Reconciliation (A Little)

A joint accord has been reached by the Lutherans and Catholics on one issue that has divided them since Martin Luther. Luther, because he rejected Catholic authority claims, needed another basis for salvation. He identified God’s grace alone as the solution. Catholicism, however required the accouterments it offered through its claims to priesthood authority, and by extension authoritative ordinances. Therefore the Catholic claims required believers to respond with suitable submission, or works, to be saved.

The joint accord now allows the question of grace vs. works to be buried, as between Catholics and Lutherans. Harmony is found in the statement which contains these words:

“By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part,  we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping us and calling us to good works.”

The whole accord can be found here: Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church).

Paragraph 25 explains:

“We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God’s gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him. Such a faith is active in love and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works. But whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it.”

The entire statement is interesting and can be seen at the link above.

What if salvation is not determined by grace alone, by works alone, or even some combination of the two? What if it comes from the ministry of one sent by God to declare salvation? And faith comes by hearing the message like Paul taught. (See Romans 10:17.) Paul was expounding a passage from Isaiah (Isa. 53:1), a prophet sent by God. Paul was likewise sent with a message from God. What if the meaning is that in order to receive salvation it is essential that the believer receive a message from a minister actually sent by God with a message for our day and time?

What if salvation requires the same thing now as when Isaiah preached and prophesied, and when Paul taught, and when Christ ministered to mankind? What if there is a necessary relationship between the sender of a message (God) and the speaker of the message (one sent by God) in order for the message to actually result in salvation for the hearer-believer?

Who has believed our report, indeed? And who, then, has saving faith?

This is a moment that has been 500 years in the coming. But it does not carry the certifying imprint of God’s word. Instead it carries the authority of compromise between two institutions whose link to God is borrowed from those who did speak with and for God, but who have long been dead. Does living faith require a living message? If so neither Lutheran nor Catholic institutions can save. Nor can their new agreement signal anything important for anyone’s salvation.

All or Nothing, 5

It may seem ironic that the warning against “kings” on the land of the Americas (2 Ne. 10:11) was recorded by a man who was himself a king (2 Ne. 5:18). However, the gentile model of “kings” is not the same as the Nephite model of “kingship.” The Nephite kingship is well explained by King Benjamin:

I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man. But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me. I say unto you that as I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you; Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you— And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day. Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day. Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God. And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another? And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King! (Mosiah 2:10-19.)

In contrast to this model, Christ explained the problem with gentile kings: “And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.” (Luke 22:25.)

Nephi’s warning against “kings” occurs in connection with the promised Zion:

And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles. And I will fortify this land against all other nations. And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God. For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words. (2 Ne. 10:11-14.)

Zion cannot be founded on “kingship” other than the Lord, the king of heaven, who will be Zion’s only king.

The return of the “kingdom of God” will be to prepare the earth for Christ’s return in glory. Zion, the New Jerusalem and the “kingdom of God” all relate to each other and will be developed and functioning in the last generation before the Lord returns. If this does not happen, the whole earth will be cursed. (D&C 128:18.)

The “kingdom of God” has been described as a stone “cut out without hands” (Dan. 2:34) which will proceed to “smite the image… and brake them to pieces.” (Id.) The stone will then become “a great mountain, and fill the whole earth.” (Dan. 2:35.) Yet this is all to be accomplished without violence and based on the principles considered by the council in 1844.

Remember, the “kingdom of God” will be a form of Theocracy to be planted with no intention to interfere with any government of the world. It will offer no violence to governments. But its citizens will live far above their laws. (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 88.)

How can the “kingdom of God” smite the false governments of the world and grind them to dust without violence? How can it be non-confrontational, yet succeed in filling the whole earth? Such a revolution will be God’s work. God will not need to use violence, compulsion, treachery, unlawful dominion, pride, corruption or any of the other conventions used by the usurping governments of man. Hence the saying it will be a stone “cut without hands” or in other words accomplished by the wisdom of God.

It should be clear from the prophecies that this work will start with a small group chosen to begin the work. A temple and rites will provide the legal, cultural, and covenant foundation for a new society. These people will learn how to become the “kingdom of God” and will learn His ways and to walk in His paths. When they know how to live in peace, and have obtained the original Holy Order, others will be invited to join them and learn how to live according to a new, higher way of life. The challenge of teaching new people this new way of organizing society will be daunting. The community will struggle together to learn how to overcome the social infection that comes from Babylon anytime a new family flees Babylon and comes to Zion.

As the group grows, they will increase their aptitude to assimilate new members. Skills will be gained in helping people overcome the world. The infections from Babylon, the Medes, Persians, Greeks, Romans and all modern world governments will be eradicated. People of the New Jerusalem will learn a godly way of governing and holiness of character.

As the New Jerusalem grows, eventually it will divide, and there will be another group established nearby where both communities will be able to take in new families and teach them of the Lord’s way.

Isaiah described these people:

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.)

Modern revelation explained it:

And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land. And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants. And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence. And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim. And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy. Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows. And they also of the tribe of Judah, after their pain, shall be sanctified in holiness before the Lord, to dwell in his presence day and night, forever and ever. (D&C 133:29-35.)

The work of obtaining Zion from the Lord is to walk back to Eden. Its purpose is to renew mankind and be redeemed from the fall. The objective is to create a place where God can come and dwell with people, as He once did in the Garden of Eden. Because they lack the knowledge to dwell in righteousness, mankind is held captive by false governments: “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.” (Isa. 5:13.) Fools prize ignorance and speculation over what the Lord is offering as a gift.

Then will Isaiah’s prophecy be fulfilled:

they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Isa. 2:4-5.)

Then too will the 10th Article of Faith be accomplished:

We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

Everything will need to change before the prophecies can be fulfilled. All the culture, law, social arrangements, ambitions, economies and pride of the nations will need to be rejected by the group. The new way of life must be organized after the original pattern taught in the beginning. The “rights belonging to the fathers,” which Abraham obtained as an inheritance from the first man Adam, will be recovered and lived by the those occupants of the New Jerusalem. They must not only say, but do, what is asked of them by God. His purpose is to make mankind joyful, which cannot be attained by wickedness. “Wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10.)

When God gives mankind this opportunity, they are rarely interested. The last time God offered, the opportunity was spoiled by “jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.” (D&C 101:6.) Even people who think they would like to see Zion, fight against the truth now being rolled out in plain sight. They err, and prize delusion over active engagement with God.

He offers again. But whether mankind is any better prepared, or more willing than before remains to be seen. It will require all from us, or we will be left with nothing.

Book of Mormon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nephi’s Isaiah

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. 

Mosiah 3: 26-27

Mosiah 3: 26-27

“Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God, which justice could no more deny unto them than it could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the forbidden fruit; therefore, mercy could have claim on then no more forever.


And their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever. Thus has the Lord commanded me. Amen.”

The strong, direful, terrible warnings continue from the angel:

Those who ignore the obligation will, in the afterlife, have:
“drank out of the cup of the wrath of God…”

Notice this is phrased in almost identical language to Christ’s terrible suffering in the atonement. (See 3 Ne. 11: 11; D&C 19: 18.) This is so awful an experience the Lord cannot capture adequately in revelation the words to describe it. (D&C 19: 15.)

“mercy could have claim on them no more forever.”
Meaning that if they choose this path, they will suffer. There will be nothing to mitigate what they will endure. Mercy will not intervene and lessen the ordeal.

How often has the Lord used such terrible phrases to describe the damned as:

“torment as a lake of fire and brimstone”–because we all know the pain of having our skin burned. It quickly conveys the idea of torment into our minds,

“whose flames are unquenchable”–because it will burn away until nothing impure remains,

“whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever”–because this process is eternal and will be the experience of anyone and everyone, worlds without end, who merit this purging and refining fire.

These words from the angel were delivered to a king, to be taught to his people, in a gathering in which all those who attended then covenanted with God. The audience would “have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5: 2.)

Why does it require this message from the angel to produce this result?
Could they be saved by praising them, telling them they were chosen and the elect of God?
Could they be saved by telling them they were a royal priesthood?
Could they be saved by telling them that all was well with them, they prosper in the land because God is with them?

Why is it necessary to tell them of hell?
Of damnation?
Of eternal suffering and unquenchable fire?

In The Second Comforter I remarked “there is no veil to our feelings.” That is true, but the feelings one experiences by coming into the presence of God are almost universally fear and dread. The scriptures confirm how fearful this has been to mankind:

To Abraham, it was a “horror” to draw near the Lord. (Gen. 15: 12-13.)
To Isaiah it was woeful, and terrible. (Isa. 6: 5.)
To Daniel and his companions, quaking fell upon them, many fled, leaving Daniel alone. (Dan. 10: 7-8.)
Mormon explains how men react to God’s presence as being “racked with a consciousness of guilt.” (Mormon 9: 3-4.)

When popular mythology constructs fantasies of coming before the Lord, they make it happy – not dreadful. They despise the call to repent because it disagrees with their happy myths. The angel is not overstating the case. He is explaining the great gulf that exists between fallen man and God. (See Moses 1: 10.) The unrepentant and foolish are completely unprepared for God’s presence. (Mormon 9: 2-6.) The words of the angel are attempting to give some indication to the faithful of how deeply, how completely, and how great the scope of repentance must be to avoid the similar pains of death and hell the Lord suffered on our behalf.

We delude ourselves when we think the angel’s message was not meant for all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If the King Benjamin’s audience acquired their salvation by coming down in the depths of humility and repentance (Mosiah 4: 2), then we fool ourselves if we think anything less will be expected of us.

Was the angel bitter? Angry? Harsh? Unkind? Of the wrong “spirit?” Not the kind of messenger we should expect would be sent from God?

Was his message not kind enough? Not inspiring? Not faith promoting?

Can an angel or a prophet ever save anyone if they do not focus on the great burden left for mankind to repent and return to God? Will flattery ever save a man?

Samuel the Lamanite was sent to cry repentance. He put the case clearly to them and to us, but his words are no more comforting than the angel’s words were to King Benjamin and his people:

“Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.

But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.

Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.

O ye wicked and ye perverse generation; ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?” (Hel. 13: 26-29.)

The Apostle Paul described such folks as having “itching ears.” (2 Tim. 4: 3-4.) It is a fairly apt description. These folks think themselves righteous, but they are unrepentant, unforgiven, and unsaved. They follow a religion which cannot save them, because it has become nothing more than a false idol, appealing to their vanity.

Jacob 5: 76-77

Zenos wrote at the time of a united Kingdom, before the days of Isaiah, and in another dispensation than John. However, when it comes to the prophetic destiny of the vineyard, Zenos and John tell the same story, using different images to tell the tale.

The allegory has a “long time” in which the vineyard produces natural fruit. (5: 76.) This peaceful and productive era is Paradisiacal. (See Articles of Faith, 10.) The vineyard will allow the Lord to “lay up the fruit of [His] vineyard” because there will be an end to this era of the vineyard. (5: 76.) There will come a time for final accounting. The vineyard will need to be re-created, and a new one brought in its place. But before that day the vineyard will produce “for a long time, according to that which I have spoken.” (Id.) During that time Satan is bound and children grow up without sin.

The story of the end of this creation culminates in the last, great day, when Satan is loosed again for a season: “But when the time cometh that evil fruit shall again come into my vineyard” will happen after the period of Paradise. In the allegory, it is when “evil fruit” returns. In John’s vision it is when “the thousand years are expired.” (Rev. 20: 7.) John describes how “Satan shall be loosed out of his prison” at that time. (Id.) When he is, he “shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth.” (Rev. 20: 8.)

Despite all the Lord of the vineyard has done for His trees, the accuser will still find fault. The things of God will again be challenged, criticized, debated, accused and maligned. The Lord’s motives will be questioned, and His means will be derided. Why so little natural fruit? What right is there to discard the bitter fruit? Is not the worth of each soul great enough the Lord of the vineyard should have done more? Why should so much of the fruit have been gathered and burned? How can the Lord have the best interests of the vineyard in mind when there were so many who have not been gathered as natural fruit? What of those who came into the vineyard and were produced through wild branches, how can it be fair to leave them for the burning when they were given an unfair challenge? Their plight is not of their own making, and the Lord of the vineyard is unfair!

You see it is one thing to claim you believe in and follow the Lord when in your mistaken arrogance you assume His plan requires nothing from you and will exalt you to the sides of the north. (See Isa. 14: 12-13.) But it is another thing when you realize “the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved.” (D&C 45: 2.) Then will they lament: “O that I had repented, and had not killed the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out. Yea, in that day ye shall say: O that we had remembered the Lord our God.” (Hel. 13: 33; see also 3 Ne. 8: 24.) When all men stand before God and realize He did expect obedience, sacrifice, consecration, chastity and a godly walk of all who are saved, then many who profess to follow Him when it was to their vanity and pride will find they cannot profess to follow Him when it is to their shame and condemnation. They will, with the accuser, join in denouncing the Lord. They will also compass the camp of the saints and make war against them and their Lord.

The Lord of the vineyard has done all He could, and respected the agency of men. The arguments at the end of the Millennial Day will prevail. John reports that the number of those who align with the accuser will be so much greater than the camp of the saints, that they will “compass the camp of the saints about” because their numbers so vastly exceed the mere “camp” of the righteous they will be able to entirely surround them. (Rev. 20: 9.)

These rebellious branches are “burned with fire” (5: 77) or, as John describes it, “fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” (Rev. 20: 9.)

This then leads back to the major themes of the allegory. It was included by Jacob for us so that when these things come to pass we are not left surprised or wondering why we were not warned by the Lord.

3 Nephi 20: 16

“Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.”

The descendants of Christ’s audience remaining after the holocaust of gentile destruction (i.e., the “remnant of the house of Jacob”) would be used by God to deliver judgment upon the gentiles. First the descendants are to be reduced to a remnant by the gentiles, but then the fortunes would be reversed. Initially the gentiles would be the very embodiment of the “wrath of God” to “scatter” and “smite” the descendants. (1 Ne. 13: 14.)  Following that, the gentiles are favored of God and “prosper.” This land becomes the temporary land of inheritance for the gentiles, as well. (1 Ne. 13: 15.)

But the gentiles would occupy the land on condition. They would need to serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ. (Ether 2: 12.)  
Ultimately, they will need to repent, or they will fill the measure of their own cup of wrath by rejecting the fullness of the Gospel. The gentiles would not continue in their humility, but would be offered the fullness of the Gospel, reject it, then turn to their own pride, even more proud of themselves than any comparable people upon the earth. As Christ describes the latter-day gentiles, they will be full of mischief, lyings, deceits, hypocrisy and priestcrafts. Indeed, they will be full of all this and will also reject the fullness of the Gospel offered them by the Lord. (3 Nephi 16: 10.)

When they do, Christ will “bring the fullness of my Gospel from among them.” (3 Nephi 16: 10.) Upon removing the fullness, and the gentiles being filled with their pride, priestcrafts, deceits and hypocrisy, the Lord will use the remnant who remain to return judgment upon the gentiles in the same manner the gentiles had earlier returned judgment upon the remnant. (3 Nephi 16: 15.)

As Christ states above, using the words of Isaiah, “a remnant of the house of Jacob” will “go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.”
We’ve discussed the “beasts of the forest” and the “flocks of sheep” before. Both categories of gentiles will be swept away. None can deliver them from this coming judgment. The remnant will be the Lord’s instrument of judgment upon the gentiles, and the gentile pride, priestcrafts, lyings, deceits will all come crashing down upon them in judgment. Their idols will be trodden down and torn in pieces, for they are their own idols imagining in their own hearts themselves to be greater than any other people. Their image of themselves as high and lifted up will be brought down low, into the dust. (Compare Isaiah 14: 12-17.) How like their master Mahon these gentiles have become. But then rejecting the fullness of the Gospel when it has been offered to a people always carries a heavy price.
The remnant will be doing the work of the Father in that day. For the judgment is the Lord’s and not the remnant’s. The remnant are only the means by which the judgment is delivered.
Cleansing precedes the blessing. And this blessed land will be Zion. But not while occupied by filthy people who idolize themselves, reject the fullness, support priestcrafts, lyings, deceit and hypocrisy calling it righteousness, truth and beauty. They cannot see their own condition, and will not trust the Lord to reveal it to them. They will say the Lord does not speak any more, and we have enough of the revelations of God. (2 Nephi 28: 27-29.) They will say God has finished His work of restoring truth, given His power to men, and now we must follow men to be saved. (2 Nephi 28: 5.)

But the Lord will prove that He had more to say when the gentiles learn, too late, they trusted in the arm of flesh rather than in the Spirit which saves. (2 Nephi 28: 31.) At that day, despite all the gentile petitions for relief from that God whose fullness they rejected, none will deliver.

The interplay between the gentiles and the remnant is a fascinating subject, with prophetic details given so as to allow us to appreciate the peril we find ourselves as gentiles in these last days. It is good we Latter-day Saints know we are safe and are part of a great, saved and favored community to be preserved against the coming judgments, isn’t it? It is good we do not need to repent much if at all to be saved, because as we hear so very often: All is well. All is well.
“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.  Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” (Isa. 6: 9-10.)

Remnant, part VIII

We’ve seen some of what the remnant is defined to mean. We’ve seen the definition in the Book of Mormon excludes gentiles. We’ve seen the converted gentiles comprising the Latter-day Saints are still defined as gentiles after conversion.

We’ve seen that the first formal mission called after the establishment of the church was sent to the Lamanites to find the remnant. We’ve seen how the mission went no further than the boundary where the Indian Nations were relocated by the US Government in 1830. What we haven’t discussed is the interest Joseph Smith had in locating the remnant throughout his life. 

When he was fleeing Nauvoo in late June, he intended to go to the Rocky Mountains. That was the location chosen precisely because it was where he hoped to find the remnant. He was talked into returning by those who claimed it was cowardly for him to flee. They used the Lord’s analogy about the false shepherd who would flee when the flock was in danger. (John 10: 11-13.)  He reportedly said “if my life is of no value to my friends, it is of no value to myself.” He returned. With that, Joseph’s attempt to locate and identify the remnant came to an end. However, before his final surrender, his intention was to go to the Rocky Mountains to locate the remnant.

The following entry appears on June 22, 1844 in Vol. 6, page 547 of the DHC: “About 9 p.m. Hyrum came out of the Mansion and gave his hand to Reynolds Cahoon, at the same time saying, ‘A company of men are seeking to kill my brother Joseph, and the Lord has warned him to flee to the Rocky Mountains to save his life. Good-bye, Brother Cahoon, we shall see you again.’ In a few minutes afterwards Joseph came from his family. His tears were flowing fast.  He held a handkerchief to his face, and followed after Brother Hyrum without uttering a word.”

In his final public address Joseph said, among other things: “You will gather many people into the fastness of the Rocky Mountains as a center for the gathering of the people …you will yet be called upon to go forth and call upon the free men from Main to gather themselves together to the Rocky Mountains; and the Redmen from the West and all people from the North and from the South and from the East, and go to the West, to establish themselves in the strongholds of their gathering places, and there you will gather with the Redmen to their center from their scattered and dispersed situation, to become the strong arm of Jehovah, who will be a strong bulwark of protection from your foes.” (“A Prophecy of Joseph the Seer”, found in The Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 154, 156.)

There is a well known quote that speaks volumes when considered as a whole: “I want to say to you before the Lord that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and Kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America–it will fill the world. It will fill the Rocky Mountains. There will be tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints who will be gathered in the Rocky Mountains, and there they will open the door for the establishing of the Gospel among the Lamanites. …This people will go into the Rocky Mountains; they will there build temples to the Most High. They will raise up a posterity there, and the Latter-day Saints who dwell in these mountains will stand in the flesh until the coming of the Son of Man. The Son of Man will come to them while in the Rocky Mountains.”  (Millennial Star, Vol. 54 (1852), p. 605.)

We’ve seen how the primary effort to build the city of Zion will be the remnant’s, and the gentiles will merely “assist” in the construction.

To see the remnant’s role is more important than to understand their identity. Their identity will come. But their role is distinct and important. We are not them, and they have a destiny appointed them by covenant and promise. We cannot substitute ourselves for them. Nor can we fulfill the prophetic promises without them.

Christ had some specific teachings about the remnant we have not yet examined. We’ll turn to that to add to our understanding of the remnant role:

3 Nephi 20: 11:

“Ye remember that I spake unto you, and said that when the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled—behold they are written, ye have them before you, therefore search them—

Christ is speaking and will turn to the future destiny of the Nephites. By the time this statement was made, however, the Nephites were mingled with all other bloodlines. There were shortly to be no more “ites” but only one people. (4 Nephi 1: 17.)

The destiny of the future remnant will unfold in conformity with words spoken by Isaiah. They are adequate to foretell the future of the events involving the people on this, the American land. But we are supposed to “search them” to be able to get an understanding of what will unfold.

There is a plan. It was all foreseen. It will happen as the prophecies describe. However we need to trust the language and not impose other ideas upon the words.

2 Nephi 33: 13

“And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come.”

When Nephi paraphrased Isaiah 29 in the 2 Nephi 27, he appropriated Isaiah’s words to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. He adapted them making a paraphrase rather than a quote. (I explain the reasons for this in Nephi’s Isaiah.) Here he uses the Isaiah materials again to identify who he (Nephi) is: “the voice of one crying from the dust.” The primary audience for his writings will be those who come to read the book in the last days; when mankind will be in possession of the record which has been printed and distributed to the masses.

Nephi’s primary audience for his teachings are those who, like us, live in the last days after the Book of Mormon has come to light. Although Nephi’s descendants would have access to these same records, their greatest work and worth would be in the last days. Hence Nephi identifying himself as a “voice of one crying from the dust.”

There is also a secondary meaning. Because Nephi was mortal, he was made of the “dust of the ground.” (Moses 3: 7.) He was a man testifying to the truthfulness, as a witness in mortality, of the great things which exist beyond the veil. He is one of us, and yet able to tell us of things to come. Therefore, his witness is given in mortal weakness, but with the power of God behind it. His own strength is dust. The power of Christ to redeem, however, is without limit.

Three distinct groups are addressed in the message: Nephi’s descendants, called his “beloved brethren.” They are “brethren” rather than “children” because they would descend primarily from his brother’s seed who would overcome his. But there would be a mixture of his among them. So they were his “brethren.”

The second are called “those who are of the house of Israel.” These are the Jews, or others who keep their identity with Israel. Not the gentiles, who have been lost and must gain covenant status one by one, and thereafter live true to the covenant in order to be redeemed. “Those who are of the house of Israel” have been previously identified and discussed by Nephi in the Nephi 28.

The final group is “all ye ends of the earth.” That is, the gentiles, heathen, and those who are not otherwise included even in prophetic mention. All mankind. All the ends of the earth may receive what is offered and attain to covenant status, if they repent, acting no deception, without hypocrisy, following Christ. And all are included in the broad sweep of Nephi’s invitation to come to Christ.

His “farewell” is “until that great day shall come.” That day is when you see the Lord in judgment with Nephi there beside Him. At that time you will be “face to face” with Nephi, accounting for your heed or neglect of his message. He just mentioned that in the prior verses. He now bids you good-by until that moment. So you should look forward to meeting Nephi at this point. Although you need to take his message seriously if you intend to enjoy the moment.

What other prophets have warned us that their message will confront us in the presence of Christ while he, the prophet-messenger, is there with us at the moment of judgment? Nephi is in a very small group of qualified messengers whose words should be taken with soberness and respect. He is a towering figure when measured by the correct standard. We seldom encounter such a man. When we do, we would be well advised to take counsel from him.

What more can he have said to alert us to the importance of his message?

2 Nephi 31: 16

“And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.”
What does it mean to “endure to the end?” It is to put up with all the difficulties of mortality? Are we simply supposed to overcome boredom, irritation, trials of our patience, and the offenses caused by others? Is that what it means to “endure?”
What about “endure to the end in following the example of the Son of the living God?” Is that something different?

What if you see errors and mistakes all around you? Is it “enduring” to keep your mouth shut?  Do you need to speak up?

What about the changes that have been made or are being made which alarm you? Is it “enduring” to stay silent in the face of things that suggest this is harmful?
When I first went through the Temple, it was the understood and longstanding practice of the Saints to hold prayer circles in their homes, invoking the “True Order of Prayer” as taught in the Temple. President Kimball sent a letter to the Stake Presidents terminating that practice. I have a copy of that letter. It said that prayer circles were no longer to be practiced outside the Temple – by anyone in the church.

Then in 1990 the True Order of Prayer was altered again, with the elimination of penalties. Thereafter the name changed to the “Order of Prayer,” rather than the “True Order of Prayer.”

Those who went through the Temple before 1990 would know about how to conduct a prayer circle involving the True Order of Prayer. But they were instructed not to do so outside the Temple. Those who went through after 1990 would not know how to conduct a True Order of Prayer circle, because they were not instructed in the Temple in anything other than the Order of Prayer.

It was still possible for those who knew the pre-1990 form to communicate the process in the Temple to others. However, recently there has begun a practice of hushing any discussions  seen taking place inside the Celestial Rooms of the Temples.

It is as if those who are in control are opposed to keeping the earlier information, and working to keep it from being preserved by others. Is it “enduring to the end” to watch these changes and say nothing? Or is it “enduring” to actually endure, to preserve, to persevere against opposition and to keep as an enduring feature of the faith, information you received if you went through the Temple before 1990? Does a person who, in all sincerity before God, believes that Isaiah’s prophecy warned against this (Isa. 24: 5), “endure” if he remains silent? Or must he speak up? If so, how and to who? Which is enduring? Which is enduring to the end in following the example of the Son of the Living God? What example did Christ set in relation to this kind of a conflict? Did Christ submit, or resist authority? If He did both, how does one endure while appropriately weighing those things they will submit to, and those things they will resist?

What about Nephi’s warning that you “cannot be saved” if you fail to do the right kind of “enduring” to the end? If salvation itself hinges upon solving this riddle, then how carefully must you weigh what you resist and what you submit to?

It is for this reason we work out our salvation before God as Nephi has explained, acting no hypocrisy, with real intent, having faith in God, but also with fear and trembling. (Mormon 9: 27, also Philip. 2: 12.)

Indeed, God has given us a test worthy of a God. And only those worthy of becoming among the gods will be able to solve the riddle.  Because only they will humble themselves, come with a contrite spirit and broken heart to offer upon the altar a sacrifice worthy of being accepted. Others will proceed in ignorance and arrogance to proudly proclaim: “I know my culture is true!” “I know all is well in Zion!” “I follow a broad and safe mainstream into a great and spacious building where there is peace, pride, success, prosperity and assurance that I am saved while all around me there are those who will be cast down to hell!” Or similar such nonsense… Warmed over Evangelical gibberish, with a vague Mormonesque vocabulary applied to it. Having a form of godliness, but without power. This new form of ungodliness will not be lacking in body, parts and passions, for the image of the idol raised will be the very image of the person looking in the mirror. They will think themselves destined to rule and reign over principalities, dominions, heights, depths and others. They are their own idols! What irony it all invokes! It must make the devil look up to heaven and laugh still. (Moses 7: 26.) Perhaps we ought to see some humor in it as well.  …Or, since we’re speaking of the loss of men’s souls, maybe it can never be humorous.  Only tragedy. Only disappointment. Only foolishness.
Where is the hope? Is there none? Yes, in repentance! Changing our course! Remembering God again! Restoring what has been lost! Returning and repenting! That’s right! And Nephi has invited us to do just that.
So “enduring to the end in following the example of the Son of the living God” is not easy. Even understanding the meaning of these words is challenging. Thank you Nephi. You have proven yet again how prayerful we all must be. Let us, therefore, repent!

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