Monday, December 31, 2007

Movie Ratings

For some time now, I have been concerned about the entertainment we consume. True, there is some that is good and helpful to our spirits. However, there is much that us not good and very detrimental to our souls. I believe the Church has been clear on what we should watch and not watch. The standard that we use to measure whether we watch something or not should be whether or not we can continue to feel the Holy Ghost. If we cannot, then the entertainment is not for us. In my view, this certainly would mean that r-rated films are out of the question. This also means many pg-13 and even pg films should be closely examined.

To that end, I have discovered a website (actually a friend showed it to me) that does content measurements on virtually every film that is being released. It also has older movies as well as an archive. The website is called, Kids-In-Mind. I commend it to anyone who is interested in the content of a movie, regardless of the rating, before they or their family watches it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Elder Ballard urges LDS-based blogs

In a recent address to students at BYU Hawaii, Elder M. Russell Ballard urged students to make a positive difference in the national discussion of our faith. Read this to learn more.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Law of Tithing, the Temple, and Revelation

With the end of the year, and the entire Church participating in tithing settlement, I thought it would be nice to review some of the important blessings of paying a full-tithe. To do so, I am including a few statements by President Harold B. Lee a friend sent to me.

We must teach the law of the fast. No mother who really understands the law of fasting would knowingly want her family deprived of the blessings which come from its observance. It then becomes the responsibility of this organization, the Relief Society teachers, to teach every mother in her home this law of fasting and the paying of fast offerings, for the keeping of which so much is promised in the way of spiritual as well as temporal blessings. (1952)

There are promises of protection in the Word of Wisdom. The Lord’s word of wisdom commanding abstinence from a worldly “king’s portion” of tobacco, tea and coffee, and alcoholic beverages that are habit-forming, and which counsels the simple diet of fruits, grains, and vegetables in season, with meats used sparingly, has been given you as a revelation of God’s great law of health. It stands today as a challenge to a world surfeited with things condemned as unclean and unfit for the human body. If you have faith as the youthful Daniel and his brethren and purpose in your hearts that you will not defile yourselves with “king’s meat and wine,” even though you may be two thousand miles east of the Suez Canal, your faith will have the reward of hidden treasures of knowledge, of strong bodies that can “run and not be weary and walk and not faint.” If by faith in this great law, you refrain from the use of food and drink harmful to your bodies, you will not become a ready prey to scourges that shall sweep the land, as in the days of the people of Moses in Egypt, bringing death to every household that has not heeded the commandments of God. (1945)

Blessings come from paying fast offerings. The Church needs blessings, and the only way we can receive the blessings is by keeping the laws on which those blessings are predicated; and the fundamental law pertaining to the welfare of our people was fast offerings. The reason we want to stress the paying of fast offerings is because we need the blessings that come from paying fast offerings. (1971)

Tithing and fast offerings are the Lord’s financial system. [This is] the monetary system by which the Lord has directed his work to be carried forward: First, by tithing—a principle enunciated in former dispensations as attested by the scriptures and reaffirmed by modern revelation; the promise following obedience to this principle is that the windows of heven would be open and blessings would be poured out that we would hardly be able to contain. The opening of the windows of heaven, of course, means revelation from God to him who is willing this to sacrifice.

Second, by fast offerings—which means going without meals on the first Sunday and consecrating our fast by the contribution to the bishop for the care of the needy. As explained in the days of the prophet Isaiah, the children of Israel were admonished, “Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry,” meaning fasting and then paying fast offerings. If you would do that, he promised, “then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.” (Isaiah 58:7, 9.)

We are saying to the Saints, How important that you keep this fundamental law to fast and to deal out your bread to the hungry through contributions so that when you call, the Lord shall answer; when you shall cry, the Lord will say, “Here I am.” (1971)

The Lord gave us the law of tithing. Here in the 119th section, after [the Saints] had tried and the Lord had found that they were not able to live the more complete law [of consecration], he gave another law that he called the law of tithing, and in it he says this: “Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion. And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people. And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.” (D&C 119:1, 3-4.)

Notice tithing is “one-tenth of all their interest,” and that has always been interpreted to mean income, a tenth of income is a tithe. We are now living that, and in addition to tithing we have the welfare program.

We heard President [J. Reuben] Clark say something that I have thought about as the Brethren have talked today. He said, in effect, “If you think about it clearly, when you think about our storehouses where we are putting in all the surpluses we can, when we are paying a full tithing, when we are giving assistance in the health services, when we are giving assistance in the programs by which we reach out to those who are far afield, teaching them how to take care of themselves, we will not be far from living the united order.” (1973)

Attitude is important in paying tithing. It’s possible for every one of us to learn how to keep the Word of Wisdom perfectly. It’s possible for every one of us to learn how to pay our tithing, perfectly. It was only day before yesterday that I went to the bishop of my own ward on tithing settlement day. He is now retiring from his position as bishop to go out and preside over the Central States Mission. He said, “I want to bear you a testimony that I’ve gained in six years of experience as a bishop. In all of this time I have had hundreds and hundreds of full tithe payers come to report their tithing, and in all that time I have never had one of them approach me, throw down his check or his money, and say, ‘Well, there it is,’ as though it were a terrible task, but they have all come happily because they felt they were doing the will of the Lord.” The one who learns how to pay his tithing perfectly is a happy man. (1954)

Those who observe the principles of fasting and fast offerings qualify for blessings. The turning point in the progress of the welfare program is when our people are faithful in keeping the fundamentals that the Lord laid down. If we can keep the fast, and consecrate our fast by paying the value of the meals from which we abstain, and for those who can pay more to pay more, then we will be assured of His blessings. It isn’t the amount of money, I tell you, that is the important thing; it is the fact that having this complied with the law, we then qualify ourselves and this church as the kingdom of God. We are then qualified to pray to the Lord, to call and He will answer. As Isaiah declared: “Thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am” (Isaiah 58:9). It is this way that the Lord opens the windows of heaven and pours out blessings that we shall hardly be able to receive (see Malachi 3:10). (1968)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Law of Consecration

I gave a talk a few weeks ago in my ward on the Law of Consecration. I have decided to post four images that I created on my laptop, based on four images I found in one of the books I read in preparation for the talk. The images were done by Lyndon Cook in his book, Joseph Smith and the Law of Consecration. It is a hard book to find, and a tad expensive, but a fun and fairly brief book to read. Recently there was an article published in BYU Studies (Volume 46, Number 3, 2007) by Max H. Parkin. Brother Parkin's article deals with many of the same issues, with a focus on the comings and doings of the United Firm.

These four images help to visually see the different stages of the Law of Consecration in Church History.












Thursday, October 25, 2007

Three Most Serious Sins

A friend of mine asked me the other night about the fate of people who commit murder. I figured that I would include the other two serious sins as well. This is taken from my lesson when I teach Alma 39:3-6. If anyone has other statements or scriptures they think would be useful, please send them to me and I will add them.

Denying the Holy Ghost


According to the Lord, individuals committing this sin do five things: (1) They “know my power, and [2] have been made partakers thereof, and [3] suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome and [4] to deny the truth and [5] defy my power” (D&C 76:31).

This leads that man to deny “the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to open shame” (D&C 76:35).

Joseph Smith indicated that such an individual must “have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. . . . He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 358).

“The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 23).

Brigham Young taught this remarkable principle: “How much does it take to prepare a man, or woman, or any being, to become angels to the Devil, to suffer with him to all eternity? Just as much as it does to prepare a man to go into the celestial kingdom, into the presence of the Father and the Son, and to be made an heir to his Kingdom, and all his glory, and be crowned with crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives.” Journal of Discourses 3:93.

For a sin to be unpardonable, it must be of such a nature that the atoning blood of the Savior could not “cover” it, nor could the personal suffering of the sinner pay the price for the broken law. All other sins can be covered by either of these methods and, therefore, are pardonable.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “The unpardonable sin is to shed innocent blood, or be accessory thereto. All other sins will be visited with the judgment in the flesh, and the spirit being delivered to the buffetings of Satan until the day of the Lord Jesus” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 301). In his sermons the Prophet used the term “innocent blood” in relation to both the sin against the Holy Ghost and murder. In relationship with the sin against the Holy Ghost, this apparently refers to those who have so rebelled against the Savior that they seek after the blood of Christ and if possible would shed his blood anew.

Shedding Innocent Blood

Elder McConkie wrote: “We do know that there are murders committed by Gentiles for which they at least can repent, be baptized, and receive a remission of their sins” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 231; see also 3 Nephi 30:12).Elder Spencer W. Kimball wrote: Even among willful murderers there are grades and categories. . . . There are those who kill in drunkenness, in rage, in anger, in jealousy. There are those who kill for gain, for power, for fear. There are those who kill for lust. They certainly will suffer different degrees of punishment hereafter. (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 129-30)

Because of this rebellion, the fulness of the atonement of Jesus Christ is not effective in murderers’ lives. In order for the demands of justice to be met, murderers must pay the price themselves before they can enter into a kingdom of glory. Elder McConkie suggests that it appears that they “shall eventually go to the Telestial Kingdom” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:584).

Joseph Smith further explained David’s situation by stating that his “remains were then in the tomb. Now, we read that many bodies of the Saints arose at Christ’s resurrection, probably all the Saints, but it seems that David did not. Why? Because he had been a murderer. If the ministers of religion had a proper understanding of the doctrine of eternal judgment, they would not be found attending the man who forfeited his life to the injured laws of his country, by shedding innocent blood; for such characters cannot be forgiven, until they have paid the last farthing.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 188-89) However, after paying the last farthing, murderers will reside in the Telestial Kingdom and thus be saved in the kingdom of God. Although the sin of murder is unforgivable as far as the atonement of Christ is concerned, the repentant murderer can still qualify for salvation in the Telestial Kingdom. Thus the sin of murder is different from the sin against the Holy Ghost and sexual sin.

Sexual Sin

President Joseph F. Smith emphasized the significance of this power when he stated:

The man and the woman who engage in this ordinance of matrimony are engaging in something that is of such far-reaching character, and is of such vast importance, that thereby hangs life and death, and eternal increase. Thereupon depends eternal happiness, or eternal misery. For this reason, God has guarded this sacred institution by the most severe penalties, and has declared that whosoever is untrue to the marriage relation, whosoever is guilty of adultery, shall be put to death. This is scriptural law, though it is not practiced today, because modern civilization does not recognize the laws of God in relation to moral status of mankind. The Lord commanded, “Whosoever sheddeth innocent blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Thereby God has given the law. Life is an important thing. No one has any right to take life, unless God commanded it. The law of God as to violation of the marriage covenant is just as strict, and is on a parallel with law against murder notwithstanding the former is not carried out. (Gospel Doctrine, p. 273)

The seriousness of this sin has been repeatedly restated in this dispensation. For example, in 1942 the First Presidency stated: “The doctrine of this Church is that sexual sin—the illicit sexual relations of men and women—stands, in its enormity, next to murder. The Lord has drawn no essential distinctions between fornication, adultery, and harlotry or prostitution. Each has fallen under His solemn and awful condemnation.”

Joseph Smith declared: “If a man commit adultery, he cannot receive the celestial kingdom of God. Even if he is saved in any kingdom, it cannot be the celestial kingdom” (HC 6:81). This troublesome statement has caused some to feel a hopelessness because of their transgressions. However, after making a thorough review of scriptures on repentance revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Spencer W. Kimball observed: “Going back to the Prophet’s original statement, had he inserted in it the three words I believe it implies ‘and remains unrepentant,’ this statement would fit perfectly in the program as given in the numerous scriptures, many of which came through the Prophet himself” (Miracle of Forgiveness 350). In stating this, President Kimball emphasized that he did not intend to minimize “the seriousness of the sexual sins or other transgressions but merely to hold out hope to the transgressor, so that men and women of sin may strive with all their power to overcome their errors, wash themselves ‘in the blood of the Lamb’ and be purged and purified, and thus be able to return to their maker” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 351).

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

War in Heaven

A friend has asked if I have any information on the war in heaven and agency. I happen to know of a wonderful statement Elder McConkie wrote in his work, Millennial Messiah. Check out the page reference at the bottom of the quote. Coincidence? You decide. Regardless, the statement is wonderful and full of doctrinal ideas.

"When the Eternal Father announced his plan of salvation—a plan that called for a mortal probation for all his spirit children; a plan that required a Redeemer to ransom men from the coming fall; a plan that could only operate if mortal men had agency—when the Father announced his plan, when he chose Christ as the Redeemer and rejected Lucifer, then there was war in heaven. That war was a war of words; it was a conflict of ideologies; it was a rebellion against God and his laws. Lucifer sought to dethrone God, to sit himself on the divine throne, and to save all men without reference to their works. He sought to deny men their agency so they could not sin. He offered a mortal life of carnality and sensuality, of evil and crime and murder, following which all men would be saved. His offer was a philosophical impossibility. There must needs be an opposition in all things. Unless there are opposites, there is nothing. There can be no light without darkness, no heat without cold, no virtue without vice, no good without evil, no salvation without damnation.

"And so, in the courts of heaven, the war of wars was waged. Christ and Michael and a mighty host of noble and great spirits preached the gospel of God and exhorted their brethren to follow the Father. Lucifer and his lieutenants preached another gospel, a gospel of fear and hate and lasciviousness and compulsion. They sought salvation without keeping the commandments, without overcoming the world, without choosing between opposites. And they 'prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.' And his legions, the legions of hell, are everywhere. They are 'the third part of the stars of heaven,' the one-third of the spirit children of the Father; and they were cast out of their heavenly home because of rebellion. And so the holy word says: 'Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath.' And he goes forth 'to make war' with all men and particularly with those who 'keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.' (Rev. 12:4-17.) And the war that is now going on among men, the war between good and evil, is but a continuation of the war that began in heaven." (Bruce R. McConkie, Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, p. 666-667.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Office of High Priest

We recently had a training with newly ordained high priests in our stake. The following is some of the material and statements that we used. I hope they are helpful to anyone wanting to learn about this sacred office in the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Victor C. Anderson taught:

“What does it mean to you to be ordained a high priest in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Is it merely an ordination commonly conferred upon the elderly man of the Church or is it an ordinance having a deeper significance?

“When ordained a High Priest the individual receives recognition by the Church that certain fundamental standards have been attained which are requisite for ‘life eternal.’ In order to enjoy celestial living it is necessary that one has ability to live the standards that yield ‘abundant life.’ This plan of living was given to the world by Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago and again reiterated to the world by Joseph Smith in our dispensation. As a man is advanced in the priesthood he should feel that he has greater strength in his ability to live the gospel plan. Ultimately when he is honored by the church with the degree of high priesthood, or High Priest, it is an announcement to the world that he has mastered certain standards of attainment required for leadership in Christ’s Church.

“When a medical school confers an M.D. degree upon a student the university announces to the world that it may expect the man or woman receiving the degree to possess certain skills and information necessary to care for the health of the people. Anyone who desires may acquaint himself with the standards for such a degree. It is because of our confidence that these attainments have been met, that we trust the life of our dear ones when sickness and accident comes to them. Likewise when conferring the degree of High Priest, the Church of Jesus Christ announces to the world that this man who becomes a High Priest in the Kingdom of God has acquired certain fundamental skills that make for ‘life abundant.’” (Melchizedek Priesthood, Improvement Era, 1932, Vol. Xxxv. August, 1932. No. 10.)

This new office in the priesthood has not come because you are better than others. This is not a move to retirement in the priesthood. Indeed, the very fact that you were made a high priest is most likely because your leaders and the Lord have entrusted you with greater responsibilities. It is now you duty to work harder than before. The office of high priest is not the soft cushy job. It is the hard, spiritual labor one undertakes to further discipleship.

Context and Historical Vocabulary

The Prophet explained: “The duty of a High Priest is to administer in spiritual and holy things, and to hold communion with God; but not to exercise monarchial government…it is the High Priests’ duty to be better qualified to teach principles and doctrines…” (History of the Church, 1:338).

To give you an idea of what marvelous blessings are in store, let’s read JST Genesis 14 and learn about the man Melchizedek, who was a high priest.

26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.

27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,

28 It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;

29 And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.

30 For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;

31 To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.

32 And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.


When we are made High Priests we are expected to live a higher more noble law. In JST Hebrews 7:3 we read: “For this Melchizedek was ordained a priest after the order of the Son of God, which order was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. And all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually.”

The Office in the Church

· Restoration of the office of High Priest: Spring 1831

· High Councils: February 17, 1834

· Apostleship: February 14, 1835

· High Priest Quorum: January 15, 1836

· Stake president and high priest quorum president merged in 1956

The highest quorum of the Church is the Quorum of the First Presidency or Presidency of the High Priesthood. The presidency consists of three high priests who are ordained to the office (D&C 107:22). Within this quorum is one who is called as President of the High Priesthood (D&C 107:65). His duty is to preside over the whole Church and he holds and exercises all the keys of the kingdom in their fulness (D&C 132:7).

The authority of the office of Apostle encompasses the office of high priest and all other offices of the priesthood. This means that a man may labor as an ordained Apostle with ever having been specifically ordained a high priest (as in the case of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, Discourses of Brigham Young, 141).

· A ward bishop must also be a high priest.

· He does not preside over the ward by virtue of the office he holds as bishop.

· A bishop presides because he holds the office of high priest and has been given specific keys as the presiding high priest of the ward.

· These keys cannot be given to an elder or to a bishop who has not yet been ordained a high priest.

Ordination Process

· Recommended by the bishop

· Approved by the stake presidency and high council

· Sustained by members in stake conference or general priesthood meeting

· Interviewed by bishop and stake president or an assigned counselor; ordained under the direction of the stake president

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Office of Bishop

The office of Bishop was restored in our dispensation in a brief revelation give to the Prophet Joseph Smith on February 4, 1831. This revelation, known today as D&C 41 has the portion dealing with the call of Edward Partridge in verse 9.

In the beginning of the dispensation, there was only one kind of bishop, today we would call that bishop the Presiding Bishop. The local bishop was not given a ward over which to preside until August 20, 1842 at Nauvoo.

The Handbook of Instructions outlines five areas in which the local bishop has primary responsibilities.

1. President of the Aaronic Priesthood (D&C 107:15 (13-15), 87-88).
2. Presiding High Priest (D&C 68:19; 107:69; 84:29).
  • He is to oversee the teaching of the gospel in the ward
  • Oversee the three missions of the Church in the ward
  • Preside over the ordinances that occur at the ward level
  • Conduct all ward business
3. Common Judge (D&C 107:72-72)
4. Looks after the poor and needy ((D&C 84:112; 107:68)
5. Oversees finances, records, and the use and security of the meetinghouse (Moroni 6:4)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sacrament Prayers Compared

A few years ago I was curious about the subtle differences in the sacrament prayers. This is what I produced to help me study them.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Keys of the Priesthood

What is the priesthood?

“Priesthood is the authority of God delegated to man to minister for the salvation of men. ‘The power of directing these labors constitutes the keys of the Priesthood.’ (Teachings, p. 141.)” (Russell M. Nelson, Keys of the Priesthood, October 2005 Ensign, p. 40.)

What are keys? (Matthew 16:13-19)

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught “the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom.” (Teachings, p. 21.)

“Today, the President of the Church actively holds every key held by ‘all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation.’ (D&C 112:31; see also v. 30.)” (Russell M. Nelson, Keys of the Priesthood, October 2005 Ensign, p. 43.)

What keys were brought back in our dispensation?



















Elias and why he is probably not Noah/Gabriel:
  • Elias is a title
  • There are many Elias’s in the scriptures and they are not the same people
    • Elias
    • John the Baptist
    • Jesus Christ
    • Joseph Smith
  • How could this Elias be seen as a forerunner or preparer for what came next?
    • This man is restoring something that will enable the next key to be functional


Gabriel is the same as Noah according to Joseph Smith and D&C 28:5-7:

“The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Genesis 1:26, 27, 28. He had dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael the Archangel, spoken of in the Scriptures. Then to Noah, who is Gabriel: he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood; he was called of God to this office, and was the father of all living in this day, and to him was given the dominion. These men held keys first on earth, and then in heaven.” Teachings, p. 157

Raphael/Enoch:

“The Bible contains no mention of Raphael; the apocryphal book of Tobias, however, contains this statement: ‘I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord.’ (Tob. 12:15.)

“As to Raphael's mortal identity we can only speculate. We do know the personages however, who restored the keys exercised in the various great dispensations mentioned in the Bible, with the exception of the dispensation of Enoch. An inference thus arises that Raphael may be Enoch or some other great prophet from his dispensation. If this assumption is correct, then the keys restored by Raphael would be those enjoyed by the saints in Enoch's day including, perhaps, the power whereby men may be translated.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 618.)

There is a mention of “divers angels.” Who else might have come?

  • Seth
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Daniel
  • Lehi
  • Nephi
  • Mahonri Moriancumer
  • Possibly many others…
Who holds keys?
  • First Presidency
  • Council of the Twelve Apostles
  • Temple presidents
  • Mission presidents
  • Stake presidents
  • District presidents
  • Bishops
  • Elders Quorum presidents
  • Teachers Quorum presidents
  • Deacons Quorum presidents

What happens if we abuse the Priesthood by which those who hold keys are given? (D&C 121:37)

Why do we follow those who hold keys? (D&C 124:45-46)

Priesthood Keys are the mode by which the Church is driven and directed. Indeed, without keys we would not be saved. (D&C 35:25)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

True Doctrine of Perfection

Today my wife, Talia, and I gave a lesson to the sisters of our Relief Society Enrichment on the True Doctrine of Perfection. As is usual, I am posting the statements I used in my portion of the lesson. I am also including some thoughts on a few of the scriptures I used.

Matthew 5:41:

“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”

JST Matthew 5:41 (43):
“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him a mile...”

The implications of this change are significant. Especially for those who are spiritually and emotionally and mentally, and even physically exhausted from going the second mile, when the Lord would only have you travel one. The Lord is plainly teaching moderation in all things. Ours is a gospel of hope, of reality, of redemption. Christ did not atone for the perfect. He atoned for people like me.


Elder Samuelson has written:
“For over 20 years I was a professor and practitioner of medicine, and I have a concern that I know is shared by other General Authorities. A matter of great concern for some of you is the issue that mental health professionals describe as ‘perfectionism.’ Interestingly, often those who struggle the most with issues of perfectionism are among the most talented people. They have often been excellent students, model children, and outstanding young people. Some, however, become so obsessed or consumed with their every thought, action, and response, that they may become far too extreme in their own perceptions of what is expected of them.... Worthiness and perfection are not synonymous!” (New Era, January 2006)

Elder McConkie taught,
“We don’t need to get a complex or get a feeling that you have to be perfect to be saved. You don’t. There’s only been one perfect person, and that’s the Lord Jesus, but in order to be saved in the Kingdom of God and in order to pass the test of mortality, what you have to do is get on the straight and narrow path—thus charting a course leading to eternal life—and then, being on that path, pass out of this life in full fellowship. I’m not saying that you don’t have to keep the commandments. I’m saying you don’t have to be perfect to be saved. If you did, no one would be saved.

“The way it operates is this: You get on the path that’s named the “straight and narrow.” You do it by entering the gate of repentance and baptism. The straight and narrow path leads from the gate of repentance and baptism, a very great distance, to a reward that’s called eternal life. If you’re on that path and pressing forward, and you die, you’ll never get off the path.

“There is no such thing as falling off the straight and narrow path in the life to come, and the reason is that this life is the time that is given to men to prepare for eternity. Now is the time and the day of your salvation, so if you’re working zealously in this life—though you haven’t fully overcome the world and you haven’t done all you hoped you might do—you’re still going to be saved. You don’t have to do what Jacob said, ‘Go beyond the mark.’ You don’t have to live a life that’s truer than true. You don’t have to have an excessive zeal that becomes fanatical and becomes unbalancing.

“What you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and decent people live in the Church—keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path. If you’re on that path when death comes—because this is the time and the day appointed, this is the probationary estate—you’ll never fall off from it, and, for all practical purposes, your calling and election is made sure.” (From an address by Bruce R. McConkie, The Probationary Test of Mortality, delivered at the University of Utah Jan. 10, 1982)

To truly understand the purpose of life, is to place ourselves in the drama that unfolds in the historical account of Adam and Eve.

  • We were at first in a paradisiacal estate (pre-earth life or even, for some, childhood)
  • We were born into mortality (the Fall)
    • LDS are unique in that we see the Fall of Adam and Even and of you and me necessary and part of the plan of perfection
  • We are baptized and receive ordinances (Redemption)
  • As Nephi said, do not suppose all is done. We must press forward, constantly relying on the merits and mercy of Christ.


Indeed, as C.S. Lewis wrote,
“Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms” (Mere Christianity, 56.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Office of High Priest

I will be adding another post soon about the office of High Priest. I am going to be teaching a class to all the high priests in my stake who have been ordained to such in the last year. It should be interesting (to me).

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Aaronic Priesthood Lessons

So, I have been feeling that it is time for me to pick up the torch and begin adding entries to the blog. However, I have struggled as to what I might include. To be honest, the things that I would really like to blog would simply not be appropriate to share. The thoughts that take up most of my time are related to my calling at Church (I am serving as a bishop). I don't think I should be sharing my thoughts and feelings, when they should clearly stay between myself and the Lord.

That being said, I have found something that I could begin to include. This year, for our Aaronic Priesthood lessons, I have decided to make a change. Before I share the change, let me explain the thought process that helped me arrive to the decision I made.

While teaching Doctrine and Covenants and Book of Mormon classes at BYU, as well as in conversations with ward members and others, I have realized that priesthood understanding, both with men and women in the Church, is at best jaundiced. I believe the reason is that many times we simply do not have the time to invest in learning priesthood principles. In other words, a price needs to be paid, but few are willing to ante up the resources.

I also remember that in the mission field (I served in the Brasil Sao Paulo Interlagos Mission (1995-1997)) there was a need for missionaries to know and understand priesthood principles, but few had a sound grasp of them.

It is my hope that the young men in my ward will be of some use to future priesthood leaders. In order for them to be seen as a resource, I recognize that I will need to ensure that they are prepared.

So, on each Fast Sunday in our ward, during the third hour, members of the bishopric teach the lesson a priesthood principles I have carefully selected. Below are the topics and the schedule:

January: Joseph Smith and the First Vision

February: Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

March: Quorums of the Aaronic Priesthood

April: The Office of Bishop

May: Aaronic Priesthood Mission Statement

June: Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood, its Quorums, and D&C 121

July: Priesthood and Church Government

August: Priesthood Keys

September: Priesthood Ordinances (the “why” and the “how-to”)

October: The First Presidency & the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

November: Missionary Work: Organization and the Priesthood in the Mission Field

December: Why the Priesthood? & Oath and Covenant: A Summary and Recap of the Year

I am also preparing a book based on the above topics. I will post, from time to time, portions of my lessons that I think may be of interest to the readers of this blog. I am also interested in feedback. I hope you enjoy.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Update and Other Things

Greetings class members. As you may have noticed, I have not posted to the blog in a few weeks. There will be no class during the summer months, and so I have not been posting the statements used in a non-existent class. Because you may be wanting something to read during the day--or night--I have been trying to decide what I might continue to post. Well. I have decided.

Some of you may have noticed that I keep the books I am reading, have read, or am about to read, updated with some frequency. For those of you who have been to my home, you know that I love books. To pass the summer away, I will be reading as many books as I can get through. I will also be posting short book reviews of each book read.

If there is a particular book you would like me to review, or you are simply curious to know my thoughts on a book, please send me an email. I will try to be as accommodating as possible. Also, you may have noticed that I have linked my book collection to the blog. Check it
out if you are curious.

I have received a few requests to continue to blog and use my experiences as bishop for material. After very little thought, I do not feel that would be an appropriate thing for me to do. True it is that I am keeping a journal of my ecclesiastical experiences, however, it would be far too inappropriate for me to share those experiences to an audience that I do not know. I hope you will understand.

As for what book I will review first, I do not know. I am in the middle of several books (yeah, I am one of those readers). If you have a request, let me know. We will begin class again the Thursday after Labor Day weekend in September. We will pick up where we left off: Doctrine and Covenants 77 and go to the end of the sacred volume of scripture.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

D&C 76 – The Vision

Background and History to the Revelation

The following was recorded by Philo Dibble, who was present at the time the revelation was received.

The vision which is recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants was given at the house of “Father Johnson,” in Hyrum [sic], Ohio, and during the time that Joseph and Sidney were in the spirit and saw the heavens open, there were other men in the room, perhaps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the time—probably two-thirds of the time,—I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision.

The events and conversation, while they were seeing what is written (and many things were seen and related that are not written,) I will relate as minutely as is necessary.

Joseph would, at intervals, say: “What do I see?” as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not see. Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was looking at. Then Sidney replied, “I see the same.” Presently Sidney would say “what do I see?” and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing, and Joseph would reply, “I see the same.”

This manner of conversation was repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision.

Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, “Sidney is not used to it as I am.” (Juvenile Instructor, vol. 27, 15 May 1892, pp. 303-4.)

Not all the Saints immediately accepted the revelation. The following is Brigham’s experience:

After all, my traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was so directly contrary and opposed to my former education, I said, wait a little; I did not reject it, but I could not understand it. I then could feel what incorrect traditions had done for me. Suppose all that I have ever heard from my priest and parents—the way they taught me to read the Bible, had been true;—my understanding would be diametrically opposed to the doctrine revealed in the Vision. I used to think and pray, to read and think, until I knew, and fully understood it for myself, by the visions of the holy Spirit. At first, it actually came in contact with my own feelings, though I never could believe like the mass of the Christian world around me; but I did not know how nigh I believed as they did. I found, however, that I was so nigh, I could shake hands with them any time I wished. (Deseret News—Extra (Salt Lake City), 14 Sept. 1852, p. 52, as quoted in Robert J. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants,” unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1974, p. 929.)

An Overview

The revelation contained in D&C 76 is a series of visions on the following topics:

1. The Son of God (vv. 1-24)

2. Satan and His Followers (vv. 25-49)

3. The Celestial Kingdom (vv. 50-70, 92-96)

4. The Terrestrial Kingdom (vv. 71-80, 91, 97)

5. The Telestial Kingdom (vv. 81-90, 98-112)

Verse 21 in Joseph’s poetic version of the Vision:

I beheld round the throne, holy angels and hosts,
And sanctified beings from worlds that have been,
In holiness worshipping God and the Lamb,
Forever and ever, amen and amen! (Times and Seasons, 4:82)

Verse 23 in Joseph’s poetic version of the Vision:

By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that career in the heavens so broad,
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons,
By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs. (Times and Seasons, 4:83)

The Vision of Satan and His Followers (vv. 25-49)

Making One’s “Calling and Damnation Sure”

v. 31, 35, 43 gives us the qualifications for making one’s “calling and damnation sure.”

  • know God’s power (v. 31)
  • have been mace partakers thereof (v. 31)
  • have suffered themselves to be overcome (v. 31)
  • deny the truth (v. 31)
  • defy God’s power (v. 31)
  • deny the Holy Spirit after having received it (v. 35)
  • deny the Only Begotten Son (crucify him unto themselves) (v. 35)
  • deny the Son after the Father has revealed him (v. 43)

The question is often asked, “Just how much does one have to know before one could become a son of perdition?” The following quotations from Joseph Smith and Spencer W. Kimball may help:

Joseph Smith taught, “All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“When a man begins to be an enemy to this work, he hunts me, he seeks to kill me, and never ceases to thirst for my blood. He gets the spirit of the devil—the same spirit that they had who crucified the Lord of Life—the same spirit that sins against the Holy Ghost. You cannot save such persons; you cannot bring them to repentance; they make open war, like the devil, and awful is the consequence.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 358.)

President Kimball taught: “The sins unto death may be thought of as somewhat difficult to define and limit with precision. From the words of Joseph Smith quoted above we note that ‘. . . many apostates of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ will fall into this category. We cannot definitely identify them individually since it is impossible for us to know the extent of their knowledge, the depth of their enlightenment, and the sureness of their testimonies before their fall. . . .

“The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin. Comparatively few Church members will commit murder wherein they shed innocent blood, and we hope only few will deny the Holy Ghost.” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), pp. 122-23.)

How easy is to commit this sin? Not very. Brigham Young taught: “How much does it take to prepare a man, or woman, or any being, to become angels to the Devil, to suffer with him to all eternity? Just as much as it does to prepare a man to go into the celestial kingdom, into the presence of the Father and the Son, and to be made an heir to his Kingdom, and all his glory, and be crowned with crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives.” (JD 3:93)

Celestial Kingdom (v. 50-70, 92-96)

We know in the Celestial Kingdom there are three degrees. This appears to be referring to the highest degree with that Kingdom.

Requirements of the Celestial Kingdom:

  • Receive the testimony of Jesus (v. 51)
  • Believe on His name (we might say faith) (v. 51)
  • Baptized (v. 51)
  • Keep the commandments (v. 52)
  • Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost (v. 52)
  • Overcome by faith (v. 53)
  • Sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (v. 53)

Nothing specific is said in this revelation about the necessity of eternal marriage in order to achieve exaltation in the celestial kingdom. That requirement is made clear in D&C 131:1-4 and D&C 132:15-25. Also, we learn from D&C 84:33-44 that faithfulness to the oath and covenant of the priesthood is a requirement. This is an excellent example of why we do not isolate verses and base the gospel on that isolation. When we read the scriptures, we must be inclusive with the doctrines and not exclusive.

D&C 76:54: Church of the Firstborn

“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who so devote themselves to righteousness that they receive the higher ordinances of exaltation become members of the Church of the Firstborn. Baptism is the gate to the Church itself, but celestial marriage is the gate to membership in the Church of the Firstborn, the inner circle of faithful saints who are heirs of exaltation and the fulness of the Father’s kingdom. (D & C 76:54, 67, 71, 94, 102; 77:11; 78:21; 88:1-5; Heb. 12:23.) The Church of the Firstborn is made up of the sons of God, those who have been adopted into the family of the Lord, those who are destined to be joint-heirs with Christ in receiving all that the Father hath.” (Mormon Doctrine, 139.)

Joseph Fielding Smith has said: “To be ‘made equal in power, and in might, and in dominion,’ does not mean that all shall advance with equal rapidity and perfection, but that means are given to them as sons of God by which they may obtain this fulness.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:58)

Joseph Smith taught: “When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 348)

Terrestrial Kingdom (71-80, 91, 97)

Requirements for the Terrestrial Kingdom

  • Died without the law (v. 72)
  • Visited by the Son in the Spirit World, received not the Gospel in the flesh but did in the Spirit World (v. 73-4) “they felt it by the Spirit” (See D&C 137)
  • Honorable men of the earth (v. 75)
  • They receive His glory, but not the fullness of His Glory (v. 76)
  • Not valiant in the testimony of Jesus (v. 79)

The doctrine in D&C 137:

In these verses the principles upon which the doctrine of salvation for the dead rests are announced for the first time in this dispensation. They are:

1. first, that the doctrine applies only to those who “died without a knowledge” of the gospel;

2. second, that God must read the hearts of those concerned and affirm that had the gospel come to them in mortality they would have accepted it;

3. and third, that God must judge that not only would they have accepted the gospel but that they would have done so “with all their hearts,” meaning that they would have endured valiantly and faithfully to the end.

Telestial Kingdom (v. 81-90, 98-112)

Requirements for the Telestial Kingdom

  • they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus (v. 82)
  • they who deny not the Holy Spirit (v. 83)
  • they who say they are some of one, and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses—but received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant (vv. 99-101)
  • they who are liars and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie (v. 103; Rev. 22:15 adds murderers)

The Great Invitation (D&C 76:114-118)

Here is what Joseph Smith said: “I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 305).

On another occasion he said: “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 149).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

D&C 68: 15-18 - The Aaronic Order

Explaining these verses, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “There are some men in the Church who have been blessed by patriarchs and pronounced descendants of Levi, but they have not made any claim to the office of bishop, for the revelation governing this situation says literal descendant of Aaron, not of Levi. There is evidently a great host of men who are descendants of Levi but not of Aaron.

“The person spoken of in the revelations as having the right by lineage to the bishopric is the one who is the firstborn. By virtue of his birth he is entitled to hold ‘the keys or authority of the same.’ This has reference only to the one who presides over the Aaronic Priesthood. It has no reference whatever to bishops of wards. Further, such a one must be designated by the First Presidency of the Church and receive his anointing and ordination under their hands. The revelation comes from the Presidency, not from the patriarch, to establish a claim to the right to preside in this office. In the absence of knowledge concerning such a descendant, any high priest, chosen by the Presidency, may hold the office of Presiding Bishop and serve with counselors” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:92-93).

D&C 68: Scripture, Doctrine, Canon, and Truth

Scripture:

- As defined in D&C 68:4-5, scripture is the:

  • Mind
  • Will
  • Word
  • and voice of the Lord

Canon:

  • from Latin, ruler, rule, model, standard, measuring rod
  • an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture
  • an accepted principle or rule; a criterion or standard of judgment
  • Binding on members of the Church (What we might say)
  • A cursory overview of Latter-day Saint canon:

1835

Book of Mormon

Doctrine & Covenants

Bible

1880

Pearl of Great Price canonized

Twenty five additional sections in the Doctrine & Covenants

The business of canonizing the new scriptures at this General Conference was conducted as follows:

President George Q. Cannon said: I hold in my hand the Book of Doctrine and Covenants and also the book The Pearl of Great Price, which books contain revelations of God. In Kirtland, the Doctrine and Covenants in its original form, as first printed, was submitted to the officers of the Church and the members of the Church to vote upon. As there have been additions made to it by the publishing of revelations which were not contained in the original edition, it has been deemed wise to submit these books with their contents to the Conference, to see whether the Conference will vote to accept the books and their contents as from God, and binding upon us as a people and as a Church.

President Joseph F. Smith said, I move that we receive and accept the revelations contained in these books as revelations from God to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to all the world. The motion was seconded and sustained by unanimous vote of the whole Conference. (Journal History, 10 October 1880, Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City.)

1921

New footnotes, the Lectures on Faith are removed

1976

Section 137, Section 138 (included in the Pearl of Great Price)

1981

137 & 138 moved to Doctrine & Covenants

Doctrine:

  • Latin doctrina, from doctor
  • Teaching
  • something that is taught
  • a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief
  • Current Church emphasis

Truth:

  • Etymology: Middle English trewthe, from Old English trEowth fidelity; akin to Old English trEowe faithful
  • Statement of fact
  • Is truth absolute? Elder Maxwell’s circles: Eternal Truth, Scientific Truth, Facts
  • What are some examples of truths, yet not gospel truths?

Perhaps these diagrams will help illustrate the principle:










“Letters to individuals are not the channel for announcing the policy of the Church.” (Boyd K. Packer, The Law and the Light, p. 13.)

D&C 107:27, 29: “And every decision made by… [the First Presidency] must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member… must be agreed to its decisions…. Unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently, who were ordained after the order of Melchizedek, and were righteous and holy men.”

President James E. Faust taught: “Who is to declare the doctrine? It is well established by revelation and practice that the current President of the Church and his counselors have the keys to declare the doctrine. The investiture of this authority comes from revelation. The First Presidency are constituted “a quorum … to receive the oracles for the whole church” (D&C 124:126). Of this authority, Elder Stephen L Richards (1879–1959), then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated:

“They [the Presidency] are the supreme court here on earth in the interpretation of God’s law.

“In the exercise of their functions and delegated powers they are controlled by a constitution, a part of which is written and a part of which is not. The written part consists in authenticated scripture, ancient and modern, and in the recorded utterances of our latter-day prophets. The unwritten part is the spirit of revelation and divine inspiration which are [pertinent] to their calling.

“In formulating their interpretations and decisions they always confer with the Council of the Twelve Apostles who by revelation are appointed to assist and act with them in the government of the Church. When, therefore, a judgment is reached and proclaimed by these officers it becomes binding upon all members of the Church, individual views to the contrary notwithstanding. God’s Kingdom is a kingdom of law and order.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1938, 115–16.) (First Presidency Message, July 2000 Ensign)

“The scriptures are important as standards by which to measure all truth. Those ideas in harmony with the scriptures are true; those out of harmony are false.” (Gospel Principles)

Harold B. Lee: “I say that we need to teach our people to find their answers in the scriptures. If only each of us would be wise enough to say that we aren’t able to answer any question unless we can find a doctrinal answer in the scriptures! And if we hear someone teaching something that is contrary to what is in the scriptures, each of us may know whether the things spoken are false—it is as simple as that. But the unfortunate thing is that so many of us are not reading the scriptures. We do not know what is in them, and therefore we speculate about the things that we ought to have found in the scriptures themselves. I think that therein is one of our biggest dangers of today.” (First Presidency Message, December 1972 Ensign)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

D&C 58, 59, 60-66 - Zion and the Sabbath

D&C 58:2-5:

How Firm a Foundation

These next few verses remind me of those words:

1. How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
Who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

2. In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

3. Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

4. When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

5. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

6. E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sov’reign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still, like lambs shall they still,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

7. The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

D&C 61:19:

It is not clear if this destroyer is an angel of God or a devil. On other occasions when the destroyer is mentioned in scripture, he is a servant of God. The following examples come from Revelations of the Restoration, by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler.

  • For example, at the time of the first Passover in ancient Egypt, death was sent to all households that did not have the blood of a lamb upon their doorposts. But faithful Israelites were protected; the Lord promised them that he would “not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” (Exodus 12:23).
  • In our dispensation, when the Saints were being driven from Zion, the Lord declared, “Behold, the destroyer I have sent forth to destroy and lay waste mine enemies; and not many years hence they shall not be left to pollute mine heritage, and to blaspheme my name upon the lands which I have consecrated for the gathering together of my saints” (D&C 105:15).
  • In a similar vein, “angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to” destroy the wicked (D&C 86:5).
  • Likewise, the revelation given to John the Beloved, referred to in this section, mentions several angels who send plagues and calamities upon the earth (Revelation 8-10, 15-18).
  • Given that the destroyer rides upon the waters by the Lord’s decree, it seems likely that the being seen in vision by William W. Phelps was a servant of God.

On the other hand, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote concerning this decree,

  • “These brethren, while encamped at McIlwaine’s Bend on the Missouri, beheld the power of the destroyer as he rode upon the storm. One of that number saw him in all his fearful majesty, and the Lord revealed to the entire group something of the power of this evil personage. It may seem strange to us, but it is the fact that Satan exercises dominion and has some control over the elements. . . . Paul speaks of Satan as the ‘prince of the power of the air.’ (Eph. 2:2.) The Lord revealed to these brethren some of the power of the adversary of mankind and how he rides upon the storm, as a means of affording them protection. They were commanded to use judgment as they traveled upon these waters, and the saints coming to Zion were instructed to travel by land on their way up to Zion. Moreover, notwithstanding the great power of Satan upon the waters, the Lord still held command and he could protect his people whether on land or by water as they journeyed” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:224-25).

D&C 62:3:

President Joseph F. Smith taught: “A testimony of the truth is more than a mere assent of the mind, it is a conviction of the heart, a knowledge that fills the whole soul of its recipient.” (Gospel Doctrine, 364)

D&C 50 - The Lord's Philosophy of Education

Verse 37:

Joseph Smith taught, "Faith comes by hearing the word of God." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 148.)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

D&C 46 - Gifts of the Spirit

Orson Pratt taught: “Spiritual gifts are distributed among the members of the Church, according to their faithfulness, circumstances, natural abilities, duties, and callings; that the whole may be properly instructed, confirmed, perfected, and saved” (Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt, comp. N. B. Lundwall [1953], 571).

The following five reasons for the Lord giving the Latter-day Saints various Gifts of the Spirit come from a wonderful book, Receiving Gifts of the Spirit, by Matthew B. Brown. I highly recommend this book for further reading on this most important doctrine. Click here and here for a link to purchase or read more about it.

  1. Strength

“Brethren and sisters, let us try to live our religion and sanctify ourselves before the Lord. Seek for the Holy Spirit; pray for it; and labor for visions, for dreams, for revelations and for the gifts of the Gospel of Christ, that they may strengthen us in the good work.” (Wilford Woodruff, Collected Discourses, 1:265)

  1. Guidance

“If we will live worthy, then the Lord will guide us—by a personal appearance, or by His actual voice, or by His voice coming into our mind, or by impressions upon our heart and our soul. And oh, how grateful we ought to be if the Lord sends us a dream in which are revealed to us the beauties of the eternity or a warning and direction for our special comfort. Yes, if we so live, the Lord will guide us for our salvation and for our benefit.” (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 247)

  1. Protection

“If we do not receive gifts and guidance and doctrine and commandments from on high, we shall of necessity receive them from some other source. Others have guidance to offer, doctrine to teach, and commandments to give.” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 369

“If we are indifferent to spiritual gifts, somehow there is a vacuum left which evil spirits are all too eager to fill” (Boyd K. Packer, General Authority Training, 1983, transcript in my possession)

  1. Improvement

“If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. Have I imperfections? I am full of them. What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections. . . . They are intended for this purpose. No man ought to say, “Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.” He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things and to give gifts that will eradicate them.” (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, 1:155.

  1. Preparation

“…visions, dreams, revelations and prophesyings enlarged their minds, and prepared them for the society of the blessed.” (Oliver Cowdery, Messenger & Advocate, 2:20)

“There is a characteristic about the faith of the Latter-day Saints in which they perhaps differ from most of the professed followers of Jesus Christ—they do not believe that God expects or desires them to put off acquiring these perfections, powers, gifts and graces which belong to the heavenly world until they reach that world; but they believe that God has placed them here in a state of probation and that He has hid himself only to a certain extent from them.… Hence, the Latter-day Saints believe in doing everything here that will help to prepare them for life eternal in His presence. They look upon this world as a place where they should attend to these things. By baptism? Yes. By having hands laid upon them? Yes. Have the gifts of the Holy Ghost? Certainly, have them here as well has hereafter; have them here to a partial extent to prepare them for the life that is to come.” (George Q. Cannon, JD 17:230)

Can you only have one gift of the Spirit?

“More than one gift may be received by any person who diligently seeks for these things.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, p. 184)

“One person may receive several of them” (Charles Penrose, Contributer, 2:3:7)

How many of you are seeking for these gifts that God has promised to bestow? How many of you, when you bow before your Heavenly Father in your family circle or in your secret places, contend for these gifts to be bestowed upon you? How many of you ask the Father in the name of Jesus to manifest Himself to you through these powers and these gifts? Or do you go along day by day like a door turning on its hinges, without having any feeling upon the subject, without exercising any faith whatever, content to be baptized and be members of the Church and to rest there, thinking that your salvation is secure because you have done this? I say to you, in the name of the Lord, as one of His servants, that you have need to repent of this. You have need to repent of your hardness of heart, of your indifference and of your carelessness. There is not that diligence, there is not that faith, there is not that seeking for the power of God that there should be among a people who have received the precious promises we have.” (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, 154-55.)

D&C 43, 44, 49, 52 - Discerning Spirits

Ezra Taft Benson wrote, “With the abundance of books available today, it is a mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read. Of the making of books there is no end. In our reading, we would do well to follow the counsel of John Wesley’s mother: ‘Avoid whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, … increases the authority of the body over the mind.’ The fact that a book or publication is popular does not necessarily make it of value. The fact that an author wrote one good work does not necessarily mean that all his books are worthy of our reading. Many novels and modern publications are corrupters of morals or distorters of truth.” (September 1988 Ensign)

D&C 52 Historical Heading

John Whitmer also notes that Joseph Smith said “that the man of sin would be revealed” at this conference. “While the Lord poured out His Spirit upon His servants,” he noted, “the devil took a notion to make known his power. He bound Harvey Whitlock and John Murdock so that they could not speak, and others were affected but the Lord showed to Joseph, the seer the design of the thing; he commanded the devil in the name of Christ, and he departed, to our joy and comfort” (History of the Church, 1:175).

“In this conference much instruction was given by President Smith, who spake in great power, as he was moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” recalled Parley P. Pratt, “and the spirit of power and of testimony rested down upon the Elders in a marvelous manner. Here also were some strange manifestations of false spirits which were immediately rebuked” (Autobiography, 68).

The Lord gives us a pattern to help us avoid being deceived.