New Book For Christians

A new book addressed to Christians is now available on Amazon. The book is titled A Man Without Doubt.

It is intended to be readable. There are no footnotes, and it is just under 200 pages. The book introduces material written by Joseph Smith by laying the historical setting that produced the document. Then Joseph is allowed to speak to the reader in his own words. The book was reviewed by non-Mormon readers beforehand, and their comments and suggestions were solicited and considered in finalizing it.

If you know of a Christian who has a negative opinion of Joseph Smith, you may want to lend them a copy of this book to see if influences them in a positive way.

Mormons may not appreciate the book. There is very little about the history leading to each of the three writings that is particularly flattering. The book first explains the frustrations and disappointments Joseph encountered in trying to convey to others the higher priesthood. In response to the failure, Joseph set out to address the lack of faith. Lectures on Faith were given in the School of the Prophets, then canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants to address the crisis of faith early Mormons experienced when the higher priesthood did not work as expected.

The second crisis began in 1837 and lasted through 1838. The collapse of the Kirtland Safety Society, the many members angry at Joseph, his flight to Missouri to escape the Mormons who intended to kill him, and the troubles in Missouri leading up to the Mormon War are explained as background. When John Whitmer, the historian of the church, left with the history, Joseph began a new composition in 1838 to replace the one Whitmer took. The background is prelude to the Joseph Smith History, and explains why Joseph wrote many of the comments in his history.

The third crisis was when Joseph was taken prisoner in the Mormon War. For six months in 1838-1839 he was confined in Missouri while Mormons were scattered from the state under threat of extermination. The background explains the circumstances in which Joseph wrote the letter from Liberty Jail.

After introducing the events leading to the three Joseph Smith compositions, the reader is allowed to read Joseph’s response to the crises. Everyone is allowed to form their own opinion of Joseph by considering how he reacted.

There is a glossary to help those unacquainted with Mormon language and leading figures to familiarize themselves with events, persons and texts of early Mormonism.

Most of the opposition Joseph Smith encountered had either disaffected Mormons leading or participating against him. His responses are all the more remarkable because of how positive he remained throughout.

If you know anyone, including Christian ministers, who could benefit from reading the book, please share it with them. Nothing in the book attempts to convert anyone to Mormonism. Its only purpose is to introduce Joseph Smith as a Christian figure whose life, in many ways, was like the Apostle Paul. A quote from Paul in the beginning of the book supplies all later chapter titles.

Now Christians

I finished and submitted for print a new book addressed to Christians. The book is an attempt to re-introduce Joseph Smith as an important Christian figure, separate from institutional Mormonism. It is time he became relevant to all Christians, and no longer regarded as the property of Mormonism. The new book should be available on Amazon by early August if anyone is interested.

The time has come to give attention to Christians who are not part of the Mormon tradition. Other faiths need to be invited to think about what God is doing to finish His work. Christians have barriers, including prejudices and traditions, but all need to be invited to consider how great things the Lord has done for mankind.

For several months I have solicited the opportunity to speak at several theological schools. Although I did get invited to speak to a group of “Mormon Studies” graduate students in California, they are not who I need to address. The other efforts have not proven successful. Accordingly, I thought it appropriate to make it public. I am looking for an opportunity to speak to a Christian audience, and enlist help from others.

If anyone knows of a Christian venue that meets the description below, please contact me and let me know:

I would like to give three talks, one in California, one in Texas and one in Atlanta. I will pay my own travel costs, and do not expect or want to be compensated for speaking. The audience should be comprised of Christians, and not Mormons. I would like to record the talks and make them available on-line for others to hear. The size of the venue is unimportant. I would prefer a theological school, but would welcome any venue with a Christian audience, including a church if one were available. Below is a brief biographical description you can use to solicit the invitation:

I converted to the LDS church when 19 years old, and served faithfully for 40 years. Among other things, I was an Elder’s Quorum President, Sunday School President, Bishop’s counselor, Ward Mission Leader, High Councilor, and Graduate Institute Instructor. I taught for three years at BYU Education Week on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo, Utah. I graduated from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University in 1980, and have practiced law for 36 years. I have authored 15 volumes on Mormonism, including Mormon history and doctrine. I was excommunicated for publishing a book challenging the traditional LDS church narrative of its history, and offering a new interpretation of the events. My excommunication was directed by Elder Russell M. Nelson, current President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS church.

I will be addressing the topic of Joseph Smith as a significant Christian figure, worthy of considering alongside all other important Christian thinkers, writers and martyrs.

You can send a response to dssnuffer@gmail.com.

The Martyrs

Hyrum fell first, and as the eldest brother led the way. Joseph died moments later. Today is the anniversary of their martyrdom.

Exactly as the angel foretold, the name of Joseph Smith is “had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” (JS-H 1:33.) Just as the Lord affirmed to Joseph in Liberty Jail, “fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee; While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.” (D&C 122:1-2.)

The evil spoken of Joseph now comes from the LDS Church, which claims him as their founder. It comes from Brian Hales, who claims to be an accurate biographer. It comes from anti-Mormons, and Christian ministers, and fundamentalists who have created a caricature they claim to be Joseph. There is little difference between these people and William Law, Charles Ivins, Francis Higbee, Chauncey Higbee, Robert Foster and Charles Foster who published the Nauvoo Expositor.

It would be good if some (or all) of those who claim Joseph was a sexual predator and adulterer for impregnating another man’s wife, were to apologize and acknowledge there is no compelling proof Joseph ever had sexual relations with any other woman other than Emma Smith. Even the putative last suspected daughter, Josephine Lyons, is now ruled out as his descendant. I have not read any apology for the false accusation that he was the father from Hales, the church, or any of his accusers.

In the aftermath of John Bennett’s misconduct, Joseph pursued an effort to track down what had happened in Nauvoo. By May 21, 1842, the high council met and, “[A] charge [was] [preferred] against Chauncey L. Higbee by George Miller for unchaste and un-virtuous conduct with the widow [Sarah] Miller, and others.” (Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, p. 414, all as in original.) In the trial, “Three witness[es] testified that he had seduced [several women] and at different times [had] been guilty of unchaste and unvirtuous conduct with them and taught the doctrine that it was right to have free intercourse with women if it was kept secret &c and also taught that Joseph Smith authorised him to practice these things &c” (Id., pp. 414-415, as in original.)

On May 25 the charge was preferred “against Ms. Catherine Warren by George Miller for unchaste and unvirtuous conduct with John C. Bennett and others. The defendant confessed to the charge and gave the names of several other [men] who had been guilty having unlawful intercourse with her[,] stating they taught the doctrine that it was right to have free intercourse with women and that the heads of the Church also taught and practiced it[,] …learning that the heads of the church did not believe of [the] practice [of] such things[,] she was willing to confess her sins and did repent before God for what she had done and desired earnestly that the Council would forgive her.”(Id., p. 417, as in original.) She furnished the identities of the several men involved, resulting in more church court proceedings to stop the spread of Bennett’s mischief.

On September 3, 1842, “[A] charge was preferred against Gustavius Hills by Elisha Everett[,] one of the teachers of the Church[,] for illicit intercourse with a certain woman by the name of Mary Clift by which she was with child[,] and for teaching the said Mary Clift that that the heads of the Church practiced such conduct & that time would come when men would have more wives than one &c” (Id., p. 424, as in original.)

The next day, September 4, 1842, “Esther Smith gave evidence that [the] defendant [Gustavius Hills] told her that it was lawful for people to have illicit intercourse if they only held their peac[e] & that the time would it was agreeable to the practice of some of the leading men or heads of the Church.” (Id., p. 425, as in original.)

Yet more courts were held as the effort to round up those who were involved in this practice. John Bennett, in response to the treatment given him by the church, set out to tell another story in which he was the hero and Joseph was the villain. He wrote, lectured and campaigned against Mormonism, first to salvage his reputation, but ultimately as his profession.

Joseph left a record of public and private actions taken in opposing the plural wife system. These included: “I preached in the grove and pronounced a curse upon all adulterers and fornicators, and unvirtuous persons and those who have made use of my name to carry on their iniquitous designs.” (Joseph Smith (Sermon at the Grove; Apr 10, 1842)

Then there is the obviously altered Joseph Smith journal for Thursday 5th October 1843, which confirms there was an effort to alter documents to conform to later events and practices:

(ORIGINAL) Evening at home and walked up and down the street with my scribe. Gave inst[r]uction to try those who were preaching teaching or practicing the doctrin of plurality of wives. on this Law. Joseph forbids it. and the practice ther[e]of— No man shall have but one wife.

(REVISED) Evening at home and walked up and down the street with my scribe. Gave inst[r]uction to try those who were preaching teaching or practicing the doctrin of plurality of wives. on this law for according to the law i hold the keys of this power in the last days, for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power? and the keys are conferred – and I have continually said Joseph forbids it. and the practice ther[e]of No man shall have but one wife at a time unless the Lord directs otherwise

          Someone revised the content at a later date. Once revised at a later date, it was “on” again, and perhaps retroactively “on” since the original alterations were not possible to detect until the Joseph Smith Papers project made the original available for public view.

There was a published denunciation of polygamy in early February 1844 in the newspaper edited by Joseph:

“As we have lately been credibly informed, that an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan. This is to notify him and the Church in general, that he has been cut off from the church, for his iniquity; and he is further notified to appear at the Special Conference, on the 6th of April next, to make answer to these charges.”  (Joseph Smith & Hyrum Smith, Times and Seasons Vol. 5 (February 1, 1844).)

The Relief Society later put out a more detailed document titled A Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo that offered an even stronger denial of plural marriage. It was penned by W. W. Phelps at the request of Joseph Smith. The document was presented to a general meeting of the church at which Joseph presided in March 1844, three months before he was killed:

“A vast assembly of Saints met at the Temple of the Lord at nine o’clock a. m., by a special appointment of President Joseph Smith, for the purpose of advancing the progress of the Temple, &c. The Patriarch, Hyrum Smith, was present; also of the Twelve Apostles Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, and George A. Smith; also the temple committee and about eight thousand Saints….[later in the meeting] an article was also read by W. W. Phelps, entitled, A Voice of innocence from Nauvoo, and all the assembly said ‘Amen’ twice.” (DHC 6:236, p 241.)

I tire of hearing Joseph’s name associated with evil. Particularly from those who claim to honor him as a prophet. On this day I would defend his honor and affirm he is exactly who and what he claimed. He was a virtuous man, in love with his wife Emma, and opposed to adultery, immorality and dishonesty.

A Bigger Picture

I had a lengthy education the night of April 14th (two months ago) about the overall picture of the Lord’s work. We are important, but He is working with all people, in all cultures, and in all faiths, at the same time. He is not just working with us. We may be important to fulfill promises He made to fathers who went before, but there are billions to whom those promises likewise extend, and for whom He has as much care, concern and love as He has for us.

We get myopic and see things through a very narrow lens, when the God of heaven sees all mankind as the object of His atonement and beneficiaries of the restoration of truth through Joseph Smith. If we are somehow “special” to God, so are all the rest of mankind. His plan is for the advancement of all mankind, to “add upon” every one of us who come to live and die here. We are learning to distinguish between good and evil by the experiences we have.

Even if we think our religious understanding superior to others, the others are also being added upon as well. As I have worked on the paper I will be presenting at Sunstone in July, I have been reminded that Mormonism was intended to include “all truth, wherever it is found” as part of one great whole. It is we who are narrow-minded and intolerant, not God. God has a heart big enough to care for all, and even the least of mankind.

Whenever there is some new revelation by God to me I always stand corrected, because I needed correcting, and in awe of how great our Lord is; and how comparatively little I am.

Word of Wisdom

There’s an interesting article on Yahoo which states in part:

Paris (AFP) – Very hot drinks probably increase the risk of cancer, a UN agency said Wednesday, but coffee — once feared to be a carcinogen — is safe if enjoyed at “normal” temperatures.

Tea and mate, a popular South American herbal infusion, may also be harmful if drunk hotter than 65 degrees Celsius (150 degrees Fahrenheit), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported.

“It doesn’t matter what the liquid is,” said epidemiologist Dana Loomis, who took part in a review of the world’s most popular hot beverages. “What matters is the temperature.”

___________________

The title of the article is Very Hot Drinks Probably Cause Cancer: UN Agency.

D-Day

June 6, 1944, now 72 years behind us, was D-Day. It should remain a sober reminder of what is required once evil is allowed to gain dictatorial control over nations. If we do not fight for freedom through peaceful, political means, then the choices are either enslavement or war. While we are allowed to choose a political solution, we ought to choose wisely. “When the wicked rule, the people mourn.” (D&C 98:9; see also Proverbs 29:2.)

“Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.” (D&C 98:10.)

Every freedom mankind enjoys throughout the world is affected by who is elected to hold office in the United States. Those who are allowed to vote ought to do so with sober appreciation of the solemn consequences of our choice. When we choose poorly and elect unfit, unqualified, morally deficient leaders whose integrity is questionable all the world pays a price. A leader (male or female) is best when he regards himself as nothing more than a public servant, and worst when assuming it is to gratify his pride or satisfy his vain ambition.

Sunstone Schedule

The Sunstone schedule is now becoming more fixed. You can review the schedule here: 2016 Salt Lake Symposium.

I will be speaking from 5-6:30 pm on Friday, July 29th in the Saltair Room in the Olpin University Center on the University of Utah.

The talk I will give is titled: Was There An Original? It is about the beginning of Mormonism and the continuity or discontinuity since the beginning.

Fishers of Men

Jeremiah prophesied of the Lord (Christ) sending “fishers.” (Jer. 16:16.) Christ said this referred directly to Him in the JST of Matt. 4:19. (“I am he of whom of whom it is written by the prophets; follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

Tomorrow at the Aurora Reservoir there will be baptisms offered to any who are in the Denver area and believe the Doctrine of Christ. “This is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me. And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, and he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one. And again I say unto you, ye must repent and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Verily, Verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell shall open to receive such when the floods come and the winds bear upon them. Therefore, go forth unto this people and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.” (3 Ne. 11:32-41.)

Those warned are required to warn others. (D&C 38:41; 88:81.) God offers salvation to everyone, and we should make known the Doctrine of Christ, offer baptism to all, and help prepare the world for His return.

The earliest Christian hymn we have was written by Clement of Alexandria. It’s words are:

“Fisher of men, the blest,

Out of the world’s unrest,

Out of sin’s troubled sea

Taking us, Lord, to Thee;

Out of the waves of strife,

With bait of blissful life,

Drawing Thy nets to shore

With choicest fish, good store.”

Doctrine of Christ

A quarter-page ad was put into the Denver Post on Sunday, May 8th titled The Doctrine of Christ. It invites anyone who accepts the doctrine to meet at the Aurora Reservoir on Sunday, May 22nd to be baptized. The ad is sponsored by the BornofWater.org/Colorado participants. At their website they offer additional direction and answer questions. Those who have organized the event and paid to publish the advertising are to be commended for their faithfulness and sacrifice.

Fellowship Gathering

Last Sunday there was a fellowship in Provo. The gathering involved people who associate on-line from a large geographical area. People came from Arizona, Texas, Idaho, Utah and perhaps other places. A couple now living in Utah recently relocated from Tennessee. They have helped one another with their monetary donations, and become close with each other through their meetings.

This group was friends and equals. They drew straws to decide who would bless and pass the sacrament. There was no one directing or assuming the right to control the events or others. Their mutual respect was apparent.

While I did not have an opportunity to speak with everyone in attendance, those I did talk with were uniformly well-informed and serious students of the gospel and scripture. They are bright, thoughtful and humble people with sincere desires to follow God.

Most, perhaps all (I didn’t ask if they didn’t tell me) had been excommunicated from the LDS Church. If they had been permitted to remain part of their LDS congregations, they would make any ward stronger, any discussion more edifying, and any service more heartfelt.

I count it a privilege to have been able to associate with them. It was good for my soul to meet and hear them.

Why A Temple?

Baptism for the dead first appears in scripture in Paul’s writings where he mentions the practice in passing. (1 Cor. 15:9.) Because it is only a lone-reference and not an explanation, it is not enough of a scripture-basis to build any clear understanding,

The idea of work by the living for the dead is not mentioned to include any ordinance in the promised return of Elijah. The prophecy of his return is vaguely described as “turning the hearts of the children to the fathers” and the father’s hearts in turn to the children. However vague this passage may be, it is clearly important because this prophecy is repeated in all volumes of scripture (Old T, New T, Bk of Mormon, D&C, PofGP). Joseph elaborated on the meaning of Elijah’s return and role as part of the justification for baptism for the dead and other temple rites.

There is a relationship between ascension in this life and the right to ascend in the afterlife which is mentioned, but not well explained, in scripture. It is undeniably present in one verse of the D&C. That verse states:

All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, … by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed [meaning Christ], … are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.

There are two ascents. One is temporary and happens when men are “caught up,” but then return to this world. It represents overcoming the world and returning the individual back to the presence of God. It is called “redemption from the fall” (Ether 3:13) because it brings the individual back into God’s presence. That form of temporary ascent is designed to establish a covenant or promise related to the other, more gradual ascent through development of the individual. The temporary mortal ascent secures a promise for the individual that they will be permitted to make the eternal ascent to where God and Christ dwell in the afterlife.

The second form is the actual ascent, involving redemption and securing eternal life. It is a methodical process over eons of time to bring those who ascend to reside where God and Christ dwell. (D&C 76:62, 112.) In the King Follett Discourse Joseph Smith said this:

Thus you learn some of the first principles of the gospel, about which so much has been said. When you climb a ladder, you must begin at the bottom and go on until you learn the last principle; it will be a great while before you have learned the last. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it is a great thing to learn salvation beyond the grave.”

This is the growth, by degrees, which results in exaltation. “Here, then, is eternal life–to know the only wise and true God. And you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves–to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done–by going from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you are able to sit in glory as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.” (Id.)

The second form of ascent cannot happen in mortality, but is accomplished over time. It requires attaining to the resurrection, meaning that death has no claim on you because you merit eternal life. This is what Christ gained in His life and through His sacrifice here. We are dependent upon His merits to overcome death. But we will have to attain the same thing before we finish the second form of ascent. Christ is the “prototype of the saved man” and we must “be precisely what he is and nothing else” or not be saved according to the Lectures on Faith. (Lecture Seventh, Paragraph 9.)

For mortals, the first form of ascent is possible. The scriptures, in particular the Book of Mormon, contain accounts of those who have ascended to God’s presence and overcome the fall of mankind. Many Old Testament prophets did likewise, but their accounts were redacted by the Deuteronomists because of hostility to the doctrine.  The reality is that most people, even very good believing people whose lives are filled with Christian charity and love for their fellow man, are not going to ascend even temporarily while they live in this fallen world. The first ascent is covenant-filled. God brings us before Him to establish a covenant assuring the eternal ascent. Most people will ascend over eons, because that process is based on the determination and commitment people have to follow God and His Christ.

In this fallen world, the great challenge is to lay hold of the covenant right to ascend to God’s throne. (Rev. 3:20-21.) It is true that God is no respecter of persons and everyone CAN, but the truth is that very few will obtain the covenant while in the flesh.

In His mercy, God has made provisions for all people. He loves all mankind equally, has planned for allowing those good and believing people who will not qualify in their own right to ascend the “mountain of the Lord” into His presence to receive it through more ordinary means. God’s purposes cannot be defeated, even by man’s weakness. God has other means to qualify people to be His covenant family.

The purpose of a temple (meaning an actual temple commissioned, ordered, blessed, accepted and visited with His presence) is to substitute for the temporary ascent of a mortal into God’s presence.  A real temple becomes “Holy Ground” and the means for making available to faithful people in every state of belief and hope the opportunity to receive, by authorized means, the same covenant, obligation, association, expectation and sealing through an authorized and binding arrangement in sacred space. This is the same thing they can receive from God directly if they enter into His presence while still in the flesh. In effect, the temple becomes an extension of heaven.  God, angels and mankind are able to associate there as in Eden. It is a return to Eden, where “God walks in the cool of the day.” (Gen. 3:8.)

The ordinances or rites of the temple are presented in ritual form. This is required. God’s House is a House of Order because it is reoriented to point away from this world in order to reflect the order of heaven and the actual eternal ascent into His presence. The volume of information conveyed by God would be too vast to set out in non-ritual form. In ritual, it is possible to convey a great body of information with symbolism, metaphor, relationships, and types that work on the mind of man the same way that visionary experiences directly with God convey. The mind is expanded and the ritual allows something of God’s viewpoint to be transmitted into the mind of man.

The temple has only one real purpose: To convey God’s promise to exalt those who experience it; provided they abide the conditions for exaltation. It portrays the real, second eternal-form of ascent in a way that gives the initiate a promise that if they walk in the path shown them they will arrive at the Throne of God in the afterlife.

A real temple is required for Zion because it is the mechanism for reorienting society. Through it, the standard of conduct for ordering peaceful lives is established, and society becomes centered on the temple for law, education, social structure, government and coexistence. A real temple is a repository for knowledge and learning. It will include a library for study, teaching and learning. A real temple is indispensable for Zion because such a society is always built upon a heavenly pattern of cooperation and equality, making a city of peace or city of righteousness possible. It is the means to provide people with the information necessary to allow them “to govern themselves.”

Since the temple can easily become corrupted, and the things revealed there can cause greater wickedness if men knew of the great revelation of heaven, the times when an actual temple with all the attendant contracts, bonds, obligations, covenants, performances and expectations are set out plainly have been few indeed. The Lord visited a damaged temple in Bountiful to minister to the Nephites. The events at Bountiful mirror the highest ideals and instruction of the LDS Temple. In the Nephite record. the Lord conducted ceremonial revelation which extended beyond what men are allowed to openly reveal. The Book of Mormon does not contain a full record of what transpired. Recording it was forbidden.

The pattern of treating some things as off limits is not only set out in the visit of Christ to the Nephites, it is repeatedly the case in scripture. As Paul said, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9.)

There is also D&C 76:114-118:

But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion; Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter; Neither is man capable to make them known, for they 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.

I preach, teach, exhort and expound to encourage every soul to rise up in this life and make the first ascension to God while in the flesh. Some have done so. Others will. Perhaps a great many will. I hope so. But if there are believers who cannot or will not do so in this life, the temple is the means God will provide to allow the “least of the Saints” to likewise obtain a hope in Christ by an authorized covenant which will bind on earth and in heaven. Then they become likewise heirs of salvation and part of the great congregation to whom the Lord will proclaim: “Well done!” They will have a legitimate and authorized means for laying ahold of the promise of eternal life and continuing the long path of ascent to the Throne of God to dwell with Him and Christ.

The LDS version of temple rites is insufficient to allow anyone to obtain the right to ascend to God’s presence in eternity. The Lord will fix this, as He intends to establish an Ensign to which all nations (meaning scattered covenant Israel) will return in the last days and there receive their crowns at the hands of servants who will minister covenants for this purpose (D&C 133:31-34).

Mankind has generally failed to rise up to the place where God and mankind can meet. He has offered to do so repeatedly. His lament, “How oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks, but ye would not” (3 Ne. 10:5) is not just empty rhetoric. It is the actual, historical fact of how men have responded to God. God offers. We refuse. God withdraws. Generations come and go and God offers again. We refuse. God withdraws. Time passes. Again, He speaks and makes the offer.

You mustn’t confuse the fact I hear His voice and teach what He asks with any personal significance on my part. I have no value for others’ salvation – the second form of ascent. That role is confined to Christ alone. He is the “keeper of the gate” and “employs no servant there.” (2 Ne. 9:41.) But what I am teaching is true. What I am saying is not speculation or conjecture.

The people who went before, and are now beyond this veil are real. They still live, just in a different state. They still care about us. They were resurrected with Christ and are working as our fathers in heaven (D&C 132:37) to cause the fulfillment of covenants made long ago to them in their generation. God is behind the last-days effort to vindicate His word. Whether we like who He sends, or believe what He is doing, or even recognize His involvement, it is nevertheless the case that God is involved very directly in bringing about the accomplishment of His foretold latter-day work.

Signs of the Second Coming

I hear comments from a wide variety of people who wish Christ would return. They welcome the idea, as if it were going to solve the world’s problems. I’m always daunted by what will happen immediately before His return. Whatever joy He may ultimately bring, this world will undergo widespread catastrophes prior to the return.

Jesus was asked about the signs which would accompany His return. He answered in Luke 21: 25-26:

And there shall be signs in the sun…

[the most common sign is always an eclipse. For some reason the transit of Venus across the sun went largely unnoticed. But the sun waxes and wanes in both magnetic effect, sunspot activity and solar flares. It affects climate, electromagnetic fields, crops and all life.]

and in the moon…

[the most common sign are blood moons and eclipses. But it can also be used to gauge the health of our atmosphere.]

and in the stars…

[these rotate predictably, but when they move from one age to another by the precession through the equinoxes, the new constellation was said anciently to be “a new earth.” And when the pole star moved from one to the next, the change was said anciently to be “a new heaven.” Both Aquarius and Polaris represent a change to a new heaven and a new earth.]

and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity;

[most often associated with economic upheaval and warfare. But today there is both distress and perplexity from causes the modern world has no preparation to face and little hope of solving peacefully.]

the sea and the waves roaring;

[most often associated with tsunami activity.]

Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth:

[most often associated with the lack of courage to face the adversaries and opposing forces that threaten our safety. It includes the inability to stand for principal and righteousness because men are weak. It also includes the growing cruelty of men toward one another.]

for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

[most often associated with apostasy and collapse of faith by men. But also includes distress felt by the angels who are over the earth and those sent by heaven to minister to others. The term “Powers of Heaven” is a proper noun, referring to angelic hosts.]

I’m not certain those who pray for the Lord’s quick return appreciate fully what they are asking.