Covenant People

Man does not make covenants with God. God offers a covenant and people either accept or reject God’s offer. But until God offers, mankind can do nothing to create a covenant with or for God.

The preface to the Doctrine and Covenants was a revelation intended to introduce an accompanying volume.

the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord neither his servants neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles shall be cut off from among the people; for they have strayed from mine ordinances and have broken mine everlasting covenant. They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness but every man walketh in his own way and after the Image of his own God whose Image is in the likeness of the world and whose substance is that of an Idol which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon even Babylon the great which shall fall. (D&C 1, Emphasis added.)

The Lord cannot fulfill His promises, prophecies and covenants without a covenant people. There are always those who will stray and break His covenant. Among the problems the Lord has to overcome when He makes an effort to gather people together to become His, is the tendency of the proud and defiant to “walk in his own way” and to have an “Image of his own God” as the guide. The path to becoming God’s people does not lie in a solitary walk by those who claim they have their “own way” to follow. It is to be found by living the commandments of Christ among brothers and sisters who grow to have one heart and one mind.

Given the tendency of wicked men to exploit the weak, society has made it impossible to live the Sermon on the Mount or Sermon at Bountiful as a solitary individual. In a godly society where people ‘do unto others other than as they wish to have done to them,’ it is possible to live in peace. Those Sermons by the Lord are meant to change a culture. It is the blueprint for a community that can grow in understanding until they have one heart and one mind. The Lord’s teachings lead inevitably to having “no poor among them” because the society is able to learn to have peace with one another.

Covenant

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

False Traditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early Morning Seminary

I’ve been substituting an early morning seminary class this week. It’s a Doctrine & Covenants course, and we’ve been covering Sections 132, 133 and 135. These include the eternal marriage covenant, plural wives, prophecy of Christ’s Second Coming, and martyrdom of both Joseph and Hyrum.
I drew a layout of the Carthage Jail yesterday morning, described the movements of each of the four in the upper room (Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor and Willard Richards) during and after the attack, then discussed what happened between the killing and the time the bodies made it back to Nauvoo.
Joseph’s last words, “Oh Lord my God…” is a shorthand reference to the distress call for the Third Degree, or Master Mason. The entire call is, “Oh Lord my God, is there no help for the widow’s son?” Invoking the call, requires all other Masons to rally to help the one in distress.  Joseph was aware members of the mob who came to kill him were Masons. By addressing the call to the mob, Joseph was putting the Masons on their sworn duty to provide relief. He was putting them to the test of their oath, which they failed.
It is good to stay in touch with younger Latter-day Saints through teaching opportunities. I teach Priests in my own ward. There are two interesting observations I’ve made. First, younger minds are more open and willing to be taught. They are interested in thinking or considering ideas. The more you can inform them, the better able they are to gain perspective about the Gospel. They possess a resource which diminishes with time – teachability (to use the vocabulary of scripture, humility). Second, the youth who have grown up using the current form of institutional teaching materials are woefully less informed than those who grew up forty years ago. They are every bit as interested and curious as past generations, but the material used to inform them has been so diminished in content that they are left with the most superficial of understanding of the Gospel. All you parents need to assume responsibility for fixing that with your own children. The institutional approach narrows the scope each year, leaving less and less substance taught.
I’ve studied the restored Gospel and church history for over 40 years. I continue to search more carefully into the subject year by year.  There are so many things to appreciate. I think the most interesting, gripping and important subject you can study is the restored Gospel.  Not through the kind of superficial inspirational drivel now sold by Deseret Book. You can go round and round with that kind of crap – won’t make one bit of progress there. You’ll be briefly entertained, and then lulled to sleep by such quasi-religious infotainment. You will never awaken to your awful situation by being coddled, inspired and reassured that “All is well in Zion.” If you intend to actually come to grips with the Gospel, you need to read the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, everything you can find about Joseph Smith, and original material or works based on original materials taken from then contemporary sources. The bibliography from the new book I’m working on has a number of great sources worth considering.
But the Gospel is not study alone. The purpose of study is to inform our conduct, our thoughts and our words. What truths we learn need to be put into action and lived. It is in the living that the power of the Gospel is released. As we “do” what we are instructed, we find ourselves in company with angels and Heavenly messengers.
That process which Joseph Smith describes in the Joseph Smith-History found in the Pearl of Great Price, still works. For any soul who decides to try it.

1 Nephi 13: 39

 
“And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.”
 
We know the New Testament will come forth first and get into the hands of the “remnant” of the promised people. It will get into their hands BEFORE some other materials will also come forth.
 
When did that happen? Was it something that occurred before the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830? Which native tribes received copies of the New Testament before the “other books” came forward? What are these “other books” referred to here? They “came forth by the power of the Lamb” but came “after” the New Testament was given to the “remnant.” What books have come forth “by the power of the Lamb” to your knowledge? Apart from the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Book of Moses, Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith History and Matthew, what other books would qualify? Did all these come after the “remnant” had first received the New Testament “book of the Lamb of God?”
 
The effect of the “other books” will be to “convince” the gentiles as well as “the remnant of the seed of my brethren” of the truth of the New Testament and “records of the prophets.” Have the gentiles become convinced? Have the “remnant” become convinced?  Have the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth become convinced? Are they convinced of the truth of “the records of the prophets” even if they are not yet convinced of the truth of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb?”
 
Is this a serial progression? That is, does it come and convince the gentiles first?  Then, having convinced them, does it next convince the “remnant?” Then, after having convinced both the gentiles and the “remnant,” does it in turn convince the scattered Jews? If serial, what stage of the unfolding of these events is happening now? What is needed before the phase would be completed and the next one begin?
What does it mean that “other books” will come forth? What kinds of “books” would they be? Who would have written them? Why would they come “by the power of the Lamb” only to meet the criteria? Is a good commentary written by CES among the promised “books” coming forward? What about the Ensign?
 
How would you be able to recognize a book coming “by the power of the Lamb” in fulfillment of this promise? Will these “books” be recognized as scripture? Do they include discoveries at Qumran and Nag Hammadi? Was Hugh Nibley working on such projects, and if so, was he among those in whom the “power of the Lamb” was working?
This verse has potential for broad application. It raises questions worth contemplating and may surprise you at some of the issues it requires us to confront. Such are the Lord’s dealings with mankind in every generation. We are  made prayerful because He gives us great subjects with which to grapple.

Lectures of Faith No. 6

This is an excerpt from the Sixth Lecture in the Lectures on Faith.  This was at one point a part of the Doctrine & Covenants.  They were prepared for the School of the Prophets and approved by Joseph Smith.  Their presence in the scriptures was the reason for the change in the title from Book of Commandments to Doctrine and Covenants.  The “Doctrine” portion of the book was comprised of these lectures.  They were subsequently removed from the D&C.  Below is an excerpt which I think is needed to be understood by anyone who would like to comprehend the faith restored through Joseph Smith:
An actual knowledge to any person that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God, is essentially necessary to enable him to have that confidence in God, without which no person can obtain eternal life.
It was this that enabled the ancient saints to endure all their afflictions and persecutions, and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing (not believing merely) that they had a more “enduring substance” (Heb. 10:34). 
Having the assurance that they were pursuing a course which was agreeable to the will of God, they were enabled to take, not only the spoiling of their goods and the wasting of their substance joyfully, but also to suffer death in its most horrid forms; knowing (not merely believing) that when this earthly house of their tabernacle was dissolved, they had a building of God, a house “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).

Such was, and always will be, the situation of the saints of God, that unless they have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint; for such has been, and always will be, the opposition in the hearts of unbelievers and those that know not God, against the pure and unadulterated religion of heaven (the only thing which ensures eternal life), that they will persecute to the uttermost all that worship God according to his revelations,

receive the truth in the love of it, and submit themselves to be guided and directed by his will, and drive them to such extremities that nothing short of an actual knowledge of their being the favorites of heaven,and of their having embraced that order of things which God has established for the redemption of man, will enable them to exercise that confidence in him necessary for them to overcome the world, and obtain that crown of glory which is laid up for them that fear God.
For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge; realizing that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God.
For unless a person does know that he is walking according to the will of God, it would be offering an insult to the dignity of the Creator were he to say that he would be a partaker of his glory when he should be done with the things of this life.
But when he has this knowledge, and most assuredly knows that he is doing the will of God, his confidence can be equally strong that he will be a partaker of the glory of God.

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; it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.

When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain.
Under these circumstances then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.
It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.
It was in offering sacrifices that Abel, the first martyr, obtained knowledge that he was accepted of God.
And from the days of righteous Abel to the present time, the knowledge that men have that they are accepted in the sight of God, is obtained by offering sacrifice.
And in the last days, before the Lord comes, he is to gather together his saints who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice. Ps. 50:3-5, “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant unto me by sacrifice.”
Those then who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled through faith to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith; therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do; and without this guarantee faith could not exist.
All the saints of whom we have account in all the revelations of God which are extant, obtained the knowledge which they had of their acceptance in his sight, through the sacrifice which they offered unto him.
And through the knowledge thus obtained, their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life, and to endure as seeing him who is invisible; and were enabled, through faith, to combat the powers of darkness, contend against the wiles of the adversary, overcome the world, and obtain the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.  
But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their minds; and where doubt and uncertainty are, there faith is not, nor can it be.
For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time.
So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence; and where unshaken confidence is not, there faith is weak; and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations, and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them.