144,000, part 2

The 144,000 are “sealed” by the “four angels” in Rev. 7: 1-3. They are “sealed” by “angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth” in D&C 77: 11.

In the account of Revelation, they are sealed before “the earth, …the sea, …the trees” are “hurt” in the last days. (Rev. 7: 3.) This timing necessarily requires the “sealing” to precede great distresses which to us are still future. 

-What does it mean to have an “angel to whom is given power” come and “seal the servants of our God in their foreheads?” (D&C 77: 11; Rev. 7: 3.)
-Are men, or institutions, in control of this process?
-How would you expect this to happen?
-Does the “sealing” imply some kind of ordination?
-Is this connected in any way to the “oath and covenant of the priesthood?”

On that last question, D&C 84: 33-42, is often read, explained, and taught. But a context is imposed on the words that presumes a certain meaning. What if that context is incomplete, or merely a tradition, and not what the words were meant to convey? Here are the verses with another possible context inserted into them as they proceed:

For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling [notice “calling” is singular], are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies [here? now? in the resurrection?]They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron [who are “sons of Levi” and associated with the Aaronic or first priesthood] and the seed of Abraham [who is the father of the righteous, and one of the “fathers in heaven” to whom we must connect or be “utterly wasted” at the Lord’s return; and is associated with the second priesthood], and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God [this body of chosen individuals are a “church” and that church is confined to the “elect”]. And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord [in other words, the Lord makes Himself known to them, for that is how He is “received”]; For he that receiveth my servants [who are His “servants?] receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father [is this what Mosiah 5: 15 is referring to when it says Christ will ‘bring you to heaven, that you may have eternal life?’]; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him [in other words, the promise of exaltation and eternal life. Therefore, obtaining these two ordinations is directly connected with the “servants” and then the ministry of the Son, and the introduction to the Father]. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father [in other words, they have knowledge from the Father that they are His, will inherit from Him all He has, and learned this as a result of the Son’s ministry with them], which he cannot break, neither can it be moved. But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come [because they have knowledge obtained from the Son, and a covenant obtained from the Father, and if they turn away they must rebel against the Godhead, whom they have come to know. They become ‘sons of Perdition’ because this is willful and known rebellion]. And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood [because if you do not receive this, you do not receive the fullness of the Gospel, and you do not have knowledge that will save you] which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens [because the higher priesthood is only given by the “voice of God” as described in JST Gen. 14: 29: “And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice” -see also JST Gen. 14: 26-29. This is why the “ordination” is confirmed by God’s voice here]; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you [which is how the “sealing” of the 144,000 will be connected to the “angels” who have “authority” in the verses which describe these events].

I have inserted a possible new context into the words for you to consider. I would remind you, however, that scripture is not something for “private interpretation,” but can only be unlocked through the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1: 20; see also JS-H 1: 74.) The meaning belongs to and is controlled by God.

144,000

The number 144,000 appears in scriptures in a number of places. (See D&C 133: 18; 77: 11; Rev. 7: 4-8; 14: 3.) The number is associated with the last days and Christ’s return. Although there are a number of myths associated with the number, the scriptures tell a specific account of these last-days people.

The number is highly symbolic. The account in Revelation makes it clear the number is associated with redeeming the Twelve Tribes of Israel from their scattered condition. When the tribes were located in their original lands in Biblical times, they intermarried. For example, the Ten Tribes of the north had been removed by Assyria 125 years before the Book of Mormon account begins. The Southern Kingdom, or Kingdom of the Jews, was where the opening of the Book of Mormon is set. The descendants of Joseph (Ephriam and Manassah) were among the Northern Kingdom. Lehi’s family were descended from Manassah. (Alma 10: 3.) Today, it is unlikely any individual descended from Israel is a pure descendant.

Therefore, when Rev. 7: 5-8 attributes “twelve thousand” from each of Judah, Reuben, Gad, “Aser,” Nepthalim, “Manasses,” Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zabulon, Joseph and Benjamin, once again the number is symbolic. The symmetry of the division between each tribe symbolizes the Lord’s intention to treat all Israel alike because He is no respecter of persons. (See D&C 38: 26.)

So if the Lord intends to show respect to all the Tribes of Israel, then the language of Revelation 7: 5-8 demonstrates by numerical symmetry this intent. Does it mean that literally there will be “twelve thousand” from each tribe? Does it mean of those gathered the bloodlines of each tribe will be preserved? If it means the latter, then can one person have mixed blood within them from more than one tribe? Can one person have the blood of all the tribes within them?

In D&C 77: 11, the 144,000 are explained in modern revelation. They are described as follows: “We are to understand that those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel; for they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn.”

To understand the description it is useful to know what is meant by:

-“those sealed are high priests”
Is this the office in the church?
If not, then are they going to be among the church’s priesthood?

-“ordained unto the holy order of God”
Is this the system in the church?
Will they hold “certificates of ordination” from a stake clerk?
Could it refer to the ordination described in JST Gen. 14: 28-30.

-“ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people”
Is this literal?
Does every “nation” mean the nations of the earth, or the Tribes of Israel?
Does “kindred” refer to all peoples, or those who descend from Israel’s scattered bloodlines?

-“by the angels to whom is given power”
Does this refer to “ordination?”
Do angels have to ordain these chosen ones?
If the angels are to ordain them, will they be known or recognized by the church?

-“given power”
Are these the angels who ordain?
Are these the “high priests” who are ordained?
What power is given?

It is interesting the 144,000 are connected to “power” and to “angels” in this description. What do these things have to do with the end times? Why would there need to be high priests, angels and power connected to these last days events?

Is 144,000 an actual total number? Is it representative? Can one person preserve within them the bloodlines of more than one tribe? Can they also preserve the bloodlines of more than one family within the tribes? Can a much smaller group represent 144,000 family lines and fulfill the Lord’s intent to keep all “twelve sons” equally represented (D&C 38: 26) in the stock of families who begin the family of Israel again at the start of the Millennium. They, like Noah’s small group, will restart the human family. (Luke 17: 26; Matt. 24: 37.)

How many are really needed to fulfill the Lord’s prophecies concerning the 144,000? What does the number really mean?

Accountability

All of us are accountable before God for our own sins. (D&C 101: 78.) No one can escape responsibility based on their willful ignorance. If you have the scriptures, you know you cannot be saved in ignorance. (D&C 131: 6.) You also have been warned that the scriptures have information which is able to teach you about salvation. (2 Tim. 3: 15.) You also have the Lord’s warning to search into the scriptures if you expect eternal life. (John 5: 39.) When this is before you, it is impossible to sin ignorantly, even if you are ignorant as a result of your own neglect. (3 Ne. 6: 18.)

D&C 90: 2

I received an email asking about the meaning of D&C 90: 2. Here’s my response:

This verse, like most scripture, is deliberately unclear. This is why the first topic in the fireside was the Holy Ghost and its relationship to both gifts of the spirit and understanding the “mysteries” of God. (See JS-H 1: 74.) The Holy Ghost inspired the text (conveying the words of Christ directly to Joseph; see D&C 90: 1). Therefore, having the Holy Ghost is required to understand the meaning of the text. (2 Peter 1: 20-21.)

The verse says: “Therefore, thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom given unto you; which kingdom is coming forth for the last time.” (D&C 90: 2.)

Ask yourself these questions:
-Who is “thou”? Is it Joseph Smith or some collective group or successors?
-Who “bears the keys of the kingdom” in the verse? In 1833, was that Joseph Smith? Or was it some group? Was it his successors?
-Who had the “keys of the kingdom given unto [them]”? In 1833, was that Joseph Smith, or was it someone else? Did it include a group? Successors, too?
-What does “for the last time” mean? Does it mean it will never, ever happen again? Or does it mean the “latest” or “most current”?

There are a few verses after this one that will help with some of these questions. For example, verse 3 seems to identify Joseph Smith: “Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come[.]” (D&C 90: 3.) This seems to be singular. It is addressed to Joseph. But you must decide if it is him, or if it means anyone in the church leadership, then and now. The Holy Ghost should assist you in reaching the right conclusion.

It adds in verse 4: “Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church.” (D&C 90: 4.) This seems to make it clear that the “you” and the “thou” referred to earlier was Joseph Smith. But it then raises other questions:
-What are “the oracles”? Are these the revelations (i.e., sections of the D&C, parts of the Pearl of Great Price, etc.)?
-Are “the oracles” a power or gift of the Spirit?
-If some power or gift, when? To whom? Was it fulfilled in Hyrum? (See D&C 124: 123-124.)
-Was it fulfilled in the Council of Fifty when Joseph gave “the keys of the kingdom” to them, establishing the right to create a kingdom to overtake all other governments and grind all competing governments on the earth to dust in fulfillment of Daniel 2: 36-44.

On the question of “the last time,” verse 5 helps with the meaning:
“And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them least they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house.” (D&C 90: 5.) If we can “stumble and fall,” it suggests we can lose what we were given. If we can lose it, then it can be returned. That would mean “last time” in verse 2 is referring to the “latest,” much like D&C 76: 22, where “last of all” means the “most current” or the “latest” testimony. It doesn’t mean that there will never be another person with a testimony of Christ.

The verse also makes it clear that everyone (including Joseph and his peers/successors) can “stumble and fall” if they treat the “oracles” lightly. To “stumble” is one thing. But to “fall” suggests departing from the way and losing what was given. This returns us to “the oracles” and the meaning of that term:
-Are they the revelations/Book of Mormon? (See D&C 84: 54-57.)
-Is it some ordination or gift?
-If a gift or power, and if it is possible to “fall” from it, then what does that imply?

You decide by the Holy Ghost what verse 2 means. I believe it means that Joseph Smith was blessed and he held keys which would never be taken from him, even if he died. That his possession of those keys allowed him to be regarded as a member of God’s kingdom. He was the latest person, or only one living in 1833 to be regarded as a full member of that kingdom. But you should prayerfully decide what it means for yourself.

Parable

I saw a great mountain, and upon the top thereof was the glory of the fathers. To reach the top, all were required to enter through a narrow pass. In the pass was a great beast, cruel and pitiless.

The Lord brought people whom he had chosen to the mouth of the pass, and there He told them to wait for him, and He went away. The people did not wait for Him, but began to move forward into the narrow pass. The beast killed some and injured others, and none were able to pass through.

After great losses, many deaths and terrible suffering, the people chosen by the Lord withdrew and departed from the mountain. After four and five generations, the Lord again brought some few back to the pass and again told them to stay at the mouth of the pass and wait on Him. But again there were those who tired of waiting, for they could see in the distance the glory of the fathers, and they desired to be there. These, being overtaken by their zeal, did not wait, but moved into the pass where again the beast killed or hurt them.

Among those who waited, however, was a man who knelt and prayed, and waited patiently for his Lord. After a great time, the Lord came to this man and took him by the hand, and led him into the pass where the great beast guarded the way. As the Lord led, however, the beast was ever occupied with attacking others, and therefore its back was turned to the Lord and the man. And so they passed by unnoticed, safely to the top. The Lord sent the man to the fathers, who when they saw the man inquired of him, “How came you to be here and yet mortal; the last who came here were brothers who had been slain, and you are yet alive?” And the man answered: “I waited on the Lord and He brought me here safely.”

Scriptures, 4

“I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life[.]” (Mosiah 5: 15.)

“Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless? And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands[.]” (Moses 1: 3-4.)

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” (John 17: 3.)

“[T]he Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.” (Ether 3: 13.)

Fireside October 28th

Sunday, October 28th, at 7:00 p.m. there will be a fireside, open to the public.  Below are the details for those interested in attending:
Weber State University
Shepherd Union Building
Ballrooms A, B, & C  Third Floor
On a WSU map, building #36

There are elevators up to the third floor. Since it is Sunday, all parking is free.

The doors will open at 6:00 p.m. There will be some prelude music beginning at approximately 6:30 p.m. 

The fireside will touch upon the temple and the promise of a future Zion.

This is free to the public and anyone who is interested may attend.

Scriptures, 3

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14: 18.)

“If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14: 23.)

“John 14: 23 – The appearing of the Father and Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.” (D&C 130: 3.)

Scriptures, 2

“[T]hey are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory.” (D&C 76: 116-117.)

“And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks.” (1 Ne. 14: 1.)

Scriptures

“[F]or ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Cor. 6: 16.)

“I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God; wherefore, gird up your loins and I will suddenly come to my temple.” (D&C 36: 8; see also D&C 133: 2-3, 3 Ne. 24: 1.)

“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.” (D&C 93: 1.)

Churches Built By Men, Conclusion

Nephi has a great deal more to say. You should look at the balance of what he foretells of our day.

Nephi pronounces “Wo” upon those in our day who “turn aside the just for a thing of naught, and say it is of no worth.” (2 Ne. 28: 16.) What does this mean?
-Who are “the just” about whom he writes?
-What does it mean to be “justified” before God?
-Does this status come with an office?
-Is being justified before God a position to be called to in an organization?
-Does God determine who is “just” before Him?
-How would you know if someone is “just” or not?
-If someone is “just” and you discard them, are you treating them as “a thing of naught?”
-What does it mean to treat the just as “naught?”
-Why is it wrong to say the “just” are “of no worth?”
-How would you change that and treat the just as having worth?

What Nephi says will ultimately provoke the Lord’s wrath. “For the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth; and in that day that they are fully ripe in iniquity they shall perish.” (2 Ne. 28: 16.) What is this referring to?
-What is the relationship between treating the “just” as “a thing of naught” and the Lord’s wrath?
-What is the relationship between treating the “just” as having “no worth” and becoming “ripe in iniquity?”
-Why are these associated in Nephi’s prophecy?
-Can I trust an organization to sort out the “just”, identify and uphold them?
-Can I ignore the Spirit when it comes to these issues?
-How can you become “fully ripe” in iniquity as a result of how you react to the “just?”

Nephi does write some very provocative prophecies about us, but they don’t seem to provoke us into thought or repentance. We seem content to eat, drink and be merry, trusting that the Lord will merely inflict a few stripes on us if we err; because after all, there is no hell. (2 Ne. 28: 8.) We have little interest in recognizing “the just” much less becoming justified before God. And being sanctified before Him is not discussed or understood any longer.

Nephi is among the most important voices for our day.

Churches Built By Men, Part 7

Nephi gives a list of destructive qualities. The list is qualified by what these traits do to men: It makes them prideful. They are “puffed up in the pride of their hearts.” (2 Ne. 28: 15.) Therefore, as you read the list keep in mind this corrosive pride as part of Nephi’s warning.

The list includes:
-the wise
-the learned
-the rich. (2 Ne. 28: 15.)

It is possible to be all of these, and not be prideful. But if that is the case, then the wisdom, learning and riches of such an individual are used to elevate and serve others. They become advantages in helping the poor, the hungry, the naked and the infirm. In such cases the wisdom, learning and wealth do not become something that defines the individual. Instead, they become the tools of empathy and compassion.

In addition to the proud, Nephi adds another category, “all those who preach false doctrines.” (2 Ne. 28: 15.) When it comes to corrupting the doctrine, pride is irrelevant. A person can be sincere, honest and devout, but if they preach false doctrine, Nephi condemns them. There is simply no excuse to justify preaching what is untrue or incomplete. Those doctrines will lead others to hell. Therefore, they are false ministers in the service of darkness.

There is a phrase that follows hard on preaching false doctrines. It is “all those who commit whoredoms.” (2 Ne. 28: 15.) If read together, the result is this: “all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms.” This may be a single thought, or a single description. Because to leave the Lord and follow after another false source for salvation – a false god – is often described as “committing whoredoms.” If this is Nephi’s intent, then the preacher of false doctrine is condemned because they are leading others away from God.

Nephi is clear about the fate of the preachers who preach false or incomplete doctrine and lead others away from God, “wo, wo, wo be unto them.” A three-fold condemnation. They could not be saved because of their false teaching. This condemnation is not Nephi’s. He attributes it directly to God: “wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty.” (2 Ne. 28: 15.) This three-part name of God mirrors the three-fold condemnation, and it is the Lord who is speaking.

“For they shall be thrust down to hell!” (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

Be careful what you preach. If you do not fully understand the Gospel of Christ, then you take a fearful responsibility upon yourself when you pretend to tell the truth. (See D&C 11: 21-22.)

Churches Built By Men, Part 6

Nephi makes a distinction between the institutions or churches of our day, and individuals. As to the institutions he declares: “They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray…” (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

I think it is possible for an institution to be different from its members. I think it is possible for a “committee” to have a different mind, or intent, or constitution from the individuals who comprise the committee. In a graduate leadership course I teach in an MBA program, we examine the difference between individual behavior and group behavior. There are a lot of studies done on this topic. My view is that it is entirely possible for a group to make a decision that no single individual in the group would make on their own. It is the “group’s” decision, and does not comprise the individual thinking or mind of any of those who contributed to the outcome. Compromises, insecurities, give and take, fatigue, and conflict avoidance result in a lot of group decisions being far from what any of the participants want.

So when the institutions are condemned, I do not think that means Nephi is damning all those involved in leading. Despite this, Nephi continues: “they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ…” (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

This remark makes it clear that the institutions contain humble followers of Christ. In other words, even if things are off track, people can remain on track. The challenge is always individual. It is up to each of us to focus on and be faithful to Christ. He is the Redeemer, and it is Him alone to whom we must look for our salvation.

That having been said, Nephi adds, “nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (2 Ne. 28: 14.) Even humble followers of Christ  are “taught by the precepts of men” in our day. This causes them to “err” “in many instances.” Meaning that our doctrine is poorly and inadequately taught.

So what is the cure? The Book of Mormon, of course. (D&C 84: 54-57.) This is how the “humble followers of Christ” can take in pure doctrine, uncorrupted by “the precepts of men” and find their way back to repentance. It is a lifeline extended to us by prophets who wrote for our day. They wrote as solitary individuals, not as members of a committee. They held no institutional positions, office or connections pulling them in one direction or another. They wrote as the Spirit led them and as the Lord directed them. And they wrote for us.

Nephi was one of them. And he cared deeply about us to have provided this counsel and warning to us. I think it ought to be taken very seriously. Our eternity will be affected by how we apply his writings.

Churches Built By Men, Part 5

Nephi equates “robbing the poor” with misuse of wealth. Given the obligation to care for the poor, and the ultimate responsibility to have all things in common, misuse of wealth constitutes an abuse of the poor in Nephi’s warning.

I’ve considered the responsibility to build and maintain temples, and how the construction of temples has always meant the finest workmanship and materials as an offering to the Lord. It is His house after all. Therefore, I do not think the warning of Nephi has anything to do with construction of temples.

Nephi says we will “rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries.” (2 Ne. 28: 13.) If this has nothing to do with the temples, then to what is Nephi referring?

I have wondered about the City Creek project. Considering the retail portion alone, the funds used to develop the project could have funded approximately 90 temples (assuming an average cost of $30 million per temple). If you consider the office, condominium and remainder of the project, there could have been 150 temples built. The condominiums at City Creek include many priced in excess of $1 million. I “shopped” for a condo there. I found I could not afford one which would meet my needs, and if I bought what I could afford it would not be adequate. The development does indeed contain fine sanctuaries, and does bring an upscale venue to downtown Salt Lake.

Nephi does not confine his warning to us just to sanctuaries. He continues to condemn us because we “rob the poor because of their fine clothing.” (2 Ne. 28: 13.) Meaning that if we cover ourselves with unnecessary expenses, we leave nothing to give to provide the poor with clothing. Our wealth is of value when we clothe the naked and feed the hungry, but of no value when we consume it for our own pleasure. (Jacob 2: 19.)

Nephi also draws the same conclusion from our attitudes and demeanor. We “persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.” (2 Ne. 28: 13.) Our pride alone “persecutes” the meek. Instead of fellowshipping them in meekness, we “persecute” them by our arrogance.

This standard is designed to change society. It is designed to elevate us to another level in which we are closer to God. If we heeded Nephi’s warnings, we would become more unified and more equal in earthly things. If we did that, there would be abundant manifestations of the Spirit, which are presently withheld. (D&C 70: 14.)

I think Nephi understood the doctrine better than do we.