Monday, October 20, 2014

The Resurrection: "And their joy shall be full forever" (2 Nephi 9:18).

According to Brigham Young:

"I think it has been taught by some that as we lay our bodies down, they will so rise again in the resurrection with all the impediments and imperfections that they had here; and that if a wife does not love her husband in this state she cannot love him in the next. This is not so. Those who attain to the blessing of the first or celestial resurrection will be pure and holy, and perfect in body. Every man and woman that reaches to this unspeakable attainment will be as beautiful as the angels that surround the throne of God. If you can, by faithfulness in this life, obtain the right to come up in the morning of the resurrection, you need entertain no fears that the wife will be dissatisfied with her husband, or the husband with the wife; for those of the first resurrection will be free from sin and from the consequences and power of sin.

[Brigham Young, October 6, 1862, in Journal of Discourses, 10: 24].

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Great Division: The 1845 Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles

Nephi spoke of a great division in the latter-days before the return of the Son of God to reign as King of Kings.

For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other--either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken (1 Nephi 14:7).

In 1845, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued an official proclamation that was widely circulated. In 1841 Joseph Smith had been commanded by God to "make a solemn proclamation" of the Gospel addressed to "all the kings of the world, to the four corners thereof, to the honorable president-elect, and the high-minded governors of the nation in which you live, and to all the nations of the earth scattered abroad." The Lord said, "Let it be written in the spirit of meekness and by the power of the Holy Ghost, which shall be in you at the time of the writing of the same; for it shall be given you by the Holy Ghost, which shall be in you at the time of the writing of the same" (D&C 124:2-4). Leaders of the world were to be invited to give heed to the restoration of the Gospel in the Latter-days and to lend support to the building up of the Lord's Kingdom. Other demands and difficulties and his murder in 1844 prevented the Prophet from completing this assignment, although in November 1843 he had directed several Apostles to proceed with the work. In 1845 the Quorum of the Twelve finally published the document in fulfillment of the earlier commandment. This remarkable document, notable for it's boldness, was published under the title, Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: To All the Kings of the World, To the President of the United States of America; To the Governors of the Several States, and To the Rulers and People of All Nations (Liverpool: 1845). The entire sixteen page document is worth reading, but in light of the passage cited above from Nephi, I find the following reference to be interesting:

"As this work progresses in its onward course, and becomes more and more an object of political and religious interest and excitement, no king, ruler, or subject--no community or individual will stand neutral: all will at length be influenced by one spirit or the other, and will take sides either for or against the kingdom of God and the fulfillment of the prophets in the great restoration and return of his long-dispersed covenant people. Some will act the part of the venerable Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, or the noble Cyrus, and will aid and bless the people of God; or like Ruth, the Moabitess will forsake their people, and their kindred, and country, and will say to the Saints, or to Israel--`This people shall be my people, and their God my God,' while others will walk in the footsteps of Pharaoh or a Balak, and will harden their hearts and fight against God, and seek to destroy his people."

[Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles, 1845, 6. Emphasis added).

As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, "All the easy things in the Church have been done. From here on out its all high adventure."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Seconding the Motion

I wanted to second Matt's post about the column in the Deseret News. It discusses how an environmental explanation of certain points in the Book of Mormon fails as an explanation. It is worth a read.

When Criticisms of the Book of Mormon Cannot Be Taken Seriously

I recommend a very good column this morning from the Deseret News by my friend and colleague Daniel C. Peterson. It's pretty good except that he cites several articles by that Roper fellow.

The Duck Dynasty Strategy from the Book of Mormon

Morgan Deane is a historian who runs a blog on Warfare and the Book of Mormon has recently authored an interesting post on the issue of Gadianton robbers which may be of interest to some in light of current events. He has published on ancient warfare and has an excellent and thought provoking book Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon which is worth reading. It is now available in paperback.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Samuel the Lamanite, False Prophets and True

We read of Samuel the Lamanite, a non-Nephite prophet who came to the city of Zarahemla to preach the Gospel and warn the people of that city to repent.

And as many as believed on his word went forth and sought for Nephi; and when they had come forth and found him they confessed unto him their sins and denied not, desiring that they might be baptized unto the Lord (Helaman 16:1).

And when they saw that they could not hit him, there were many more who did believe on his words, insomuch that they went away unto Nephi to be baptized. . . . Therefore as many as believed on the words of Samuel went forth unto him to be baptized, for they came repenting and confessing their sins. (Helaman 16:3, 5).

We are told that there were some who heard, believed in his words,  repented of their sins, but they did not go to Samuel to be baptized. Why not?

Joseph Smith taught an important principle regarding the bounds of priesthood authority.

"The angel told good old Cornelius that he must send for Peter to learn how to be saved: Peter could baptize, and angels could not, so long as there were legal officers in the flesh holding the keys of the kingdom, or the authority of the priesthood. . . . Jesus himself when he appeared to Paul on his way to Damascus, did not inform him how he could be saved. He had set in the church first Apostles, and secondly prophets, for the work of the ministry, perfecting of the saints, etc.; and as the grand rule of heaven was that nothing should ever be done on earth without revealing the secret to his servants the prophets, agreeably to Amos 3:7, so Paul could not learn so much from the Lord relative to his duty in the common salvation of man, as he could from one of Christ's ambassadors called with the same heavenly calling of the lord, and endowed with the same power from on high—so that what they loosed on earth, should be loosed in heaven; and what they bound on earth should be bound in heaven."

[“Baptism,” Times & Seasons 3/21 (1 September, 1842): 905, reprinted in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 264. Emphasis added].

Samuel the Lamanite was authorized to preach the Gospel, but he did not baptize and he did not bestow power and authority on those who repented and believed either. There was already a Church among the Nephites (Helaman 6:3-5) and a prophet with authority from God to administer the ordinances of the Gospel (Helaman 10:4-10). Samuel spoke the truth and preached the message given him by an angel, but as a true messenger from God he did not and would not interfere with the established order of the Church in taking upon himself to work of baptizing among the Nephites without further authorization when there were already authorized ministers such as Nephi who could administer that ordinance. As a true messenger from God Samuel would not have done so without authorization from Nephi who presided over the Church at this time. This is why full time missionaries today act under Apostolic direction and also work to coordinate with local Church leaders in the work of teaching and baptizing those who receive the Gospel.

For Latter-day Saints, this principle is particularly important. Joseph Smith received authority from God and sacred priesthood keys from angelic messengers sent from heaven. The Church and keys of the Kingdom are to remain on the earth until the return of the Lord at his second coming (D&C 13:1; 27:12-13, 16; 42:69; 90:2-5; 112:30-32).

In another early revelation the Lord taught:

Again, I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church (D&D 42:11).

Authorized ministers are known to the Church through the principle of common consent (D&C 20:63, 67, 84), and it is given to the Twelve Apostles "to ordain and set in order all the other officers of the Church" or direct that such be done (D&C 107:58). These revelations are a guide and a protection given to members of the Church to help us avoid being deceived by those who falsely claim authority.

Orson Hyde, who was present at the first meeting of the School of Prophets in Kirtland Ohio remembered the following incident which is instructive and warns against the claims of false prophets:

"The occasion which called forth this testimony upon this matter was as follows:–One Francis G. Bishop, an Elder in our church, was very anxious to be ordained a High Priest, but he was not considered a proper candidate to fill the office at that time; and his urgent solicitations to be promoted to the High Priesthood, confirmed the Saints in the opinion that he wanted a high station without meriting it, or without being called by the Spirit of God to that work. He was sent forth into the world to preach in capacity and calling of an Elder; but he was not long out before he declared himself to be a High Priest–and that he was ordained from heaven. This made much stir in the branches of the church and also in the world. But when the news of his proceedings reached the prophet Joseph, he called Bishop home forthwith. He was introduced into the school of the prophets, and there closely questioned upon his course. He said he was ordained by an angel to the High Priesthood; yet, on a more close examination, he crossed his own testimony and statements–became confused, and blushed with shame and guilt–he fell down upon his knees and confessed that he had lied in the name of the Lord–begged to be forgiven and cried aloud for mercy. We all forgave him, but we could not give him our confidence, for he had destroyed it. Elder Sidney Rigdon was present at that meeting, and though he has since fallen, still he knows that my statements are correct. Zebedee Coultrin was also present, and many others that I might name. Brother Joseph observed to Bishop that he knew that he had lied before he confessed it; that his declarations were not only false in themselves, but they involved a false principle. An angel, said Joseph, may administer the word of the Lord unto men, and bring intelligence to them from heaven upon various subjects; but no true angel from God will ever come to ordain any man, because they have once been sent to establish the priesthood by ordaining me thereunto; and the priesthood being once established on earth, with power to ordain others, no heavenly messenger will ever come to interfere with that power by ordaining any more. He referred to the angel that came to Cornelius and told Cornelius to send for Peter; but if there had been no Peter with keys and power to administer, the angel might have done it himself; but as there was, the angel would not interfere. Saul was directed to go to Ananias for instruction and to be administered to by him; but if there had been no Ananias with power and authority on earth to administer in the name of Christ, the Lord might have done it himself. You may therefore know, from this time forward, that if any man comes to you professing to be ordained by an angel, he is either a liar or has been imposed upon in consequence of transgression by an angel of the devil, for this priesthood shall never be taken away from this church. If men would regard the testimony of the servants of God who have laid down their lives for the cause, they would have little fear of being misled; but when the spirit of apostasy takes possession of a man’s heart, he becomes completely blind to every true principle and is filled with strife, debate, deceit, false accusation, and treachery. He cherishes no desire to convert and save the world, but is content to confine his operations to the church, which he slanders, defames, and, like a ravening wolf, tries to tear in pieces and destroy; and having no merit of his own to bring him into notice, he seeks to obtain notoriety by contention and debate, which the Lord declares are not of him but of the devil. Their hearts being a fountain of evil, they can speak nothing but evil; they being disciples of the “accuser of our brethren,” can do nothing but accuse the brethren like their master whom they serve; they, having a beam in their own eyes, can see nothing but the mote in their brother’s eye; and well did the Saviour ask such characters, “How can ye, being evil, speak good things?” They are like the filthy and indelicate bird that has no relish for sweet and wholesome meat, but likes to feast on tainted flesh and putrid carcases.

[Orson Hyde], “Although Dead, Yet He Speaketh: Joseph Smith’s testimony concerning being ordained by angels, delivered in the school of the prophets, in Kirtland, Ohio, in the Winter of 1832-3,” Millennial Star, 8/9 (20 November 1846): 138-39. Emphasis added].

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Faithful Study of Latter-day Scripture Helps Us Avoid Deception

Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

It seems to me that any member of this Church would never be satisfied until he or she had read the Book of Mormon time and time again and thoroughly considered it so that he or she could bear witness that it is in very deed a record with the inspiration of the Almighty upon it, and that its history is true.

I can testify of that, for I know the Book of Mormon is true just as well as I know I am standing here in this building facing you. . . . No member of this Church can stand approved in the presence of God who has not seriously and carefully read the Book of Mormon, and I think I could add to that also, as far as our brethren are concerned, the the Doctrine and Covenants.

We have besides the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, another record which is priceless, as these records are, that every member of this Church ought to have read, and which I fear many have not read. I have reference to the Pearl of Great Price. It seems to me that a member of this Church would not be able to rest in peace and comfort and have a clear conscience without having knowledge by study and by faith of the standard works of the Church. These records are priceless. The world mocks at them, but through their teachings we are permitted to come nearer unto God, get a better understanding of our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ, become closer acquainted with them and to know more in regard to the wonderful plan of salvation which they have given unto us and unto the world if it will receive the plan that will exalt us in the kingdom of God to become his sons and his daughters, receiving the fulness of that kingdom      . . . .

Brethren, teach the men who hold the priesthood in their quorums. Teach the members of the Church in their meetings, and also when you visit them in their homes as ward teachers. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, teach them to read and study in faith and prayer the revelations the Lord has given us that we may not be deceived and led astray by false teachers. We have false teachers among us. We have apostates among us who are endeavoring to tear down and destroy the kingdom of God, and they are disturbing a great many members of the Church. Why? Because they haven't the faith nor the background in knowledge to resist these false teachers and their false doctrines. Let me plead with the membership of this Church for humility, for faith, for more prayer, more study, more love in their hearts for God their Eternal Father and his Son Jesus Christ.

[Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Reports, October 1961, 19-20].