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.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

D&C 45 - Signs of the Times

Verse 11-12: City of Zion

“After the Lord’s people were translated—for it was people who were caught up into heaven, not brick and mortar and stone, for there are better homes already in heaven than men can build on earth—after these righteous saints went to dwell beyond the veil, others, being converted and desiring righteousness, looked for a city which hath foundation, whose builder and maker is God, and they too ‘were caught up by the powers of heaven into Zion’ (Moses 7:27).” (Bruce R. McConkie, Come Let Israel Zion, Ensign, May 1977.)

Verse 39: Destruction Preceding the Second Coming

“I will prophesy that the signs of the coming of the Son of Man are already commenced. One pestilence will desolate after another. We shall soon have war and bloodshed. The moon will be turned into blood. I testify of these things, and that the coming of the Son of Man is nigh, even at your doors. If our souls and our bodies are not looking forth for the coming of the Son of Man; and after we are dead, if we are not looking forth, we shall be among those who are calling for the rocks to fall upon them” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 160).

JS-M 1:36: Sign of the Son of Man

At the April 1843 conference of the Church the Prophet Joseph Smith testified: “There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 286-87).

JS-M 1:37: How to not be deceived in the last days

“There are among us many loose writings predicting the calamities which are about to overtake us,” counseled President Harold B. Lee. “Some of these have been publicized as though they were necessary to wake up the world to the horrors about to overtake us. Many of these are from sources upon which there cannot be unquestioned reliance.

“Are you priesthood bearers aware of the fact that we need no such publications to be forewarned, if we were only conversant with what the scriptures have already spoken to us in plainness?

“Let me give you the sure word of prophecy on which you should rely for your guide instead of these strange sources which may have great political implications.

“Read the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew—particularly that inspired version as contained in the Pearl of Great Price (Joseph Smith-Matthew).

“Then read the forty-fifth section of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord, not man, has documented the signs of the times.

“Now turn to section 101 and section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants and hear the step-by-step recounting of events leading up to the coming of the Savior.

“Finally, turn to the promises the Lord makes to those who keep the commandments when these judgments descend upon the wicked, as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 38.

“Brethren, these are some of the writings with which you should concern yourselves, rather than commentaries that may come from those whose information may not be the most reliable and whose motives may be subject to question. And may I say, parenthetically, most of such writers are not handicapped by having any authentic information on their writings” (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 399).

Elder M. Russell Ballard said: “You may not be aware of it, but there are “false prophets” rising within and without the Church. They believe they have had revelations, that they know something the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles don’t know. You need to be very careful of such people. If you are ever approached by anyone who claims special authority or revelation from God outside the sustained priesthood authority, turn and run from them as fast as you can. The Savior said that in the last days even the very elect could be pulled away from the truth by such false prophets.

“So can we use this scientific data to extrapolate that the Second Coming is likely to occur during the next few years, or the next decade, or the next century? Not really. I am called as one of the apostles to be a special witness of Christ in these exciting, trying times, and I do not know when He is going to come again. As far as I know, none of my brethren in the Council of the Twelve or even in the First Presidency know. And I would humbly suggest to you, my young brothers and sisters, that if we do not know, then nobody knows, no matter how compelling their arguments or how reasonable their calculations.” (When Shall These Things Be?, 12 March 1996.)

D&C 42 - The Law

Verse 14: Teach by the Spirit

Brigham Young taught: “You have frequently heard me say that I would rather hear an Elder, either here or in the world, speak only five words accompanied by the power of God, and they would do more good than to hear long sermons without the Spirit. That is true, and we know it” (Journal of Discourses, 5:327).

Further, he explained, “When a man rises up to speak in the name of the Lord, and is filled with the light, and the intelligence and power which cometh from God, his countenance alone will convey more, to those who are inspired by the same spirit, than can possibly be conveyed, by the words of any language now used by mankind” (Journal of Discourses, 10:353).

Verse 26: Why is the Lord so hard on those who commit adultery?

This verse has caused some concern in connection with Joseph Smith’s instructions, given 25 November 1843, on the occasion of a Brother Harrison Sagers’s disciplinary court before the high council of Nauvoo. Charged with seduction, he said Joseph Smith had approved his course. The Prophet said: “I was present with several of the Twelve, and gave an address tending to do away with every evil, and exhorting them to practice virtue and holiness before the Lord; told them that the Church had not received any permission from me to commit fornication, adultery, or any corrupt action; but my every word and action has been to the contrary. 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. I did think that the many examples that have been made manifest, such as John C. Bennett’s and others, were sufficient to show the fallacy of such a course of conduct” (History of the Church, 6:81).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “The Prophet Joseph Smith in these words is addressing himself to those, and those only, whose calling and election has been made sure. The words do not refer to any others, either in or out of the Church. Having received the added light and knowledge that come in being sealed up unto eternal life, those whose calling and election has been made sure are subject to greater penalties if they transgress. Adulterers, as many scriptures attest and as the practice of the Church confirms, can repent and gain full salvation” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 231).

Verse 43-52: Understanding Priesthood Blessings

On this verse, Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “To some members of the Church the saying that those who die in the Lord shall not taste of death has been a hard saying. They have seen good faithful men and women suffer days and at times for months before they were taken. But here the Lord does not say they shall not suffer pain of body, but that they shall be free from the anguish and torment of soul which will be partaken of by the wicked, and although they may suffer in body, yet death to them will be sweet in that they will realize that they are worthy before the Lord. The Savior said to Martha: ‘And whosoever liveth and believe in me shall never die.’ That is to say, they shall never die the second death and feel the torment of the wicked when they come face to face with eternity” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:186).

With reference to this phrase, Spencer W. Kimball added: “I think that means they are not going into the other world feeling resentment and reticence. After they get past a certain point they go with happiness, peace and contentment” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 38).

Brigham Young said, “When I lay hands on the sick, I expect the healing power and influence of God to pass through me to the patient, and the disease to give way…. when we are holy vessels before the Lord, a stream of power from the Almighty can pass through the tabernacle of the administrator to the system of the patient, and the sick are made whole.” (JD 14:72.)

Joseph Smith “rebuked the Elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the power to heal them. Said he: ‘It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power.’” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 254.)

Spencer W. Kimball wrote: “The need of faith is often underestimated. The ill one and the family often seem to depend wholly on the power of the priesthood and the gift of healing that they hope the administering brethren may have, whereas the greater responsibility is with him who is blessed. There are persons who seem to have the gift to heal as indicated in Doctrine and Covenants, section 47, and it is understandable why a sick one might desire the person of his choice who seems to have great faith, proven power, and in whom the recipient has confidence, but after all, the major element is the faith of the individual when that person is conscious and accountable. ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole’ was repeated so often by the Master that it almost became a chorus. Though he was the Redeemer and ‘all power is given me in heaven and in earth,’ yet his oft-repeated statement was, Thy faith hath made thee whole.’ ‘As with your faith, so shall it be unto you.

“Because individuals have preferences, it is sometimes found that certain officials are besieged constantly to give blessings. When one is ill and weak and terrified, it is natural to want elders in whom he has much confidence because of their righteous living and their proven faith and devotion. It should be remembered, however, that not only the General Authorities or the stake or ward or mission authorities have the priesthood with power to heal. Numerous brethren throughout the Church, including home teachers, have the authority to bless, and their administration or blessing, combined with great faith from the blessed one, can bring about spectacular healings as evidenced by the numerous wonderful healings brought about through the ministrations of young, inexperienced missionaries.

“The question is often asked by wondering or skeptical people: Why are there not the spiritual manifestations today, including healings, as in the days of the Prophet and the days of the Savior?

“The answer is clear: There are infinitely more healings today than in any age and just as wondrous. The religious history of the Savior’s ministry and the period following is written in a few short chapters, and as John said, ‘And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written’ (John 21:25).

“As the years of history were condensed, it would be expected that only the most spectacular of the healings would be chronicled, giving the impression that all miracles were spectacular ones and all who asked were healed. Little mention is made of the possible numerous times in Christ’s and the Apostles’ times when the blessings were not so outstanding, when a headache was stopped, when a recovery was greatly speeded up, or when agonies were relieved. Today the libraries would bulge their walls if all the miracles of our own time were recorded.” (For more of this excellent article on adminstration to the sick, written by a sitting President of the Church (Spencer W. Kimball), click here.)

Verse 48: Death

At the funeral of Richard L. Evans, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Joseph Fielding Smith, then president of the Church, said, “No righteous man is taken before his time” (unpublished funeral address, text in my possession).

Friday, March 16, 2007

D&C 38 - God's Knowledge

Verse 2: God is all knowing

“By a little reflection it will be seen that the idea of the existence of these attributes in the Deity is necessary to enable any rational being to exercise faith in him. For without the idea of the existence of these attributes in the Deity, men could not exercise faith in him for life and salvation; seeing that without the knowledge of all things, God would not be able to save any portion of his creatures; for it is by reason of the knowledge which he has of all things, from the beginning to the end, that enables him to give that understanding to his creatures, by which they are made partakers of eternal life; and if it were not for the idea existing in the minds of men that God had all knowledge, it would be impossible for them to exercise faith in him.” (Lectures on Faith, 4:11.)

D&C 29 - The Last Days, Animals, and Agency

Verse 21: Is the destruction a bit harsh?

President Woodruff commented: “No man can contemplate the truth concerning the nations of the earth without sorrow, when he sees the wailing, the mourning, and death, that will come in consequence of judgments, plagues, and war. It has already begun, and it will continue to multiply and increase until the scene is ended, and wound up. Do I delight in the destruction of the children of men? No. Does the Lord? No. He gives them timely warning, and if they do not listen to His counsel, they must suffer the consequences” (Journal of Discourses, 2:201).

Verse 23: A New Heaven and a New Earth

A New Heaven: “This earth will be rolled back into the presence of God,” declared the Prophet Joseph Smith, “and crowned with celestial glory” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 181). Brigham Young taught that the earth will move through space to “return again unto the presence of the Father” (Journal of Discourses, 17:143). Thus, the heavens will literally become new for those who inhabit the earth as celestial beings.

A New Earth. Following the Millennium the earth will “be prepared for the celestial glory; For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father; that bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever” (D&C 88:18-20). Further, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “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” (D&C 130:9).

Verse 24: Animals in God's Creation

Joseph Smith taught that all animals fill the measure of their creation and are saved in the Celestial Kingdom (D&C 77:2).

“I suppose John saw beings there of a thousand forms, that had been saved from ten thousand times ten thousand earths like this,—strange beasts of which we have no conception: all might be seen in heaven. The grand secret was to show John what there was in heaven. John learned that God glorified Himself by saving all that His hands had made, whether beasts, fowls, fishes or men; and He will glorify Himself with them. Says one, ‘I cannot believe in the salvation of beasts.’ Any man who would tell you that this could not be, would tell you that the revelations are not true. John heard the words of the beasts giving glory to God, and understood them. God who made the beasts could understand every language spoken by them. The four beasts were four of the most noble animals that had filled the measure of their creation, and had been saved from other worlds, because they were perfect: they were like angels in their sphere. We are not told where they came from, and I do not know; but they were seen and heard by John praising and glorifying God” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 291-92).

Verse 36: Agency and Satan's attempt to destroy it

“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.” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, p. 666.)

Joseph Fielding Smith on agency and rights:

“I have heard people say, and members of the Church too, ‘I have a right to do as I please.’ My answer is: No, you do not. You haven’t any right at all to do just as you please. There is only one right that you have, and that is to do just what I read to you: keep the commandments of Jesus Christ. He has a perfect right to tell us so. We have no right to refuse. I do not care who the man is; I do not care where he lives, or what he is—when the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented to him, he has no right to refuse to receive it. He has the privilege. He is not compelled to receive it, because our Father in heaven has given to everyone of us in the Church and out, the gift of … agency. That … agency gives us the privilege to accept and be loyal to our Lord’s commandments, but it has never given us the right to reject them. Every man who rejects the commandments of our Father in heaven is rebellious.” (President Joseph Fielding Smith, CR, April 1967, p. 120-121.)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

D&C 28 – False Prophets and False Revelation: How to Tell

To illustrate how relevant the D&C can be, the following questions are answered in D&C 28.

1. T / F If Brigham Young gave the church a commandment, a prophet after him could change or take away that commandment.

2. T / F A prophet can call people to “secret” offices or ordain someone to an office in “secret,” or give a special person “secret” authority.

3. T / F Revelation for the entire church can come through any person who is worthy, in tune, and spiritually receptive.

4. T / F Satan uses devices (like Ouija boards, games), mediums (Witchcraft, séances), false prophets (faith healing on T.V., etc.) to deceive people in and out of the church.

5. T / F Satan can give revelations.

6. T / F Some people try to convince others that their own personal revelations are meant for the rest of the church.

7. T / F You can and should call your bishop to repentance if you receive a revelation from the Holy Ghost telling you that he is wrong and/or a sinner. He should then repent.

8. T / F Revelations to a person who is not God’s selected prophet could and should be used for the entire church.

9. T / F If you receive a revelation that is contrary to what the scriptures, the prophet, or other presiding authorities are teaching, you should believe the revelation.

10. T / F If you hear stories about the prophet giving counsel to members of the church in elevators, or at the temple, you should believe those stories and follow that counsel, as if it were given to you directly, because it is from the Lord’s prophet.

11. T / F Many people have picked up a “hitch-hiker” while traveling to the temple. He has told them to store food and then has disappeared. This must be one of the 3 Nephites or the Angel Moroni. This counsel must be from God.

12. T / F Satan can tempt you to think that you are so righteous that you can and should be able to receive revelations for the whole church or other people you are not authorized to teach or lead.

Answers: 1.) True, Official Declaration #1; 2.) False, Verse 13; 3.) False, Verses 2, 6; 4.) True, Verse 11; 5.) True, verse 11; 6.) True, Heading; 7.) False, Verse 6; 8.) False, Verse 2; 9.) False, Verse 12; 10.) False, Verse 13; 11.) False, Verses 2, 13; 12.) True, Verse 6

D&C 27 – The Sacrament and Adam-Ondi-Ahman

The Great Sacrament Meeting

Explaining this important meeting, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote as follows: “Before the Lord Jesus descends openly and publicly in the clouds of glory, attended by all the hosts of heaven; before the great and dreadful day of the Lord sends terror and destruction from one end of the earth to the other; before he stands on Mount Zion, or sets his feet on Olivet, or utters his voice from an American Zion or a Jewish Jerusalem; before all flesh shall see him together; before any of his appearances, which taken together comprise the second coming of the Son of God— before all these, there is to be a secret appearance to selected members of his Church. He will come in private to his prophet and to the apostles then living. Those who have held keys and powers and authorities in all ages from Adam to the present will also be present. And further, all the faithful members of the Church then living and all the faithful saints of all the ages past will be present. It will be the greatest congregation of faithful saints ever assembled on planet earth. It will be a sacrament meeting. It will be a day of judgment for the faithful of all the ages. And it will take place in Daviess County, Missouri, at a place called Adam-ondi-Ahman” (Millennial Messiah, 578-79).

D&C 25 – Emma and the First Hymnal

Verse 3: Emma is the “Elect Lady”

There is only one other instance in scripture where “elect lady” is used (2 John 1:1). Emma would yet become the first woman in this dispensation to receive the fulness of temple blessings and to preside over the Relief Society. On the day of the organization of the Relief Society, the Prophet recorded that “elect” meant to be “elected to a certain work, &c., and that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma’s election to the Presidency of the Society, she having previously been ordained to expound the scriptures” (Smith, History of the Church, 4:552-53).

Verse 4: Emma not to see the Plates of Gold

This most likely refers to the fact that she never saw the Plates of Gold—she was not a witness. Who were the witnesses and how many were there?

1. Oliver Cowdery, baptized, excommunicated, re-baptized

2. David Whitmer, excommunicated

3. Martin Harris, excommunicated, re-baptized

4. Christian Whitmer, baptized

5. Jacob Whitmer, baptized, excommunicated

6. Peter Whitmer, Jun, baptized

7. John Whitmer, baptized, excommunicated

8. Hiram Page, baptized, excommunicated

9. Joseph Smith, Sen, baptized

10. Hyrum Smith, baptized

11. Samuel H. Smith, baptized

12. Joseph Smith, baptized

13. Mary Whitmer, baptized, excommunicated

D&C 24 – A revelation to “strengthen, encourage, and instruct” the early members

Verse 5: Joseph to Write the JST

It was at this time the Prophet received Moses 1. Of it he said, “Amid all the trials and tribulations we had to wade through, the Lord, who well knew our infantile and delicate situation, vouchsafed for us a supply of strength, and granted us ‘line upon line of knowledge—here a little and there a little,’ of which the following was a precious morsel . . .” (Smith, History of the Church, 1:98).

Verse 6: Joseph’s Revelatory Experience

Have you ever wondered what it was like to hear Joseph Smith receive a revelation, or dictate scripture? Here are two statements by witnesses. Interestingly, Joseph always had witnesses present with the exception of the First Vision.

In describing the revelatory process, Parley P. Pratt wrote: “Each sentence was uttered slowly and very distinctly, and with a pause between each, sufficiently long for it to be recorded, by an ordinary writer, in long hand. This was the manner in which all his written revelations were dictated and written. There was never any hesitation, reviewing or reading back, in order to keep the run of the subject” (Pratt, Autobiography, 48).

William E. McLellin, in like manner, said: “I, as scribe, have written revelations from the mouth of [the Prophet]. And I have been present many times when others wrote for Joseph; therefore I speak as one having experience. The scribe seats himself at a desk or table, with pen, ink, and paper. The subject of enquiry being understood, the Prophet and Revelator enquires of God. He spiritually sees, hears, and feels, and then speaks as he is moved upon by the Holy Ghost, the ‘thus saith the Lord,’ sentence after sentence, and waits for his amanuenses to write and then read aloud each sentence. Thus they proceed until the revelator says Amen, at the close of what is then communicated. I have known [Joseph], without premeditation, to thus deliver off in broken sentences, some of the most sublime pieces of composition which I ever perused in any book” (in Backman, Joseph Smith and the Doctrine and Covenants, 1-2).

Verses 15-17: Dusting of the Feet

Luke records it thus: “Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart. And who soever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them” (Luke 9:1-5).

Commenting on this verse, Elder James E. Talmage observed: “To ceremonially shake the dust from one’s feet as a testimony against another was understood by the Jews to symbolize a cessation of fellowship and a renunciation of all responsibility for consequences that might follow. It became an ordinance of accusation and testimony by the Lord’s instructions to His apostles as cited in the text. In the current dispensation, the Lord has similarly directed His authorized servants to so testify against those who wilfully and maliciously oppose the truth when authoritatively presented (D&C 24:15; 60:15; 75:20; 84:92; 99:4). The responsibility of testifying before the Lord by this accusing symbol is so great that the means may be employed only under unusual and extreme conditions, as the Spirit of the Lord may direct” (Jesus the Christ, 345, emphasis mine).

After the call of the Twelve in our day, we would understand this authority to rest with them, as it did anciently, or to those to whom they directly give it. The authority to perform the same has not been given to missionaries generally. Those performing this ordinance are further directed that it not be done in the presence of those they are testifying against “lest thou provoke them, but in secret; and wash thy feet, as a testimony against them in the day of judgment” (D&C 60:15).

D&C 21 – Revelation Received at the First Meeting of the Church

Verse 1: The Prophet’s Calling

Seer: Hebrew: re’rh “one who sees” (1 Samuel 9:9), Mosiah 8:16-17.

Translator: Book of Mormon

Prophet: Defining the office and call of a prophet, Anthony W. Ivins explained, “A careful study of the etymology of the word and of the lives, works and character of the prophets of old makes clear the fact that a prophet was, and is, one called to act as God’s messenger. He is to teach men the character of God, and define and make known to the people, his will. He is to denounce sin, and declare the punishment of transgression. He is to be above all else a preacher of righteousness, and when the people depart from the path which he has marked out for them to follow, is to call them back to the true faith. He is an interpreter of the scripture, and declares its meaning and application. When future events are to be declared he predicts them, but his direct, and most important calling is to be a forth- teller, or director of present policy, rather than a foreteller of that which is to come” (Conference Report, October 1925, 20).

Apostle: Greek: apostolos, messenger

Verses 4-5, 9: The Role of Members is Defined

President Harold B. Lee explained this principle: “There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. . . . It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory’ (D&C 21:6)” (Conference Report, October 1970, 152).

Bruce R. McConkie stated it thus, “The test of discipleship is how totally and completely and fully we believe the word that was revealed through Joseph Smith, and how effectively we echo or proclaim that word to the world” (“This Generation,” 7).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

D&C 13 and 20: The Priesthood is Restored and the Church is Organized

Tonight we had a special guest teacher: Joseph Fielding McConkie. He is a close friend and a superb teacher. I noted the statements he referred to or specifically quoted, they are listed below. Brother McConkie is a retired professor of Ancient Scripture from BYU.

Why didn’t John the Baptist baptize Joseph and Oliver?

“One of the Apostles said to me years ago, ‘Brother Woodruff, I have prayed for a long time for the Lord to send me the administration of an angel. I have had a great desire for this, but I have never had my prayers answered.’ I said to him that if he were to pray a thousand years to the God of Israel for that gift, it would not be granted, unless the Lord had a motive in sending an angel to him. I told him that the Lord never did nor never will send an angel to anybody merely to gratify the desire of the individual to see an angel. If the Lord sends an angel to anyone, He sends him to perform a work that cannot be performed only by the administration of an angel.” (Wilford Woodruff, Collected Discourses 5:233, October 19, 1896, Weber Stake Conference)

Will animal sacrifice really be reinstituted?

Joseph Smith taught: “It is generally supposed that sacrifice was entirely done away when the Great Sacrifice [i.e.,] the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was offered up, and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of sacrifice in future; but those who assert this are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the Priesthood, or with the Prophets.

“The offering of sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the Priesthood. It began with the Priesthood, and will be continued until after the coming of Christ, from generation to generation. We frequently have mention made of the offering of sacrifice by the servants of the Most High in ancient days, prior to the law of Moses; which ordinances will be continued when the Priesthood is restored with all its authority, power and blessings . . .

“These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass. It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses’ day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued.

“It may be asked by some, what necessity for sacrifice, since the Great Sacrifice was offered? In answer to which, if repentance, baptism, and faith existed prior to the days of Christ, what necessity for them since that time? The Priesthood has descended in a regular line from father to son, through their succeeding generations” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 172-73).

Melchizedek Priesthood Restored

Brother McConkie mentioned that I might share some of the historical documents regarding the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Rather than do that, go the Church website and look up the December 1996 Ensign. In that issue you will find an excellent article written by Larry C. Porter entitled, The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. Just about everything you could want is in this article. I strongly encourage everyone to read it.