Ephraim – June 28, 2014
Las Vegas – July 25, 2014
St. George – July 26, 2014
Phoenix area – September 9, 2014, this will conclude the 40th year and will take place on day 365.
All talks will be in the morning.
Ephraim – June 28, 2014
Las Vegas – July 25, 2014
St. George – July 26, 2014
Phoenix area – September 9, 2014, this will conclude the 40th year and will take place on day 365.
All talks will be in the morning.
I am not and have never been a “dissident” in the LDS Church.
I do not want to reform the LDS Church. I do not want to manage it, or join in managing it, or change its management. There is no “cause” I advocate in the hope of altering a policy or procedure of the LDS Church. Their policies, procedures, programs, choices, how it spends its money, what it builds or who it employs are all matters I am indifferent to.
Those who want to get the LDS Church to ordain women are dissidents. Those who want to have the Book of Abraham abandoned, or want to wear pants (a convention, not a policy), or seek to have homosexuals married are the work of dissidents. There are many causes and many dissidents. I am not one. They are welcome to their causes.
I was converted to a religion which I understood was restored by Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith and contained the latest clarifications, corrections, additions and explanations God wanted me to understand. I am still converted to that religion.
At one time I briefly identified the religion with the LDS Church. But that lasted only a few months. With a little reflection, it was apparent the religion was not the institution. All the other organized religions I was familiar with held the Bible to be God’s complete statement of faith. It was not to be added to or expanded upon. The new religion I accepted taught me to believe God spoke still, and revelation would continue. God likewise talked with me for the first time when I joined this new religion. If God hadn’t spoken to me in answer to sincere prayer, I would not have become Mormon.
I believe “the extent of [our] knowledge respecting [God’s] character and glory will depend upon [our] diligence and faithfulness in seeking after [Him].” (Lectures on Faith, 2nd Lecture, par. 55.) Therefore I ventured to try to gain knowledge about God directly, by my own inquiries to Him. I pursued this in all sincerity of heart, believing God would answer me when I sought Him. (James 1: 5.) I have learned it to be true that “the inquiry frequently terminated, indeed always terminated when rightly pursued, in the most glorious discoveries and eternal certainty.” (Id. par. 56.)
To practice this religion, I joined the LDS Church because I thought it welcomed and encouraged this kind of relationship with God. For a season it seemed to do just that. Over the course of four decades, however, it became increasingly difficult to pursue the religion inside an institution with ambitions which ran contrary to my desire to understand God and become acquainted with Him.
I did not resist the desire of the LDS church to control its meetings and pursue an ambitious course of controlling what its members could say. I did not dissent and petition for change. But neither did I cease from seeking God in the manner I found in Joseph Smith’s example, Nephi’s teachings, Jacob’s sermons, Alma’s writings, Abinadi’s warnings and Christ’s discourses. It was my understanding that I was free to worship God “according to the dictates of [my own] conscience,” and the LDS Church was likewise free to enjoy “the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (11th Article of Faith.)
If they had permitted me to do so, I was absolutely content to remain a member of the LDS Church. Although I understood the religion differently than taught within the programs of the church, the church had the right to pursue its course without my interference. I do not believe I ever interfered. I studied the faith, tried to live the faith, tried to understand what it offered each of us when rightly pursued, and ultimately received “the most glorious discoveries and eternal certainty” from my pursuit.
Like others who tasted from this tree of life, once I learned the religion restored through Joseph Smith was indeed alive, and able to reconnect us to the True Vine (John 15: 1-5), I wanted others to also know it was possible to eat from the Tree of Life. (See 1 Ne. 8: 12; also Enos 1: 9.) It should be welcome and appropriate for all Latter-day Saints to both belong to the LDS Church and to reconnect with heaven and be filled with knowledge from God.
I thought I was free to believe and teach others about how great things God offered to us all, liberally, if we ask in faith, believing. However, the LDS Church took the position I was out of harmony with the institution and should be excommunicated. They were free to do so. I do not challenge their right to remove me from their membership roles.
Now, just as before when I was part of the institution, I still believe and practice the religion restored through Joseph Smith. I believe I have always been free to practice this faith, and I intend to continue to do so. Now, however, I am unmolested by institutional constraint and control, and therefore I needn’t be concerned about some of the things I was before.
There is no office in either the LDS Church or the priesthood of God called “Prophet.” Nor is there an office in the LDS Church or the priesthood called “Seer;” nor “Revelator” nor “Translator.” There is an office called “President” and an office called “Apostle” and “High Priest” and “Elder” and others.
The role of a “prophet” comes as a gift from God, not from holding an office. To receive this gift, one must receive a prophecy from God, or a testimony from Jesus, to be delivered to people. Likewise revelation comes from God, and when it comes the person receiving it has received revelation and is therefore a revelator. It is a gift, not an office. Similarly the gift of seership is not an office, but a gift bestowed by God, and requires God’s showing to the recipient something before the gift is held. In the case of Mosiah, the gift included “miraculous interpreters” (Mosiah 8: 13), but in the case of Enoch, the Lord made the gift reside within his body (Moses 6: 35-36). Likewise, translation of ancient languages to preserve truth previously lost to mankind is a gift from God, not an office.
When the LDS Church claims its presiding authorities are “prophets, seers and revelators” I took no issue with the claim, but understood this to be descriptive of a hope, or ambition, to be given by God as a gift to them if God willed to do so. I presumed sustaining them as “prophets, seers and revelators” did not empower them to make the claim to possess these gifts in the absence of God bestowing them. Therefore, I awaited God’s hand to vindicate the expectancy, never dreaming that by merely voting I could elevate a mere man to possess what is God’s right alone to give.
There is no official “creed” given to us by Joseph Smith. He advised all to search into God’s mysteries: “I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness.” (TPJS p. 364.) I have done that, and believe all should do likewise. No institution can do this for me, or for you. It is up to each of us to practice this faith.
I believe everyone ought to practice a living, fruitful faith by reconnecting to the True Vine, because it is only through Christ we are able to do anything. When any soul reconnects to Christ, they are alive in Him and should do as Christ would have them do. If this puts you into conflict with an institution, then I believe it is our duty to obey Christ and endure the insults, rejection and turmoil which follows.
When I joined the LDS Church I literally sacrificed all I knew before. My family and closest friends were all anti-Mormon. When I joined, I lost their friendship. Although I succeeded in reconciling with many of them, it was a difficult process taking years.
When I found Christ, I was threatened with the loss of everything I had come to know during the 40 years of membership in the LDS Church. I was even confronted by a Stake President’s threat of the “spiritual demise” of “my family” if I did not relent from doing as Christ asked of me. After 40 years of building a new life as a Latter-day Saint, once again I was threatened with the sacrifice of all I knew and enjoyed. It was no easier the second time than it was the first. There are a lot of lies about me, and false claims attributed to me.
I believe “that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.” (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6, par. 7.) Because I have made these sacrifices, I have been called “proud” and “stubborn” and filled with “self will and ambition.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I mourn my losses, but believe they were made in obedience to Christ. Therefore I endure this, while wishing it were otherwise.
I have come to realize that criticism can be used by the Lord to accomplish what He wants to happen. There are many Latter-day Saints who will now read what I have written just because I was excommunicated. More has been done by that action to spread knowledge of what I believe than anything I have done. It stimulates curiosity and interest.
The LDS Church was entirely within its right to excommunicate me, and any of its members it considers unwanted. It is free to teach, advocate and alter what it does without any interference from me. I do not dissent from it, or hope in any way to change it or its course. That is between it and God. But likewise I claim the right to continue as I began, and believe in the faith restored through Joseph Smith and practice it according to the dictates of my conscience.
I likewise believe the LDS Church members who now spew venom against me are free to do so. They are not likely to persuade anyone by such tactics. I think the truth is more resilient than a lie.
If there were one scripture I could commend to my LDS critics it would be this: “And now I say unto you, Refrain from [this man], and let [him] alone: for if this counsel of this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” (Acts 5: 38-39.)
Why did Zion fail in Joseph’s day? How can we avoid that today? In almost every respect we are no better than those in Joseph’s time, and unfortunately in most respects we are not as good as they were. The only advantage we have is their failure. Provided, of course, we will learn from it. Their failure gives us great insight into what does not and cannot work.
The Lord counsels us to not attempt anything involving Zion in “haste.” But we are also told to be diligent. (See, e.g., D&C 59: 3-4.)
Read this advice from the Lord as if it were given to you about your day:
Verily I say unto you who have assembled yourselves together that you may learn my will concerning the redemption of mine afflicted people— Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now. But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them; And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom; And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself. And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer. I speak not concerning those who are appointed to lead my people, who are the first elders of my church, for they are not all under this condemnation; But I speak concerning my churches abroad—there are many who will say: Where is their God? Behold, he will deliver them in time of trouble, otherwise we will not go up unto Zion, and will keep our moneys. Therefore, in consequence of the transgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion— That they themselves may be prepared, and that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands. And this cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high. For behold, I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them, inasmuch as they are faithful and continue in humility before me. Therefore it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season, for the redemption of Zion. For behold, I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion; for, as I said in a former commandment, even so will I fulfil—I will fight your battles. (D&C 105: 1-14.)
Now go back and read D&C 101: 1-68. Remember the greatest challenge to prepare beforehand is the hearts of the people who are to gather. There is no reason to gather to fail again. Without appropriate preparation of people beforehand, angels will not gather them in. (D&C 77: 11.)
Zeal and haste will prevent Zion from coming and will destroy it if it’s here.
On the 1st of June, 1830 a small meeting was held by about thirty people who comprised the church. The meeting was in a home. During the meeting Newel Knight was carried away in a vision. Only Brother Knight had the vision, but Joseph accepted it as true and had it put into the history.
Here is what Newel Knight’s visionary experience included:
“He saw heaven opened and beheld the Lord Jesus Christ, sitting [at] the right hand of the Majesty on high, and had it made plain to his understanding that the time would come when he should be admitted into his presence to enjoy his society for ever and ever.” (JS Papers: Histories Vol. 1, p. 388, Draft 1; punctuation and insertions as in original.)
That example shows how open Joseph Smith was to allowing others to both receive revelations and for their revelations to be regarded as authentic and trustworthy. Joseph trusted in this visionary experience of Brother Newel Knight so much it was included in Joseph’s history.
This experience would be described as Brother Knight’s calling and election being made sure, since it includes the promise from God that he (Bro. Knight) will be able to enjoy Christ and the Father’s “society for ever and ever.”
It is not regarded as “too sacred” to discuss.
It is not regarded as impudent to have a visionary experience apart from Joseph.
It did not excite Joseph’s jealousy or condemnation, but inspired his confidence and faith.
It happened in a home, although it was a church meeting. No church buildings existed among the Saints during Joseph’s lifetime, other than the Kirtland Temple. The people met in homes or outside during Joseph’s lifetime.
When the brethrenites quote long passages from Talmage, McConkie, Grant, Brown, Widstoe, Lund or Romney to make a point, it has no persuasive impact on the residue. Likewise, when the residue quote the scriptures, it does not persuade the brethrenites as long as there is something contrary from Snow, Young, Taylor or Pratt. The arguments that one side believes should settle a question never succeeds in persuading the other because the underlying assumptions are so very different. Until the different groups decide to agree on what matters, what defines the faith, and whose statements carry authority and weight, there can be no agreement.
This is an odd gulf confronting Mormonism, because the brethrenites quote Eph. 4: 11-13 (leaders given to bring “unity of faith”) and the residue believe D&C 38: 27 (“if ye are not one ye are not mine”). Both ends believe sincerely in their position.
To the Brethrenites, I would pose this question: If apostles and prophets were given to bring “unity of faith” why do the doctrines differ so greatly between Brigham Young and Thomas Monson? What is this “in the absence of revelation” that changes very important doctrines?
To the residue, I would pose this question: If you believe your position, why do you remain silent in sacrament meeting, sunday school, priesthood, relief society and ym/yw classes? (Your position will never unify Mormons if the strength of your position goes unarticulated.)
In response to a question about whether my views have changed since I wrote The Second Comforter, I would say they have in some respects and have not in others. I do not intend to write a new edition and change what I wrote there. Believing Latter-day Saints should faithfully follow their religion. I was cast out of the church, and therefore have no reason to follow it lock-step any longer. But I do not resent the church, want back in, or hope to change it.
Even though the LDS Church is working very hard to put its leaders between the members and the Lord, I think a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint can endure that abuse while still honoring God. Christ did as much in His lifetime, and He is the great example. When you pass through all the rites of the LDS Church it begins and ends at almost the same point. The starting point is believing Joseph Smith, inspired by James 1:5, asked God and received an answer–and you can too. The ending point involves an ordinance which promises you further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil. Both at the beginning and the end of the LDS journey you are told to speak with God and expect an answer. If not for my belief in this promise, and the LDS Church’s teaching of it, I do not believe I would ever have conversed with God. So even now I see the LDS Church as having great value to its faithful members who can grow closer to God despite the foolishness of its Correlation program and distorted elevation of mere men.
The energy and light given through Joseph Smith powers the LDS Church still today. Even though the church’s leadership want to disregard, ignore, and even violate Joseph’s teachings, they still benefit from his original ministry.
One of the clearest moments in LDS Church history came on August 8, 1844. Joseph was dead. There were multiple contenders to lead the church in the leadership vacuum left by Joseph and Hyrum’s murders. When the critical moment arrived, the church took a profound, irreversible step. The church which was founded by revelation, proclaimed it was led by revelation, and held itself out as “true and living” because it was led by a prophet who received revelation, chose at that moment to ignore revelation. No one argued the choice should be made by God and then revealed to the church. Instead the church held an election and voted the 12 into power. At that moment the church decided to vote for its destiny, instead of letting God reveal to her His choice. Under the new direction Nauvoo was abandoned, the Saints fled into the wilderness, suffered, endured misery, were abused and blamed by the leaders for the leaders’ failures, and received chastening from an unimpressed God.
Although the Saints descended into a salty wasteland, the discovery of gold in California, the railroad and the convenience of a mid-mountain stopover helped them to survive. With time and a larger American economy in the midst of an Industrial Revolution, the church was likewise elevated economically and politically. Each step along the way the church positioned itself to benefit until now it is a powerful, multi-billion dollar enterprise with political, economic and social clout to protect itself from ever again enduring the early embarrassments and persecutions. It has diversified its product line from merely the “Mormon” religion, and has vast real estate, cattle, farming, business, banking, housing, educational, employment, television, radio, satellite, and other ventures. With all its leaders must manage, there is little time for and increasingly less attention given to the religion Joseph Smith was restoring. It is becoming increasingly clear to those who study the faith that it has undergone drastic changes since June 27, 1844. Those changes make the LDS Church much more like the rest of the world’s religions, and less like the revolution begun by God through Joseph.
I’m not sure the LDS Church today is even the same one I joined in 1973. I am certain it is not the same one Joseph Smith restored.
When I first joined the LDS Church there was a Presiding Patriarch sustained as a “Prophet, Seer and Revelator” in General Conference, which I understood was required for a fully organized church. He was subsequently released, his office left unfilled, and he has now died.
When I first became LDS the temple rites included roles, penalties and signs (I did not then understand) but which have subsequently been eliminated or changed.
When I first became LDS priesthood was restricted (which I hated but accepted), subsequently removed.
When I first became LDS there were 70’s in every Ward who were regarded as having a distinct office, which has now been eliminated, confined to General Authorities, who are all now High Priests, the office of 70 having been essentially eliminated.
When I first became LDS doctrine mattered, scriptures were used as the primary source of teaching, and General Conference talks were not re-read in Sacrament, Priesthood, Relief Society and Sunday School as the basis of lessons, unlike today. The adoration of church leaders is now almost the only “religion” practiced. Jesus Christ is a nominally mentioned party, appended at the end of talks and testimonies, as if mentioning Him at the end certifies everything remains His.
When I first became LDS we twice had the Sacrament blessed and passed each Sunday, we discussed openly the “mysteries” and had a very different Spirit within the community. There is a harshness to the LDS Church, and a hardness in its members which wasn’t there in 1973.
The list of changes is now over 120 items long and I won’t lay them out here. It isn’t important to do so. In the dedication of The Second Comforter I wrote: “Dedicated to the ‘few who are the humble followers of Christ.’ (2 Ne. 28: 14.)” I hoped readers would go look that verse up and read it, and the surrounding verses. If they do they will read this description:
“Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sancturaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are teh humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (2 Ne. 28: 12-14.)
The dedication at the beginning of The Second Comforter was deliberate. I have recognized the truth for many, many years. But I honored every obligation I took upon myself. I have only joined one church organization in my life: the LDS Church. I am grateful to it and would not have left when they excommunicated me. But that does not mean I wasn’t alarmed by what I saw the leaders doing to alter and misshape the church. I tried to be meek, and still to be so. Now, however, I am entirely free to be meek in relation to the Lord alone, and no longer need to be anything but a “humble follower of Christ” (to use Nephi’s description). It is no longer necessary to be “led, that in many instances [I will] err because of the precepts of men.” I can look to the Lord alone, and forget institutional demands on my attention, time and thought. Or, as our Lord once put it: I can be about my Father’s business.
The transcript for the Grand Junction lecture is now up on Scribd. The link is on the blog under the sidebar DS Talks on the right of the blog. Scribd is free. It just requires that you create an account. You do not have to pay to read Denver’s lectures on Scribd. I know there are some limitations, but eventually we will look into other options.
Last night I was awakened by this:
Did not Ishmael and Isaac mourn together and bury their father Abraham? Was not their father’s blood precious unto them both?
Does not the blood of Abraham run in both Isaac and Ishmael? Does not the blood of Abraham run in both Esau and Jacob?
Let Ishmael today find the blood of his father, Abraham, precious still. Let Isaac likewise today find the blood of his father, Abraham, precious again. For Abraham’s sake, let all the brothers who descend from Abraham now mourn when Abraham’s blood is spilled by any of his descendants.
If Abraham’s sons do not find his blood to be precious still, there remains nothing between them but the shedding of Abraham’s blood. For all his sons who fail to find Abraham’s blood to be precious will be held to account by God, who will judge between the sons of Isaac and the sons of Ishmael, the sons of Esau and the sons of Jacob for father Abraham’s sake, with whom God covenanted.
The sons of Abraham will not be permitted to continue this disregard of their common father’s blood without provoking God, who will soon judge between Abraham’s sons.
I am trying to understand Elder Oaks’ talk. Taking everything he said at face value, here is what I think he said:
1. Women don’t hold the priesthood.
2. Those who hold “keys” can give assignments to others who then act under the authority of the priesthood of the key-holder.
3. In the temple sisters use the authority of the priesthood to perform washings and anointings, inasmuch as they were set apart by key-holders.
4. Therefore women use the authority of the priesthood.
From this it can be surmised: Sister missionaries will be able to baptize some day using the authority of the priesthood of a key-holder. This talk was designed to accomplish what the “Ordain Women” movement wants by approaching it in two steps rather than one. It is de facto ordination, incrementally adopted by careful measures.
King Benjamin had an an objective. Better said, the angel of the Lord had an objective in mind when the king was told what to teach. The objective is more fully explained once the people had received the lesson.
“And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them. And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things. And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy. And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.” (Mosiah 5: 1-5.)
Here is the covenant-making King Benjamin had as his assignment. The Lord saves, but uses covenant-making as a part of His process. We don’t get to make covenants, but we do get to accept them if the Lord offers them to us. It must be the Lord’s offer and our acceptance for it to have effect. Here the words that were recited by the congregation were the words King Benjamin had asked them to accept: “And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them;” (Mosiah 5: 6.) Meaning they were exactly what they’d been asked to accept as the new covenant.
King Benjamin’s record continues: “and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant. And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5: 6-7.) This was the object. To extend the Family of God by adding sons and daughters. King Benjamin’s ministry was producing fruit suitable to be laid up against the harvest (as Jacob quoted Zenos to describe).
King Benjamin expounds on the central role Christ plays in our salvation. Only by connecting ourselves to Him will we be able to qualify for what He (as our Father) has to offer. “And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.” (Mosiah 5: 8.) Or, in other words, we always remember Him that we may always have His spirit to be with us.
He continues: “And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.” (Mosiah 5: 9-10.) Since Christ is the prototype of the saved man, all who would be saved must likewise be qualified to hold this same status or be called by this same name.
King Benjamin’s religion is like the one Joseph Smith was restoring. He offered his people an authorized covenant with the King, established by heaven through King Benjamin. It is remarkable how much of the deepest Gospel truths are found in the Book of Mormon.
Today is the last day of my last temple recommend. The church didn’t ask me to return it. I’m qualified to have it. But it will expire today. It can’t be renewed, of course.
I was asked by a young fellow about sustaining leaders in the upcoming general conference. I replied, “the Lorde recently said: “I’m kind of over gettin’ told to throw my hands up in the air, So there.“
Grand Vista Hotel Ballroom
2790 Crossroads Blvd.
Grand Junction, CO 81506
When: Saturday, April 12, 2014 @ 9:30 a.m.
King Benjamin does not concern himself with all the ways it is possible to get it wrong. (Mosiah 4: 29.) Mankind gets it wrong all the time. The great challenge is to finally get it right. His sermon is an attempt to lay out how a society may finally overcome the failures and draw close to God. Individual righteousness is a rare thing in this world, but it happens more frequently than societal righteousness. King Benjamin’s talk is about societal success, or social righteousness.
Once converted, the work begins. The work, as we have seen, involves eradicating poverty by helping the needy. We are forbidden from turning away the beggar. We are forbidden from judging them. We have but one duty toward them; that is to help them.
His sermon continues: “And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.” (Mosiah 4: 24.) Even the poor are required to have a charitable heart. They may lack the means, but they cannot lack the heart. All society must have a disposition to help one another.
Unless we are willing to render aid to one another, we cannot possibly become one. Until we view the circumstances of the least member of the community from their vantage point, we cannot become one. It isn’t possible to bear one another’s burdens when we are oblivious to the burdens they bear. Alma would preach this as a requirement to be baptized. (See Mosiah 18: 8-10.) Until we are like-minded we don’t even qualify for the ordinance offered by Alma.
The Book of Mormon speaks of the ideals that condemn us because we do not even recognize them. Even if we pretend to share the religion of those of the Book of Mormon, our social order is far from what the book preaches.
King Benjamin continues: “And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.” (Mosiah 4: 25.) Here is a failure so significant it absolutely prevents Zion. Coveting is a vile personal failure, and so foreign to becoming “one” as a people, that it is condemned in the Ten Commandments. (See Ex. 20: 17.) It prevents us from being equal. Equality is required for Zion.
When the Restoration was led by Joseph Smith, the Lord cautioned the early believers that they were required to be equal in temporal things. Because they refused to do so, they forfeited the Spiritual manifestations which necessarily accompany Zion. “Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.” (D&C 70: 14.) They failed. We do not even attempt it. We probably shouldn’t attempt it until we first repent and receive the faith the Lord once attempted to restore through Joseph Smith.
When Joseph was still ministering, the Lord foretold of a great work to be done. This work was the Lord’s to do, but even the mention of it inspired eagerness by the early converts. When hints of Zion emerged in Joseph’s prophecies, the Saints thought it was their right to have it immediately, and without the necessary patience and diligence that must precede it. They hastened to the center spot, where, as a result of the Indian Relocation Act enforced by Andrew Jackson, all Native Americans had been relocated. The line between the Indians and whites was drawn on the western border of Missouri. All eastern Indians, from Maine to Florida, had been resettled in the Indian Territory. The center of their population was, at that moment, Independence, Missouri. If the Indians were going to be taught, there was one center spot available for access by white missionaries. It was in Independence, Missouri. When Mormons attempted to cross the line and preach inside the Indian Territory, they were threatened with arrest and transport to Fort Levenworth, Kansas. At that brief moment in time, the closest they could locate to the target audience was Independence, Missouri.
By June 1844, when Joseph Smith was leaving to seek out the Remnant, the Indians had long since left the former relocation area. They were then scattered westward. Hence Joseph’s plan to go to the Rocky Mountains to find the Remnant and build the New Jerusalem.
When the Mormon missionaries located the then-closest, center spot the eager Saints filed into the area. Even if they had the right location at that moment, they were unqualified to be there. Had they followed King Benjamin’s sermon, they would have had a better chance. Instead they were anything but converted in their hearts to the kind of principles which would allow people to live in harmony with one another.
Here is how the Lord characterized the 1830’s ruinous attempt to steal Zion: “Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.” (D&C 101: 6.) Once again, covetousness in the heart is prohibited in Zion. Though the Lord may have given them a potential inheritance, they squandered it.
King Benjamin’s sermon is about the ideal. It is what the heart should have within it for the man or woman to be able to live with others equally. We will fail, like all others have failed, if we are unable to first remove the impediments within our hearts. What good would be accomplished in any age to gather together people who are unwilling to be one, unable to live in harmony with one another. We have that society already. The mantra we recite to overcome the vast inequalities and dissimilarities among us in our fractured society is “tolerance” and “non-judgment.” These are as likely to invite evil as good.
Cease to be covetous and lustful. Have a disposition to no longer do evil, but to do good. Give to those in need and succor those who you are able to succor. Then you have some chance to avoid jarring one another, contending and envying one another. There is no reason for the Lord to gather anyone until everyone He would gather has the attributes taught by King Benjamin in their hearts. Once that is done, there will be time enough to gather. But if you gather together and there is but one among you with a covetous, lustful and envious heart, there can be no Zion.
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