Covenant

The Book of Mormon IS a covenant. In it we have examples of covenant making provided to us so we can understand the process. The covenant offered through the Book of Mormon has never been received by any people. When the 1835 conference adopted scriptures, they adopted only the D&C and not the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon as an offered covenant to the gentiles is an essential step required for the gentiles to become numbered with the remnant and obtain the right to inherit the promised land. If it is not received as a covenant by the gentiles, they have no right to be here on this land, or on any other land of promise.
Individuals can and do obtain hope in Christ. Individuals have been “saved” by the Lord on an individual basis from the time of Adam until the present. That will continue till the end of time.
But there is a profound difference between saved individuals and a covenant people. The covenant promises to restore Israel and its remnants contained in the Book of Mormon is not fulfilled merely by individuals, but requires a covenant people who have united to receive the covenant people status.
Zion and the New Jerusalem are a place, occupied by covenant people, and not something an individual can be or become. People who gather there will all need to be individually redeemed, individually penitent, individually connected to God, but will only belong to the community if they belong to the covenant and are of one heart and one mind and have all things in common between and among them.
If you think becoming one with God, whom you have not seen, is challenging, then how much more difficult will it be to become one with your fellow man whom you have seen. (To paraphrase James.)
The failures of the past are examples to learn from so we can do better. They can also inform our fears and blind us to what the Lord has spelled out in the Book of Mormon. The book gives a blueprint of the necessary steps for the gentiles to take for them to become numbered with the remnant and entitled to possession of the promised land as their inheritance.
The Book of Mormon has likewise assured the gentiles that the covenant will include “other books” which are required for the gentiles to receive that will testify of Christ and restore lost knowledge. They will confirm the truth of the earlier testimonies of Christ. These are required for the gentiles to be restored as His people. If we reject anything offered to us by the Lord then we fail, again, to obtain what might have been offered.
We face the same test as the ancients. In Moses’ day they accepted the lesser law after they rejected the higher law. The higher law would have been received by covenant had they not rejected it first. Had they been worthy, ancient Israel would have been required to receive the higher law by covenant as well.
Everyone is entirely free to reject anything offered by the Lord. There is no compulsion. If you are unpersuaded to take the step, then don’t take it. Any reservation will only lead to difficulties later. Everyone should come to peace about the matter before individually deciding to accept the covenant. We are all allowed to pursue a relationship with God apart from others. There will be those who are willing to accept a covenant and become numbered with the remnant. In the end, it is better if only a very few receive covenant status who are united in mind and heart than to have a larger body that includes the fearful, the doubtful and the skeptical.
The Lord asked the saints, Of what value is it for God to offer a gift if men refuse to receive the gift? On the other hand, if this is not from God, then there is nothing to trouble. If it is of man, by all means, refuse it.
Taking this offered step will not immediately change anything other than the identity of those gentiles who receive it. It will be years before the process of sweeping away those who are not entitled to the land will begin in earnest.
For those who receive the covenant, the Lord will expect them to keep it. WE are free throughout this process to reject, or to break the covenant after receiving it. Eventually a few faithful people will be gathered. The Lord knows whose heart is right before Him and whose is not; who can be of one heart and mind with others, and those who cannot. Zion will be His work, not man’s.

Nephi/Moroni Questions

In response to questions about the prior post concerning Nephi visiting Joseph Smith in September 1823 I add the following:

In the “Historical Introduction” written by the LDS Historian’s office for what is now D&C 14, they mention the first witness of the plates (other than Joseph Smith) was the mother of David and John Whitmer:

Whitmer later recounted that during their journey to Fayette, he, Cowdery, and JS briefly encountered a ‘pleasant, nice looking old man’ whom JS identified by revelation as a heavenly messenger transporting the plates. Whitmer also recalled that soon after their arrival in Fayette, his mother, Mary Mussleman Whitmer, was met ‘by the same old man, ‘who showed her the plates.’ (Joseph Smith Papers, Documents Vol. 1: July 1828-June1831, p. 67.)

This witness (Whitmer’s mother) knew the angel’s name as “Nephi” -just like Joseph Smith in his 1838, 1839, 1840 and 1842 writings. Her grandson wrote,“I have heard my grandmother [Mary Musselman Whitmer] say on several occasions that she was shown the plates of the Book of Mormon by a holy angel, whom she always called Brother Nephi.” (Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, article titled Another Account of Mary Whitmer’s Viewing of the Golden Plates, found in Vol. 10; (2014), p. 37.)

In footnote 56 (JS Papers Histories Vol. 1, p. 223) the Historian’s Office also cites an article in the Elder’s Journal in July 1838 as a reason to rename “Nephi” to “Moroni.” However, this is a reference to an answer by Joseph of a specific question involving the source of the plates (and not the angel who appeared in September 1823). The question and answer are:

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the Book of Mormon?

Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead; and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. (Elder’s Journal, July 1838, pp. 42-43.)

The plates were deposited by Moroni, not Nephi. The fact Moroni was involved in delivery of the plates does not mean it was him who appeared to Joseph in 1823. Since Moroni sealed the records to prevent their discovery by an unauthorized party (Moroni 10:2), the records could not come from their secure location without his (Moroni’s) consent to open the seal.

Of course Moroni should have been among the “many angels” involved between 1823 and 1827. But Joseph and Mary Mussleman Whitmer both testified it was “Nephi” who appeared at the beginning (1823) to her and to Joseph. Moroni consented to allowing Joseph possession of the plates–as was his right to do. And both Nephi and Moroni were required (the alpha and omega of the Nephite dispensation) to hand off their dispensation to Joseph–as explained in D&C 128:21.

False Traditions

Both the Book of Mormon and modern revelation warn that false traditions are dangerous. They are like chains, binding and blinding victims. Missionaries to the Lamanites taught the gospel and worked to overthrow the false traditions. When converted, these false ideas were discarded, “And as many as were convinced did lay down their weapons of war, and also their hatred and the tradition of their fathers.” (Hel. 5:51.)

Samuel the Lamanite explained in his warning sermon what had happened to the deceived and why. They had “dwindled in unbelief because of the traditions of their fathers.” (Hel. 15:15.)

Alma explained how the Lamanites had been deceived, “it is because of the traditions of their fathers that caused them to remain in their state of ignorance[.]” (Alma 9:16.) He promised that at some future time they would be freed from this captivity. “At some period of time they will be brought to believe in his word, and to know of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers[.]” (Alma 9:17.)

King Benjamin explained to his sons that the Lamanites were in a corrupt state because of the traditions they had been handed down, “even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.” (Mosiah 1:5.)

Modern revelation warns about disobedience and false traditions. The “evil one” removes light and truth from a man’s soul through both. False traditions are as effective as disobedience in darkening the hearts, minds and souls of men. “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.” (D&C 93:39.)

When a false tradition is accepted as truth, it controls a man’s mind. He sees through the lens of the tradition. Hence the blinding effect. When the truth is taught, it conflicts with the tradition. The tradition controls, and the truth, presented in plainness, cannot be seen.

False traditions give people security, reassuring them they are in the right way. When it has been taught to them by parents and trusted adults while they are young, there is a great mental and emotional challenge to seeing things in a new light. Losing the tradition can mean being alienated from friends, family and community.

Because false traditions control men, and the gospel requires men to repent and forsake the false traditions, Jesus warned: “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:35-37.) It is not easy to follow the Lord when it requires us to depart from comfortable traditions. But it is the only way to obtain salvation.

Joseph Smith explained, “Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things.” (Lecture 6:7.)

PTHG

In an email exchange about Passing the Heavenly Gift I sent the following:

I think it is a more correct account of the restoration than anything else that has been written. The Book of Mormon was not an attempt to give a “fair” or a “compete” account of events. It was selected precisely to accomplish the object of telling the truth about the Nephites and their failure. 

If you shaded the account with what Laman and Lemuel said, thought, wrote or did in response to Nephi, then we might not have the same view of Nephi at all. Nephi didn’t give us their story, except insofar as he recounts their reactions to him.
Mormon did not give more than a highly selective summary in the rest of the book.  It is because the history was condensed, edited, and abridged that we can treat it as scripture and inspired. Inspiration is not generally shared across competing viewpoints. Generally there is “right” and “wrong” and the scriptures identify which one is correct. There is no competing voice ever allowed to speak.
So PTHG took the words of scripture and prophecy and recast the story of our history to fit the prophetic model concerning us and our events. It is not balanced with opposing materials because the other opposing materials project a false narrative, a prideful vindication of ourselves while altogether ignoring the obvious failures along the way.

Every Word of God

In answer to temptation Christ explained, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4.) In this our Lord quoted the scriptures: “that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” (Deu. 8:3.)

This makes us responsible to listen for and respond to God’s voice.

The Lord was confronted by devout Jews who questioned His failure to respect the existing religious conventions. They thought He disrespected the law and authorities. They could not understand that He was sent to replace the existing order with something new. For them, anything that failed to conform to the existing pattern was to be condemned. They knew their traditions were true, they were God’s chosen people, and God had spoken through Moses and the prophets to them. Therefore, Christ’s failure to fall into strict conformity with the existing religious traditions seemed to them proof of His heresy.

Christ explained the change of direction His ministry would cause in these words: “No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.” (Mark 2:21-22.)

God spoke through Joseph, who translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. Therefore to live by every word that proceeds forth from the mouth of God we must accept the Book of Mormon, even if this causes us to abandon older forms of religious ideas.

Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of twonations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever. Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written. (2 Ne. 29:6-11.)

Adam’s Religion

I participated in a fellowship discussion with a group of people a few weeks ago about the ministry of angels. I have been reflecting on that conversation since then. I think the ministry of angels is an indispensible part of the gospel, but angels are subject to God, who commands their ministry. (Moroni 7:30.) The angels have a specific ministry. They call men to repentance and fulfill and do the work of God’s covenants. (Moroni 7:31.) We approach God (not angels) and then God sends angels as His ministers.

Adam had a pure religion taught to him directly by God. It contained the full gospel message while other dispensations, depending and their worthiness and readiness, were given portions of it. In a very real sense mankind began with the religion of God, which was lost through disobedience, lack of interest and unwillingness to study. Righteous men have been trying to recover that original religion ever since.

It is the same challenge today. The original religion Adam practiced needs to be recovered. It was prophesied that it would be recovered. It, along with the original priesthood, is destined to return at the end of the world. (Moses 6:7.)

A Book of Remembrance was prepared beginning with Adam (Moses 6:5). Enoch also wrote a book describing the original religion (Moses 6:43-46). The records prepared by those fathers were passed down for a time through heirs, but were relegated to disuse and neglect until restoration came in the time of Abraham. That restoration was needed because Abraham’s immediate forebearers had lost the original teaching through their changing of its doctrines (Abr. 1:31). It was because Abraham obtained the original religion that he was able to practice it in an uncorrupted form. It brought him back into God’s presence.

Although he did not have the complete records, the first Pharaoh did not invent a new religion. Instead he “imitated” and tried to carry on that original which belonged to the fathers. (Abr. 1:26.) Pharaoh was righteous, but he descended through a line that forfeited the birthright and did not have the right of priesthood presidency, or the right to govern the family of God. But the right to that order will return. (Moses 6:7.)

Abraham reestablished the order. Because of this, he could correct and teach the Pharaoh of his day (approximately 2000 years after the first Pharoah), and whose own religion had, by Abraham’s time, lost its way. (See Facsimile 3, final note.)

Once a religion begins to drift, it is very difficult to recover the original. During Abraham’s time, the task was impossible. Egyptian culture, art and government were based on a religion which had changed over 2000 years, despite the intention to preserve its authentic teachings. Even if Abraham could correct everything for the Pharaoh, it would be impossible for that Pharaoh to even reclaim his nation. Once errors have hardened into hierarchy, institutional tradition, wealth, power and governing systems, a single man, even a king, cannot change its course.

Egypt drifted, but was founded by a king “seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father.” (Abr. 1:26.) The religion was not merely faith, repentance and baptism. It was also an “order” which governed. Those holding it, including Adam and Noah, had the right to “reign” or govern. Without God’s full authorization as the foundation of his government, Pharaoh never had the right to govern. He could only “imitate.”

Egypt’s imitation included many truths mingled with errors. The religion of Egypt preserved a slightly better understanding of portions of the original gospel than others. For example, Egypt understood the hierarchy of heaven better than do we. They acknowledged the “four sons of Horus.” They are real. There are four great angels who have power over the four parts of the earth. (D&C 77:8.) We know them as Michael (Adam), Gabriel (Noah), Enoch (Raphael), and John (Uriel), whose control is over air, water, fire and earth—the four parts of the earth. They have “power over the four parts of the earth, to save life and to destroy; these are they who have the everlasting gospel to commit to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; having power to shut up the heavens, to seal up unto life, or to case down to the regions of darkness.” (D&C 77:8.) In spite of their ministry, we are not to worship them, nor to pray to them. Egypt may have identified and understood them better, but they erred by exalting them to worship and prayer along with other heavenly beings the Egyptians called neteru and the Hebrews called angels. These comprise the host of heaven led by Jehovah. The first error God corrected for Moses was this idolatry of angels, who are not to be worshipped, but are to be recognized and respected as God’s messengers and servants. (Exo. 20:3-5.)

Egypt knew of a great god they identified as “Amon” (also Aumn, Ammon—a name given to several individuals in the Book of Mormon) which Joseph Smith identified as “Ahman” (see D&C 78:20, 95:17; and which is associated with Adam being in the presence of God—Adam-ondi-“Ahman”). The Egyptian father, Amon, had a wife identified as Hathor. Their son was identified as Horus. In the oldest form of the Hebrew faith (before they were excised by the Deuteronomist reformers) the godhead included a Father, Mother and son. The Tabernacle and Temple had an image of the Divine Mother that was removed during Josiah’s reforms and never returned. In the restoration, Joseph taught that exaltation of man required sealing of a man (husband/father) to a woman (wife/mother) to allow for the continuation of the seeds (son/heir). (See D&C 132:19-20.) From eternity to eternity the cycle repeats. If you understand the destiny of those who attain exaltation you understand the nature of those who were exalted before.

Egypt acknowledged one of the exalted angels as “the great scribe,” and identified him as Thoth. His real identity is clarified in the writings of Moses as Enoch. (Moses 6:5, 46.) Enoch ascended to heaven. But we do not worship him.

Egypt’s religion erred by turning true angels into gods, to whom they prayed and whom they worshipped. Angels are sent by God and minister the truth to man, but are forbidden to become the objects of worship. Egypt turned mere angelic servants of God into deity and worshipped them.

Throughout the Bible record, the angels clarify their limited role. In the temple, the angel Gabriel clarified his limited role as a messenger. (Luke 1:19.) When the apostle John beheld the angel sent to him, he fell to worship him. (Rev. 22:8.) The angel forbid it, declaring “See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: Worship God.” (Rev. 22:9.) John has now become a ministering angel. (D&C 7:6.)  When John the Baptist appeared to Joseph and Oliver he declared himself only a “fellow servant.” (JS-H 1:69.)

Angels may occupy positions of authority before God, and may have ministries entrusted to them (D&C 130:5), but only God is to be worshipped. Only God’s word will survive into the afterlife. Even if one of the four great angels establishes a covenant, unless God ordains it as His, that covenant will fail. (D&C 132:13.)

We can recover lost information from studying relics left from the past. Egypt left a great body of evidence we can sort through to help us in our search. But as the search is undertaken we must always remember that their religion had through millennia of practice undergone change and corruption. By the time of Abraham, and still more by the time of Moses (and nearly completely by the time of Isaiah), Egyptian religion had become something very different from that of the first Pharaoh who endeavored to maintain the teachings of the “First Fathers”. We must avoid the errors of Egypt that transpired as their doctrine and rituals changed. “The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof; and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.” (Isa. 19:14.) When reckoning through Egyptian wreckage, therefore, our guide must be the truth. We measure truth against the standard of the Book of Mormon, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and confirmed in the teachings and revelations given through Joseph Smith.

We no longer have Adam’s language. It was corrupted at the time of the tower, and lost to all but the Jaredites. Their record was written in the original language, but by the time Moroni translated the record he required the seer stone to make the translation (Ether 1:1-2; Mosiah 28:11-14.)

We do not have possession of their plates, but the Jaredites wrote in the original language of Adam (Mosiah 28:17; Ether1:35). It is interesting that the last people to have written in the original language of Adam were the Jaredite colony whose record is now part of the Book of Mormon.

We do not yet have the original religion taught to Adam. It also was lost long before Abraham, and was restored to him. He had the advantage of possessing the “records of the fathers” and therefore knew what they wrote in the first generations from Adam till Enoch describing the gospel taught by God to Adam.

No society has preserved the original religion. Joseph Smith was called by God to begin the process to restore the original. Through Joseph, we obtained some significant portions of the gospel which had been lost. He was killed before it was completed. What he left has become a muddled mess requiring a great deal of work to understand it. What Joseph restored must now be recovered. Even then, more must be returned before we finally arrive back at the beginning.

The Book of Mormon was translated “by the gift and power of God” and is an essential part of the restoration of the gospel fullness. Indeed it “contains the fullness of the gospel” because it gives account after account of those who were brought back to God’s presence and redeemed from the fall.

All the ancient world’s earliest religions had accounts of man returning to God through ceremonies and rites. But it was Israel who was visited by God. And the Book of Mormon contains the most clear and vast array of examples of successfully entering God’s presence. Lehi (1 Ne. 1:11), Nephi (1 Ne. 11:7, 2 Ne. 11:2), Jacob (2 Ne. 11:3), Enos (Enos 1:5, 7), Alma (Alma 36:22), and many others returned to God’s presence as part of the narrative of the Book of Mormon. It is indeed as Joseph Smith described it: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (DHC 4:461; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 194.)

Many trails remain that point backward to the earliest times and the first religion. Some of those trails are in the Apocrypha which was commended to us for study in modern revelation. (D&C 91.) Joseph, followed by other early saints, were eager to read beyond the closed Biblical canon advocated by their Protestant neighbors. Hugh Nibley followed in that tradition. Joseph Smith did not have access to the Book of Enoch. The materials in the Nag Hammadi were not available until 1945. The Dead Sea Scrolls were not available until they were discovered beginning in 1946 and continuing until 1956. Many ancient texts have been recovered after Joseph’s death. Additionally, scholarly Islamic works have been published in English after Joseph’s death. The sources now available for us, but which were unavailable while Joseph lived, fill libraries. Like the Apocrypha, these newly recovered ancient documents have many things which are true. (D&C 91:1.) They also can be understood through the Spirit. (D&C 91:4.) But without the benefit of the Spirit they can be misleading. (D&C 91:5-6.)

We do not yet have the gospel as taught by God to Adam. That is still to be restored. It will be entrusted to those few people who will hearken to the Lord and live by every word that proceeds from His mouth. (Matt. 4:4—Christ quoting Deu. 8:3.) It will return. But it will be given to people who are worthy of it, and will abide by its requirements. They will be meek, humble, patient, submissive, gentle, or in other words, Christlike.

 

Book of Mormon

Here is how the Prophet Joseph Smith explained the Book of Mormon: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (DHC 4:461; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 194.)

Here is how the Lord addressed those who believed in the restoration (including us) in 1832: “And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—” (D&C 84:54-57.)

It makes no sense to ignore the Lord’s condemnation. It makes no sense to give primacy to what others have to say instead of remembering and studying the Book of Mormon.

It makes no sense to measure the truth of the gospel by another standard when the Book of Mormon was provided to us as the means to measure that truth.

The writers of the Book of Mormon departed from Jerusalem before the Jewish exile into Babylonian captivity. The first Book of Mormon writers avoided Babylon, and their descendants never knew a thing about it.

The Book of Mormon people migrating out of Jerusalem left the Holy Land at the end of the first temple period. They avoided the triumph of the Deuteronomists over the religion of the Jews. The Jewish Deuteronomists were innovators who repudiated and replaced the original religion with a new, apostate form of worship that dominated the second temple period. The Book of Mormon writers were spared from all that. They were gone before it happened.

Recall the “head of gold” in the king’s dream (as interpreted by Daniel) was the king of Babylon. (Daniel 2:32-38.) It is foretold that in the last days God’s work will provide a “stone” which will break down all the world’s false religious, economic, cultural and philosophical ideas. (Id., vs. 34-35.) As the restoration commenced with Joseph Smith, a book was translated “by the gift and power of God” which was written by authors who were never exposed to, or contaminated by the “head of gold,” or any other subsequent kingdoms of the world. The ONLY text we have that survives without corruption of false religious ideas from history is the Book of Mormon.

I have friends (and of course Hugh Nibley) who will think my statement, “The ONLY text” goes too far because there are earlier texts predating Babylon that were uninfluenced by it. Most notably Egypt. This is an opinion they are welcome to hold. I do not share it, however.

The Book of Abraham shows the path of Abraham crossing into Egypt. The language used on the brass plates (Mosiah 1:3, 5), and by the Nephites (Mormon 9:32), was Egyptian. They remind me that Egypt is significant somehow. But crossing paths and adopting language is not the same as certifying their religion and culture. There are plenty of reasons to question Egypt’s religious material.

Israel was taken out of Egypt. Even though there are Egyptian influences in the religion of Israel, it is certainly clear that Israel did NOT adopt Egyptian teachings wholesale, but included only carefully selected parts. They preserved some, abandoned others, and added still more. If Egypt represents an apostasy, then Israel represents a restoration.

There is no account of angels visiting the Egyptians or an ascent into heaven. The exception is Imhotep, but his story seems remarkably parallel to Joseph’s. Both were commoners. Both were employed by the Pharaoh. Both attained to high status despite their common birth. The tomb of Imhotep is “lost” despite efforts to locate it, and Joseph’s bones were taken from Egypt with the departure of the Israelites (Exo. 13:19). There are others, of course. But apart from questions about dating, their accounts are quite similar. If Imhotep and Joseph are not the same individual, a single exception does not destroy the general rule.

The ceremonies of Egypt spoke of “gods” but the gods did not visit them. After leaving Egypt, God sent to Israel a host of prophets who were ministered to by God and angels, including Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, and even His Son, Jesus Christ. These prophets came to Israel, not Egypt, to visit, teach, prophesy, minister and live.

Egypt fought against Israel and hoped to keep them in captivity. But the God of Israel fought for and delivered Israel from Egyptian enslavement. If there must be a choice between religions, then the choice ought to be settled by God’s deliverance of Israel by His own hand, and Egypt’s unsuccessful fight against the God of Heaven to prevent it.

Although Solomon’s temple was architecturally inferior to and much less elaborate than the temples of Egypt, God visited and accepted Solomon’s temple. (1 Kings 8:10-13.) There is no account before or after that time of God visiting and accepting the temples of Egypt.

The religion of Israel worked. The religion of Egypt did not. Heaven ministered to, visited with, sent angels to teach, and His Only Begotten Son to dwell with Israel. The Egyptians kept elaborate ceremonial complexity which awed their people, and preserved a false tradition generation after generation despite its powerlessness. It was impressive to men. It was ineffective to save.

Perhaps most importantly, after adhering to the original religion in the Americas, being instructed, warned and led by prophets who spoke with God, the Lord Himself, as a risen being, descended to visit with the people of the Book of Mormon. The religion of Israel also had the power to connect anew with heaven. Even after 600 years of difficulties and disputes, they still retained a religion with the vitality necessary for Christ to come to visit.

I studied the Book of Mormon for over two decades before being fully persuaded of its power. My sense of wonder increased over time. It was ONLY because I came to regard with tremendous respect the Book of Mormon that the Lord condescended to visit with me. The religion of the Book of Mormon saves. Through it, the only “stone” upon which it is safe to build will roll forth in the last days. That “stone” is Christ. (1 Peter 2:6.)

FAIR Conference

FAIR held a conference in Provo on August 6th and 7th. Presentations included the following speakers/topics:

Ed Pinegar: How to help young Latter-day Saints deal with criticisms against the Church and the doubts they cause while remaining faithful.

Margaret Barker: The Mother in Heaven and Her Children.

Brittany Chapman: An Act of Religious Conviction: Mormon Women and Nineteenth-Century Polygamy.

Ron Dennis: Captain Dan Jones: Defender of the Faith in Wales.

Brant Gardner: History and Historicity in the Book of Mormon.

James D. Gordon III: Faith and Scholarship.

Mrs. Brian D. Hales: Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding.

Cassandra Hedelius: A house of order, a house of God: Recycled challenges to the legitimacy of the church.

Michael R. Otterson: Correcting The Record.

Dan Peterson: The Reasonable Leap into Light: A Barebones Secular Argument for the Gospel.

Paul Reeve: From Not White Enough, to Too White: Rethinking the Mormon Racial Story.

Stephen Webb: Why Mormon Materialism Matters.

Lynne Wilson: Christ’s Emancipation of Women in the New Testament from their Cultural Background and Baggage.

These all sound like great presentations. But the LDS Church News only reported on two of the talks: Otterson’s talk (he is employed in the LDS Church Public Relations Department) and Hedelius, an attorney working for the government somewhere near Washington DC.

The LDS Church News article did not clearly identify what (or who) Hedelius was targeting. (See, Speaker identifies ‘spiritual threat’, August 16, 2015, p. 11.) That omission has been fixed by LDS Meridian Magazine which has now published her entire talk, with footnotes, here: “A House of Order; A House of God: Recycled Challenges to the legitimacy of the Church.” http://ldsmag.com/a-house-of-order-a-house-of-god-recycled-challenges-to-the-legitimacy-of-the-church/

Dan Peterson and Ed Pinegar are usually more noticed than an obscure speaker on her maiden voyage into FAIR.

The Search

The search for the truth is individual. Everyone must undertake if for themselves. One woman’s search is never the same as another’s. One man’s experiences will never be another’s. That does not mean there are never common elements. Mileposts along the way are common to almost all searches.

Where is the most valuable place to start the search? This question requires us to answer others. For example, was Joseph Smith divinely inspired to translate and publish the Book of Mormon? Were his revelations and translations of other records also divinely inspired?

Since I believe Joseph Smith was divinely inspired, the search for me begins there. It requires me to then proceed in these steps: First, find information about Joseph’s teachings, translations, discussions, revelations and beliefs from the most reliable sources. This is not as easy as it once seemed. The materials made available through The Joseph Smith Papers, for example, require some assumptions and conclusions to be revised, discarded, modified or perhaps even noticed for the first time. A great deal of information about Joseph’s life, his words, even his revelations has not been accurately transmitted across a mere two centuries. But this is the best and most recent place for the search to begin.

Second, Joseph’s paradigm must be adapted, modified and corrected by what the new view of Joseph Smith’s ministry reveals and recovers. This is not easy because traditions and presumptions are part of our internal thinking. We hold on to presumptions until forced to abandon them. Even if we think we can begin with a blank slate, we cannot. We do not know what we do not know, and therefore proceed blind to these defects. It requires us to be ever willing to admit we need and must accept correction. This is not easy, but it is necessary.

Third, we must live our lives in conformity with the truth as we understand it so that we gather light and truth from heaven. We cannot live hypocrisy and expect divine aid. We cannot abuse our neighbors and expect divine favor. We are helped by God as we are clean before Him. He (and we) know if we have clean hands and a pure heart.

Fourth, until we have done the work of the first three, there is no justified expectation to discover or have revealed to us something new. Revelation comes at the end of the search, not at the beginning. When, however, the revelation comes, we must be willing to accept it and then reconsider everything in the first three steps in light of what we have gained in the fourth. Even if we think we are living true to the light we had before, once we have more light we must reflect that in our lives. What we did, said, believed or thought before may no longer be consistent with what was just learned.

Likewise, the work of the second step (adaptation, modification and correction) may be wholly inadequate for what new truth has been gained.  And finally, the first step (source interpretation and understanding) may change because of the new light.

Every one of us is put through this same process. None of us are spared.

This leads to the question of how to integrate what has been gained in this process with other important information. The best example of a faithful search I can think of is Hugh Nibley. His relentless searching was always informed by the primacy of Joseph Smith and the restoration. He believed in the Book of Mormon even when the LDS Church and its leaders did not. This is discussed in Eighteen Verses. Brother Nibley was himself a restorationist who amplified our understanding of antiquity. However, Hugh Nibley died three years before a single volume of The Joseph Smith Papers was in print. He died five years before the five volumes of The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young were available in print. He never had an opportunity to see or read most of what Brigham Young said. He died before many of the journals of church leaders and apostles were made available. Brother Nibley’s work sought to harmonize the restoration with antiquity. He did a great work. But he lived and died without having at his disposal a great body of additional material now accessible to us. It begs the question of whether he would (or should) have reconsidered the content and meaning of the restoration and Joseph’s teachings if he learned new information by that process. From all that can be said about Hugh Nibley, it is apparent to me he would have rethought everything he learned if new revelation of the restoration suggested it ought to be done.

There was a prominent anti-Mormon radio preacher named “Dr. Walter Martin.” He had a radio call in show I listened to for years. He got most of what he said about Mormonism from dubious source material and he made bombastic claims that were unpersuasive to anyone who had read the widely available book A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, by LeGrand Richards–still a very good book. But Dr. Walter Martin had a constant refrain: “It is the first principle of Biblical hermeneutics that you interpret the old in light of the new.” Meaning, you understand the Old Testament by study of the New Testament. It is a sound principle. Of course, he violated this first principle when it came to the Book of Mormon and Joseph’s revelations. He discarded the new and judged it only by the old.

This is the one rule Dr. Walter Martin and I agree upon. I apply that across the board with all learning, study and meditation. To recover the past we do not begin the search there, but we begin the search with the latest revelation and attempt to recover truth as we measure it beside what we have received in our day from God.

If the search and accompanying conclusions into Joseph and the restoration are much different now than they were just a few years ago, and the intervening traditions and practices are clearly divergent from Joseph’s in just four generations, what does that tell us about caution for antiquity’s remaining documents? Even our understanding of New Testament times is only fragmentary. The historian Norman F. Cantor wrote about how little we really understand the middle ages in his book titled, Inventing the Middle Ages. He explains how traditions rather than proof inform much of our re-creation of the period in the relatively recent past. Going back another millennium to the New Testament is even more difficult. And the earliest ages are more challenging still.

The farther back we journey the more we need the restoration to guide, inform and set the framework for the search. This is why Joseph Smith was a necessary figure in this late date in history. We will not get far if we do not accept him as the indispensable milestone marker for the correct path that God would ask us to follow for the walk back to His presence.

I advocate study of the past, including Egypt. What I do not suggest is we measure Joseph Smith by beginning with the New Testament, Old Testament or Egypt. We work backward to test for truth. I think anyone who believes in the restoration would agree with that.

Necessity of Baptism

There can be no doubt baptism is necessary. As explained in the Book of Mormon:

And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water! And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water? Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments. Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove. And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them. And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son. (2 Ne. 31:5-11.)

It is required of us for our salvation because Christ made it so and the scriptures unequivocally state that is the case. There is no question about its necessity. The only question is: is your baptism sufficient as the Lord is preparing for His return? Ask yourself these simple questions: Would you be willing to participate in a rite designed by God to show you have repented? Is there any merit for you to establish a record today to show that you have repented? Do you acknowledge baptism a required sign requested by God for us to perform as a sign of our repentance?

Remember the Lord’s warning in 1831: “I say, hearken unto my voice, lest death shall overtake you; in an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved.” (D&C 45:2.)

Recall Jeremiah’s vision of the end when the Lord returns again: “Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities? The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jer. 8:19-20.) “Graven images” can include anything and anyone which offers itself up as an object of devotion supplanting Christ. “Strange vanities” include well reasoned arguments fashioned to build up false faith or tear down true faith. Either one will leave us unsaved at the coming harvest if we do not repent, and accept the terms Christ established, including baptism.

Please consider whether the day may come when you may want to have been baptized to show your current repentance by the act Christ established as necessary for everyone’s salvation. Even His own.

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