Category: Christ

Baptist or Beloved?

The debate over who was “speaking” the testimony of Jesus Christ in the beginning of the Gospel of John has been one of the longest-standing questions in Christianity. Heracleon addressed this at about 165 a.d. He was a Gnostic and from the school of Valentinus. Valentinus was an early Gnostic, claiming to have secret knowledge passed from John (the Beloved). He attributed early material in the Gospel of John to John the Baptist.

Origen wrote early in the Third Century, disputed Heracleon and argued that it was John the Beloved who was responsible for the composition. Origen’s Commentary on John, Sixth Book, Chapter 2. The debate has never ended.

The term “logos” which is rendered “word” in most English translations of the Gospel of John, has a pre-Gospel of John history. The most recent use of the term, prior to the composition of the Gospel of John, was Philo of Alexanderia. He was born two decades before the birth of Christ and wrote just a few years prior to the composition of John’s writing.

Philo considered the “logos” to be an intermediary between man and God, a Divine being that bridged the gap between fallen man and perfect God. There is a great debate over the extent to which Philo’s writings influenced John’s composition.

John the Beloved’s composition begins by placing Christ in a pre-earth, creative role that is cosmic in scope. This introduction was intended to alert the reader that the individual described in the text that would follow was God. Then the often mundane events build with proof upon proof that the man Jesus was indeed the cosmic creator and God in very fact. By the end of the account, the proof has been assembled to demonstrate that the opening description was true beyond dispute. Christ was God.

Origen’s writings make it clear that a pre-earth existence for mankind, not just Christ but all men, was part of early Christian belief. That belief has been lost for most Christians. Origen wrote: “John’s soul was older than his body, and subsisted by itself before it was sent on the ministry of the witness of the light.” He extends this to us all: “if that general doctrine of the soul is to be received, namely, that it is not sown at the same time with the body, but is before it, and is then, for various causes, clothed with flesh and blood; then the words ‘sent from God’ will not appear to be applicable to John alone.” Origen’s Commentary on John, Book II, Chapter 24.  Meaning that not only did John exist before he was flesh and blood, but all men likewise existed before they entered this world.

The pre-earth existence of mankind is taught in the Bible. Jeremiah was told he was “ordained” before he entered his mother’s womb: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 KJV.

Job likewise describes the joy of the spirits of men when they learned of the plan for creating this world: “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” Job 38:7. Christ’s apostles inquired about the pre-birth sins of the man born blind. John 9:2. A question that could only be asked if it were possible for him to sin before birth because he existed prior to his birth.

Although Christians today do not recognize the doctrine of pre-earth existence of man’s spirit, it was once a part of Christian belief. Like the confusion about who is speaking in the earliest verses of the Gospel of John, Christianity has lost clarity that can only be restored by another revelation from God. As Roger Williams, a late Protestant Reformer in the American Colonies, said: “The apostasy… hath so far corrupted all, that there can be no recovery out of that apostasy until Christ shall send forth new apostles to plant churches anew.” He recognized that no man has authority to perform even the basic ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ unless Christ has authorized that man.

Reading the New Testament is like reading another person’s mail. It was written to a specific body of believers who had been taught by those who knew Christ. Today it is just as necessary to have that same vital connection to Christ in order to be saved. How can we believe the truth if we are not taught the truth? How can we be taught the truth unless someone is sent from Christ to teach a message from Him? How can anyone pretend to teach the truth if Christ did not send them? See Romans 10:14-15.

Christian Rejection

I received an email rejecting a request for a speaking venue. The rejection included the writer’s assessment that I was “not a Christian” because of her narrow, Evangelical interpretation of the word. I responded as follows:

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As one who, like the Apostle Paul, has stood in the presence of Christ, and likewise been caught up into heaven and been taught unspeakable things, I know from the Lord’s own voice my standing before Him. Whether others regard me as a “Christian,” I know that Christ regards me as His devoted follower and faithful servant.

I likewise comprehend His grace for others, including those who would exclude me from being defined as “Christian,” and therefore exclude me from salvation itself.
 
Rather than debate, deny, or judge the “Christianity” of others using any criteria, Bible verse, or Protestant hope for salvation, I accept any person’s claim to be “Christian” as welcome news. Whether they lived for the first millennium and a half of Christian history when only the Catholic Church existed, or they divide themselves into groups claiming to hold the exclusive qualifications to be saved today.
 
I judge no man. I encourage them all to hold fast to the hope of salvation offered by Christ, even if they hold beliefs by which they judge and reject me as a fellow Christian.
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This intolerant and anti-Christian view rejects as un-Christian all those who think there is a necessary role for works in addition to faith. (See James 2:20 & 26: “Faith without works is dead”.) They ignore two verses penned by James. They reject three chapters of Christ’s teachings. (Matt. 5 through 7.) They reject Christ’s own submission to the ordinance of baptism “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. 3:15.) These dogmatic and blind guides base their entire false construction on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians which states in passing: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9.) It is a mistake to interpret Paul to be in conflict with Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, and if there is a conflict, we ought to obey Christ.
Paul taught in Ephesus, resided there for a time, and was acquainted with the arguments going on in that community when he wrote his letter to them. The document is literally “reading someone else’s mail” without the benefit of knowing the background of weeks of Paul’s teaching and information related to him from visitors to the city. We cannot now have any confidence that these two verses represent Paul’s understanding or even Paul’s oral teachings.
What we do know for certain, however, is that Christ instructed us to be the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13) and light of the world (Matt. 5:14). It is anti-Christ to deny the obligation to be salt and to provide light. It is anti-Christ to reject Christ’s admonition to let the world “see your good works” if we are to follow Him. (Matt. 5:16.)
Christ warned us to “keep the commandments.” He cursed those who proclaim we are merely saved by grace and have no obligation to obey His commandments. He declared, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19.)
Christ then elevated the commandment to not kill, by warning Christians to “not be angry” with their brothers. (Matt. 5:21-22.) He explained that His followers would not even engage in Christian giving without first forgiving all those who offended them. (Matt. 5:23-24.)
Christ commanded us to agree with disputants, and not oppose them. We are to give what they demand of us rather than withhold even our cloak. (Matt. 5:25-26; 39-42.)
Christ elevated the commandment against committing adultery by commanding His followers to not entertain “lust in your heart.” (Matt. 5:27-28.)
Christ revoked divorce as an option for His followers, except in the case adultery. (Matt. 5:31-32.)
Christ commanded us to love even our enemies and return good for evil. (Matt. 5:43-47.)
Christ commanded us to “be perfect” as a follower and believer in Him. (Matt. 5:48.)
This is only the first of the three chapters of Christ’s instructions about what following Him requires.
James explained how a Christian is to follow Christ: “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:14-18.)

Opposing Christian Sects

Today, the best estimate is that there are over 40,000 different “Christian” denominations or sects. No one knows for sure because there is no organized data-base that identifies them all. Many are as small as a single congregation. The total number of “Christians” is estimated at over 2.2 billion.

Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8.) God has made a point of explaining that He does not change. (Mal. 3:6.)

The pace at which “Christian” sects are dividing appears to be accelerating. The disagreements between “Christian” sects are pronounced enough that many of them claim they alone are “true” and only they can save your soul. They denounce other denominations as false, their followers unsaved, or worse, damned and followers of the devil.

The scriptures claim there is “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” (Eph. 4:5.) Christians should compare what they see in “Christianity” of today with what the scriptures teach. How can messages from the various sects conflict so greatly that the Christian world is divided into more than 40,000 different bodies?

Christianity was never to be “preached” by just anybody willing to make a claim to be preaching the truth. A true messenger must be “sent” by God. (Rom. 10:14-15.) That does not mean they have some sentimental inclination to proclaim a message. It means that God sent them.

Paul was sent by God, and he explained the criteria. The qualifications have never changed, been rescinded or superseded. The unchangeable God requires the same today as anciently.

How can an unchangeable God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, be guiding these conflicting and contentious Christian denominations? The answer is simple: He is not.

The Christian sects are led by hireling priests who stir up conflict that prevents Christian believers from agreeing with one another. They flatter their congregations and keep them content. “Christians” are fed a weekly dose of vanity and lies by men and women expecting to be paid (by their followers) for their preaching. If you removed the profits from Christian churches, you would quickly see the pulpits abandoned by the hucksters employed there. If no one were paid to preach, conflicts would quickly end between the rank-and-file Christian.

I will be giving three talks later this year in California, Texas and Atlanta. I have been sent to give these three messages. I do know God. I have been ministered to by Him and He has prepared me to minister to others. Like Paul, who was sent by God, I will also tell you of an unchangeable God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. His message requires the same from you today as it did when Jesus Christ first taught in Galilee and Judea.

Anyone who claims to be a “Christian” may be interested in hearing these three talks. They are free and no donations will be solicited. Charity is wasted on hireling clergy. It should be used for the poor. Clergy ought to labor for their support as do other Christians. The sooner we stop paying a professional clergy, the sooner Christianity will lose its animosity and improve in spirit, function and value.

Christian Talks in 2017

This year I will be speaking to Christians about the Christian Reformation. I will give three lectures in three different venues over the next year. The talks will be recorded and available online for anyone interested in the history and destiny of Christianity.

Christ originally sent twelve messengers to spread the news about Him. They organized congregations of believers throughout the Mediterranean World, the Indian sub-continent and beyond. These were diverse bodies of believers, and depending on which of the twelve organized them, reflected different priorities. But they were all “Christian” and all followed Christ’s teachings.

Early Christianity included diverse and sometimes conflicting groups, all calling themselves “Christian.” But conflicts grew in intensity over the centuries that followed. When the Roman Emperor Constantine saw the value in adopting Christianity, he did not realize Christianity was internally fighting over fundamental beliefs. Accordingly, in 324 a.d. Constantine forced an agreement among Christian leaders in Nicaea. The result was the Nicene Creed. This creed marked the beginning of a new era referred to as Historic Christianity.

Historic Christianity divided at about 1,000 a.d. between Rome (Catholic) and Constantinople (Orthodox). That division remains today, more than a millennium later.

Rome’s dominion over Western Europe was further broken up beginning in 1517 when the Protestant Reformation began. What began with Martin Luther, has continued to divide and multiply Christian denominations with different groups placing different emphases on parts of the New Testament.

Coming up on the half-millennium anniversary of the Reformation, I will deliver three talks. There are a number of volunteers working to help arrange venues and spread word about these talks. They will be free to the public and all are invited to come and consider the history and destiny of Christianity.

As soon as each talk is finished, it will be made available on-line. Next Saturday a new website devoted to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation will be on-line. Work on that site, also by volunteers, has been underway for months. The link will be provided.

Arriving at a “unity of the faith,” which Paul hoped could be achieved by Christians (Eph. 4:11-13) is a ways off. Christianity has instead become the handmaiden of ambitious men who have diverted resources from the poor to serve themselves. The present state of Christianity is not markedly different from Jerusalem at the time of Christ. The Christian leaders today, like the Sadducees and Pharisees, shear the sheep, consume them, but fail to serve them as Christ did.

Christianity began with personal worship and devotion in the homes of believers. Christ and His twelve built no cathedrals, chapels or church structures, but did give aid to the poor. Isaiah prophesied that only one kind of building would be built for God by His followers:  A Temple or House of God, to be built on the mountaintop in Zion, and another in Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:2-3.) Beyond those two structures, all other resources should help the poor, as was once done by early Christians.

Although the website and lectures planned for 2017 are intended for a Christian audience, anyone who is interested in the history and the future of Christianity will find the material useful and interesting.

Early Christian Meetings

Justin Martyr lived from 110-165 a.d. and wrote in the “sub-apostolic” age. His writings give a glimpse into how Christianity functioned in its earliest days.

In his First Apology, he provides a description of Christian worship. They met in homes, having no church buildings.

Before being considered a Christian, a candidate was baptized “in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.” (First Apology, Chapter LXI-Christian Baptism.)

Meetings began with a prayer and “saluting one another with a kiss.” Then sacrament is prepared and administered using bread a “cup of wine mixed with water” which is blessed by “giving praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands.” (Id., Chapter LXV-Administration of the Sacraments.)

The early Christians recognized there was an obligation for “the wealthy among us [to] help the needy.” Therefore, after reading scripture and “the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets” donations are collected. “And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want.” (Id., Chapter LXVII-Weekly Worship of the Christians.) The reference to the “president” is to the one who conducted the meeting that week.

These simple observances were resilient enough to preserve Christianity after the death of the apostles and before any great hierarchical magisterium arose. It was the power of baptism, the sacrament, scripture study and financial aid among believers that gave Christianity its power. But it was diffused, and therefore incapable of destruction. When Justin Martyr was slain, the scattered Christians continued unaffected. It was just like when Peter and Paul were slain, and before them, James was killed. The power of Christianity reckoned from the vitality of its original roots. These roots were in Christ, His message, and teachings, which were employed to relieve one another by the alms shared from rich to poor.

When a centralized hierarchy took control over Christianity, the money that was used for the poor, the widows and orphans, was diverted to building churches, cathedrals, basilicas and palaces. Ultimately, the wealth generated by the generosity of Christian believers became the tool used by the hierarchy to buy up armies, kings, lands and treasures which were used to rule and reign as a cruel master over a subjugated population made miserable by the abuse heaped on them from Rome.

Even after the Protestant Reformation, Christianity continued to be ruled by hierarchies. Cathedrals and church buildings consumed and consume resources which are to be used to help the poor. Christ built no building, although He accepted the temple in Jerusalem as His Father’s house. Peter built no church building. Nor Paul, nor James, nor John. Christianity in the hands of the Lord and His apostles needed no brick and mortar for its foundation. It was built on the hearts of believers, brought together by the charity and assistance shared between them.

Today Christianity is not benefitted, but weakened, by hierarchies, cathedrals, edifices and basilicas housing opulence, wealth and art. Although the prophecies foretell of a temple to God in Zion, and another in Jerusalem, there are no other structures foretold to be built by Christians or latter-day Israel. How much stronger would Christianity be today if wealth were reserved for the poor, and hierarchies were stripped of their wealth?

Eternal Life: Knowing God

As a prior post mentions, Christ explained “eternal life” as knowing Him: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.)

The writers of the New Testament knew Christ. They were taught by Him or He appeared to them. Prior to His death, Christ promised He would continue to be known, because He and His Father would take up their abode with others in the future. “Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:22-23.) This promise was intended to be taken literally.

In addition to His followers, the antagonist (Saul) was also visited after Christ’s resurrection. Christ approached him on the road to Damascus. (See Acts 9:1-22.) Christ appeared and then took up His abode with Paul, who was later caught up to heaven and was taught “unspeakable things” of the mysteries of God. (See 2 Cor. 12:1-5.)

A modern prophet explained that Christ’s promise to “take up his abode” with men is not merely figurative or in the heart, but is indeed a personal appearance in which the believer comes to know his Lord: “John 14:23—The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.” (D&C 130:3.)

Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and he testified of the appearing:

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS-History 1:16-17.)

In another appearance to both Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, they jointly testified:

the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about. And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness; And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever. And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. (D&C 76:19-24.)

Christianity was never intended to be controlled by pastors, ministers, priests, bishops or even apostles. Christianity was intended to be alive, with Christ directly involved with His followers. But the creeds of Historic Christianity have impeded the relationship between a God who wants to be known and religious institutions who preach He is unknowable.

The entire message of Joseph Smith can be reduced to one verse in the Bible: James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Joseph believed this and asked. God answered. Christians can all do the same. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” (James 1:6.)

God has the capacity to answer all prayers addressed to Him. And He will send no one away empty-handed.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matt. 7:7-11.)

What Manner of Being, 2

Christ “lost His body” as a result of the post-Nicaea church philosophers who twisted the scriptures to fit their incorporeal idol. That was neither part of the New Testament teachings nor how Christ was understood in early Christianity.

The post-Nicaea concern was over polytheism. They abhorred the idea of multiple gods, thinking it a pagan idea. Israel had “one God” and not several. Therefore, the idea of the Trinity allowed them (and Historic Christianity ever after) the pretense of monotheism despite the separate beings of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

The “oneness” of God the Father and Christ does not consist, as the Historic Christian creeds suggest, in these being one person of one substance, uncreated, incomprehensible and altogether “other than mankind.” Christ explained His “oneness” with the Father in His intercessory prayer in John 17. Speaking about the immediate disciples who were with Him when He prayed, He petitioned that, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” (John 17:11.) The disciples were not of one substance with Christ, nor uncreated, nor incomprehensible, but were separate individual men. Yet they were to be “one” just as the Father and Son are likewise “one.” Christ’s prayer also referred to future believers who would accept the testimonies of the apostles. Concerning them Christ also prayed, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:20-21.)

Do you believe on the apostles’ testimonies? Are you therefore “one” with other believers? Did you merge into the bodies of other believers in order to become “one” with them? Are you the same substance as your minister or priest? If by belief in the same testimony as other Christians you can become “one” with them, then Christ and the Father can likewise be “one” without disturbing their entirely separate existence from one another.

This is not a heresy and not a recent invention. In The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, he relied on what would later become New Testament scripture as well as common sense to explain that Christ came into the world as a mortal man, although He had been created by the Father and acknowledged by Him as His Only Begotten Son. Here is Ignatius’ explanation:

The Word, when His flesh was lifted up, after the manner of the brazen serpent in the wilderness, drew all man to Himself for their eternal salvation. And I know that He was possessed of a body not only in His being born and crucified, but I also know that He was so after His resurrection, and believe that He is so now. When, for instance, He came to those who were with Peter, He said to them, “Lay hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit.” “For a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have.” And He says to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger into the print of the nails, and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side;” and immediately they believed that He was Christ. Wherefore Thomas also says to Him, “My Lord, and my God.” And on this account also did they despise death, for it were too little to say, indignities and stripes. Nor was this all; but also after He had shown Himself to them, that He had risen indeed, and not in appearance only, He both ate and drank with them during forty entire days. And thus was He, with the flesh, received up in their sight unto Him that sent Him, being with that same flesh to come again, accompanied by glory and power. For, say the holy oracles, “This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, in like manner as ye have seen Him go unto heaven.” But if they say that He will come at the end of the world without a body, how shall those “see Him that pierced Him,” and when they recognize Him, “mourn for themselves?” For incorporeal beings have neither form nor figure, nor the aspect of an animal possessed of shape, because their nature is in itself simple. (Chapters II and III, long version as found in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 89; Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, Hendrickson Publishing, Fourth Printing, 2004; emphasis added.)

The idea that Christ is now and will be a physical being when He returns in glory was a fundamental teaching of the New Testament and early Christians. Do not allow the false reasoning of Historic Christian philosophers to change the person of our Lord into an imaginary idol invented by those who hijacked Christianity and changed it into a political, economic and social industry.

Ignatius regarded any who taught to the contrary to be damned: “but blasphemes my Lord, not owning Him to be God incarnate[.]” (Id., Chapter V.)  He declared:

Let no man deceive himself. Unless he believes that Christ Jesus has lived in the flesh, and shall confess His cross and passion, and the blood which He shed for the salvation of the world, he shall not obtain eternal life. (Id. Chapter VI.)

This was important precisely because understanding the correct doctrine is required before it is possible to know God. It is as if Ignatius took aim at the heretical and false doctrine in Historic Christian creeds that God is incomprehensible:

Do ye, therefore, notice those who preach other doctrines, how they affirm that the Father of Christ cannot be known, and how they exhibit enmity and deceit in their dealings with one another. (Id.)

Because they deny Christ is a person of flesh and bone, “they make a jest of the resurrection. They are the offspring of that spirit who is the author of all evil.” (Id., Chapter VII.)

Truth comes by the revelation of heaven. Men corrupt it, and it ceases to have the same authority and effect as it would if believed. All men are required to repent and return to God. Part of that repentance will require Historic Christians to forsake the abominable creeds adopted by false priests and come to know Christ Jesus, who was sent by the Father into the world as a man, who lived, died, was resurrected and will return again in glory.

All or Nothing, 7-Conclusion

The return of Zion will require sacrifice. If mankind understood the intelligence that God will return to the earth they would be eagerly asking how to help. Zion will not be a place for proud men to pontificate about man’s learning or their conjecture about the meaning of scripture. It will be a place to learn of God’s ways.

Therefore thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine. (Isa. 29:22-24.)

The proud, learned and those who think themselves wise may continue to walk by the poor sparks of their own dying fire, but they will lay down in sorrow for the loss of their opportunity to learn in Zion. (Isa. 50:11, also 2 Ne. 7:11.) The humble and meek, however, will want to learn from God. They will submit in gratitude to what the Lord offers:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:2-3.)

This can happen in our day. Or not. One day, some few will be guided by the Lord to accomplish it. But the choice of allowing it to happen is left to us. The journey begins by living the way Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at Bountiful.

Every one of man’s institutions are corrupt. They are led by men and women who rule against the best interests, even the will, of the people over whom they exercise control. They abuse authority and their subordinates lord it over their minions.

The kingdoms of men will be ground to dust because all peaceful men will choose to live above their laws in Zion. There will be no commerce to be taxed, but only labor to feed and clothe one another. No legal agreements because people will honor their promises to one another. No police, no lawyers, courts or prisons. They will “deal justly with one another” never asking for mercy, or pardon for failure. To deal “justly” requires every citizen to hold themselves to the rigorous standard of “justice” instead of the lax standard of “mercy.” Even as they hold themselves to a standard of “justice,” they will show “mercy” and “forgiveness” and “charity” to others. “Justice” is only to be applied internally to make us deal fairly with others. Externally, every man expects to allow his neighbor the kindness and mercy he hopes the Lord will show to him in the day of judgment.

As the best of society gravitates to live in Zion, those who refuse to obey a higher standard will be left behind. They will become increasingly unproductive, unlawful, unkind, unmerciful, and ungovernable. Babylon will collapse into chaos. Zion will thrive. The scenes that went before will be repeated again:

And from that time forth there were wars and bloodshed among them; but the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness. The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish. And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion. And it came to pass that Enoch talked with the Lord; and he said unto the Lord: Surely Zion shall dwell in safety forever. But the Lord said unto Enoch: Zion have I blessed, but the residue of the people have I cursed. (Moses 7:16-20.)

Zion is destined to overthrow the world. But it will happen methodically, with effort, and through a system God established in the beginning returning to the earth. If men will welcome it, and live according to God’s plan for happiness, men will become free and happy indeed.

There can be no king in Zion other than the Lord. The journey is a return to Eden and the beginning. Adam is often referred to in scripture as “father” and not once referred to as “king.” Christ regarded Himself as a “servant” and lifted others around Him by the light of His teaching and godly example. Look carefully at the promise of someone who will be “mighty and strong” found in D&C 85:7:

I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints whose names are found, and the names of their fathers, and of their children, enrolled in the book of the law of God[.]

Was not our Lord “clothed with light for a covering” because of the intelligence He displayed and the graceful things He taught? Were His words not “eternal words”? Were not His bowels “a fountain of truth”? And did He not “set in order the house of God” by what He explained, did and gave? Yet in all this our Lord was meek and humble. He was apparently ordinary. There was no reason for any of those in positions of authority over Him to admire Him. The Jews rejected Him and very few recognized He was the promised Messiah. There was nothing desirable in Him for the wicked. (Isa. 53:2-3.)

Zion, like our Lord, will receive little attention or regard from the world. The people who will recognize that its foundation is being laid will be very few. While the Jews, Christians, saints and philosophers look to constantly replenish themselves from the east (Isa. 2:6), God will begin His work quietly in the mountains of the west (D&C 133:30-32). Thus the Lord’s great revolution will eventually overthrow all other kingdoms.

Christ Alone Saves

The atonement is our rescue. Christ alone performed it and He has proclaimed that He alone has accomplished it:
Isaiah 63:3: “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me[.]”

In modern revelation, He has reiterated that He alone performed the atoning sacrifice required to save us from judgment and condemnation:
D&C 133:50: “I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me;”

He saves us through the atonement because He paid the price of the wrath of Almighty God for all sin:
D&C 76:107: “I have overcome and have trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.”

Paul explained that through the original disobedience of Adam, a sentence of death was imposed on mankind, but that sentence was reversed and many will be made righteous by the sacrifice of Christ. (See Romans 5:12-19.)

It is Christ alone who will keep the way. He will allow those who have believed in Him, obeyed Him, kept His commandments and thereby walked in the path of His righteousness (to become righteous) to enter:
2 Nephi 9:41: “O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.”

It is Christ and His name alone which will provide salvation for mankind:
Mosiah 5:8 “And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.”
John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

There are many others in heaven. God the Father and Christ are not alone. There is an entire host of beings with them:
Neimiah 9:6: “Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.”

Some of the hosts are righteous, align with God, and follow His will:
D&C 88:112: “And Michael, the seventh angel, even the archangel, shall gather together his armies, even the hosts of heaven.”

Angelic hosts are on both sides, some on God’s right hand and others on His left:
2 Chronicles 18:18: “Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the Lord; I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.”
1 Kings 22:19: “And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.”

But angelic hosts retain the right to choose. It is possible for them to rebel and fall short. It is possible for angelic hosts to be cast down from heaven:
D&C 29:36: “And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;”

Faithful members of the heavenly hosts can further God’s work, and cooperate with Him in assisting mankind:
D&C 84:42: “And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you.”

We cannot be saved by an angel. Nor can we trust any angel, even from heaven, to be the object of worship or adoration. That must be reserved for Christ and His Father alone:
Galatians 1:8: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”

Even if an angel were to give you a covenant, promise or assurance; or a man were to “seal you up to eternal life,” unless it comes by and through Christ alone, it will be of no value in the afterlife:
D&C 132:12-13: “I am the Lord thy God; and I give unto you this commandment—that no man shall come unto the Father but by me or by my word, which is my law, saith the Lord. And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.”

Those who worship angels, men, or institutions instead of Christ risk becoming subject to a fallen angel:
2 Nephi 9:8: “O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.” (See also D&C 76:98-105.)

One of the adversary’s pretensions is to claim that he is “the son of God” or the “Only Begotten,” thereby hoping to mislead people to worship him instead of the Lord. (See Moses 1:19; D&C 128:20.)

Before accepting a message as truth, you ought to know the scriptures well enough to test the message against the words of Christ, His unwaivering voice from the time of Adam until the present, and the prophets. It should not be difficult to determine if some new thing is true or just vanity, without power, and offensive to God. You should be careful about allowing any angel or man to pretend to “seal you up” to some eternal reward. You may find yourself subject in the afterlife to a vile spirit who will claim the right to rule over you. There are pretenders, even among the hosts of heaven. Joseph Smith cautioned, “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God.” (DHC 4:588.)

Believe in Christ, trust in Him, and seek salvation through Him alone.

A Bigger Picture

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

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

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

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

Fishers of Men

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

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

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

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

“Fisher of men, the blest,

Out of the world’s unrest,

Out of sin’s troubled sea

Taking us, Lord, to Thee;

Out of the waves of strife,

With bait of blissful life,

Drawing Thy nets to shore

With choicest fish, good store.”

Prophecy, not Publicity

The most surprising thing to me is the Lord’s utter indifference to whether the world takes note of what He is doing. Prophecy was never intended to be the same thing as publicity. He works in obscure, unnoticed ways to bring His work to pass. The Book of Mormon calls it “small means.” He describes His labor force as “the weak things of the world.”

The people who expect something big, noteworthy and earth-shaking before recognizing God’s hand have never noticed His message or messengers. The world expects publicity. It expects God will always work through the “chief seats” when He rarely does.

The Lord will return as a “thief in the night” because He is unwanted, unwelcome, and although He gives many signs and sends a message, men choose darkness instead of light. For mankind it is always nighttime. They do not notice the dawn. They remain asleep, with eyes closed.

Ephesians 4:29-5:16; 6:12:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

…For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

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Given the nature of our fight (which is spiritual), we ought to resist the culture of conflict that poisons our time, and rise above disputing among ourselves to show by our godly example what it means to follow Christ.

When I Clarify, When Not

There are hundreds of different topics that people discuss with me about which I have no opinion or view. These things matter to others, and in some cases are believed to be vital religious issues for them.

Just a few examples will illustrate:

Bishop John Koyle’s Dream Mine matters to some people. They have invested in it and study what Koyle taught, said and prophesied. I’ve heard them explain their views.

I have heard more than one account of “multiple mortal probations” from those who believe strongly in the idea. Some think it is at the heart of the gospel plan. I’ve heard them but have never been able to reconcile the strongly contrasting forms this idea has taken.

One man believes everything ever revealed since Adam can be extrapolated from the pre-1990 version of the LDS endowment. His complex theories have been evolving, encountering obstacles, taking a detour and reconstituting for years, but he stays on this theme as the basis for all gospel knowledge. I’ve listened to him.

There are many different views of the role and status of women. On one extreme they are breeding stock, of little value other than to be subservient to men and produce offspring. On the other extreme they are goddesses and men are mere brutes, to be endured by the divine feminine as a test in this fallen world; but men will get their punishment in the world to come where women’s true value is known. I’ve heard these various expositions of conflicting views about women.

I’ve attended meetings where strange ideas are taught openly. I’ve  listened and tried to understand what the speaker is attempting to teach. There are hundreds of examples, but I will leave it with these.

I can probably explain many of these strange ideas in the same way as they have been explained to me. But the fact I can listen to them, or restate what others have set out, does not mean that I share their beliefs or support their “cause.” I try to understand them, without the need to do anything more.

For me, these wildly varying ideas are important for one reason: I’m trying hard to understand the challenge we face to become “one” with each other. In the most peaceful, enlightened and enduring society (apart from Enoch’s and Melchizedek’s cities) we have only a brief explanation of their social order. But in the description it tells us four times the same important lesson:

4 Ne. 1:2 “and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.” This was a first step. It was not complete. But the people managed to stop their disputes. They may not have agreed with one another, but they were no longer fighting among themselves about their different viewpoints.

4 Ne. 1:13 “And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land; but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus.” This was a closer agreement where united faith among the people began to bear the fruits of the spirit. It is a second level and developmentally greater than the absence of contention that preceded it.

4 Ne. 1:15 “And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” This was yet another stage of development. It came as people’s hearts were filled through God’s love so they would no longer just be avoiding contention, they were now in agreement.

4 Ne. 1:18 “the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land.”

The experience these people went through was in stages of progression and development. Over many years I’ve tried to see what the landscape looks like among the different versions of the gospel as understood by widely varying people. I believe them (you) all to be loved by God. I believe them (you) all to be sincere. I let others explain themselves to me, I labor to understand them (you), and let all men go in peace. I believe it is important to allow all men to explain their views, and important to consider this cacophony because of how it separates us from becoming “one” with each other. It is a very real challenge. It is daunting. But it is important to understand as a point of beginning.

I do not interrupt people and challenge everything they say. I do not insist that people change their views to be exactly as mine. If I only tolerated my own view I would interrupt every person in every conversation and make myself an obnoxious mad man.

From time to time there are those who take the views they have announced to me as their belief or doctrine, and associated MY name with it. If they explain their views as theirs, they go in peace. But when they make their belief MINE, and their understanding of things MY understanding, or when it is not true or accurate, then I choose to clarify that I do not share that viewpoint.