Come Follow Me: D&C 135-6

Happy Thanksgiving 2021!

As I write this on Thanksgiving Day, I ponder a few things for which I am grateful.

First, I remember my ancestors. I am descended from Mayflower passengers, including John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley. Some of their descendants (Chipman) would join the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

Joseph Smith also descended from Mayflower passengers, including John Howland and his wife Elizabeth Tilley. It is through this special link that the Restoration brings to me a greater appreciation. It did not start with Joseph, but centuries earlier, as God prepared the way for a unique nation with unique freedoms (and challenges to overcome, like slavery). 

Of those first Pilgrims,  half died that first winter, including Elizabeth's parents. They were martyrs to the cause of religious freedom. Two centuries later, Joseph and Hyrum would be martyrs for religious freedom's cause. 

Today, persecution over religion continues. Jews are persecuted in many places, including the United States (by neo nazis and others). In China, the Uighurs are being exterminated. Christians are being killed in many Arab nations. And yes, there still is intolerance for Catholics, Latter-day Saints and others in many nations. For this reason, we have several Apostles recently speaking out regarding religious freedom, including Pres Oaks, Elders Cook and Holland.

Such religious persecution not only slew Joseph and Hyrum (D&C 135), but made refugees of the surviving Saints. Brigham Young gave instruction to them in D&C 136, organizing them into camps or travel groups. They were encouraged to have good cheer, even though their adventure would seem like they were traveling to the moon - as the American wilderness was still threatening and untamed. They would be leaving the United States and entering Mexican territory (soon to be conquered by the USA). Still, religious persecution would follow them into that wilderness. Some would flee south or north of the American border into Mexico or Canada. They would bury their new temple foundation, to hide it from federal troops. Many would go to jail for their religion, while others would be slain for their faith.

This is our legacy. This is today's fight: increasing righteousness and freedom throughout the world. Reaching out to refugees and blessing their lives. Offering the downtrodden a place to live free and have the same opportunities we have had, which includes inviting them to Christ.

We are the Pilgrims, pioneers and potential martyrs for the cause of Christ and His peace in the world today. For this, we must look beyond our own comforts and pleasures and seek to create a Zion of God. This is what the Pilgrims sought. This is what Joseph tried to build. This is what Brigham and the pioneers began to establish in the West. 

Now, we must take Zion to all the world. We must reach out to the weak and bring them home to safety in God's kingdom. Whether they accept the fullness of the gospel or not, we can bring them closer to God, and to a wholesome, loving, and inspired brotherhood.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 133-134

 Come Follow Me: D&C 133-134


D&C 133 was given in November 1831 while the Saints were still living in Ohio, prior to the Kirtland temple, or the trials of Missouri. It reveals many important concepts leading to the future of Zion. Yes, we again are going to discuss Zion, as it is one of  the key concepts of the entire book of Doctrine and Covenants.

The Lord who shall suddenly come to his temple; the Lord who shall come down upon the world with a curse to judgment; yea, upon all the nations that forget God, and upon all the ungodly among you.

For he shall make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of their God.

Wherefore, prepare ye, prepare ye, O my people; sanctify yourselves; gather ye together, O ye people of my church, upon the land of Zion, all you that have not been commanded to tarry. (vs 2-4)

The city of Zion (Independence, MO) was established only 3 months prior to this revelation. A temple lot with 24 temples (some for ordinances, most for administration buildings) was also planned. Today, our understanding of these verses differs largely from how the early Saints would have understood them. They couldn't have imagined a Church with no center city of Zion, but with over 350 stakes, and instead of a couple planned temples, to have hundreds.

Still, the call is the same: "sanctify yourselves." We are to make ourselves holy, so that God's work may move forward. Without a holy people, there can be no salvation for the living nor the dead. Zion, in its purest and truest form, could never be established. There would be no safe gathering place nor refuge from the storms to come. Zion's stakes must be holy. They cannot be protected by God if they are worldly.  Looking back, we see how the greed and selfishness of the early saints was a key part of their failure to establish Zion. Dissension and contention inside allowed enemies from without to prevail.

Go ye out from Babylon. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.

Call your solemn assemblies, and speak often one to another. And let every man call upon the name of the Lord.

Yea, verily I say unto you again, the time has come when the voice of the Lord is unto you: Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (vs 5-7)

We still have the call to gather to Zion, or rather, her stakes. We are to leave Babylon. The actual Babylon is an ancient city lying in ruins in the Middle East. Modern Babylon, however, is alive and kicking. It has no boundaries. It is found wherever the wicked have power and influence. Unlike Babylon, or Sodom and Gomorrah, the wicked can reach into our homes through electronic means today. 

They influence us, whether we realize it or not. Look at how quickly social mores in the United States and elsewhere have changed over the last few years. Murder is on the rise in many cities. Sexual dysphoria and confusion are rampant. People seek to society for answers, rather than to God.

And so, we are all commanded to call upon God. We live in a day, when the Prophet encourages us to seek "pure truth, pure Doctrine of Christ, and pure truth." (President Russell M. Nelson, October 2021 opening remarks). This leaves open the question of whether we are seeking impure truth, doctrine and revelation. Do we allow Babylon to cloud God's truths? Do we hear the appealing siren songs of the world, better than we hear the pure word of God?

Yes, being faithful to the truth is hard, especially when so many around us are sitting in the great and spacious building, mocking us. It is easy to see why so many become ashamed of the gospel (or the portion they have received before), and slink away from the Tree of Life into mists and paths unknown.

But Zion will grow. Her stakes will be strengthened and expand around the world. Zion and her stakes will eventually be the only safe places for refuge in the world. This depending on the saints being sanctified. It will be a time for all "among the Gentiles" meaning both Gentiles and others to "flee to Zion" for safety.

Verses 17-25 show us that Christ will return in great power and glory.  However, there may be several major visits, the first at Adam-Ondi-Ahman, where144,000 elders will have God's name "written on their foreheads" or will be sealed to God. Scriptures suggest these will receive their calling and election made sure, then be sent out on a final mission for Christ, to bring in the remnant of the elect among the Gentiles and pagan nations (perhaps India, China, and the Muslim nations). 

Christ will then stand upon the Mount of Olives, during Armageddon, where the Jews will see him as their returning Messiah and believe. 

During this time of great upheaval, we see that there will be massive earthquakes and the "north countries" will first be flooded by the great waters (vs 22-23). Perhaps the world will blame it all on climate change (whether real or not), rather than see it as God commanding the world to repent.

And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.

And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.

Their enemies shall become a prey unto them,

And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land.

And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.

And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence.

And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim.

And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy. (vs 26-33)

Who are those from the "north countries"? Some suggest they include the lost tribes of Israel, which if it is true, could include people living north of the land of Israel (Russia, Europe). They would hear the words of their prophets, which may include missionaries and priesthood leaders, and move to the Americas. That their enemies will be a "prey" to them, suggests they go with priesthood power. A highway being cast up in the great deep could be a new land bridge at the Bering Strait, allowing people to cross from the Old World to the New.

Some think that as America becomes Zion (as the wicked are destroyed), Babylon will become stronger in the Old World. This would cause many, perhaps even Latter-day Saints dwelling in unsafe stakes, to "remember their prophets" including the living prophet, and gather to Zion in the Americas. The desert and everlasting hills hint at their destiny: the United States. 

Or it could be both or neither of these theories.

It is at this time that the final preaching will occur, when the gospel will be sounded in every nation. Whether it is in person, or over the Internet, we do not know. However, then will come the official Second Coming of Christ in glory. The wicked will be destroyed, and the righteous will be gathered and blessed.

Yes, terrible things will occur in these last days. Yet, we must remember to hope for the Coming of Christ. It will be a wonderful and joyous time for the saints who have fled Babylon and sought refuge in Zion and her stakes.

D&C 134

Given in 1835, it was written by Oliver Cowdery, then the Assistant President of the Church, and presented to the Church to add to the new Doctrine and Covenants.

We learn that "government is instituted by God" as anarchy becomes a greater danger than government. When government works best, it protects "the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life." It reinforces the concepts found in the Declaration of Independence of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (property)."

 Today's leaders speak much about religious freedom. We find this same thought in section 134, "We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others..." (vs 4).

As with housing discussions in Utah, the Church has encouraged laws that protect rights, as long as they do not infringe upon religious and other liberties.

We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights....that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly.... (vs 6)
There were Latter-day Saints involved in rioting in many cities in the summer of 2020, as well in the attack on the Capitol on Jan 6, 2021. These are acts of rebellion and sedition. The questions come to, where is the line where government no longer protects our inalienable rights, forcing people to rebel? Clearly, our living prophets do not believe that the time for violence and rebellion is here. They continue to encourage us to seek change through peaceable means, which can include peaceful protest. 

We are therefore, to uphold the laws, and peacefully fight against the ones we disagree with. Christ taught us to be peacemakers, not violent zealots. Zion will be established in peace, not through war. A Zion people will be made through following Christ's call to humility, patience, peace, and charity.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Prep for Old Testament Come Follow Me


A quick set of questions for my religious and non-religious friends. I'm determining certain general beliefs for my blogging on the Old Testament next year. Please respond in the comments.

1. What is your religious preference (Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist, etc)?

2. Do you believe in a flat earth or a round earth?

3. Do you believe the earth revolves around the sun, or does the sun revolve around the earth?

4. In space, are the stars, moon and Sun equidistant from each other, or are the stars light years apart?

5. Is the Sun approximately 4.5 billion years old?

6. Was Noah's flood global, regional, or mythical?

7. What is the approximate age of the earth?

8. Were dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroid 65 million years ago, or did they die in the great Flood?

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 129-132

 Come Follow Me: D&C 129-132

D&C  129

In this section, we are given a key to recognizing spirits. This is an important part of Latter-day Saint Angelology. We learn much from the Book of Mormon about angels: they speak by the gift of the Holy Ghost, they speak the words of Christ, they call mankind to repentance, they reveal God's will and truth.

Here are important keys that actually relate to the temple endowment. Brigham Young stated that the endowment teaches us the key signs and tokens we need to be able to pass by the angels which stand as sentinels, until we enter the presence of God. Therefore it's necessary to be able to recognize beings, so as not to be deceived by Satan and his demons.

D&C 130

This section continues our learning about angelology. We learn that angels do not reside upon our earth, though they are intimately connected to it, having been mortals here at some time (past or future).

White Stone as a Handheld computer

We gain an expanded understanding of the concept of "Urim and Thummim." A U&T can be more than just a set of ancient glasses with lenses that allow you to interpret ancient documents. It can be a celestialized planet, or a white stone, etc. 

Here is what I wrote on this subject and section over 20 years ago (with some modern additions):


With all regards to Charles Babbage, known as the first person to design a "computer," Joseph Smith actually described and used the world's first computer. Over the years, the Urim and Thummim has been scoffed at, yet the descriptions of this tool would lead any thoughtful person to agree that this is, indeed, a description of a computer that we have yet to develop-much on the level of the "holo-deck" in the Star Trek series.

The main description of the Lord's computer is found in D&C 130, with more description given in the Book of Mormon (known there as 'Interpreters').

We read:

6 The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth;
7 But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.
8 The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim.

The angels mentioned are celestial angels, for they dwell in God's presence. The 'planet' or place where God resides is a Urim and Thummim (U&T). It is like a 'sea of glass and fire' and perhaps works on the principles of truth and light. Let's see how it might work:

9 This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ's.

The celestialized earth will reveal to us the order of lower things. This includes the laws and principles of the Terrestrial and Telestial orders. Imagine peering into such a U&T and seeing all the information one needs to know concerning the lower worlds. In the Book of Mormon Mosiah 8, the warrior and adventurer Ammon tells us that it is a Seer that uses a U&T in this life. Not just anyone can peer into it, for that person may look for things he/she should not. Kind of sounds like the World Wide Web, doesn't it? One can seek all kinds of information, but must use caution not to seek things that don't uplift us and give us knowledge of the things of God.

10 Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known;
11 And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word.

Here we see that all celestial beings receive a Urim and Thummim. It becomes the device used to learn all things concerning the 'higher order of kingdoms,' or the laws and principles and truths of the Celestial Kingdom.

That white stone given to each person, is a personal learning device, for it only works for the person knowing the new name or key word. In computer jargon today, we call it a computer password. Such a password keeps those that shouldn't be in our system, off of it. It allows for privacy and for each person to personalize their own computer to their own needs.

As we have trillions of books, papers, records, photos and videos available to us on the Internet today, we can easily understand one way how this white stone may work. Our smart phones are, in essence, a white stone Urim and Thummim. Through it, we can learn anything connected to what mankind has discovered: history, science, medicine, astronomy, literature, art, and so forth. The opportunities to learn are beyond the scope of any mortal in this life. And, as in the warning in the Book of Mosiah, we must use caution for what we look for. Having access to a world of information means we must choose wisely and righteously, otherwise it cannot exalt us.

How does this system work? I imagine we get a glimpse of how it works with the great revelations which Nephi, Moses and other prophets have received. Often taken to a high mountain, where things are revealed to them of things past, present and future. It seems as though they are physically there to observe the actual event (whether it is the birth of Christ or the creation of the world), kind of like what one experiences in Virtual Reality or perhaps in the futuristic holo-decks of Star Trek Next Generation.

So, something that couldn't be imagined in Joseph Smith's day, WAS imagined and in the 21st Century seems within reach...


This is what I wrote back then. Today, I would add possibly one other comment. In vs 10 and 11, it mentions two groups that may receive a white stone. In verse 11, it notes celestial people who receive one, so that they may receive knowledge of the higher realms of the Celestial Kingdom. However, vs 10 does not necessarily require the stone to be given only to a celestial person. It is possible that those in the lower kingdoms may receive a white stone that teaches them how to become more holy, by teaching them of things in a kingdom above their own (telestial would learn from the terrestrial, terrestrial would learn the basics of the celestial). In fact, D&C 76 notes that those in the higher kingdoms would descend to visit and teach those in the lower kingdoms, perhaps as part of this teaching. If this is the case, then perhaps God desires to give his children the ability to continue to learn and grow continually throughout the eternities.

The Issue of Slavery and War

Verses 12-13 return us back to D&C 87, the Prophecy on War.  Here is what I previously wrote regarding that section here:


 Joseph Smith's Prophecy on War (D&C 87) is a big thorn in the side of those critics of the Mormon Prophet. Some claim that 'everyone knew that the North and South were going to war, so it wasn't that big of a prophecy.' However, the evidence is against that statement. Elder Orson Hyde supplemented that prophecy in 1858, claiming the destructions and wars were about to come upon the U.S.

When he made these claims, many eastern newspapers quoted him, mocking him. There was no way the States were going to war, according to the papers. In 1862, Elder Hyde commented on this fact as further evidence that the American people did not consider this prophecy valid prior to its accomplishment.

Secondly, we shall see that the Prophecy of War goes well beyond the Civil War/War between the States, and down to our own day.

War Among the States and Among All Nations

It starts by prophecying of the Civil War, a war that will be the beginning point for all great wars . We read in D&C 87:

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;
2 And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.Here we see that the Civil War is the beginning of wars to be poured out "on all nations." The Civil War was a great turning point in warfare. With it came modern warfare, which opened the way for wars of mass destruction to be commonplace and widespread. Also, this was the first war where new weapons of destruction were used: repeating rifles, gatling guns, iron ships, etc. All this added up to tens of thousands being killed in a single battle.

3 For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations.Here we see the South, during the Civil War, calling upon other nations for assistance, and "they" or Great Britain and other nations shall "also call upon other nations" for assistance in their defense. Imagine a nation like Great Britain, which at the time ruled the oceans and had a formidable army having to call upon other nations for assistance! And yet it happened in both the First and Second World Wars, which is exactly the time when war was "poured out upon all nations."The Fall of Communism

Now this next portion is very interesting. Many think it refers to the Civil War, but it doesn't. In terms of time, it refers to a time after the wars on all nations:

4 And it shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war.

The only "slaves" in the days since the World Wars, have been those who have suffered under the bonds of Communism and racism. Isn't it interesting to see how quickly the shackles of slavery have fallen off of the slaves of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and among the blacks in South Africa, and to an extent, even in the United States. However, since their "masters" are marshaled and disciplined for war, there are few primary choices, except Communism where this has occurred.The Terrorist Connection

This is to the point where I see we are at in this prophecy. There is more to come, as well:

5 And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation.At one time I thought the remnant refered to is the literal House of Israel, and particularly the Lamanites (Native Americans). It may be that a portion of this part of the prophecy will still be fulfilled by them.Now, however I feel it is the remnant of the slaves in the world that this refers to. Tyrannical dictators of Muslim nations have kept their peoples in poverty and slavery. They have stayed in power by turning the anger of the peoples against the Jews and the West. We are now feeling the pain of the remnant of Arab and Muslim slaves in the world, as they continue attacking and vexing the Gentile nations. Interestingly, the tactics they are using are very similar to the terrorist attacks used by the Gadianton Robbers in the Book of Mormon (Books of Helaman and 3 Nephi), not long prior to the First Coming of Christ in glory to the Nephites, prior to their long period of peace (akin to the Millennial era we pray for today).

Great Destructions to Come

Anyway, to continue with the prophecy:

6 And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations;
7 That the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies.Obviously, when the remnant of the slaves vex the Gentiles, we shall see great destruction and bloodshed begin. So, the times for great destruction may not be too far away.Stand In Holy Places

8 Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen.And the "holy places" mentioned above are Zion and her stakes. People will flock to the "holy places" as places of refuge and safety. Not all will be Latter-day Saints, but all that are willing to keep the 10 Commandments, and perhaps a few other laws of righteousness will be welcome to dwell in safety, while the wicked suffer through the great destructions of the last days prior to the Second Coming of the Lord.Once again, an amazing prophecy of Joseph Smith's come forth as true.


 Vs 14-17, Joseph asked when the Second Coming would be. He was left with no real answer. We do not know exactly when the Coming of Christ in glory will be. Still, members read into writings. Many were looking for the 2nd Coming to occur at Joseph's 85th birthday. It didn't happen. Guess what? We just have to be ready, and we will see the face of Christ at some time, whether in the flesh, after death, or whenever, we do not know. But when it happens, it will be glorious.


Gaining Intelligence

 "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

"And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (vs 18-19)

This connects us with last week's discussion on the "key of knowledge." While we all need time to relax and enjoy some of life, our greater purpose is to learn and grow. Intelligence is described in D&C 88 and 93 as "light and truth." We are to gain in light and truth, going from grace to grace and receiving grace for grace until we gain a fullness. 

In the final judgment, we won't be asked how many degrees we have or how rich we became, but what we did with the opportunities we were given. Did we develop talents and use them for good? Did we take advantage of the opportunities we received, or did we let them pass us by? College degrees are not necessary, but gaining knowledge and intelligence is. With thousands of books in the public library, and billions online, with free college courses and programs, videos on science and other important realms of knowledge, free e-books, classic literature, history videos, online news, etc.

This ties in with our blessing of an earthly Urim and Thummim that we can use NOW to gain in knowledge and intelligence. There is no reason for anyone who has a smart phone or tablet with wifi connection to not have access to an almost inexhaustible resource for learning.

Or we can do cat videos.

D&C 131

 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;

And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];

And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.

He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase. (vs 1-4)

There are members who dissect this section a little differently than most do: does the term "celestial glory" mean the Celestial Kingdom? Or does it mean Heaven in general? The definition changes the meaning of the entire section. 

It becomes an issue on whether there are one or three levels in the Celestial Kingdom. Most members believe there are three. Some are not sure. Instead, they see the three degrees as the Telestial, Terrestrial and Celestial Kingdoms.

Personally, I favor the standard view, but I realize these are theories we have, and until God clearly reveals it to us, we will have to continue them as theories.

And this fits with another theory that we find in these sections: is there advancement between kingdoms? Currently, there are two theories: no advancement between kingdoms, and eventual advancement between kingdoms. It all depends upon how we interpret scripture. We've read that those gaining more intelligence will be more advanced than another in the world to come. We also read that without celestial marriage, one cannot enter into an exalted state - whether a person can later choose eternal marriage or not, is not discussed in these sections, so it leaves us to ponder how it will actually work.

We know that there are things that can limit our progression. We do not know if there is a time limit to obtain knowledge, to be sealed or receive ordinances, to repent, to change, to grow to a higher sphere. As a parent, I would hope I would always leave the door open for one of my children to come home (as we read in the Prodigal Son), but is there an end time to our probationary period? Is there a time when God says, "tough luck. You had your chance and you can't have any more opportunities to return."?

We do not know. It is theory. I personally hope God keeps his door open eternally.






Friday, November 05, 2021

Book Review: The Learning of the Jews

 Book Review: "The Learning of the Jews", What Latter-day Saints Can Learn from Jewish Religious Experience. (edited by Trevan G. Hatch and Leonard J Greenspoon)

“The Learning of the Jews”: What Latter-day Saints Can Learn from Jewish Religious Experience

Scholar Hugh Nibley often bemoaned the attitude of many BYU students, who thought they were members of the Church, had the Restored Gospel in their lives, and therefore didn't really need to learn anything else. Others have felt that they could only study the scriptures and learn what they needed to know and understand regarding the gospel without using other resources. The truth is, however, that if we do not learn from other sources, we end up studying only the things we already know. We need new perspective to continually make our testimonies, knowledge and understanding grow.

In "The Learning of the Jews," we get a series of essays regarding Jewish understanding of scripture and life. This is not the learning of which Nephi warned. Instead, it is a discussion of how Jews have survived and thrived since the destruction of Herod's Temple, and how Latter-day Saints can then take some of those concepts and enhance their own worship and life experience.

The book is divided into 7 major sections. Each section begins with an essay from a Jewish person, sometimes a rabbi or scholar. Then, a response is given from a Latter-day Saint perspective. The main sections with the responses are:

1. Approaching Scripture: Insights from Judaism

2. Neither Prophet nor Priest: Authority and the Emmergence of the Rabbis in Judaism

3. Approaching God: A Jewish Approach to Prayer

4. Women and Judaism in the Contemporary World; Tradition in Tension

5. Faith as Memory: Theologies of the Jewish Holidays

6. Sacrality and Particularity: Jews in Early Modern Context

7. It's Funny, But Is it Jewish? It's Jewish, But is it Funny?

We first learn that Jews and Christians often view scripture in different ways. Many Christians look at the Bible as sola scriptura, a writing so perfect and sacred that it stands alone and apart from all other writing or teaching on earth. For Christians, studying the Bible is often a personal or maybe a family experience done in the home. 

However, for millennia on the Sabbath in rabbinical Judaism, the sacred scroll in the synagogue would be carefully removed from its "ark" or sacred storage place, carried forth among the congregants to the front. There, the Reader would carefully and clearly read the chosen text for the day. This would usually be followed by an explanation, often coming from the writings of the leading rabbinical scholars.It becomes a communal sacred experience.

Reading was different prior to the printing press. We are told that the Christian saint Ambrose was unique, because he could read without moving his lips! Reading was originally meant to be done aloud and in groups, not quietly at fast speeds alone. It brings to point just how we read or study o ur own scriptures (or any other book, for that matter). It causes me to pause and ask, do we takereading, and reading aloud, for granted? How often do we bring our own families or congregations together for a group experience with the sacred? Did we read aloud to our children when they were young? Are we still reading aloud to them now that they are older? What communal experience do we seek to experience?

"Learning of the Jews" emphasizes the concept of knowing the background behind the stories and teachings within sacred writings, whether the Hebrew Bible or commentaries from the rabbis (or in the case of Latter-day Saints, prophets and apostles). For the Jews, it all becomes sacred, because of the effort placed in discovering their relationship with God. 

The Talmud, a set of ancient rabbinical writings, explains the journey of discipleship through a story about two of the earliest rabbis, Rabbi Eliezer (a priest) and Rabbi Joshua (a non-priest). They disagreed regarding a point in scripture regarding the move to a disciple-ship line of authority. R. Eliezer sought to have God prove his point through miracles: miraculous uprooting of a carob tree, reversing the flow of a stream of water, causing the schoolhouse to shake. Each time, R. Joshua refused to accept the miracles as proof, because they were not based on debate and logic. Finally, R Eliezer called upon Heaven itself to verify his authority, and Heaven responded: "What Business have you with R. Eliezer, for the law (of Moses) accords with his position on all accounts."

Still, R. Joshua disagreed, noting that the Torah (scripture) was already given from heaven, and therefore there could be no more response from heaven greater than what was already given. At that point, R. Eliezer laughed and responded that the children (younger generations) had overcome him. 

While Latter-day Saints would at first disagree with R. Joshua's stance, as we focus heavily on continuing revelation, we must recognize that we often stumble along while we wait for revelation to come. Too often, Latter-day Saints use this same focus on debate and interpretation to make sense of spiritual things that are light on actual doctrine. For example, we know that Jesus is the Christ and is our Savior. But, how exactly does the atonement work? There are many theories on how the atonement occurs, and most members have their own personal favorite theory, which they often mistake as doctrine. Another example would be the continual discussion on the location of Book of Mormon events in the Americas: as some groups vehemently defend their theory as doctrine, while condemning all others who disagree.

For the Jewish people, debate is important to understanding what scripture means and what it especially means to the community. As the book notes, the Jews have long experienced tragedies that wiped out other nations and groups. Twice the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed and the Jews carried off. They experienced pogroms (persecution) in Russia, the Inquisition in Spain, and the attempted genocide caused by Hitler. 

Yet, they still are a people. Perhaps it is their intensity in their Jewishness, if not in their faith, which causes them to thrive even in the face of extermination. Definitely, their keen observance of the Sabbath and holy days (Passover, Feast of Tabernacles, etc), and their sharp, but peaceful debates, continue to hold them together, while shaping their faith for the future.

For me, one important concept that is discussed in the book is the focus on "remembering." The Sabbath and holy days, in particular, help them remember important Biblical and sacred events of the past. In the book, we learn that these are not re-enactments, but moments of remembering. In their Passover Seder (dinner), those in attendance do not re-enact the first Passover when the angel of death passed over Moses and Israel, and killed the firstborn of the Egyptians. Instead, they are spiritually transported back to the actual event, where they sit eating their sacred dinner with their ancestors and tell the stories that Moses shared 3500 years ago.

So it is with the Sabbath. As Jews partake of the Sabbath experience in the synagogue and in their evening meal, they again are transported to the foot of Mount Sinai, where they stand with Moses as he receives the Ten Commandments, including the command to "remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy."

In the Latter-day Saint response to these wonderful concepts, the writers discuss how we should have such an experience during the Sacrament (Eucharist or communion). In the prayers for the Latter-day Saint Sacrament, we are told to "always remember him (Jesus)." How often have I partaken of the Sacrament as part of a re-enactment of the Last Supper, when I should have remembered. I should have been transported to the Last Supper, to Gethsemane, and to the Cross, every time I partook of the bread and cup. 

Beyond what the book discusses, Latter-day Saints can also find great value in "remembering" as we attend the temple. Baptisms for the dead are a great place to remember Jesus' baptism, as well as our own. In doing so, we can consider being baptized not only for remission of our sins, but to "fulfill all righteousness," as Jesus proclaimed. Again, in the initiatory, endowment and sealings, we can remember and be transported to the Creation, the Fall, Eden, our fore-ordination, and our future entrance into the kingdom of God.

These are just a few of the great concepts I gained from the "Learning of the Jews." It helped me to review my  own worship style and forms, and consider new ways to kick them up several notches. The next time I reach for my scriptures, whether my physical set or electronic, I will consider just how sacred they are as I hold them in my hands. Perhaps I'll try to read them aloud more often, to hear with my ears the poetry and prose. Perhaps I'll hear the voices of Moses, Isaiah, Nephi and Jesus Christ, as I repeat aloud and remember the words and events.

"The Learning of the Jews" is now available at:

Greg Kofford Books