Almost everything about the Gospel plan is a process and not an event. There are events to be sure, but for most of us and for most of the time we are only working through the process.
A great deal of the scriptures have been written by those who have been through the process, and who are trying to give us instruction to repeat it in our own lives. “Events” which occur are in the scriptures, as well. But we will never arrive at the “events” unless we first realize there is a process and we begin to participate actively in that process.
The first chapter of Abraham, second and third verses, describes a lengthy process. It took decades to unfold. It was not merely that Abraham determined to do something and then it happened. He’s giving a recitation of the process whereby he became at last a “rightful heir” and a “prince of peace” who had “received instructions” and “held the right belonging to the fathers.”
His quest began in “the land of the Chaldeans.” His ordination would not occur until he was transplanted nearly a thousand miles to the place where Melchizedek would at last ordain and endow him. (D&C 84: 14.) Shem was the “great high priest” we know as “Melek” (king) and “Zadok” (priest) or in other words Melchizedek. (D&C 138: 41.)
[Bruce R. McConkie and President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that Shem was NOT Melchizedek. They reasoned that the meaning of words “through the lineage of the fathers, even till Noah” meant that there were generations between Noah and Melchizedek. And that since Noah was Shem’s father, there were no generations. I do not think the words refer to the “generations” after Noah, but to the generations before Noah. In other words, Noah received the priesthood through the generations going back to Adam, and then having that priesthood which began in the first generations, he conferred it upon Shem, whose new name was Melchizedek. It was this “great high priest” who conferred the priesthood on Abraham. You should be aware that I am differing from what McConkie and Smith have taught on this issue. I’m confident in my position and not persuaded by their reasoning, but you are free to believe who you choose.]
When we read the quick summary of Abraham in 1: 2-3, we can wrongly presume that this was a quick event, not a long process. It was lengthy. It did not unfold without decades of desiring, seeking, receiving promises and then having them fulfilled.
A great deal of what we read in the scriptures is quickly describing the process. They can be misleading in that respect. Nephi’s early account of his visionary experiences suggests instant clarity and understanding. However, Nephi took decades to unravel what he had been given. We are reading his third account. He first wrote it when it happened. Then he recorded it a second time on his large plates. It was not until he had received the commandment to prepare the small plates (on which he wrote the account we read in 1& 2 Nephi) that he finally gave us the third, refined, and completed account. This was decades later. He had “pondered continually upon the things which [he] had seen and heard” (2 Ne. 4: 16) during the intervening decades. The account we have reduces the decades of reflection into a single, cogent statement.
The Lord does no magic. He aids us in our growth. We have to grow and overcome. Nephi’s vision was something which, without decades of pondering, he could not state with clarity to a reader of his testimony. It is always required for us to conform to the Lord’s understanding and abandon our own.
The comment by Moses in Moses 1: 27-30 shows how despite the vision he could not understand. He had to ask, “tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?” It would take great effort to be able to catch up with the things he witnessed.
The Lord lives in a timeless state. (D&C 130: 7; Alma 40: 8.) We live inside time. When the Lord shows things to prophets from His perspective, it takes a while for men to comprehend what they have been shown. It is a process. Our effort is also required.
Men are not perfected in an instant. We do not learn, even with a Perfect Teacher, without applying ourselves. It sometimes takes, as in the cases of Abraham and Nephi, decades of pondering in order for us to understand and finally receive what has been given to us. In the mean time, the Lord gives us experiences in life which will allow our minds to open to what He has done for us.
Joseph’s First Vision was originally his own conversion story. By the time of the third account (the one we have in the scriptures) it had changed into the opening of a dispensation for all mankind. It changed from Joseph’s conversion into the herald call from heaven to all mankind. The years from 1820 to 1838 were required for Joseph to understand the difference. Same vision. Much different understanding.
So it is with all sons of God.
I was asked if Joseph Smith saw more than two personages in his First Vision. In the account written in 1835 Joseph stated: “I saw many angels in this vision.”
The account in the Pearl of Great Price (written in 1838) omits any mention of this detail.
I wrote a post about altering or rewriting scriptures to resolve doctrinal disputes. The example used was taken from the time before the New Testament settled into its final form. That example, “adoptionism” was rejected by the majority view, and ultimately the text of the New Testament was changed to make the doctrine “false” from the text. That change was made during the Third and Fourth Centuries as a result of what is now called the Christological debates.
Someone asked if I thought Christ was adopted. That wasn’t the point of the blog post. But as long as the question was asked, here’s my view:
No, He was the Son of God. However, even as the Son of God He still was required to be acknowledged by Him in mortality to be saved. Once He entered into mortality, took upon Him blood, He was subject to the Fall. Despite being subject to the Fall, He lived His life in such a way that the Fall could not have a proper claim upon Him. It was unjust He should die. When, therefore, death overtook Him, it was unjust. That injustice was the reason He could resurrect. The grave could have no just claim upon Him, and therefore death could be reversed in Him. The Father accepted Him as His Son while He was still in mortality. This was done because as a mortal, subject to the Fall, inhabiting a body with blood and the elements of corruption, Christ needed to receive the Father’s acknowledgment as His Son, even though He was indeed His Son.
Now the adoptionist theory was contrary to this. They held the view that Christ was just another man and got adopted to become the Son of God. He was God’s Son solely as a result of that adoption and not in any other way. I reject that idea. But I accept that He needed, just as everyone else needs, to be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, proceed through the ordinances of the Gospel, and ultimately receive His calling and election made sure. He said He needed to “fulfill all righteousness” and He did all that was required of any of us. God acknowledged Him as His Son. This is required for anyone to be saved. Christ showed the way and walked the path. So in that sense He, just as all of us, needed to be “adopted.” Him because He was mortal. Us because we are conceived in sin.
We have a whole different mindset than did the ancients. We view things through the prism of Aristotle. We think that “reality” is what we can observe and touch and measure. However, there was once a mindset where what is “reality” was what God said. The Word of God alone was enough to make the reality.
When God said or promised something that was enough to make what God said true, real, and eternal.
God says: “You are my son, this day I have begotten you.” (Psalms 2:7) When that occurred, it was enough to make a man a son of God. I don’t know if we even believe that possible now.
Today we assume if it is to happen at all it will be in the afterlife. To the ancients, the person to whom this promise was made was instantly a son of God, even though he may have to live out a life in mortality before entering into the kingdom promised him.
The “king-making ceremonies” of the Egyptians, for example, made the Pharaoh a son of Horus and a God. He was a God on earth even though everyone knew that he needed to eat and breathe to survive. He would eventually die and be buried. He was a mortal – but he was a God. The promise was everything. The words of the ceremony, the effect of the anointing, the commitment to the man was enough to make him a God.
This concept of man becoming God hails from a different culture and time. One untainted by the “head of gold, arms of silver, belly of brass, etc.” It is from a time when the Eastern mind, (words are eternal, everything here is temporary and an illusion) was in place among those who are talking with God.
Christ took the Father’s words so seriously that Christ became the literal embodiment of God the Father’s words. He, Christ, was known as the “Word of God” because He remained true to every word spoken by the Father. If you want to know what the Father said, look to Christ.
So believing/accepting the words of God are critical to getting the true reality of what this life is all about.
I was at the Alta-Jordan baseball game yesterday. It was almost unwatchable for the first three innings. There were 6 runs scored without a single hit. The 3-3 tie was the result of hit batters, walks, errors, and general bad play. Ugly doesn’t even begin to describe the mess that went on in the beginning of the game.
Then both teams seemed to get over their hesitation and actually remember how to play again.
Jordan had an 11-6 lead going into the last at-bat in the top of the 7th inning. Alta needed 5 runs to tie the game. They put together a string of hits which pushed 5 runs over the plate and tied the game.
In the bottom of the 7th, Jordan got runners on, and had runners at the corners with only 1 out. Alta’s defense rose to the occasion and kept them scoreless.
In the extra inning, at the top of the 8th, Alta pushed two runs over. Then held Jordan scoreless in the bottom of the inning to take a 13-11 win.
Worst three beginning innings of baseball I think I’ve seen in High School play. Best five innings thereafter I’ve seen. What a difference!
This came to me through an email and I thought I should address it here. This is the email I received:
“I got information through the grapevine about a woman who is claiming that Denver ordained her to do something and that he put his hands on her head and set her apart for some type of work. I don’t know all the details, but I was not happy when I heard that. I know that he wouldn’t do that but thought that Denver should know that this woman is going around telling people this.”
I thought I would put it on the blog and explain.
First, I don’t have any idea what woman this is referring to; nor for that matter who wrote the information in the email. It was just forwarded to me, and I was given permission by the one who forwarded it to use it on the blog.
Second, I’ve not “ordained” a woman to do anything. Nor do I intend to “ordain” a woman to do anything.
Third, I have given blessings to my wife, daughters, home teaching assignments who are sisters, and other women who have asked from time to time, just as others do who hold priesthood and are asked to give a blessing. That has never involved “ordaining” a woman to some assignment or work.
Finally, the only women I have “set apart” for an assignment was done while I served in a Bishopric at BYU, or while serving on the High Council. Apart from that I haven’t “set apart” any woman. I’ve done numerous “setting apart” assignments in Elder’s Quorums, and other assignments, but those were men.
Someone asked this question:
In one part of Come, Let Us Adore Him you talk about the Dispensation in the Meridian of Time. How “Men of good faith and sincere desire doing their best to follow after God, lost the light of the Spirit, then lost sound doctrine, and ultimately lost their covenant status and drifted into darkness.” Did you mean this collectively? Over time as a group? As an individual of good faith, sincere desire, doing their best to follow after God, losing the light of the spirit, then sound doctrine and later drifting into darkness…. How tragic. If after all that they still failed, what then is our hope for an individual now, in our dispensation? Are we doomed to the same outcome? I see many following the same course as anciently.
It is troubling. It is the terrible problem of mortality. We are all prone to drift and fail. It is only by constant renewal of faith that we can hope to succeed. No matter how far we have come, what great things we have obtained, we are still subject to failure. This is why the FIRST principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: “faith, repentance, baptism and laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” We never outgrow these FIRST principles.
I believe them to be “FIRST” in the sense of primacy, not a singular event which happens and then you can take them off the list of stuff to do. They are primary. They are foundational. They are required to be used constantly. Therefore, they are “FIRST.”
So, we always go forward in faith. No matter how much we already know, we must use faith to go forward. We live within the limitation of linear time. We experience things in a flow that happens without our control. Life unfolds as an unknown to us, and we must cope with all it hands us from day to day. That requires faith to confront this uncontrolled, unfolding stream of time in which we are presently confined.
Repentance is required because even if we are doing what we should be doing we are always going to learn more. It is the nature of the Gospel that our light should increase. Whenever we learn more, we must change to reflect what we have just gained. Change is the heart of repentance.
Baptism is to have sins washed away. If you are already baptized, then the ordinance does not need to be done again, but the remission of sins and washing them away is required repeatedly. For those already baptized, this is done through the Sacrament. It is still required for us to have sins remitted.
The Holy Ghost is should be a regular participant in our lives. Its renewed companionship is also primary. Its witness to us that we are on the right path is the only way to wage the necessary war against entropy which seeks to take you into darkness. It is the source of renewed light that always enlightens when it comes.
These are the only means by which we can avoid the same dismal fate as all others of all prior dispensations. We must do this individually. It does not matter if it is done collectively. I’ve yet to see any reason in the scriptures to expect great collective success by the Gentiles who inherit the Gospel in our dispensation. There are individual promises to the few Gentiles who will repent, have faith, be baptized, enter into the covenant and remain faithful. But the collective outcome is not particularly rosy.
I was asked whether the white stone and new name in D&C 130 are the same as the Second Comforter. It was an interesting question and I thought I’d put the answer up here:
There are some equivalents (ie., if A=B and B=C, then A=C) in the Gospel when it comes to this subject. The ministry of the Second Comforter is to bring those to whom He ministers to the Father, and have them accepted by Him. This means that the Father accepts them as a member of the Heavenly Family, or in other words, promises them exaltation.
Since the end of that ministry is to have the person accepted by the Father as a son or daughter of God, then an equivalency can be drawn between the final outcome and the Second Comforter. This is what is done in D&C 88: 3-5. Joseph Smith did something similar in a statement he made in which he put the voice declaring a person’s exaltation first, and the visit of Christ and the Father with that person second. You can read about it in the Words of Joseph Smith, pages 3-6, but the most relevant excerpt is found below:
The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest & perhaps understood by few of this generation, After a person hath faith in Christ, repents of his sins & is Baptized for the remission of his sins & received the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands) which is the first Comforter then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering & thirsting after Righteousness. & living by every word of God & the Lord will soon say unto him Son thou shalt be exalted. &c When the Lord has thoroughly proved him & finds that the man is determined to serve him at all hazard. then the man will find his calling & Election made sure then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter which the Lord hath promised the saints as is recorded in the testimony of St John in the XIV ch from the 12th to the 27 verses Note the 126.96.36.199.23. verses. (16.vs) & I will pray the father & he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; (17) Even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you & shall be in you. (18) I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you (21) He that hath my commandments & keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. & he that loveth me shall be loved of my father. & I will love him & will manifest myself to him (23) If a man Love me he will keep my words. & my Father will love him. & we will come unto him, & make our abode with him.
Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more or less than the Lord Jesus Christ himself & this is the sum & substance of the whole matter, that when any man obtains this last Comforter he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him or appear unto him from time to time. & even he will manifest the Father unto him & they will take up their abode with him, & the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him & the Lord will teach him face to face & he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, & this is the state & place the Ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious vision Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St Paul in the third heavens, & all the Saints who held communion with the general Assembly & Church of the First Born &c.
(This is an excerpt from Willard Richards’ Pocket Companion contained in The Words of Joseph Smith.)
Since the white stone and new name mentioned in D&C 130: 10-11 are referring to the state of exaltation and inheritance, and since the promise which the Second Comforter (Christ) is working to obtain for those to whom He ministers is the promise of exaltation, that equivalency may also be made. The difference as I see it is that those described in the verses in D&C 130 are in a future state, in which they have actually inherited the condition of exaltation, have entered into the Celestial Kingdom to dwell there and possess the white stone on which their new name is written; whereas the promises Joseph speaks of in the quote above and the promises in D&C 88 are given to a mortal and are to be realized fully in the future.
Now the promise of the Lord is reality itself. What He says will happen. His Word becomes the law of the universe. (See D&C 1: 38.) Therefore when viewed with the eyes of faith, the Word is the reality, and the inheritance is immediate for those with faith. This is the reason why Joseph said when a man receives “this last Comforter he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him or appear unto him from time to time. & even he will manifest the Father unto him & they will take up their abode with him, & the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him & the Lord will teach him face to face & he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God[.]”
Finally, since the mortal who receives these things is already in company with the Lord and the Father, they are already occasional visitors in a Celestial Kingdom although they are still here in mortality, required to endure to the end, suffer death and then await resurrection. Despite this, they are celestial and their lives are punctuated by contact with celestial beings from time to time, as the Lord determines is appropriate or necessary.