Friday, August 22, 2008
The Holy Ghost
Sacrament Meeting Talk
August 17, 2008
Scriptures to Consider: D&C 121:44-46
3 Nephi 9:20
3 Nephi 17:1-3
3 Nephi 19:9
I am afraid that my words will not allow me to be as eloquent as my feelings.
Relate the events of Christ’s visit to the Nephites and what happened all night and the next day and what they prayed for: the Holy Ghost.
We have just finished the sacrament. In the simple prayer uttered by our Priests, who are good young men, they plead that the Spirit will always be with us. A friend of mine once remarked, if God had a favorite scripture, what would it be? Possibly the sacrament prayers.
Joseph Smith appearing to Brigham Young.
I met with the brethren of the Twelve in the Historian’s office. Conversation ensued relative to emigration westward. I related the following dream:
While sick and asleep about noon-day of the 17th [of February], I dreamed that I went to see Joseph. He looked perfectly natural, sitting with his feet on the lower [rung] of his chair. I took hold of his right hand and kissed it many times, and said to him; “Why is it that we cannot be together as we used to be? You have been from us a long time, and we want your society and I do not like to be separated from you.”
Joseph, rising from his chair and looking at me with his usual, earnest, expressive and pleasing countenance said, “It is all right…we cannot be together yet; we shall be by and by; but you will have to do without me awhile, and then we shall be together again.”
…. I said, “Brother Joseph, the brethren you know well, better than I do; you raised them up, and brought the Priesthood to us. The brethren have a great anxiety to understand the law of adoption or the sealing principles, and if you have a word of counsel for me I should be glad to receive it.
Joseph stepped toward me, and looking very earnestly, yet pleasantly said, “Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil, from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the spirit of the Lord they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord.” (Manuscript History of Brigham Young 1847-1850, Collier’s Publishing Co. Salt Lake City, 1997, p. 34-36.)
On another occasion, The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
"You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost" (History of the Church, 5:499)
Elder Bednar taught:
“Brothers and sisters, if you and I would distinguish our personal emotions from the impressions placed in our hearts and minds by the Holy Ghost, then we must desire and seek, ask and discern, hear and obey, and then again desire and seek and ask and discern and hear and obey. Our faith and diligence and obedience are ongoing invitations for additional spiritual knowledge and insight. Faith leads to obedience which yields wisdom and an even greater desire for added light and truth.
“The process of discerning between our will and God's will becomes less and less of a concern as time goes by and as we strive to rid ourselves of worldliness—and thereby cultivate the spirit of revelation in our lives. That is, as we mature spiritually, we begin to develop sound judgment, a refined and educated conscience, and a heart and mind filled with wisdom. It is not just that we have grown older, nor have we simply become smarter and had more experiences on which to draw, as important as those experiences are. Rather, the Holy Ghost has over time been expanding our intellect, forming our feelings, sharpening and elevating our perspective, such that we increasingly think and feel and act as the Lord would under similar circumstances. In short, we have made steady progress in obtaining ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
“This ongoing cycle of gaining spiritual knowledge ultimately produces a precious and delicious fruit, but that fruit cannot and does not grow from a blossom to its ripened state overnight. Furthermore, such fruit cannot grow in barren soil. Obedience to God's commandments and our personal integrity and adherence to commitments such as the honor and dress codes at BYU-Idaho provide the needed nutrients for fertile spiritual soil. It should be obvious to all of us that evil influences such as filthy language, immodest clothing and appearance, and pornography are bitter poisons that kill the soil and halt the spiritually subtle process of receiving help from heaven ‘...line upon line, precept upon precept....’ There can be no shortcut around the law of the harvest; truly, we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).” (“…Line Upon Line, Precept Upon Precept…” 2 Nephi 28:30, BYU-I Devotional, September 11, 2001.)
What does the Holy Ghost do?
• The Holy Ghost enlarges our minds,
• our hearts,
• and our understanding;
• helps us subdue weaknesses and resist temptation;
• inspires humility and repentance;
• guides and protects us in miraculous ways;
• and gifts us with wisdom,
• divine encouragement,
• peace of mind,
• a desire to change,
• and the ability to differentiate between the philosophies of men and revealed truth.
• The Holy Ghost is the minister and messenger of the Father and the Son,
• and He testifies of both Their glorious, global reality
• and Their connection to us personally.
• Without the presence of the Spirit, it is impossible to comprehend our personal mission
• or to have the reassurance that our course is right.
• No mortal comfort can duplicate that of the Comforter.
Beware of imitations. Satan, without a doubt, has his counterfeits. The best way to discern between the Spirit and the devil is what does the influence cause you to do?
• Entice or compel?
• Invite or force?
• Love or hate?
Said President Hinckley,
"There is no greater blessing that can come into our lives than . . . the companionship of the Holy Spirit" (Boston Massachusetts Regional Conference, 22 Apr. 1995; emphasis added).
Brigham Young lamented:
"[We] may have the Spirit of the Lord to . . . direct [us]. . . . I am satisfied, however, that, in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges" (Deseret News Semi-Weekly, 3 Dec. 1867, 2).
Things to erase from our lives so that we can feel the presence of the Holy Ghost:
• Foul language
• Impure thoughts
• Inappropriate media
We live in a day in which we are bombarded by information. A simply visit to the World Wide Web can take us to all sorts of information. As you view material that is Church-related, please be discerning. Listen to your feelings as you read. Do you feel the presence or absence of the Holy Ghost?
Joseph Smith once referred to the Holy Ghost as,
“God the Third, the witness or testator.” (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 65)
Ask yourself the following questions:
• When is the last time I know I felt the influence of the Holy Ghost?
• Are there things in my life that need to be removed so I can feel His presence stronger?
I feel the Holy Ghost. I love the way he makes me feel.
Monday, August 04, 2008
This is very exciting to me. This was the volume I worked on (I did some fact checking). My hope is that this book really will be available soon.
Friday, July 04, 2008
I have previously posted a list of Church related books I personally recommend. This list will have some of the same books. The following list is dated January 6, 2003. Certainly the list would be a bit different today, most likely including Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling. Also, one of the more recent editions of BYU Studies has an excellent chronology of the life of Joseph Smith.
From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
History of the Church
c. 1820-1831, Background, Founding, New York Period
c. 1831-1844, Ohio, Missouri, Nauvoo Periods
Writings of Joseph Smith
LDS Communities in Jackson and Clay Counties
LDS Communities in Caldwell and Daviess Counties
Jessee, Dean C., Editor. The Papers of Joseph Smith, Volumes 1 & 2
Joseph Smith Chronology
Introduction to Volume 1
Introduction to Joseph Smith’s Journal (in Volume 2)
Backman, Milton V., The Heavens Resound
Jessee, Dean C., Editor. Personal Writings of Joseph Smith
Remini, Robert V. Joseph Smith
Anderson, Richard Lloyd. “Impact of the First Preaching in Ohio.” BYU Studies 11 (1971): 474-96.
Bushman, Richard L. “The Character of Joseph Smith: Insights from His Holographs.” Ensign 7 (1977): 10-13.
Bushman, Richard L. “Joseph Smith’s Family Background.” In The Prophet Joseph, ed. Porter and Black (1988).
Hill, Marvin S. “Joseph Smith the Man: Some Reflections on a Subject of Controversy.” BYU Studies 21 (1981): 175-86.
Jessee, Dean C. “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision.” BYU Studies 9 (1969): 275-94.
Jessee, Dean C. “Joseph Smith and the Beginning of Mormon Record Keeping.” In The Prophet Joseph, ed. Porter and Black (1988).
Jessee, Dean C. “The Writing of Joseph Smith’s History.” BYU Studies 11 (1971): 439-73.
Parkin, Max H. Conflict at Kirtland: A Study of the Nature and Causes of External and Internal Conflict of the Mormons in Ohio between 1830 and 1838. (Master’s Thesis)
Monday, June 02, 2008
Also, I just came back from a work-related trip to Denmark. If you are interested in seeing my photos, click here.
For those that have been following the Temple Preparation class lessons, I did not post the last two Sunday's lessons because they were based on the Temple Recommend Interview questions. We discussed the doctrine behind each question. I thought it was a really nice way for us to spend our time. Of course, I had the luxury of doing that because I have access to the interview questions (I am serving as the bishop of our ward).
Sunday, May 11, 2008
At the time of resurrection, each person will be assigned to a kingdom of glory. Those who are righteous will inherit greater joy and blessings than those who do not obey God’s commandments (see 1 Corinthians 15:35, 40–42).
It is interesting that immediately after Joseph and Sidney see the Father and the Son, and before they see the degrees of Glory, the two view a vision of the condition of the Sons of Perdition. It is as if the contrast is important in their understanding and our understanding.
READ D&C 76:28
* What does this tell us why Satan did and why he did it.
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:
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. (TPJS, 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.)
1. The telestial glory is for those who do not receive the gospel of Jesus Christ or the testimony of Jesus or the prophets of God, and who live sinful lives (see D&C 76:81–88, 98–103).
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)
READ D&C 76:99-101
* Tell me about these people, who are they, what defines them?
* What danger do we have of being counted as one of them?
2. The terrestrial glory is for the honorable people of the earth who are deceived and for those who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:71–79).
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)
Melvin J. Ballard said: “Now those who died without law, meaning the pagan nations, for lack of faithfulness, for lack of devotion in the former life, are obtaining all that they are entitled to. I don't mean to say that all of them will be barred from entrance into the highest glory. Any one of them who repents and complies with the conditions might also obtain celestial glory, but the great bulk of them will only obtain terrestrial glory.” ("The Three Degrees of Glory," in Melvin J. Ballard: Crusader for Righteousness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p. 221.)
3. The celestial glory is reserved for those who obey the commandments and receive the ordinances, overcome all things by faith in Jesus Christ, and become pure in heart (see D&C 76:50–70).
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)
The doctrine in D&C 137 in light of the Celestial Kingdom:
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:
· first, that the doctrine applies only to those who “died without a knowledge” of the gospel;
· 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;
· 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.
* Who is invited to receive this blessing and see this vision?
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, 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, 149)
Alma 41:3-4—If their works were good they shall be restored unto that which is good. If their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil.
Once people have been restored to either telestial, terrestial, or celestial bodies do they eventually progress to other kingdoms?
“There are those who say that there is progress from one kingdom to another in the eternal world or that lower kingdoms eventually progress to where higher kingdoms once were. This is worse than false. It is an evil and pernicious doctrine. There is neither progress from one kingdom to another, nor does a lower kingdom ever get where a higher kingdom once was. Whatever eternal progression there is, it is within a sphere.” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Seven Deadly Heresies, BYU, 1980. (Emphasis added))
“After a person has been assigned to his place in the kingdom, either in the Telestial, the terrestrial, or the celestial or to his exaltation, he will never advance from his assigned glory to another glory. That is eternal!” (Elder Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 243-244; also in Melchizedek Priesthood Manual, 1989, p. 167. (Emphasis added))
“There are some people who have supposed that if we are quickened Telestial bodies that eventually, throughout the ages of eternity, we will continue to progress until we will find our place in the celestial kingdom, but the scriptures and revelations of God have said that those who are quickened Telestial bodies cannot come where God and Christ dwell, worlds without end.” (President George Albert Smith, Conference Report, Oct. 1945, p. 172; also Improvement Era, Nov. 1945, p. 720; also Melchizedek Priesthood Manual, 1979-80, p. 145.)
“The scriptures say there is no progression from one kingdom to another. This really should settle the matter. This is the whole tenor and meaning of Section 76. The statements in Section 88 about coming forth with different kinds of bodies in the resurrection are in the same subject. The statement in Section 132 that ministering servants will remain such and not have exaltation to all eternity is the same teaching. It is difficult to see how the Lord could have been more express in his language than he was in this passage in Section 132 or related passages in Section 76 that say where God and Christ are certain people cannot come worlds without end.” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie letter to Vida Lind, March 14, 1973, in my possession.)
Sunday, April 27, 2008
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The doctrines of the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Eternal Judgment are necessary to preach among the first principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 149.) It would seem that one’s understanding of the principles of the gospel would be incomplete if the teaching of the resurrection were not included.
What is the order of resurrection? I got this idea from a colleague on campus (at BYU) who teaches religion.
One of the qualifications in the New Testament to become an apostle is to be a witness of the ministry of Christ, culminating in His resurrection. See Acts 1:20-22 for more, along with Acts 2:32, 3:15, 4:1-2, 33, 5:30-32. You can also read the accounts of modern day apostles such as Orson F. Whitney and David B. Haight.
Alma indicates that a knowledge of the resurrection is one of the mysteries of God, knowable only by revelation (Alma 12:8-12; 40:3).
Resurrection: An ordinance
“We have not, neither can we receive here the ordinance and keys of resurrection. The keys will be given to those who have received their bodies again. They will be ordained to go forth and resurrected the saints, just as we receive the ordinance of baptism then receive the keys of authority to baptize others.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, April 1977, p. 69.)
Who resurrects us?
It appears to be patriarchal.
Who resurrected Christ? Or what do we know about ordinances?
Take a look at the Topical Guide under “raise.” It appears that God himself resurrected the Lord. This would make sense if, in order to perform an ordinance one must have already received that ordinance.
President Kimball will resurrect his wife:
“Your wife is your counterpart, and together you use the God-given powers that are given to you, not by playing with them but by using them to create this great person that is born of yourselves. Now you become the servant of the Lord, with his power. What you have now is a miniature power. I mean there is no one in this room, perhaps, who is enjoying his power to its great limit.... You have the power over the elements. You will have many other powers that you have never thought or dreamed of yet. You will have the power of the resurrection some day. Did you realize that?
“Today you or I could not stand here and call to life a dead person, but the day will come when I can take my wife by the hand and raise her out of the grave in the resurrection. The day will come when you can bring each of your family who has preceded you in death back into a resurrected being to live forever.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Manchester England Area Conference, 21 June 1976, p. 34.)
An idea of the ordinance?
“I would esteem it one of the greatest blessings, if I am to be afflicted in this world, to have my lot cast where I can find brothers and friends all around me. But this is not the thing I referred to: it is to have the privilege of having our dead buried on the land where God has appointed to gather His Saints together, and where there will be none but Saints, where they may have the privilege of laying their bodies where the Son of Man will make His appearance, and where they may hear the sound of the trump that shall call them forth to behold Him, that in the morn of the resurrection they may come forth in a body, and come up out of their graves and strike hands immediately in eternal glory and felicity, rather than be scattered thousands of miles apart. There is something good and sacred to me in this thing. The place where a man is buried is sacred to me….
I will tell you what I want. If tomorrow I shall be called to lie in yonder tomb, in the morning of the resurrection let me strike hands with my father, and cry, ‘My father,’ and he will say, ‘My son, my son,’ as soon as the rock rends and before we come out of our graves….
Would you think it strange if I relate what I have seen in vision in relation to this interesting theme? Those who have died in Jesus Christ may expect to enter into all that fruition of joy when they come forth, which they possessed or anticipated here. So plain was the vision, that I actually saw men, before they had ascended from the tomb, as though they were getting up slowly. They took each other by the hand and said to each other, ‘My father, my son, my mother, my daughter, my brother, my sister.’ And when the voice calls for the dead to arise, suppose I am laid by the side of my father, what would be the first joy of my heart? To meet my father, my mother, my brother, my sister; and when they are by my side, I embrace them and they me. It is my meditation all the day, and more than my meat and drink, to know how I shall make the Saints of God comprehend the visions that roll like an overflowing surge before my mind.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 294-6.)
We initially come forth from the grave with the same body as it was laid down
“As concerning the resurrection, I will surely say that all men will come from the grave as they lie down. Whether old or young; there will not be “added unto their stature one cubit,” neither taken from it; all will be raised by the power of God, having spirit in their bodies, and not blood. Children will be enthroned in the presence of God and the Lamb with bodies of the same stature that they had on earth…” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 4:555-556.)
Children are resurrected as children
“Of course, children who die do not grow in the grave. They will come forth with their bodies as they were laid down, and then they will grow to the full stature of manhood or womanhood after the resurrection, but all will have their bodies fully restored.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 2, p. 293.)
We are raised up as we were laid down and then restored to perfection
“In speaking about the resurrection at the funeral of Sister Rachel Grant, President Joseph F. Smith said that the same person, the same form and likeness, will come forth ‘Even to the wounds in the flesh. Not that a person will always be marred by scars, wounds, deformities, defects or infirmities, for these will be removed in their course, in their proper time, according to the merciful providence of God.’” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 4th Ed., p. 30.)
“…in the resurrection of the dead the child that was buried in its infancy will come up in the form of the child that it was when it was laid down; then it will begin to develop.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 24)
“Joseph Smith declared that the mother who laid down her little child, being deprived of the privilege, the joy, and the satisfaction of bringing it up to manhood or womanhood in this world, would, after the resurrection, have all the joy, satisfaction and pleasure, and even more than it would have been possible to have had in mortality, in seeing her child grow to the full measure of the stature of its spirit.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 453.)
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith explained that being restored to perfection happens almost instantly
“President Smith was in full accord with Amulek and Alma. He taught that the body will be restored as stated in
President Smith never intended to convey the thought that it would require weeks or months of time in order for the defects to be removed. These changes will come naturally, of course, but almost instantly. We cannot look upon it in any other way.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 2, p. 294. (Emphasis added))
We will be resurrected with different types of bodies—depending on what we’ve done in this life
“In a real though figurative sense, the book of life is the record of the acts of men as such record is written in their own bodies. It is the record engraven on the very bones, sinews, and flesh of the mortal body. That is, every thought, word, and deed has an affect on the human body; all these leave their marks, marks which can be read by Him who is Eternal as easily as the words in a book can be read.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 97.)
“By obedience to celestial law, man gains celestial bodies, bodies which are sanctified by the Spirit… Their renewed bodies are just as different from bodies still in their carnal state as the bodies of the various animals, fowls, and fishes differ from each. (I Cor. 15:39-42).” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 115.)
The regeneration of the body in this life prefigures (symbolizes) resurrection
“Consider the fact that broken bones men and become strong once again. . . Lacerations in the skin heal themselves. A leak in the circulation system will seal itself, but circulatory systems outside the body do not have this power. . . The concept of self-renewal is remarkable. Each cell in the body is created and then regenerated from elements of the earth according to the recipe or formula contained within genes unique to us. . . To my thinking, this process of self-renewal prefigures the process of resurrection.” (Russell M. Nelson, “The Magnificence of Man,” BYU Devotional,
Are animals resurrected?
Absolutely! Joseph Smith taught the following1 in relation to what John the Beloved saw in his Revelation:
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.
The popular religionists of the day tell us, forsooth, that the beasts spoken of in the Revelation represent kingdoms. Very well, on the same principle we can say that the twenty-four elders spoken of represent beasts; for they are all spoken of at the same time, and are represented as all uniting in the same acts of praise and devotion.
This learned interpretation is all as flat as a pancake! “What do you use such vulgar expressions for, being a prophet?” Because the old women understand it—they make pancakes. Deacon Homespun said the earth was flat as a pancake, and ridiculed the science which proved to the contrary. The whole argument is flat, and I don't know of anything better to represent it. The world is full of technicalities and misrepresentation, which I calculate to overthrow, and speak of things as they actually exist.
Again, there is no revelation to prove that things do not exist in heaven as I have set forth, nor yet to show that the beasts meant anything but beasts; and we never can comprehend the things of God and of heaven, but by revelation. We may spiritualize and express opinions to all eternity; but that is no authority. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 291-292.)
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Where is the Spirit World?
“When you lay down this tabernacle, where are you going? Into the spiritual world. Are you going into Abraham’s bosom? No, not anywhere near there but into the spirit world. Where is the spirit world? It is right here. Do the good and evil spirits go together? Yes, they do. Do they both inhabit one kingdom? Yes, they do. Do they go to the sun? No. Do they go beyond the boundaries of the organized earth? No, they do not.
The Prophet lays down his body, he lays down his life, and his spirit goes to the world of spirits; the persecutor of the Prophet dies, and he goes to Hades; they both go to one place, and they are not to be separated yet.” (President Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 376-80. (Emphasis added))
“In a broad sense, the whole of the spirit world—paradise and hell—is a ‘spirit prison,’ inasmuch as the spirits there, even the righteous, look upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage (see D&C 45:17; 138:50). ‘I know it is a startling idea,’ Brigham Young stated, ‘to say that the Prophet [Joseph Smith] and the persecutor of the Prophet, all go to prison together… But they have not got their bodies yet, consequently they are in prison.’ (JD 3:95) Christ went to the spirits in prison in the sense that he went to the spirit world.” (J.F. McConkie, R.L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3, p. 299.)
“There has been much said…about the words of Jesus (when on the cross) to the thief, saying ‘This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.’ King James’ translators make it out to say paradise. But what is paradise? It is a modern word: it does not answer at all to the original word that Jesus made use of. There is nothing in the original word in Greek from which this was taken that signifies paradise; but it was—This day thou shalt be with me in the world of the spirits.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 309.)
Spirits are not far from us
“When men are prepared, they are better off to go hence. …The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and are often pained therewith.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 326.)
Righteous spirits are not denied the privilege of looking in on us
“. . . those who labor so diligently in their moral estate to establish the cause of Zion would not be denied the privilege of looking down upon the results of their own labors from their post mortal estate. . . they are as deeply interested in our welfare today, if not with greater capacity, with far more interest, behind the veil, than they were in the flesh. . . Sometimes the Lord expands our vision from this point of view and this side of the veil, so that we feel and seem to realize that we can look beyond the thin veil which separates us from that other sphere.” (President Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, April 1916, p. 1-8.)
If we could see beyond the veil, suicide would be a temptation
“Charles Walker quoted Wilford Woodruff who quoted Joseph Smith as follows: ‘if the people knew what was behind the veil, they would try by every means to commit suicide that they might get there, but the Lord in his wisdom has implanted the fear of death in every person that they might cling to life and thus accomplish the designs of their creator.’ ” (Cited in: Studies in Scripture, vol. 1, The Doctrine and Covenants, R. Millet and K. Jackson, p. 307.)
Spirits are tangible
“Spirits are just as familiar with spirits as bodies are with bodies, though spirits are composed of matter so refined as not to be tangible to this coarser organization.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 379.)
Spirit creations still remain
“The brightness and glory of the next apartment is inexpressible. They move with ease like lightning… If we want to behold Jerusalem as it was in the days of the Savior, or see the Garden of Eden as it was when created, there we are, and see it as it existed spiritually, for it was created first spiritually and then temporally, and spiritually it still remains.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 380.)
Proxy baptisms on earth
“Every man that has been baptized and belongs to the kingdom has a right to be baptized for those who have gone before; and as soon as the law of the Gospel is obeyed here by their friends who act as proxy for them, the Lord has administrators there to set them free.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 367.)
Men are called to the other side
“The Prophet Joseph Smith held the keys of this dispensation on this side of the veil, and he will hold them throughout the countless ages of eternity. He went into the spirit world to unlock the prison doors and to preach the gospel to the millions of spirits who are in darkness, and every apostle, every seventy, every elder, etc., who has died in the faith as soon as he passes to the other side of the veil, enters into the work of the ministry, and there is a thousand times more to preach there than there is here. I have felt of late as if our brethren on the other side of the veil had held a council, and that they had said to this one, and that one, ‘cease thy work on the earth, come hence, we need help,’ and they have called this man and that man. It has appeared so to me in seeing the many men who have been called from our midst lately.
“Perhaps I may be permitted to relate a circumstance with which I am acquainted in relation to Bishop Roskelley, of Smithfield, Cache Valley. On one occasion he was suddenly taken very sick—near to death’s door. While he lay in this condition, President Peter Maughan, who was dead, came to him and said: ‘Brother Roskelley, we held a council on the other side of the veil. I have had a great deal to do, and I have the privilege of coming here to appoint one man to come and help. I have had three names given to me in council, and you are one of them. I want to inquire into your circumstances.’ The bishop told him what he had to do, and they conversed together as one man would converse with another. President Maughan then said to him: ‘I think I will not call you. I think you are wanted here more than perhaps one of the others.’ Bishop Roskelley got well from that hour. Very soon after, the second man was taken sick, but not being able to exercise sufficient faith, Brother Roskelley did not go to him. By and by this man recovered, and on meeting Brother Roskelley he said: ‘Brother Maughan came to me the other night an told me he was sent to call one man from the ward,’ and he named two men as had been done to Brother Roskelley. A few days afterwards the third man was taken sick and died.
“Now, I name this to show a principle. They have work on the other side of the veil; and they want men, and they call them. And that was my view in regard to Brother George A. Smith. When he was almost at death’s door, Brother Cannon administered to him, and in thirty minutes he was up, and ate breakfast with his family. We labored with him in this way, but ultimately, as you know, he died. But it taught me a lesson. I felt that man was wanted behind the veil. We labored also with Brother Pratt; he too, was wanted behind the veil.
“Now. . . those of us who are left here have a great work to do. We have been raised up of the Lord to take this kingdom and bear it off. This is our duty, but if we neglect our duty and set our hearts upon the things of this world, we will be sorry for it.” (President Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 22:333-334.)
Elder Maxwell taught:
“We do not control what I call the great transfer board in the sky. The inconveniences that are sometimes associated with release from our labors here are necessary in order to accelerate the work there. Heavenly Father can't do His work with ten times more people than we have on this planet, except He will on occasion take some of the very best sisters and brothers. The conditions of termination here, painful though they are, are a part of the conditions of acceleration there. Thus we are back to faith in the timing of God, and to be able to say Thy timing be done, even when we do not fully understand it.” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Glorify Christ, p. 7.)
What do spirits do in the Spirit World?
“Father Smith and Carlos and Brother Partridge, yes, and every other good Saint, are just as busy in the spirit world as you and I are here. They can see us, but we cannot see them. . . they are preaching, preaching all the time . . . they are hurrying to get ready by the time we are ready, and we are all hurrying to get ready by the time our Elder Brother is ready. . . . What! A congregated mass of inhabitants there in spirit, mingling with each other, as they do here? Yes, brethren, they are there together, and if they associate together, and collect together, in clans and in societies as they do here, it is their privilege. . . they have to do with each other, both good and bad. . . .
If a person is baptized for the remission of sins, and dies a short time thereafter, he is not prepared at once to enjoy a fulness of the glory . . . he must be schooled, while in the spirit, in the other departments of the house of God, passing on from truth to truth, from intelligence to intelligence . . . We cannot enter into celestial glory in our present state of ignorance and mental darkness.
[T]he fallen spirits—Lucifer and the third part of the heavenly hosts that came with him, and the spirits of wicked men who have dwelt upon this earth, the whole of them combined will have no influence over our spirits. Is not that an advantage? Yes. All the rest of the children of men are more or less subject to them. . . . Spirits are just as familiar with spirits as bodies are with bodies. . . they walk, converse, and have their meetings. . . . We have more friends behind the veil than on this side, and they will hail us more joyfully than you were ever welcomed by your parents and friends in this world. . .
[E]verything there will appear as natural as things now do. Spirits will be familiar with spirits in the spirit world. . . they exercise every variety of communication . . . as familiarly and naturally as while here in tabernacles. . If we want to visit
* If at death we enter the spirit world, not God’s actual presence, how are we to understand Alma’s words?
“These words of Alma as I understand them, do not intend to convey the thought that all spirits go back into the presence of God for an assignment to a place of peace or a place of punishment and before him receive their individual sentence. ‘Taken home to God,’ simply means that their mortal existence has come to an end, and they have returned to the world of spirits, where they are assigned to a place according to their works with the just or with the unjust, there to await the resurrection. ‘Back to God’ is a phrase which finds an equivalent in many other well-known conditions. For instance: a man spends a stated time in some foreign mission field. When he is released and returns to the
Brigham Young renders this verse a “little plainer”
“You read in the Bible [Ecclesiastes 12:5] that when the spirit leaves the body it goes to God who gave it. Now tell me where God is not, if you please; you cannot. How far would you have to go in order to go to God, if your spirits were unclothed? Would you have to go out of this bowery to find God, if you were in the spirit? If God is not here, we had better reserve this place to gather the wicked into, for they will desire to be where God is not. The Lord Almighty is here by His Spirit, by His influence, by His presence. I am not in the north end of this bowery, my body is in the south end of it, but my influence and my voice extend to all parts of it; in like manner is the Lord here.
It reads that the spirit goes to God who gave it. Let me render this scripture a little plainer; when the spirits leave their bodies they are in the presence of our Father and God, they are prepared then to see, hear and understand spiritual things. But where is the spirit world? It is incorporated within this celestial system. Suppose the Lord should touch your eyes that you might see, could you then see the spirits? Yes, as plainly as you now see bodies, as did the servant of Elijah. If the Lord would permit it, and it was His will that it should be done, you could see the spirits that have departed from this world, as plainly as you now see bodies with your natural eyes.” (President Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 3:368. (Emphasis added))
At death we don’t enter God’s presence
“As for my going into the immediate presence of God when I die, I do not expect it, but I expect to go into the world of spirits and associate with my brethren, and preach the Gospel in the spiritual world, and prepare myself in every necessary way to receive my body again, and then enter through the wall [veil] into the celestial world. I never shall come into the presence of my Father and God until I have received my resurrected body, neither will any other person.” (Elder Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, 3:112-113. (Emphasis added))
Saturday, April 19, 2008
The sections are broken down by fiction, historical, biographical, by publication date, and doctrine. Some of the books I was surprised by and others were happily duplicated on my list. Also, it is important to note that this study was published in 2002, so books published since then will obviously not be included on the list.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Last week we had a campout with our Young Men. One of them is reading all kinds of books about the Restored Gospel. I think it is wonderful. He knows I read and collect books and asked what he should read next.
I get that question every once in a while. So, I thought I would post what I consider to be the essential books every Latter-day Saint should have in their home library. I realize that every list will be different and include other books. Not a problem. This list is based on my experience and learning. It is probably more of a reflection on what I like to read and what has influenced me more than anything else. Also, I have had my library inventory posted for over a year on the blog (actually a link to it). If you are interested in seeing what is in my entire collection click here. But what I am posting below is what I consider to be foundational to a good Latter-day Saint library. It should go without saying that the Standard Works are a given, so I have not included them.
This is a difficult thing to do, because I love all my books. As I put this list together, looking at my bookshelves, I resisted the urge to include every book, keeping in mind this is an essential library, not my library. And so, if you see a book that you think should be included but is not, please know that I most likely considered including it as well. I could also most certainly include a brief explanation as to why each book is included. Perhaps that will be another post. For now, I am just pleased to get this list together. I should also state that these books for the most part are not going to be considered scholarly by some. Such is not my purpose. I have and love those books as well. This list is based on what I would recommend for every member of the Church.
I also should note that these books are not only to be on a bookshelf, but to be read. I often get asked when people come to my house and see my books, "Yeah, but have you read all of them?" The answer is nearly all of them. I would say I have read about 85-90% of my books. There are a few that do not seemed to be designed to be read cover to cover and I use those primarily for reference. However, I have read in all of my books, if that counts for anything.
But enough of that. Without further commentary... my list (in absolutely no particular order):
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, edited by Joseph Fielding Smith
The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo discourses of the Prophet Joseph, edited by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook
Gospel Doctrine, Joseph F. Smith
Doctrines of Salvation, Joseph Fielding Smith
Answers to Gospel Questions, Joseph Fielding Smith
Jesus the Christ, James E. Talmage
Messiah Series, Bruce R. McConkie
- Promised Messiah
- Mortal Messiah, volume 1
- Mortal Messiah, volume 2
- Mortal Messiah, volume 3
- Mortal Messiah, volume 4
- Millennial Messiah
Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie
A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, Bruce R. McConkie
Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith et al
Messages of the First Presidency, 6 volumes, edited by James R. Clark
Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 volumes, Bruce R. McConkie
Priesthood and Church Government, edited by John A. Widstoe
Masterful Discourses of Orson Pratt, edited by N. B. Lundwall
Writings of Parley P. Pratt, edited by Parley Robison
A Witness and a Warning, Ezra Taft Benson
Christ and the New Covenant, Jeffrey R. Holland
Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, four volumes, Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L Millet
Revelations of the Restoration, Joseph Fielding McConkie
Inevitable Apostasy and Promised Restoration, Tad R. Callister
Lost Language of Symbolism, Alonzo L. Gaskill
Called of God by Prophecy, Dennis B. Horne
Receiving Gifts of the Spirit, Matthew B. Brown
History of the Church, Joseph Smith and editors
Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, edited by Dean Jessee
Opening the Heavens, edited by John W. Welch
Remembering Joseph, edited by Mark L. McConkie
Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration, edited by Milton V. Backman
The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Vol. 1: 1832-1839, edited by Dean C. Jessee et al
Wilford Woodruff Journals, volumes 1-9
Evening and Morning Star
Messenger and Advocate
Times and Seasons
Mormons at the Missouri, Richard Bennett
Kirtland Council Minute Book, edited by Fred C. Collier
Kirtland Elder's Quorum Record 1836-1841, edited by Lyndon W. Cook and Milton V. Backman, Jr.
Far West Record: Minutes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1830-1844, edited by Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook
The Nauvoo High Council Minute Books of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, edited by Fred C. Collier
Presidents of the Church, edited by Leonard J. Arrington
History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith
Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, George Q. Cannon
Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, Parley P. Pratt
Wilford Woodruff, Orson F. Whitney
Life of Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith
Go Forward with Faith, Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley, Sherrie Dew
Marion G. Romney: His Life and Faith, F. Burton Howard
The Bruce R. McConkie Story, Joseph Fielding McConkie
Boyd K. Packer: A Watchman on the Tower, Lucile C. Tate
Yearning for the Living God, F. Enzio Busche
Sunday, April 13, 2008
A fun way to understand the Fall is to set it down next to the Creation and Atonement. Elder Bruce R. McConkie called these three events the Three Pillars of Eternity. Each one is vital to the operation of the whole Plan of Salvation.
The atonement brings every person back into the presence of God thereby overcoming even spiritual death for all of us (qualified statement). See Helaman 14:17, Alma 42:23
Do we believe in original sin? Why does the Book of Moses insist that we were conceived in sin? Or in other words, what does it mean?, Moses 6:55. (It is blood.) To better understand this, take the following scripture chain:
· What is it about the Fall and blood that makes us evil?
· Evil (blood) is in the flesh, and it is that evil within that gives Satan power over us, as we allow. (2 Nephi 2:28-29)
· Satan cannot tempt translated beings because they no longer have a “sinful” body (3 Nephi 28:39). In other words, their bodies have been changed in some way.
· Satan has no power over the righteous disembodied (Abraham 3:26)
· The test of mortality is mortality: to overcome our carnal desires (Mosiah 16:4-5)
· Mosiah 3:19 is saying we are all naturally evil (because of the fall and the blood) and we must do something that is unnatural to Telestial bodies—act terrestrial or even celestial through the Atonement of Christ.
· Mahonri Moriancumer says the same thing (Ether 3:2: “Because of the Fall our natures have become evil continually)
· 1 Corinthians 15:22 is more than physical death. It is because of the Atonement that we can live. “Christ takes dead men and makes them alive.”
· In the act of the Atonement, what was it that Christ purged from his body?
o Mortality or blood.
Why must we understand the doctrine of the creation in order to understand the doctrine of the fall? Without the knowledge that Adam and Eve were literally the children of divine parents we are without the hope that we too are of the same family and that we through Christ can be reconciled to God.
The purpose of the atonement is to take us back to God not to make of us something that we never were. The purpose of the atonement to correct all the evils of the fall. It is to create again a deathless state, a sinless state, a place without wickedness and sin, etc.
Did Adam and Eve fall up, down, or forward? The Fall “had a twofold direction—downward, yet forward. It brought man into the world and set his feet upon progression’s highway” (Orson F. Whitney, in Cowley and Whitney on Doctrine, 287).
The 2nd Article of Faith says we are not accountable for Adam’s transgression, what about Adam? Moses 6:53-54 helps us understand that original guilt is real, however Christ atoned for Adam’s original guilt.
To what extent did the Fall of Adam and Eve affect the whole world?
· To the extent of which the earth will be restored (AF 10)
· D&C 101:24-25 – terrestrial earth all becomes new
· D&C 29:24 – celestial earth all become new
· 2 Nephi 2:22 – “all things” (which is quite all encompassing)
Following the Lord’s Appointed Spokesman
Priest Quorum Lesson
April 13, 2008
Today in Priest Quorum I taught the lesson on Following the Brethren. I hope the young men enjoyed it. With a new president of the Church, Thomas S. Monson, I thought it would be an appropriate lesson. What follows are some statements we used in class. I used President Benson’s talk, Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet for a lot of my remarks. I also threw in some ideas from Elder Cook’s talk in Priesthood Session (April 2008), as well as a few statements that I have collected on my own.
It is endlessly fascinating to me that in Lehi’s dream (1 Nephi 8), he first sees two representations of the world first, then after praying that the Lord would bless him according to his multitude of tender mercies, Lehi is brought to the Tree of Life, which is the Love of God, or ultimately the Savior and His Atonement. And so it is that after the prophet sees the world, he partakes of the blessings of the Atonement. It is only after that he sees the river of filth, the great and spacious building, and everything else. The lesson is that the prophet of God knows what is bad, not because he has partaken of it, but because he has partaken of the fruit of the Atonement and knows the difference. That is one of the principle reasons we follow the prophet of God, Thomas S. Monson.
D&C 81 and the instructions to a counselor in the First Presidency
This section is great not only for any men called to serve as counselors, but also to us as we sustain and follow our prophet.
Verse 3: The first instruction is to be “faithful in counsel.”
Verse 3: The second instruction is “proclaiming the gospel.”
Verse 5 The third instruction reads, “Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”
The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
President Wilford Woodruff tells of an interesting incident that occurred in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as extensively as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: ‘You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.’
“When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, ‘Brother Brigham, I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of old.’ Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: ‘There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now,’ said he, ‘when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.’ That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: ‘Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.’ (Conference Report, October 1897, pp. 18-19)
The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
“If the Old Testament words of Moses were sufficient, as some could have mistakenly thought them to be, then why, for example, the subsequent prophecies of Isaiah or of Jeremiah, who follows him? To say nothing of Ezekiel and Daniel, of Joel, Amos, and all the rest. If one revelation to one prophet in one moment of time is sufficient for all time, what justifies these many others? What justifies them was made clear by Jehovah Himself when He said to Moses, ‘My works are without end, and . . . my words . . . never cease.’” (Elder Holland, “My Words…Never Cease.”)
D&C 76:99-101 discusses the fate of those who only follow dead prophets.
The prophet will never lead the Church astray.
President Wilford Woodruff stated: “I say to Israel, The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, selected by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 212-213.)
President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident, which happened to him: I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home....Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” [In Conference Report, October 1), p. 78]
In 1951, President Kimball observed in a general conference that though some of those special individuals might falter, "there will never be a majority of the Council of the Twelve on the wrong side at any time." (Conference Report, April 1951, p. 104.)
“There is room in the Church for differences of understanding. On matters about which the revelations are plain, however, there ought to be a unity of thought and faith. We need not put question marks at the end of revealed pronouncements. We sustain the man who stands at the head of the Church as the living constitution of the Church. We follow the direction he points and accept his voice as final where doctrinal differences may exist. Such authority must rest with him if the Lord's house is to be a house of order and if we are to avoid being tossed about by every wind of doctrine. This is simply to say that there is but one head, and in this sense, one spokesman, for the Church.” (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Answers: Straightforward Answers To Tough Gospel Questions)
This is the story of Oliver Cowdery’s return to the Church, as told by Elder George A. Smith to Orson Pratt.
“Oliver Cowdery, who had just arrived from Wisconsin with his family, on being invited, addressed the meeting. He bore testimony in the most positive terms of the truth of the Book of Mormon—the restoration of the priesthood to the earth, and the mission of Joseph Smith as the Prophet of the last days; and told the people if they wanted to follow the right path, to keep the main channel of the stream—where the body of the Church goes, there is the authority; and all these lo here's and lo there's have no authority; but this people have the true and holy priesthood; ‘for the angel said unto Joseph Smith, Jr., in my hearing, that this priesthood shall remain on the earth unto the end.’ His testimony produced quite a sensation among the gentlemen present, who did not belong to the Church, and it was gratefully received by all the Saints. Last evening (Oct. 30th) President Hyde and myself spent the evening with Brother Cowdery. He told us he had come to listen to our counsel and would do as we told him. He had been cut off from the Church by a council; had withdrawn himself from it; stayed away eleven years; and now came back, not expecting to be a leader, but wished to be a member and have part among us. He considered that he ought to be baptized; and did not expect to return without it. He said that Joseph Smith had fulfilled his mission faithfully before God until death; he was determined to rise with the Church, and if it went down he was willing to go down with it. I saw him today, told him I was going to write you. (George A. Smith to Orson Pratt, 31 Oct 1848, in Millennial Star 11 (1 Feb 1849):14.)
The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
In the restored Gospel, the only qualification that is needed is outlined in the fifth Article of Faith.
The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.
Sometimes there are those who haggle over words. They might say the prophet gave us counsel, but that we are not obligated to follow it unless he says it is a commandment. But the Lord says of the Prophet Joseph, “Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you” (D&C 21:4).
Said Brigham Young, “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture” (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot], 13:95).
The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
Said President Harold B. Lee:
“You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life.... Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow.... Let’s keep our eye on the President of the Church.” [in Conference Report, October 1970, p. 152-153)
How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness.
Said President Marion G. Romney, “It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets.” And then he gives this illustration:
“One day when President Grant was living, I sat in my office across the street following a general conference. A man came over to see me, an elderly man. He was very upset about what had been said in this conference by some of the Brethren, including myself. I could tell from his speech that he came from a foreign land. After I had quieted him enough so he would listen, I said, ‘Why did you come to America?’ ‘I am here because a prophet of God told me to come.’ ‘Who was the prophet;’ I continued. ‘Wilford Woodruff.’ ‘Do you believe Wilford Woodruff was a prophet of God?’ ‘Yes, I do.’ ‘Do you believe that President Joseph F. Smith was a prophet of God?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ Then came the sixty-four dollar question. ‘Do you believe that Heber J. Grant is a prophet of God?’ His answer, ‘I think he ought to keep his mouth shut about [certain matters].’
“Now I tell you that a man in his position is on the way to apostasy. He is forfeiting his chances for eternal life. So is everyone who cannot follow the living Prophet of God.” [Conference Report, April 1953, p. 125]
The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
Said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof until long after the events transpire” (Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, vol. 2, p. 173).
The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them; otherwise, the prophet is just giving his opinion--speaking as a man. The rich may feel they have no need to take counsel of a lowly prophet.
2 Nephi 9:28, 29, 42
The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency--the highest quorum in the Church.
In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord refers to the First Presidency as “the highest council of the Church” (107:80) and says, “whosoever receiveth me, receiveth those....the First Presidency, whom I have sent” (112:20).
Remember the revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants, “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” (D&C 107:27, 29).
The prophet and the presidency--the living prophet and the First Presidency--follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.
President Harold B. Lee relates this incident from Church history:
“The story is told in the early days of the Church—particularly, I think, at Kirtland—where some of the leading brethren in the presiding councils of the Church met secretly and tried to scheme as to how they could get rid of the Prophet Joseph’s leadership.
“They made the mistake of inviting Brigham Young to one of these secret meetings. He rebuked them, after he had heard the purpose of their meeting. This is part of what he said: ‘You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God and sink yourselves to hell.’ (Conference Report, April 1963, p. 81)
In a general conference of the Church President N. Eldon Tanner stated:
“The Prophet spoke out clearly on Friday morning, telling us what our responsibilities are.... A man said to me after that, ‘You know, there are people in our state who believe in following the Prophet in everything they think is right, but when it is something they think isn’t right, and it doesn’t appeal to them, then that’s different.’ He said, ‘Then they become their own prophet. They decide what the Lord wants and what the Lord doesn’t want.’
“I thought how true, and how serious when we begin to choose which of the covenants, which of the commandments we will keep and follow. When we decide that there are some of them that we will not keep or follow, we are taking the law of the Lord into our own hands and become our own prophets, and believe me, we will be led astray, because we are false prophets to ourselves when we do not to follow the Prophet of God.
“No, we should never discriminate between these commandments, as to those we should and should not keep.” (Conference Report, October 1966, p. 98)
“Look to the Presidency and receive instruction,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 161).
The need to sustain our leaders
President John Taylor said with typical boldness, "You cannot say that you submit to the law of God while you reject the word and counsel of his servants." (Journal of Discourses 7:325.)
To Whom can We Turn?
Joseph F. Smith taught, “We can accept nothing as authoritative but that which comes directly through the appointed channel, the constituted organizations of the Priesthood, which is the channel that God has appointed through which to make known His mind and will to the world. . . . And the moment that individuals look to any other source, that moment they throw themselves open to the seductive influences of Satan, and render themselves liable to become servants of the devil; they lose sight of the true order through which the blessings of the Priesthood are to be enjoyed; they step outside of the pale of the kingdom of God, and are on dangerous ground. Whenever you see a man rise up claiming to have received direct revelation from the Lord to the Church, independent of the order and channel of the Priesthood, you may set him down as an imposter” (Gospel Doctrine, 4142).
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)