According to the Moses account of the creation, at the time the commandment was given to “not eat of” the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the woman had not been created. (Moses 3: 15-17.) It was after giving Adam this commandment that the woman was created. (Moses 3: 21-23.)
Eve’s knowledge of the commandment came from Adam, not from God.
God’s commandment to Adam was: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” The restriction placed on Adam was to “NOT EAT” of the fruit of that tree.
Adam’s explanation to Eve was different. Eve explained her understanding to the serpent when the serpent tempted her: “God hath said–Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” (Moses 4: 9.) Eve’s understanding of the commandment varied from what had been given to Adam by the addition of the words: “NEITHER SHALL YE TOUCH OF IT.”
Adam added to the Lord’s commandment. This additional precaution was the error which set the transgression in motion. For when Eve saw the serpent touching the fruit and not dying, it lent credibility to the assertion that “ye shall not surely die.” (Moses 4: 10.) Being innocent, and therefore vulnerable to deception, Eve could not know she was confronting a lie. Instead she saw with her own eyes that the commandment “not to touch” clearly did not result in death.
One of the great lessons of the Moses account is that adding to the commandments of God, no matter how well intentioned, is going to lead to error if not tragedy. We do as He asks. Without adding to, nor subtracting from what He has bid us to do, we should follow what we are asked by Him.
We cannot improve on His commandments. We cannot build a fence around His commandments by adding other precautions, gestures, supplements, or restrictions. When we do that we produce excess, rigidity, unintended consequences and error. We teach for doctrines the commandments of men. Inevitably leading to a form of godliness without any power. It’s an historic path to failure, diminishing power in the priesthood until it is gone altogether. Detracting from our spiritual as well as physical health. Removing our strength. Corrupting our posterity, as they are distracted from what they should receive as they seek for what they cannot attain by “some other way.”
I rather like Moses’ account.
The great latter day “pollutions” referred to by Mormon in Mormon 8: 31 are the behaviors of men; not environmental waste. Mormon identifies what those “pollutions” are: “murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations.”
Those are harsh indictments. But it becomes even more harsh when Mormon identifies US as the culprits. He calls us “pollutions.” He tells us we have polluted the “holy Church of God.” That can only mean the Restored Church. Sobering indeed.
“O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?” (Mormon 8: 38.) Remember that Mormon saw us. Jesus Christ showed Mormon US. He was in a unique position to accurately tell us what ails us. (Mormon 8: 35.)
So why do we think ourselves in good spiritual condition? Why are we confident we aren’t condemned by the Lord? Why do we presume that as Latter-day Saints we are safe. Why do we think Mormon is talking to all those other churches; churches who will never read his book, and therefore cannot be warned by it? It defies common sense, really.
We are in a lot of trouble. He’s trying to help us. How foolish to think we can line up beside him and point the finger away from ourselves. He won’t let us do that, you know. He’s pointing the finger right at us.
April General Conference is upon us. I’m hoping to be able to see or hear some of it while at an out-of-state baseball tournament set for this weekend.
We have a tradition of attending General Priesthood meeting at the BYU Marriott Center. I’m worried that I won’t be back in time for that session. I always like to attend with a larger group, and since you don’t need tickets to attend at BYU, I like going there. All my sons grew up with this tradition.
If you’re in Utah County or Salt Lake County, I recommend it. Outside of the Conference Center itself, I think it is the largest single body of priesthood attending that session of conference.
Isaiah prophesied about the effect of losing knowledge about God. He wrote: “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.” (Isa. 5: 13.)
This is an apt description of people when they are not “fed” with truth and light.
In contrast, Nephi wanted the Latter-day followers of Christ to have a “feast” to consume while toiling in this fallen, difficult time. But Nephi notes the “feast” will come to us from hearing the words of “angels” and not from the “arm of flesh.” Nephi taught us: “Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32: 3.)
Whether we are to “feast” or be “famished” is up to us. Seek, ask, knock: it will be opened. Stay content, do not ask, seek, or knock: you will remain dried up with thirst.
I was asked about the meaning of the statement in scripture that “God cannot lie.” It is an important concept and it has a highly specific application. I have dealt with it at length in the book Beloved Enos. I would suggest reading the discussion there. If there are still questions, send me another inquiry.
I’ve been impressed with Isaiah the last few weeks. His words are timeless. He describes patterns which recur whenever people seek to follow God. It is little wonder Nephi chose to adopt many of Isaiah’s words to describe what he (Nephi) had seen in vision.
I’m struck by how often one prophet will adopt the words of another prophet as his own. One of the great moments in scripture is when Jacob has his people come up to the temple, promising to give them a prophecy. When they arrive, he reads them the words of Zenos, found in Jacob Chapter 5. Then, after this long recitation of Zenos’ words by Jacob, he adds the following:
“As I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy– that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto an unto a tame olive tree, must surely come to pass.” (Jacob 6: 1.) That’s it. His great prophecy: What Zenos said will happen!
I like that. Succinct. No messing around. Just telling these folks that this prophecy he read from another prophet was from God.
It’s a profound message. We endlessly lose light. Then assignments come to prophets to bring back a little (or a lot) of it, and they restore again. We’ve been in the process of restoring truth since Adam. This is because we have also been in the process of discarding truth since Adam. It’s a race between the discarding and the restoring. Mostly discarding seems to win.
Alta lost to Lone Peak in a snow flurry on Friday. They have a another game set for Tuesday at Alta. It is supposed to rain. It will be interesting to see how much different snow and rain make the game.
There was one pop-up in the infield by Lone Peak which went “major league” height – nearly out of sight. In the snow, the Alta shortstop called for the ball, backing off the second-baseman. As the ball descended, the wind and snow pushed it and the shortstop drifted with the ball. By the time it came down, the shortstop had moved within twenty feet of first base. He actually missed the catch. Between the snow and wind the play was anything but routine.
Both teams played in the same conditions. So there’s no excuses for the outcome. But I have to admit, I was grateful when it ended (despite the loss) because the weather made watching it so unpleasant.
I’m hoping the rain-play on Tuesday will be more tolerable to sit through.
Thankfully, state playoffs are generally played in warm, dry weather; and when you get far enough along, also on a neutral field.
I have enormous respect for President Boyd K. Packer. To me he is one of the great lights in the church. I know he had a role in the excommunication of seven “intellectuals” years ago, and that controversy remains today. One of those affected was a fellow who attended law school at the same time as I did. I feel for both him and President Packer. I do not feel inclined to criticize him, nor have I. I do wish the breach between my friend and the church were healed.
President Packer has given many important talks in his career. Perhaps one of the most significant was given in the October, 1977 General Conference. In it he made the following explanation of his testimony and of the testimonies of General Authorities. He is speaking of the time when he was first interviewed to be called as a General Authority by President :
President McKay explained that one of the responsibilities of an Assistant to the Twelve was to stand with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as a special witness and to bear testimony that Jesus is the Christ. What he said next overwhelmed me: “Before we proceed to set you apart, I ask you to bear your testimony to us. We want to know if you have that witness.”
I did the best I could. I bore my testimony the same as I might have in a fast and testimony meeting in my ward. To my surprise, the Brethren of the Presidency seemed pleased and proceeded to confer the office upon me.
That puzzled me greatly, for I had supposed that someone called to such an office would have an unusual, different, and greatly enlarged testimony and spiritual power.
It puzzled me for a long time until finally I could see that I already had what was required: an abiding testimony in my heart of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, that we have a Heavenly Father, and that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. I may not have known all about it, but I did have a testimony, and I was willing to learn.
I was perhaps no different from those spoken of in the Book of Mormon: “And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20; emphasis added).
Over the years, I have come to see how powerfully important that simple testimony is. I have come to understand that our Heavenly Father is the Father of our spirits (see Numbers 16:22; Hebrews 12:9; D&C 93:29). He is a father with all the tender love of a father. Jesus said, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:27).
Some years ago, I was with President Marion G. Romney, meeting with mission presidents and their wives in Geneva, Switzerland. He told them that 50 years before, as a missionary boy in Australia, late one afternoon he had gone to a library to study. When he walked out, it was night. He looked up into the starry sky, and it happened. The Spirit touched him, and a certain witness was born in his soul.
He told those mission presidents that he did not know any more surely then as a member of the First Presidency that God the Father lives; that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father; and that the fulness of the gospel had been restored than he did as a missionary boy 50 years before in Australia. He said that his testimony had changed in that it was much easier to get an answer from the Lord. The Lord’s presence was nearer, and he knew the Lord much better than he had 50 years before.
There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!
It would be very disappointing to my wife and to me if we supposed any one of our children would think that we think we are of more worth to the family or to the Church than they are, or to think that one calling in the Church was esteemed over another or that any calling would be thought to be less important.
Recently, one of our sons was sustained as ward mission leader. His wife told us how thrilled he was with the call. It fits the very heavy demands of his work. He has the missionary spirit and will find good use for his Spanish, which he has kept polished from his missionary days. We also were very, very pleased at his call.
What my son and his wife are doing with their little children transcends anything they could do in the Church or out. No service could be more important to the Lord than the devotion they give to one another and to their little children. And so it is with all our other children. The ultimate end of all activity in the Church centers in the home and the family.
As General Authorities of the Church, we are just the same as you are, and you are just the same as we are. You have the same access to the powers of revelation for your families and for your work and for your callings as we do.
It is also true that there is an order to things in the Church. When you are called to an office, you then receive revelation that belongs to that office that would not be given to others.
No member of the Church is esteemed by the Lord as more or less than any other. It just does not work that way! Remember, He is a father—our Father. The Lord is “no respecter of persons.”
We are not worth more to the onrolling of the Lord’s work than were Brother and Sister Toutai Paletu‘a in Nuku‘alofa, Tonga; or Brother and Sister Carlos Cifuentes in Santiago, Chile; or Brother and Sister Peter Dalebout in the Netherlands; or Brother and Sister Tatsui Sato of Japan; or hundreds of others I have met while traveling about the world. It just does not work that way.
And so the Church moves on. It is carried upon the shoulders of worthy members living ordinary lives among ordinary families, guided by the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ, which is in them.
I bear witness that the gospel is true and that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God—every soul—and that we are blessed to be members of the Church. I have the witness that would qualify me for the calling I have. I’ve had it since I met the First Presidency those many years ago. I bear it to you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
I believe President Packer means it when he says his testimony was “the same as I might have in a fast and testimony meeting in my ward.” When someone in a position of Church leadership has an audience with Christ, we hear about it. Joseph Smith told us. Oliver Cowdrey told us. Sidney Rigdon told us. So did President John Taylor, President Joseph F. Smith and David B. Haight. Their calling is to bear a witness of Him. When they have an actual audience, I believe they tell us.
The calling of the Twelve is to “bear witness” of Christ. (D&C 107: 23.) Because of that calling, they must proclaim they have a “witness” even if it could be more correctly described as a testimony born of the Spirit. I accept their “witness” of Christ and believe it is authoritative. However, I do not read into their testimony what they do not put there themselves.
I accept the “witness” of the living Apostles, although it is a rare exception when one has an audience with Christ. In recent talks Elder Scott has gone to some length to testify and describe his own spiritual experiences. I trust in them. I trust him. I believe him to be an Apostle. It is not necessary for an Apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to have a personal audience with Christ.
Years ago Elder Mark Peterson said he did not think it possible for a gentile to receive an audience with Christ. He thought that was confined to pure-blooded Israelites. Since he was a gentile apostle to a gentile church, he did not believe it possible for him to receive such an audience. As I understand it, that is the general view among the brethren. The charge given by Elder Oliver Cowdrey to the Twelve (telling them they must receive an audience with Christ for their ordination to be complete) was discontinued in 1911 by President Smith. It was discontinued because so few had received that audience. But that does not make these men any less apostles.
I trust President Packer. I accept his testimony. I believe it is enough to qualify him for the work, just as President McKay told him. I am impressed with his humility in explaining his testimony in General Conference. It increases my trust in him as a servant of the Lord.
Almost everything about the Gospel plan is a process and not an event. There are events to be sure, but for most of us and for most of the time we are only working through the process.
A great deal of the scriptures have been written by those who have been through the process, and who are trying to give us instruction to repeat it in our own lives. “Events” which occur are in the scriptures, as well. But we will never arrive at the “events” unless we first realize there is a process and we begin to participate actively in that process.
The first chapter of Abraham, second and third verses, describes a lengthy process. It took decades to unfold. It was not merely that Abraham determined to do something and then it happened. He’s giving a recitation of the process whereby he became at last a “rightful heir” and a “prince of peace” who had “received instructions” and “held the right belonging to the fathers.”
His quest began in “the land of the Chaldeans.” His ordination would not occur until he was transplanted nearly a thousand miles to the place where Melchizedek would at last ordain and endow him. (D&C 84: 14.) Shem was the “great high priest” we know as “Melek” (king) and “Zadok” (priest) or in other words Melchizedek. (D&C 138: 41.)
[Bruce R. McConkie and President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that Shem was NOT Melchizedek. They reasoned that the meaning of words “through the lineage of the fathers, even till Noah” meant that there were generations between Noah and Melchizedek. And that since Noah was Shem’s father, there were no generations. I do not think the words refer to the “generations” after Noah, but to the generations before Noah. In other words, Noah received the priesthood through the generations going back to Adam, and then having that priesthood which began in the first generations, he conferred it upon Shem, whose new name was Melchizedek. It was this “great high priest” who conferred the priesthood on Abraham. You should be aware that I am differing from what McConkie and Smith have taught on this issue. I’m confident in my position and not persuaded by their reasoning, but you are free to believe who you choose.]
When we read the quick summary of Abraham in 1: 2-3, we can wrongly presume that this was a quick event, not a long process. It was lengthy. It did not unfold without decades of desiring, seeking, receiving promises and then having them fulfilled.
A great deal of what we read in the scriptures is quickly describing the process. They can be misleading in that respect. Nephi’s early account of his visionary experiences suggests instant clarity and understanding. However, Nephi took decades to unravel what he had been given. We are reading his third account. He first wrote it when it happened. Then he recorded it a second time on his large plates. It was not until he had received the commandment to prepare the small plates (on which he wrote the account we read in 1& 2 Nephi) that he finally gave us the third, refined, and completed account. This was decades later. He had “pondered continually upon the things which [he] had seen and heard” (2 Ne. 4: 16) during the intervening decades. The account we have reduces the decades of reflection into a single, cogent statement.
The Lord does no magic. He aids us in our growth. We have to grow and overcome. Nephi’s vision was something which, without decades of pondering, he could not state with clarity to a reader of his testimony. It is always required for us to conform to the Lord’s understanding and abandon our own.
The comment by Moses in Moses 1: 27-30 shows how despite the vision he could not understand. He had to ask, “tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?” It would take great effort to be able to catch up with the things he witnessed.
The Lord lives in a timeless state. (D&C 130: 7; Alma 40: 8.) We live inside time. When the Lord shows things to prophets from His perspective, it takes a while for men to comprehend what they have been shown. It is a process. Our effort is also required.
Men are not perfected in an instant. We do not learn, even with a Perfect Teacher, without applying ourselves. It sometimes takes, as in the cases of Abraham and Nephi, decades of pondering in order for us to understand and finally receive what has been given to us. In the mean time, the Lord gives us experiences in life which will allow our minds to open to what He has done for us.
Joseph’s First Vision was originally his own conversion story. By the time of the third account (the one we have in the scriptures) it had changed into the opening of a dispensation for all mankind. It changed from Joseph’s conversion into the herald call from heaven to all mankind. The years from 1820 to 1838 were required for Joseph to understand the difference. Same vision. Much different understanding.
So it is with all sons of God.
I was asked if Joseph Smith saw more than two personages in his First Vision. In the account written in 1835 Joseph stated: “I saw many angels in this vision.”
The account in the Pearl of Great Price (written in 1838) omits any mention of this detail.
I wrote a post about altering or rewriting scriptures to resolve doctrinal disputes. The example used was taken from the time before the New Testament settled into its final form. That example, “adoptionism” was rejected by the majority view, and ultimately the text of the New Testament was changed to make the doctrine “false” from the text. That change was made during the Third and Fourth Centuries as a result of what is now called the Christological debates.
Someone asked if I thought Christ was adopted. That wasn’t the point of the blog post. But as long as the question was asked, here’s my view:
No, He was the Son of God. However, even as the Son of God He still was required to be acknowledged by Him in mortality to be saved. Once He entered into mortality, took upon Him blood, He was subject to the Fall. Despite being subject to the Fall, He lived His life in such a way that the Fall could not have a proper claim upon Him. It was unjust He should die. When, therefore, death overtook Him, it was unjust. That injustice was the reason He could resurrect. The grave could have no just claim upon Him, and therefore death could be reversed in Him. The Father accepted Him as His Son while He was still in mortality. This was done because as a mortal, subject to the Fall, inhabiting a body with blood and the elements of corruption, Christ needed to receive the Father’s acknowledgment as His Son, even though He was indeed His Son.
Now the adoptionist theory was contrary to this. They held the view that Christ was just another man and got adopted to become the Son of God. He was God’s Son solely as a result of that adoption and not in any other way. I reject that idea. But I accept that He needed, just as everyone else needs, to be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, proceed through the ordinances of the Gospel, and ultimately receive His calling and election made sure. He said He needed to “fulfill all righteousness” and He did all that was required of any of us. God acknowledged Him as His Son. This is required for anyone to be saved. Christ showed the way and walked the path. So in that sense He, just as all of us, needed to be “adopted.” Him because He was mortal. Us because we are conceived in sin.