3 Nephi 12: 1

 
“And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.”
 
Nephi and the other twelve heard and recorded the words we’ve been reviewing in Chapter 11. But here Christ makes certain all others who were present also knew the same doctrine. Notice the following:
 
“He stretched forth His hand.” What does that mean? Why is it noted in the record? Why would the fact that He stretched forth His hand be significant enough to etch into metal plates? 
 
Why does it say Christ “cried unto them?” How loud would He need to make His voice before it would be considered “crying” out to the audience? This suggests that what was covered in Chapter 11 was not loud enough for all those present to hear. But what follows He wants everyone to hear.
 
The Sermon at Bountiful begins with a new beatitude. “Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you.” A commenter recently suggested this means that any person ever called to any council of twelve is entitled to the same kind of status. Is that correct? Does membership in a group entitle someone to respect? Would receiving power directly from Christ entitle a person to respect? What if someone were to receive power from Christ, but not be included in some presiding group? For example, John the Baptist received power from an angel to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews at eight days old. He was never among a presiding group. (D&C 84: 28.) Paul was given power directly from heaven, calling himself “born out of due time” because he became a witness after Christ’s resurrection and was not among the leadership when first visited. (1 Cor. 15: 8-10.) Which does this apply to: those called to preside, or those called directly by the Lord (as the scriptures testify is sometimes the case)? Or does it only apply to the twelve disciples the Lord was referring to standing before the crowd on that day? Is limiting it to that narrow an application appropriate? Is expanding it to include anyone ever called to preside too broad an application? How are you to decide that question?
 
Is it appropriate for Christ to couple “minister to you” with “and to be your servants?” Can a “servant” exercise authority over you as the gentiles do? (Luke 22: 25-26.) Why not?
 
When Christ says these people have “power to baptize you” and then promises that He, Christ, “will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost” does this promise mean that Christ will send the Holy Ghost if you are baptized by one having power from Him? Always? If it hasn’t happened, does that mean the one who baptized you did not have this “power?” Why or why not? What is the relationship between the power to baptize, and the promise of the Holy Ghost? What role does your own repentance have to play? Christ has previously given the order of things, and included repentance first.
 
What does the statement mean: “blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.” How likely would it be for you to “believe in [Christ] after that ye have seen [Him]?” Do you suspect any of those who were present would not believe in Him? Why?
 
Would you expect those present to believe in Him after seeing Him descend from heaven, hear the voice of the Father testify of Him, see His wounds, witness Him healing all their sick, and beholding angels minister in tongues of fire to their young children? Would you be able to do so? What about reading the record of the events in the Book of Mormon; is that enough to testify of Him? Can you ask in prayer if these things about Christ are true and get a testimony of them for yourself? Have you done so? Have you acquired belief in Him as a result of praying to know if they are true? Can you then believe in Him? Are you “blessed” for it? Do you “know that He is?” What more do you need to do in order to “know that He is?” Why haven’t you done that yet?

2 Nephi 28: 6

“Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.” 

This lack of faith in receiving answers to prayer from God leads to skepticism about any other manifestation by God. If the leader isn’t having any experience with God, then they distrust claims by anyone else. Everyone is a fraud, if the leader can’t receive an answer to prayer.

The root of this is jealousy and envy. But it is completely unfounded. Revelation received by another person has no limiting effect on what personal revelation you can receive. The Lord is willing to share with all. However, it is predicated on the same principle. If the leader were willing to humble himself and seek in the prescribed manner, he would receive the same result. Everyone is invited. No one is excluded. 

Nicodemus came to Christ in the dark, and Christ taught him the same way He taught others. There are some sources which suggest Nicodemus was ultimately converted. If he was, there is little doubt that after his conversion, the spiritual life he had as one of the Lord’s disciples was greater than that of a member of the Sanhedrin. The Lord was not unwilling to share with the Sanhedrin, but they were unwilling to receive Him. When one (Nicodemus) changed his heart, the Lord came to him.

This seething distrust and accusation of any who claim to experience the miraculous leads in turn to denouncing the gifts of God. When denounced, such gifts depart from us. We no longer hear about miracles, healings, visions, tongues, visitations, or other gifts experienced by those we read of in scripture. Therefore, when the presence of the gifts end, the record of scriptures ends. There is nothing to add, and so nothing is added.

Eventually the end of this spiritual journey into the dark is to denounce all things coming from the “hand of God.” No “miracle wrought by the hand of God” will be acknowledged, but will be denounced instead. The position becomes unalterable:  “God is not a God of miracles anymore.” You must trust leaders and leadership.  You will be deceived if you profess revelation or the miraculous. And so the approach into hell is carefully laid by argument, emotion and fear.

Nephi foresaw this. He is warning us against it. We should not be seduced into thinking God has finished His work. He hasn’t. He is in the middle of fulfilling promises made generations ago to the “fathers.” We inherit from the Lord the promises He made to them. Now is a great day of miracles, visits, visitations, dreams, and healings. The heavens are open, if you will ask with a sincere heart having real intent, He will manifest the truth unto you. God remains the same. His blessings remain predicated upon the same conditions.

Seek. Ask. Knock. It will all be unfolded to you. He is no respecter of persons.

Be firm and steadfast!

I’ve said several times in several ways that we have an obligation to support the church’s leaders and the programs of the church.  I believe that with all my heart.  The Lord is going to hold us all accountable.  No one is going to be relieved from their respective responsibilities.
 
Pay tithes, attend your meetings.  Keep a current temple recommend and use it.  Serve when asked to do so.  You will have a great influence on others for the good when you provide service. Not merely by what you say, but by the example you provide.

There is a great deal of unrest in the church.  Oftentimes the result is inactivity.  I believe that is a mistake.  If all those who continued to care about the Gospel persisted in attending meetings and serving, it would do more to help the church than drifting into inactivity.  Those who are sensitive to the troubles which beset the church need to be there, faithfully serving.  If only those who are blinded to the troubles remain active, then the organization becomes narrower and narrower, less and less aware of its situation, and prone to continue in a course that will discard yet more of what matters most.
 
I wish I could inspire thousands of inactive Saints to return to activity.  I know I have helped hundreds to return.  Those who are most troubled are the ones who the church can use right now.  Those who keenly sense that all is not well with Zion are the ones who need to be filling the pews.  Until they fill the pews they won’t be filling the leadership positions.  And until they fill the leadership positions, there won’t be any changes made to the course we are on at present.
 
If you love Zion and want her redemption, then serve her cause.  Faithfully serve her cause.  Don’t sever yourself from her.
 
There is no question the Lord will hold accountable those who are in leadership positions for every word, every thought, and every deed.  (Alma 12: 14.)  They aren’t spared.  This is why we should pray for them, uphold them, and do what we can to relieve them of the terrible burdens and consequences of being accountable for their callings.  (D&C 107: 22.)
 
When you withdraw from the church you cut yourself off from necessary ordinances, including the sacrament.  You imperil your capacity to keep the Sabbath day holy.  You limit your capacity to serve others.  Even a bad lesson makes you consider what the teacher and manual is ignoring, misstating or mangling.  You needn’t be argumentative or unpleasant.  But by being there you have a time to reflect upon the subject being addressed by the class and to contemplate what that subject means to you.  Use it meditatively and gratefully.  It is a gift.  If you see more clearly than others, then thank the Lord for that and stop being impatient with your fellow Saint.
 
You are a gift to the church.  Your talents and your abilities belong to and were intended to be a part of the church.  Serve there.  Patiently and kindly.  You needn’t start an argument in every class to make a difference.  Quietly going about serving and occasionally providing a carefully chosen insight is important and will garner you far more blessings than withdrawing and letting your light grow dim.

We’re all in this together.  This is our dispensation.  You are responsible for helping it be preserved and passed along to the rising generation.  Do not grow weary in this fight.  We share a common enemy, and it is not the leadership of the church.  It is the one who stirs people up to anger.  (2 Ne. 28: 20.)
 
I’d like to open people’s eyes only so as to permit them to save their own souls and those of others.  I would never want anyone to walk away from the church as a result of seeing its weaknesses.  Be wise, but harmless.  (Matt. 10: 16.)  Be patient with anyone’s shortcomings, no matter whether they serve in the nursery or in the presidency of an organization.

Prophet, Seer, Revelator

I was asked this question:

“If the first presidency and the twelve really operate much like the lay members do, how then do you reconcile the MEANING of the words: Prophet; Seer; and Revelator. Aren’t these gifts unusual and set apart for the highest positions of the church? Wouldn’t one necessarily receive visions and dreams to qualify as a Prophet, Seer, or Revelator? How else would one SEE into the past, or the future, let alone clearly understanding the present? How do you reconcile the current revelatory state of the leadership with the meaning of the words, prophet, seer, and revelator?”

Inside the Church the current interpretation is that the “office” has associated with it a “title” set out in scripture.  The “office” of the President of the High Priesthood (D&C 107: 65-66) , who is the President of the Church, also bears the “title” of “prophet, seer and revelator.”  (D&C 107: 91-92.)  The current interpretation of these verses is that the possessor of the office is entitled to the title of “prophet, seer and revelator” by virtue of office alone.  Therefore, nothing more is needed in current church usage other than possession of the office, which alone gives the possessor of the office the title accorded to the office.  So, no, our current terminology does not require something other than office.

It is possible to read the words of the verses differently, of course.  First, the words we have adopted as they appear in scripture are not actually “prophet, seer and revelator” but are instead: “a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet.”  Those are different words and include in the phrase “a translator” in addition to “seer, revelator and a prophet.”  We have dropped the word “translator” from the title we now use.

Second, it is possible that the following words may be viewed to mean something different than the way we currently read them, “to be like unto Moses— Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet,”  (D&C 107: 91-92).  They could be read to mean that before you fill the office of President of the High Priesthood you must first locate “a seer” who is also, by definition, “a revelator” and “a translator” who is undoubtedly therefore “a prophet” and, having found such a person, you are to sustain him into the office.  The office doesn’t make the man, but the Lord makes a man into such an instrument, and having done so then the church is to put him into the office.  There are of course those who have these gifts.  Many of them have no church office involving priesthood, because they are female.  They may possess gifts, but they are disqualified for office.  Then there are men who possess such gifts, but they may be living in South America, serving in a small branch, and completely unnoticed by the leadership, and therefore, never called.

The problem with the second point is that it invites near chaos.  You would have dozens, hundreds or perhaps thousands of people who would step forward and make the claim that they are entitled to the office.  Ambitious men who are either deceived or, worse still, cunning and dishonest, would seek to gain the office to further their ambitions.  Such a parade of the deluded or the dishonest would be foisted upon the Saints every time the President died.  Therefore, no matter how much merit you may think the second interpretation holds, it would be far more problematic to implement than the current interpretation and method.

The advantage of the current system is that the man who fills the vacancy is distinguished by how long he has held the church’s office of Apostle.  Generally that means an elderly man, often suffering from the decline of advanced years and poor health.  That means you are likely to have a man whose ambitions and exuberance are tempered by the maturity of age and the wisdom that comes from long life’s experience.  It gives stability to the decision, as well as the person chosen.

If the second approach were to be adopted, then the choice would need to be made by the serving President before he left office (died), by making the choice of his successor as part of his official service.  This is the method that the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith. (D&C 43: 3-4.) Joseph attempted this, but the one he chose to succeed him died with him (his brother Hyrum). So the office was left vacant and we had to sort it out.

There is another method that we haven’t tried, so far as I know.  That would be to use “lots” to choose from every male in the church.  This method was used to fill Judas’ vacancy in the original Twelve in Jerusalem.  (Acts 1: 21-26.)  The description there is ambiguous, but was intended to be random, unpredictable and not just a vote.  It was a recognized way to choose someone.  (See, e.g., 1 Ne. 3: 11.)  It has been used to sort through the entire nation of Israel when all twelve tribes were assembled.  Someone had stolen an idol, resulting in the withdrawal of the Lord’s Spirit from them in battle.  The result was defeat for Israel and the death of many men.  They needed to find the one who committed the offense.  So they had to choose from the entire gathering of all twelve tribes.   Beginning at the tribe level, they sorted through to find the right tribe (Judah).  Then proceeded to sort through the tribe to locate the larger family involved (Zarhites).  Then went through the family to find the individual involved (Achan).  The whole thing is in the scriptures.  (Joshua 7: 13-23.)  

Such a system was uncontrolled by man, done by lot, completely random, but produced the right person.  Left to God, it obtained God’s answer.  Did with the sons of Lehi, and with the vacancy in the Twelve in the Book of Acts, too.  There is no reason why such a system wouldn’t generate the Lord’s choice today.  

If the President died without a successor having been designated, then random choosing using a lot system would put the choice in the Lord’s hands.  But I suppose we don’t have the stomach to try it, particularly when we already have a system that seems to work for us.

Your question raises the issue of “authority” or office on the one hand, and “power” or gifts of the Spirit on the other hand.  You should read President Packer’s talk in last General Conference for a recent statement by a respected church leader on that subject.  I think I’ve commented on that talk enough already.  As I re-read it this week I was again stirred by President Packer’s sagacity.  I believe he is being candid, honest and giving the Saints the absolute best advice and counsel he can at this time.

Interesting subject.  Something worth contemplating.  Perhaps there will come a time when we are able to implement the system in D&C 43. Or when we put the Lord’s hand to work by using lots to choose a President.  Though I do not expect to see any change made during my life.