Category: Book of Mormon
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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 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 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.
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.
Nephi states straightforwardly why he uses the Isaiah material in his own prophecy. It is in Nephi’s record, but the statement comes from his brother Jacob. Nephi records what is apparently his brother’s first address.
The stage is set for the sermon in 2 Nephi Chapter 5. Here we learn of the construction of a temple by the Nephites. The temple dedication ceremonies are left out of the account. It is an interesting omission. By chapter 6 the temple is in service.
Jacob’s sermon could very well have been both the event marking the commissioning of the temple, and the first sermon delivered to the people in the structure. Nephi put this into his account because he obviously approved of the sermon and wanted it preserved for all time.
Jacob states this:
“the words which I shall read are they which Isaiah spake concerning all the house of Israel; wherefore, they may be likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel. And there are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because ye are of the house of Israel.” (2 Ne. 6: 5.)
-What does “likened unto you” mean?
-Is there a difference between something literal and being “likened?”
-Does that difference matter?
-What about the limitation Isaiah spoke about “all the house of Israel?”
-Does the Book of Mormon designation of the European bloodlines that would displace the Lamanites as “gentiles” disqualify the gentiles from “likening” the words to them?
-Does the Book of Mormon promise that the gentiles can be “numbered” with the house of Israel allow the same “likening” to apply to the converted gentiles? (2 Ne. 10: 18; 3 Ne. 16: 13; 3 Ne. 21: 6; 3 Ne. 30: 2.)
Assuming the words can be “likened” to you, then what does that mean? Are the words to be taken as an analogy to guide us or as a promise given to us?
Jacob explains the analogy he wants to draw to the Nephites beginning in 2 Nephi Chapter 9. It is instructive.
Nephi ‘went to school’ on his younger brother’s example. He fills 2 Nephi with Isaiah’s words. Then, in the closing chapters of his book, he provides his own commentary. He ends his record in this manner. With all he had seen, with all he knew, and with all he was told to withhold from us, he uses Isaiah as his basis to teach, preach, exhort and expound to us. Much of it is addressed directly to the “gentiles” of our day. He applies Isaiah to the gentiles.
A great key to understanding Nephi’s prophecy is that he used Isaiah’s words as a tool to deliver his (Nephi’s) message. Using Isaiah’s intent will not help you. It is irrelevant. You must use Nephi’s interpretive keys in his closing chapters to understand Nephi’s intent in “likening” the prophecy to his people and to the latter-day gentiles. This is why I wrote Nephi’s Isaiah. You will be disappointed if you think it is an interpretation of Isaiah. It is not. The book is about Nephi’s message, not the words he employed to “liken” unto us. If you accept this approach you don’t need my book. You only need Nephi’s words.
As a postscript about the Perpetual Education Fund:
When President Hinckley announced it in the April 2001 General Conference he said the following:
“they will return that which they have borrowed together with a small amount of interest designed as an incentive to repay the loan.”
This was the original intent.
I’ve received many emails explaining the way the original program was compromised and poorly administered. I acknowledge there may be problems with how it turned out. But that is the responsibility of the employees at the Church Office Building. Those problems do not reflect the purity of intent by the church members who donated. I think there are a lot of people in the bowels of the Church Office Building who have performed poorly for the church. Since these are funds given by faithful members, there is a responsibility which hasn’t been kept by some of these employees.
The fullness of the Gospel is found in the Book of Mormon. There you will find individual after individual who have returned, through faith, back to God’s presence. Once they have returned to God’s presence, they have a different view of themselves and others.
In the case of Lehi and his family, he listened to the testimony of others warning of the destruction of Jerusalem, took their warning seriously, and begged God on behalf of his people. (1 Ne. 1: 5.) As a result of his intercession and compassion for others, he was visited by God. (1 Ne. 1: 6.)
Lehi’s family did not believe him. They followed him into the wilderness, but only because of the respect accorded to the father in their society. None of the family could believe what he was saying.
The younger son, Nephi, prayed to be able to believe what his father Lehi was saying. Even though Nephi wanted to acquire faith, it was not easy to trust his father’s message. Because of his desire to believe, Nephi reports the Lord “did visit me;” this sounds like something more than it was. The Lord’s initial “visit” to Nephi consisted only in ‘softening Nephi’s heart so that he was able to believe his father.’ (1 Ne. 2: 16.)
This is the beginning. This is the first step. When the Lord first takes hold of your hand, it is a faint grip, a partial contact, a weak beginning. It is the token, however, that everyone must first receive. It comes from obeying and then acting faithfully on what has been shown to you. It requires you to sacrifice your own will to the Lord’s.
No one will return to the presence of God who has not received this gentle grip from the Lord. It is a true token given by the Lord; not just something ceremonial. It is the companion to faith. It is the start of the path you will walk back to the presence of God, passing the sentinels who stand along the way. They will want to know you have learned all you need from your experiences here to be able to return to God’s presence.
When the most dramatic points of struggle happen along the path, the Book of Mormon provides us with a view into the person where the struggle takes place. Nephi’s record of the fullness includes his testimony of kneeling on a dark Jerusalem street where he found the person of Laban lying drunk and unconscious before him. (1 Ne. 4: 7-8.) He disarmed him. Then took the time to admire the weapon of war he had taken from his fallen uncle, noting its precious material and workmanship. (1 Ne. 4: 9.)
While admiring the sword, he had the urge to slay Laban. (1 Ne. 4: 10.) Though Nephi attributed this impulse to “the Spirit” it was nothing more than an impulse. Here is where the cosmic struggle plays out. In Nephi’s heart, there is a strong urge to kill a man which, in Nephi’s life, is unprecedented. It is foreign to him. It is “the Spirit” and not Nephi who has this will to kill the man.
Nephi’s hesitancy is not based solely on moral scruples, but on all he believes about himself. He is not a man of war. He has “never before shed the blood of man” and does not think it appropriate to start now. (1 Ne. 4: 10.) This is not about self control, this is about who his identity. This is who Nephi believes himself to be. He is better than this base impulse. It is beneath him.
When he resists this impulse, “the Spirit” elevates the message. No longer is it “constraint” or inclination, but “the Spirit” now “speaks” to him in unmistakable words. (1 Ne. 4: 11.) The message not only clearly tells Nephi the Lord’s will in ‘delivering Laban into his hands,’ but also makes enough sense to Nephi that he can immediately recognize the many reasons for the Lord accomplishing this. (1 Ne. 4: 11.) The proof of the Lord’s hand lays before Nephi. After all, Laban is lying helpless, and “has been delivered into thy hands” as the most tangible, clear proof of God’s power. (Id.)
Yet all of this struggle is internal to Nephi. You could stand on the same street, at the same moment and see the same scene play out before you, and you would not be a witness to God’s great work underway.
The fullness of the Gospel requires us to recognize the hand of God guiding us. The battle we join is within. No one is spared from these stages of growth and development.
The church cannot provide you with an alternative means to get there. It is between you and God, alone. The scene will be as the Book of Mormon continually portrays it. That record is the most comprehensive retelling of how to return to God’s presence ever compiled. It was put together by those who made the journey along the path, passing all the sentinels who stand guard along the way. They embraced their Lord through the veil before entering again into His presence. Then, having been true and faithful, they were brought back into His presence and redeemed from the fall of mankind. (Ether 3: 13.) They, like the Brother of Jared, were redeemed because of their knowledge. (Ether 3: 19.)
Yet you insist on captivity because you have no knowledge. (Isa. 5: 13.) You take blind guides and are therefore, blinded by your own ignorance. (Matt. 23: 16.) You insist on keeping what can never inform you, while rejecting what is told you in plain words. (2 Ne. 32: 7.) You refuse to see and are willingly blind and therefore the greater darkness lies within you.
You can wait, as one recent and frequent, anonymous commentator has insisted, until there is a program offered to you by an institution and see how long it takes for you to learn of God. Or, believe in the Book of Mormon and remove yourself from condemnation. (D&C 84: 56-57.) But if you seek for approval from an institution, then the Lord cannot overcome the barrier you have erected between you and Him.
At the time Joseph and Oliver were baptized, they had no authority from heaven with which to confer the Holy Ghost. (JS-H 1: 70.) They had no ordinance available to them other than baptism. (JS-H 1: 70-71.) They performed the ordinance as instructed. But afterwards, without any authority to confer upon one another the Holy Ghost, they nevertheless had the gift of the Holy Ghost poured out upon them. (JS-H 1: 73.) This was not merely a temporary visit. It lingered thereafter with them so they could understand the scriptures in the manner they were intended to be understood when these scriptures were first inspired by the Holy Ghost in the minds of the prophets who wrote them. (JS-H 1: 74.)
The Holy Ghost can come and visit with a person, but not tarry with them. (D&C 130: 23.) If it comes and visits with them, then it is said the person has “received” the Holy Ghost. This kind of visit is conditional. It is dependent upon the worthiness and desire of the recipient. If they “grieve” the spirit by misbehavior, it will depart from them. If you read general conference talks discussing this issue, you will find this is the form of Holy Ghost received by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For the Holy Ghost to become a constant companion which tarries, it is said to be “the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Because the one with this endowment has received a gift from God, and it is given to them by God to be theirs.
The ordinance given when converts are confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints includes these words: “And I say unto you, receive the Holy Ghost.” This is the formula given in the priesthood manuals of the church, and is included in the General Handbook of Instructions. It is an admonition from the church elder to the convert. The obligation to then search for and obtain a visit from the Holy Ghost is imposed on the convert.
When Christ was speaking of the Lamanites and their baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (3 Ne. 9: 20), He was speaking not merely of the Holy Ghost descending and not tarrying with them (D&C 130: 23), but of their possession of the gift which endured thereafter. (Hel. 5: 48-50.)
I was baptized on September 9, 1973 at Kittery Point Beach on the Atlantic coast by Elder Brian Black. The service was presided over by Brother Jim Mortenson, a counselor in the Portsmouth, New Hampsire Ward. After baptism, as I knelt on the sand, the missionaries confirmed me a member of the church and admonished me to “receive the Holy Ghost.” The service was in the evening. Just prior to the laying on of hands, Elder Black spoke about the symbols in the sky. The sun was setting, but still visible. The moon was also out, and the first “stars” were also faintly visible. [The “stars” we could see included Venus, hence the quotation marks.] Elder Black remarked that “all the signs of heaven were visible; the sun, symbolizing the Celestial; the moon, symbolizing the Terrestrial; and the stars, symbolizing the Telestial.” His beautiful remarks affected my thinking so much I can still recall them nearly 40 years later.
As the admonition was given to me, I felt a warmth begin at the top of my head where the hands were touching me. It proceeded downward through my entire person as if something was descending and filling me. The North Atlantic water was cold, particularly at that time of year, and the sand I knelt on was also cold. But I felt a warmth which came from within that filled my entire body.
When we finished at the beach, we all went to Jim and Monte Mortenson’s house for a gathering. It was dubbed a “birthday party” in reference to my baptism. When we arrived, Jim asked me to say the “opening prayer” before we ate. I was perfectly willing to say the prayer, but I hesitated for a few moments before doing so because I sensed the “spirit” wasn’t quite right yet. So rather than immediately interrupt the laughter and loud voices, I tried to bring the group spirit around to something more reverent. As I hesitated, I think Jim assumed I was not yet ready to pray in public (as many new converts are), and moved on to ask another to pray. She did, and we ate.
The boisterous spirit was still there after the prayer, and as the group of us sat in the Mortenson’s living room the spirit of the evening became more and more divisive. At a point there was contention between some of the group, and the evening was taking a turn downward, grieving the spirit altogether. At that moment I stood and got everyone’s attention. When silence settled in, I started with one end of the gathering, and spoke in turn to each person there. I began by saying, “whatever ambition the Adversary has for tonight, I intend to resist it.” I then spoke to their hearts, prophesied and let the love I felt within me pour out. The effect upon those who were there softened their demeanor, brought a spirit of friendship back into the gathering, and although none of them may remember it today, it is to me as clear as if it happened minutes ago. Jim Mortenson spoke up when I finished and said he was confident I would one day be a church patriarch– a remark that meant nothing at the time because I knew nothing about such a position.
You must remember that before conversion I was not even a likely candidate to become Mormon. When the elders were teaching me they asked that I read the Book of Mormon. I agreed. After I had read some of it, they asked me what I thought of it. I replied: “It’s got to be scripture. It’s every bit as boring as the Bible.” I meant it. Neither the Book of Mormon or the Bible meant much to me. I couldn’t sense any Spirit or depth to it. Nothing in it thrilled me or touched my heart.
After baptism, however, it all changed. Like Joseph and Oliver I could say “my mind now being enlightened, I began to have the scriptures laid open to my understanding, and the true meaning of their more mysterious passages revealed to me in a manner which I never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of.” (Compare JS-H 1: 74.) What I found was that the scriptures were now written for me. They were the means through which God could lay out His mind and His will and His voice in a way I had never dreamed possible before.
The journey back to Him begins with all He has provided and preserved of His word. It begins for each of us in the scriptures. One of the immediate effects of baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is to have the scriptures come alive; to have them overwhelm you with revelation, light and truth. It is not you doing this. It is you experiencing it, but the Holy Spirit opening and lighting them so the same Spirit which gave them at first now receives them in you.
This subject (baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost) is variegated. It is important to avoid reducing it to a single, simple explanation and ignore other important features of this great gift from God.
When the first chapter of Nephi opens, Lehi is among those who listened to “many prophets prophesying” about the coming judgments against Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 1: 4.) Their message was not Lehi’s. Their message was apparently upsetting to him because he responded by praying on behalf of Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 1: 5.) His prayer is interesting. He offers it on behalf of what he regarded as “his people.” (Id.)
The result of his compassionate prayer for others was a calling by God the Father, delivered by His Son, Jehovah. (1 Ne. 1: 8-13.) God takes note of those who have compassion for others and whose charity seeks the best interests of their fellow-man. Such people possess love, and it is “unfeigned.” (D&C 121: 41.) It is precisely because of their love of their fellow man that they are called to render priestly service. (Id.)
Lehi was a man like Christ. Just like Christ, Lehi would intercede on behalf of “his people” and did so “with all his heart.” (1 Ne. 1: 5.)
In response to this, Lehi’s vision endowed him with knowledge about the Lord’s great plan of mercy. He knew that the Lord would overrule everything for the good. Even the suffering that would be inflicted on the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be merciful, and would be predicated on the “goodness” of God. (1 Ne. 1: 14.) Lehi understood. Because he had this knowledge, he was able to see how God’s plans were always done for the benefit and ultimate salvation of man.
Before this encounter with God, Lehi was in the audience listening to the prophets cry repentance. After this encounter with God, he joined the prophets and also “began to prophesy and to declare” a message to Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 1: 18.) He could not “begin” to prophesy if he had been among the prophets previously. If that were the case, he would have “resumed” or “continued” to prophesy. He “began” only after encountering God. Therefore, we can know Lehi’s ministry to call others to repent did not start before encountering God and receiving his commission from the Lord.
This is what true prophets do. They do not advance their own agenda. They do not volunteer. They do not deliver a message of their own. They don’t look for witty quotes, or clever stories to retell. They receive a commission from God, and the result of their work is to offer those who will listen a chance to repent and return to God.
These individuals do not take the Lord’s name in vain. They cannot. They have been authorized to speak in the Lord’s name, and therefore their words are His. (D&C 1: 38.) He will vindicate the words of His servants because they do not speak an idle thing in their own behalf. They speak with His authority, and deliver His message.
So with the first chapter of the Book of Mormon we also get an example of how prophets are called: alone, in God’s presence, with an endowment of knowledge of God’s ways sufficient to enable them to deliver a message of repentance.
And this is only the first chapter! Imagine if we took the entire book to heart what we might find!
There is a key verse which passes by quickly. It establishes an important identity for Lehi. The verse confirms that Lehi saw God the Father sitting on His throne. (1 Ne. 1: 8.) In other words, Lehi beheld the face of God, the Father. This key verse identifies Lehi’s authority.
Following immediately after this view of the Father, sitting on His throne, Christ descended in His glory and ministered to him. His glory was above the brightness of the sun. (1 Ne. 1: 11-13.)
After Christ ministered to him, Lehi put the Father’s activities into perspective, declaring “unto the Lord: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty!” (1 Ne. 1: 13.)
He saw the face of the Father. He was ministered to by the Son. This cannot occur unless Lehi had the highest form of priesthood. This is required for a man to see the face of the Father and live. (D&C 84: 19-22.)
Lehi required priesthood: “without… the authority of the priesthood, and the power of godliness…no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” (D&C 84: 21-22.) Lehi saw Him. Therefore part of the ministry of Christ to him necessarily included conferring priesthood.
Joseph Smith explained it like this: “All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.” (TPJS, pp. 180–81.)
In Lehi we have an instance of an Old Testament era prophet being “ordained by God himself” in the very first chapter of the Book of Mormon.
The phrasing in verse 8 (“he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne”) is an art form, or a formula. Alma would later use the same phrasing. (Alma 36: 22.) The best way to understand this formulation is found in Paul’s writings: “whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell; God knoweth.” (2 Cor. 12: 2.) Similarly, Joseph Smith’s encounter in the First Vision was either in the body or not, and during the vision he became physically incapacitated. (JS-H 1: 20: “When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.”) Daniel also physically collapsed when the Lord visited with him. (Dan. 10: 5-19.)
How much that book teaches us! It is only our neglect which renders it unable to teach us the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is only the first chapter of the book (1 Ne. 1) and it has an example of a vision of God the Father sitting on His throne, and the Lord Jehovah ministering to and strengthening a prophet of God! What great promise this book holds indeed if that is only the first chapter! Perhaps we should take it more seriously. (D&C 84: 54-57.) No wonder President Packer can lament in General Conference about the absence of priesthood power in the church. (The Power of the Priesthood.)