Christ Clarifies His Role

I’ve been reading the 1830 Book of Commandments as reprinted in The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations, Vol. 2. I’ve been struck by how many clarifications Christ made of His role to the early saints. It is apparent there were a number of false notions in circulation about who Christ was and what His future role would include.

The Lord clarifies that the saints should: “look not for a Messiah to come which has already come.” (Chapter XVI, verse 27.)

He later adds that when He does return: “they shall see me in the clouds of heaven, clothed with power and great glory, with all the holy angels.” (Chapter XLVIII, verse 37.)

If that were not enough to remove the question about His return, He further explains: “the Son of Man cometh not in the form of a woman, neither of a man travelling on the earth.” (Chapter LII, verse 21.)

He mentions Enoch, telling us that Enoch and his brethren “were separated from the earth, and were reserved unto [God], a city reserved until a day of righteouensss shall come, a day which was sought for by all holy men, and they found it not because of wickedness and abominations.” (Chapter XLVIII, verse 14.) Since “all holy men” sought for this city, but found it not, it is apparent that the rule is failure because holy men cannot teach righteousness to the wicked who prefer their abominations, pride, vanity and errors. The exception is success.

The Lord clarifies there will be success before the world will see Him. He will have a holy city built, which He will call “the New Jerusalem.” There, His glory will rest upon these few inhabitants: “it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the most high God. And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it: And it shall be called Zion.” (Chapter XLVIII, verses 59-61.)

When He does show Himself to the world again, it will be in judgment: “I the Lord …will come down in heaven from the presence of God, and consume the wicked with unquenchable fire.” (Chapter LXIV, verse 36.)

I’ve heard some of the same errors discussed among Latter-day Saints who would know better if they read the scriptures. As early as 1830 the Lord explained He was the Messiah, and had already come. He will not return as a man walking on the earth, but will come in glory and judgment when He returns, and that we need not look for another to come in that way.

I am surprised at how difficult it is to hold on to doctrine. It evaporates almost before our eyes. Perhaps the greatest miracle of the ages will be this latter day New Jerusalem. For, despite all the wickedness and abominable beliefs of mankind urging them to vanity and faithless pride, there will be some small group willing to learn and walk in the way of God. That will be a miracle indeed among the people living in this generation.

Questions From This Week

Since mentioning it, I’ve gotten a number of questions about President Eyring’s General Conference talk: Families Under Covenant. Part of his remarks are particularly insightful. After talking about the church’s ordinance, he elaborated:

The way to do that is clear. The Holy Spirit of Promise, through our obedience and sacrifice, must seal our temple covenants in order to be realized in the world to come. President Harold B. Lee explained what it means to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise by quoting Elder Melvin J. Ballard: “We may deceive men but we cannot deceive the Holy Ghost, and our blessings will not be eternal unless they are also sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. The Holy Ghost is one who reads the thoughts and hearts of men, and gives his sealing approval to the blessings pronounced upon their heads. Then it is binding, efficacious, and of full force.”

When Sister Eyring and I were sealed in the Logan Utah Temple, I did not understand then the full significance of that promise. I am still trying to understand all that it means, but my wife and I decided at the start of our nearly 50 years of marriage to invite the Holy Ghost as much as we could into our lives and into our family.

I agree that men may be and often are deceived about who is worthy and who is not. But the Lord alone will judge righteously. Therefore, He decides who will be sealed and who will not. President Eyring is teaching true doctrine.

The portion of the scroll (which was quite long and included different segments) Joseph translated the Book of Abraham from is described in church history. There are three critical features to this text:

The record of Abraham and Joseph, found with the mummies, is (1) beautifully written on papyrus, with black, and (2) a small part red, ink or paint, (3) in perfect preservation. (DHC Vol. 2; 348.)

Color Plates of the Hor Book of Breathings are available in Appendix A, starting on page 33 of The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary, Studies in the Book of Abraham, Vol 2; (FARMS/BYU Press 2002). The contrast between Joseph’s description in church history and the photographs of the recovered papyrus requires nothing more than looking at it.

The description “a strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness” (Moroni 7:30) involves at a minimum the following:
-Strong faith is obtained by obedience and sacrifice, as explained in the Lectures on Faith. It requries the sacrifice of all things to obtain favor with God. No one attains to this by cowardice or respecting the views of men above the commandments of God.
-Every form includes not merely passing acquaintance with the Lord’s will, but an earnest search into the things God wants from you. And, as you find His will, then to obey it. Everything must be put on the altar. Whether it be friends, property, or life itself, it must be every form.
-Godliness is different from virtue. It is even different from righteousness. I’ve explained both previously and won’t repeat it. Godliness requires you to become godlike in your sentiments and in your meekness before Him. Whether men understand you or attribute motives to you, the relationship is between you and the Lord. Godliness is when your walk here is along the path He has chosen for you.

Prophecy requires someone to fulfill it before you can know who was being identified. Until the work is done I think it is a foolish thing to speculate about identities. There’s probably been hundreds of potential individuals, living and dead, who might have done a greater work than they accomplished here. However, they are blinded by the craftiness of other men, or they fall victim to those who deceive, or they allow traditions to control their understanding and fall short of the glory they might have obtained. Hence the saying that many are called, but few are chosen. 

Ignorance Enshrined

A purported group of “over 260 active and disaffected Mormons” claims responsibility for a “95 Theses” document released recently. (The quotes in the preceding sentence are theirs. This is how they self-describe.)

Unlike Martin Luther, they choose to categorize themselves rather than to expose themselves by using their identities. There are only a few who identified themselves. For the most part, they remain unidentified. That betrays a weakness of character and leads to the conclusion they want to complain, but they do not want to be responsible for complaining. A “reform” movement must be made of sterner stuff. They appear only willing to whine; not to do the work or take the risk Martin Luther took when he wrote the document they mimic.

I’ve looked at the 95 Theses. They are largely based on upset stemming from astounding ignorance of our history, scriptures, doctrine and teachings. However, this is a relatively common condition we find ourselves.  As a community of believers in the restoration through Joseph Smith, we’ve neglected to teach and/or learn the very things that would benefit these “260 active and disaffected Mormons.” These people may well be of good faith and honest intent. I’ll assume that of them. But they are unable to reconcile some of the things from our past with the things they thought they knew about Mormonism. The problem is that what they thought they knew about Mormonism is not at all what I know and what they should have known about Mormonism. That may not be entirely their fault, but they must shoulder part of the blame.

I understand it from a different perspective because I’ve paid a price in study, prayer, practice and devotion. In The Second Comforter I said: “The truth will scratch your eyes out, and then scratch them in again.” I’ve been through both. These “260” have been only through the first.

They have 11 troubling points about the Book of Mormon. I’ve discovered many more. I’ve reconciled them all in my mind.

They have 5 troubling points on the Book of Abraham. I’ve discovered many, many more. This is a vital topic for study. I’ve gathered a library of materials on this text. When I was teaching the Priests’ Quorum in my ward, I took 4 weeks with them teaching on the Book of Abraham. I wasn’t going to let any of them get “poached” by critics because they didn’t have enough background information to understand the issues and history. Using the Documentary History of the Church, they were shown what Joseph described he translated as the Book of Abraham. They were shown the photographic reproductions of the papyri returned from the Metropolitan Museum of New York to the church. The difference between these scroll documents and Joseph’s description did not require a commentary. They saw with their own eyes the difference between the two. No one is ever going to convince them using an argument based on misinformation.

These “260 active and disaffected Mormons” have 11 troubling points about Polygamy and Polyandry. Again, it betrays a shallow understanding of our history and comprises only a fraction of what we should all know about this issue. Until we face this, discuss it openly, and put history and context together in a forthright and honest way, we are vulnerable to upset and distress anytime someone who knows a little more than we know comes along with a “fact” from our history we can’t put into context.

This raises enough to make the point:

We’re losing the battle with many of these souls. The more honest and intellectually open of our members are being taken in traps precisely because their greatest strengths (confidence and openness) allow the critics to show them our weaknesses. This should not be allowed to happen. Narrow-mindedness and dogmatism, as a result of fierce and unrelenting loyalty to an institution, should not rule the day. The winnowing out, if allowed to continue, will produce a frightening form of Mormonism akin to the more radical political movements currently underway in the world.

When Joseph Smith was alive, Mormonism embraced all truth. “The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds.” (Letter from Joseph Smith to Isaac Galland, March 22, 1839; The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Dean C. Jesse, editor; Deseret Book, p. 421-22.) I’d like to see that be the case once again.

I’ve never found a problem in the faith for which I could not ultimately find a solution or answer. The faith is quite resilient. But, oddly, some of the actual answers are thought to be so fearful that they must be ignored, suppressed or denounced. Fear is not only the opposite of faith, but it contains within it the bitterness of hell. (Moses 1: 20.) We have become too fearful.

Tradition’s Grip

Assume you are taking a course at the local university on William Faulkner. The book for study this semester is The Sound and The Fury. This course does not require you to actually read the book. Instead, the information in this class will come exclusively from your professor. To begin the semester, she will be lecturing and instructing you on ‘all things Faulkner.’ She will discuss biographical information, including everything she could find about his personal life. She will give lectures on his writing. There will be discussions about literary criticism given his writings and awards he has won. You will listen to audio recordings of Mr. Faulkner reading passages of The Sound and The Fury. 

As the semester progresses, she will begin to discuss the book. She will tell you about the first time she read it, and what kind of impact it had on her. She will tell you why she decided to teach an entire semester course on this one work of Faulkner’s. You will learn what her expectations and preconceptions were before she even began reading. You will hear all her first impressions. She tells you that she thought it was difficult the first time. There will be lectures on the genre, characters, plot, setting, style and structure, point of view, images, symbols, and themes. She will discuss the reception when first published. She will discuss each part of the novel in detail. She will then tell you how her personal reactions have changed as her understanding has deepened. As the semester winds down, she will end with her explanation of the literary significance of this book. With that, the semester is over.

Shortly after the end of the semester, because of this class and the things you learned, you decide to actually read The Sound and The Fury:
Do you suppose, with your first reading, you could formulate any thought about this book independent of what your professor fed you?
Could you make your own critical evaluations about characters, plot, point of view, themes, or symbolism?
Could the biographical information you learned about Mr. Faulkner be extricated from your psyche in order to have a blank slate from which to assess Mr. Faulkner’s reason for writing this novel?
Could you read this book through your lense?
How much of your professor’s impressions, understanding or analysis would you have to completely discard in order to form your own personal conclusions about this material?
How many times would you have to read it before you began to make your own analysis?
Would the professor’s framework control your first reading?
Could you ever escape from her views to discover your own?

The Lamanites were unable to convert, even when taught the truth, because of the traditions of their fathers which were not correct. (Mosiah 1: 5.)

“Becoming as a little child” is necessary, because children are able to be taught. They are still open. They want to be filled. For such is the kingdom. (Luke 18: 16.) None of the arguments our Lord was required to endure with His fellow-man was ever with a child.

The Ongoing Battle

Although I know of no one who has left the church or “lost their testimony” as a consequence of reading my book, Passing the Heavenly Gift (“PTHG”), there continue to be accusations that this has/does happen. Therefore, again, I want to reaffirm the purpose of PTHG.  

Let me give some background. I joined the church while in the Air Force, stationed in New Hampshire. After joining, I was a zealous missionary, and there followed over a dozen conversions of other military young folks who would listen to me explain the restoration. I got them open to the idea, then the full-time missionaries and ward members would take over. Mormonism was an exotic religion in New England. Little was known about the faith. So we got to begin with a relatively blank slate and tell the story our way. 
I was transferred to Abilene, Texas shortly after joining the church. In Texas things were very different. At the local Laundromat I used, there were racks of religious tracts on the wall. Included in these were a wide assortment of anti-Mormon pamphlets intended to “prove” Mormonism was false. We went from being exotic to being the devil’s workmanship. Missionary work in Texas was a good deal more difficult. Even though I served as a Stake Missionary, and took the third-Elder (who awaited his Visa to Brazil) every evening and weekend as a companion to tract and teach, the results in Texas were nothing like what had happened in New Hampshire. 
The organized effort in Texas was supported by radio programs, Sunday sermons, and the occasional editorial in the local newspapers. The “Christian” churches were tired of losing their best congregants to the Mormon Elders. So the effort to oppose the church was inter-denominational.  
I joined the church in 1973 and finished my Air Force term in Texas in 1975. This is now long ago. Since then, the growth of the church has left no corner of the United States untouched by wards, stakes, missions, temple districts and advertising. We are no longer exotic anywhere – including New Hampshire. 
The result of church growth has been the increasing awareness of Mormonism’s effect on other religions. It is not a happy thing for other faiths to see our church grow at the expense of their own congregations. The original inter-denominational cooperation I saw in Texas in 1974-75 has now spread. It is now worldwide. All churches are wary of the loss of revenue and participation represented by each Mormon convert who leaves their fold to join ours. 

Today there is widespread sharing of anti-Mormon material among other denominations. The best defense is an organized offense. In many areas, Elders (who are easily identified) are followed in order to discover who they are teaching. Then the investigator is contacted by volunteers who distribute anti-Mormon material to prevent conversions. Some years ago there were ministries who bragged they could not only prevent conversions, but they could take it one step further: They could convert the Mormon Elder! That led to a growth in seminars, literature and preaching about ways to “convert Mormon Elders” while they are on their missions. 

I do not think there has been any significant success in actually converting active Mormon missionaries. But that isn’t the point. It is the Evangelical perception of that success that has fueled two things: First, it has helped insulate converts, because if the Elders can be converted, then Mormonism must not be true (or so the reasoning goes). Second, it creates more confrontation by anti-Mormon forces aimed directly at our missionaries.

The Evangelicals have realized that the best way to practice this kind of undermining of Mormon missionary efforts is to take the soft-sale approach. Instead of Bible-bashing, just ask questions the Elders can’t answer. Make the Elders do the thinking and work to solve the riddles. When they can’t, then they are filled with doubts that linger.

This is not just happenstance. This is an organized and inter-denominational effort that began decades ago. It now bears so much fruit it is is alarming to Mormons. Returned missionaries are falling away. When I was in charge of missionary work in my stake, I attended regional leadership meetings at which the Mission President and a Seventy advised us of the trends underway. The inactive church members were called “low hanging fruit” who could swell our ranks just by returning to activity. One category of the “low hanging fruit” was the returned missionary population. At that time, (years ago now) it was estimated there were 40,000 returned Elders along the Wasatch Front, from Ogden to Provo, who were so inactive we didn’t have a reliable address for them. The suggestion was to contact the families of the inactive, returned missionaries and locate them that way.

This background is part of why PTHG exists. This battle has been underway for decades, and the most successful topic being used to question our members and raise doubts is our history. The anti-Mormon forces know we are generally ignorant of our history. We don’t know enough to answer hard questions. So all that needs to be done is to put the right question to the ignorant, but believing Latter-day Saint, and the doubts will eventually percolate into disbelief and abandonment. I do not think most of those who have and are leaving do so because they know the church is not true. They leave because they no longer think the church has answers to the difficult questions. Part of the reaction of the church has been to run from the hard questions, which reinforces the idea that we don’t know the real answers. 

So, I wrote the book to deal with anything I thought was out there being used or potentially being used against us. I assumed the audience would be those who were already in distress, already having doubts, already aware of these efforts to undermine faith and create doubts. It was intended as relief from anxiety over the battles which have raged for decades now. 

Instead of this audience, there are some who have picked the book up and thought it was intended as a hostile attack on the church, its history, and its doctrine. Thankfully, such readers are already sure they belong to the “only true church” and therefore their ire is only directed at me. They aren’t leaving the church. They’re only interested in damning me for writing something they can’t conceive of as helpful.

Well, I have literally dozens, perhaps hundreds of emails and letters from readers who were the intended audience. Person after person, young and old, male and female, returned missionaries and church leaders have thanked me. Some who left the church have returned. Some who have had their names removed from the records of the church, or were considering it, have written to tell me they were remaining in the church.  At last, they say, they can find faith and answers that enables them to remain in fellowship with the church.

For those who were never intended to read the book, but are now angry at me for having addressed this problem, let me assure you:

First, I believe in the restoration of eternal truths through the prophet Joseph Smith. My testimony of this truth is rock solid. My purpose, and all that I seek to accomplish by writing, is to further this work and be a small contributor to development of God’s work. 
To be clear: 

1.     I sustain today’s church leaders as prophets, seers and revelators.  The scriptures give them the right to use those titles (D&C 107: 92). They preside, and it is their right to do so. They have our common consent and ought to be upheld by our “confidence, faith and prayers” (D&C 107: 22). I uphold them in this way. They carry heavy burdens and have my sympathy, not my judgment, for any human frailties they display.  

2.     It is utterly untrue that I have said the church is apostate. I reject the accusation. If the narrative I suggest in PTHG is true, then the Lord’s post-Nauvoo ire is evidence the Lord is still watching over and intends to further His work with the members of this church. Those whom He loves, He chastens. (Heb. 12: 5-11; Helaman 12: 3; D&C 95: 1.) Mine is not a faithless, but a faith filled history.  I’ve reiterated this before and reiterate it again. (See my post: The Traditions of Men, Part 1, April 21, 2010.) 

3.     I believe the church possesses the right to seal on earth and seal in heaven, and have agreed with President Eyring’s general conference talk on the subject. 

4.     I believe that all organizations, including the church, tend to characterize their history in a light most favorable to them. They have that right. I take no issue with it and think it should be expected. That does not change the divine origin and mission of the church.  

5.     The church provides ordinances required to see and enter into the kingdom of heaven, in addition to providing us with the necessary scriptures. Through the church, we  receive the foundation of faith, repentance, baptism and enduring to the end. I hope to endure to the end myself and I seek to help others do so.   

I am still in the battle to help people find and focus upon Christ. As a faithful Latter-day Saint I owe my knowledge of the Lord to the tools I obtained through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have enjoyed every minute of my association with the church, and I intend to remain a faithful member. The current war we face did not originate with blogs or bloggers. The blogosphere is following the battle, not leading it. It began long ago, and the efforts to deal with it here are because of the many losses we have and are suffering. They are needless losses. We just need to be willing to discuss and recognize there certainly are some tough questions. They don’t go away because we ignore them. They grow.

A couple of Questions

I was asked the following:

1 Ne. 10: 11 And it came to pass after my father had spoken these words he spake unto my brethren concerning the gospel which should be preached among the Jews, and also concerning the dwindling of the Jews in unbelief. And after they had slain the Messiah, who should come, and after he had been slain he should rise from the dead, and should make himself manifest, by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles.”

Is this talking about a physical manifestation to the Gentiles? Does Christ show Himself to others physically by the power of the Holy Ghost? Or is this to the Gentiles’ hearts and minds before the Restoration?

This is speaking about the immediate post-resurrection ministry of the Lord. At that time He visited only with the tribes of Israel in their scattered condition. He did not go among the gentiles. Nephi explained that in the last days ministry of the Lord at that time, He would appear to the gentiles “in very deed.” (1 Ne. 14: 1.) This is why the Lord appeared to Joseph Smith (JS-H 1: 17-19) and Oliver Cowdery (D&C 110), and to Sidney Rigdon (D&C 76), and to others.


In Mosiah16:1 and Alma 13:21, it says the phrase “he stretched forth his hand.” What does that mean? Raising it to the square? Using the priesthood to testify of what he is about to teach? A little help here would be wonderful.

Read Mosiah 15: 31 to understand 16: 1. He is demonstrating the Lord’s action, thereby affirming he is His messenger. He had been given the sign to testify, and used it as his sign that he was a true messenger.
In Alma 13, the prophet concludes his testimony of Melchizedek by using a sign to evidence his authority. He used this sign because he was authorized to do so, and knew what it meant as he did.  Although those who were there may not have understood, it was a sign he was a true messenger.

We cannot be saved in ignorance.

Once the key of knowledge is lost, mankind is lost and cannot be saved until that key is returned.  Prophets sent with messages who testify to an ignorant people use signs that the Lord recognizes and authorizes, but they may not be noticed or understood by those who hear the message.  Nevertheless, the testimony becomes binding when the Lord’s seal is put upon it. This often involves a required sign to be given, or in other words, for hands to be stretched forth. 


I received the following comment, which I am putting up because it does a good job of illustrating a number of misunderstandings:

Mr. Snuffer,

I am not a follower of your blog but I love some who are. When I read your recent post, “I’ve been getting emails and comments asking if I’m alright. I’m fine. When I have something to say I’ll say it” I thought wow. It feels so unkind? People have become dependent on your claims to know Heavenly Father’s will. Many have abandoned their own voice of reasoning leaning on your daily prophesies. They no longer feel secure in their understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ without your input so I question how you are okay with dropping and then mocking those who you have called into your fold? I expect all is not well and pray that Heavenly Father will be able to mend His children’s fearful hearts, including yours. Peace and goodwill.

This comment contains a number of misunderstandings:

It is abhorrent to me that anyone would “become dependent” on me. I’ve worked to point to the Lord, never to myself. If there are some who have “become dependent,” then there is every reason for me to withdraw to prevent that from happening. It is wrong for any person to be dependent upon another in matters of faith. We should all be dependent upon the Lord alone. As Moroni confirmed, citing Acts 3: 22-23, the only “prophet” people must hear to avoid being “destroyed” is Christ. Those who will not hear His voice will, according to Moroni, “be cut off from among the people.” (JS-H 1: 40.)

If it is true that, “Many have abandoned their own voice of reasoning leaning on your daily prophesies. They no longer feel secure in their understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ without your input” then the only proper response on my part is to withdraw. It is wrong of them to do this, and it is the more wrong for me to facilitate it. This idea is one I have rejected, repeatedly denounced, and consistently stated that I am unworthy of followers. It would be wrong of me to continue.

I have not intended to “mock” anyone who is seeking to know more of Christ and to understand His Gospel more clearly. I have done what I could to assist. In doing so it has been my purpose to point to Him, never to myself. I have fully recovered from the last surgery. I lift weights; I walk several miles a week, and I am in better physical condition than I have been in some time.
I have no “fold” and I am not a shepherd of anyone. Even my own children are asked to find Christ and His truth for themselves.

My “heart” is not “fearful” of anyone, or of anything. I am at peace with God, and I hope others will become similarly at peace with Him. I have been asked to accomplish a number of things and I have accomplished them. Until asked to do something further, I stand at the ready and await His counsel and guidance. In the meantime, I serve as asked in my ward and stake, and try not to call any undue attention to myself.

I hope that this Christmas season will be filled with remembrance of the Lord and His great condescension coming here to live among us. His birth was necessary to allow Him to die for us. He entered mortality foreordained to die for our salvation.  He willingly came here, endured what was required of Him, and suffered the will of His Father in all things, even drinking out of the bitter cup given to Him when He begged to have it taken from Him. Bethlehem and Golgotha are linked together by the ministry of our Lord; the one necessary for the other. I would hope also some reflection would be given to Mary, whose soul was inevitably to be “pierced” also as the prophet Simeon foretold to her. (Luke 2: 34-35.) Our Lord, His Father and His mother all paid a price both to bring Him into this world and to witness His sacrifice for us.

CD’s of Talks

I was in Benchmark Books yesterday. They told me they now have in stock CD’s of all the recorded talks I’ve given. They asked me if I would inform blog readers. In the past, Confetti Books and on-line were the only sources to get copies. Benchmark is located at 3269 South Main Street, Suite 250 in Salt Lake City.

I Have No Spokesman/Spokesmen

A couple of years ago I put a post up confirming that no one speaks for me. You can read that post here.

It is still true. If I have something to say, I will say it. No one is authorized to speak on my behalf. And no one is entitled to interpret what I think, or how I view any given issue or subject. To the extent that I have a view, I will tell it.

A parting thought

I’ve been getting emails and comments asking if I’m alright. I’m fine. When I have something to say I’ll say it. I do have one parting thought:

In the Book of Mormon a people were “destroyed” when they lost control over their government. Their ability to preserve their own values, and choose the way they were governed was taken over by others. Most often it was from a different ethnic group, though not always. In the case of Amalackiah he was ethnically Nephite, but his values were Lamanite.

Once people were “destroyed” they were oppressed and suffered. Often they were oppressed with grievous taxes, and had religious liberties removed. Then they faced a choice: Either repent, in which case they came through the period of oppression with another chance. Or, if they were angry and rebellious, they would then be “swept away.”

Being “destroyed” is not at all the same as being “swept away.” It is possible for people to have been destroyed and not even realize it. But when swept away they face extinction, and cannot help but notice it.

144,000, part 3

One final passage of scripture seems connected to this process. A question was posed by Elias Higbee. Joseph took this question to the Lord. The question and answer is in D&C 113: 7-8:

“Questions by Elias Higbee: What is meant by the command in Isaiah, 52d chapter, 1st verse, which saith: Put on thy strength, O Zion—and what people had Isaiah reference to? He had reference to those whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost.”

Although the number 144,000 is not mentioned here, this is also clearly a last-days event. The individuals involved are those who “God should call in the last days.” The verses describing the 144,000 make it clear they will be called of God, and will receive sealing from the angels; as Revelation 7: 3, D&C 77: 11 and D&C 84: 42 all reference.

The “power” of the angels “over the nations of the earth” (D&C 77: 11) is needed to prevent Zion from being overrun or destroyed by the nations of the earth. These other nations, if they oppose Zion, will be destroyed. (See Daniel 2: 31-45; D&C 87: 6.) The “powers of heaven” which will hover over Zion will discourage any army from battling her. (D&C 45: 70.)

I put the term “powers of heaven” in quotes because this refers to the hosts of heaven. This is why the term “powers” and not “power” is used in D&C 121: 36. Priesthood is always a relationship between man on earth and the “powers” or hosts of heaven. These angelic or heavenly beings were those who escorted men to the first heavenly Zion (Moses 7: 27), and will do so again. 

It will be the relationship between those who have been “sealed …of our God in their foreheads” (Rev. 7: 3) and the heavenly powers or angels which grants “the power of the priesthood to bring again Zion.” (D&C 113: 8.)

Notice the return of Zion is connected also with “lineage” in the answer above. Or, in other words, the bloodlines of Israel are required to be found in those who will be gathered. This has always been true of Zion. In the first Zion, the gathering of individuals was carefully assembled to bring together “a mixture of all the seed of Adam” so all the families were included. (Moses 7: 22.) There was one exception, however that bloodline was likewise preserved through Noah’s son’s wife. (Abr. 1: 21-23.) The Lord, therefore, took measures to keep either in Zion or on the earth a representative descendant of “all the seed of Adam.”

As the revelation explains, to “put on the authority [notice here authority is singular] of the priesthood” is necessary to “bring again Zion.” This is why the Lord says HE will “bring again Zion” and not men. (See Isa. 52: 8; 3 Ne. 16: 19; see also the description in Moses 7: 62 of the Lord’s role in the final Zion.)

Zion is the Lord’s and His name is “the King of Zion.” (Moses 7: 53.)

In the answer found in D&C 113: 8 the priesthood power has been “lost” and needs to be returned. This raises the interesting question of whether this is referring to the final calling of the 144,000, or if it means the restoration with Joseph Smith. Have/will we successfully perpetuate the authority from Joseph’s time until the return of Zion? (Look at D&C 86: 11.) Or will it require a new connection between man and the “powers of heaven” and a new “sealing” of men in their foreheads by the angels? Revelation 7: 3 implies this authority will be returned immediately prior to the plagues described in the next chapter. But it is up to the Holy Ghost to provide a correct interpretation of these verses. I leave that to you to receive.

The Lord appears in prophecy to claim a direct or immediate role in establishing Zion. And the verses we have considered appear to make it a project which will involve not only the Lord, but also angels and the Father. Indeed, the “powers of heaven” appear to all have some hand in bringing again Zion, do they not?

The most interesting thing to me is the symbolic nature of the number 144,000. If the Lord intends to preserve the blood of all Twelve Tribes, and there are perhaps as many as a thousand different families connected together in your own ancestors, could one man account for a thousand of these 144,000? Could his wife account for another thousand? How few individuals could be able to preserve the bloodlines of the twelve thousand families from each of the Twelve Tribes?

For those who are not included, they will nevertheless have part in the resurrection. The scriptures promise it will be “tolerable” for them. (D&C 45: 54.)

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.


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?


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.