Joseph Smith Papers

The Joseph Smith Papers are valuable and I am very grateful to the LDS Historian’s Office for publishing them. When they are released, I get them and read them cover to cover, like a novel. I have marked, added, cross-referenced, highlighted, and corrected mine.

It is perhaps an impossible task for the LDS Historian’s Office to view the historic documents outside of the LDS tradition. Their commentaries and footnotes are composed in the context of their traditions, and do not always give an accurate picture of the documents. Hence, the many additions I have added to my copy

I think the Historian’s Office is doing their best to be helpful, and I believe they are being as honest as they can be in their circumstances. But they weave into the actual historical documents an incorrect LDS narrative through the “General Introductions”, “Historical Introductions”, “Chronologies”, “Bibliographical Directories”, and footnotes. They are unable to allow the plain words of the documents to speak for themselves. Just one example taken from the volume 4 of the “Documents” illustrates the point:

In 1921, the highest authorities in the LDS church discarded Lectures on Faith without a vote of the church. Lectures had been adopted as a “law” for the church at a conference on August 17, 1835. In that conference, every division of priesthood voted quorum by quorum to adopt Lectures as scripture and a law, followed by a vote of the entire church – men, women and children doing likewise.

The actual events presents a troubling dilemma for the LDS institution. Rather than concede that deleting Lectures in 1921 was an error, they have offered various excuses for its deletion. In the Joseph Smith Papers treatment of this awkward matter, they offer the excuse that the original adoption of Lectures was defective. In this, they are unwilling to be accountable for what is a rebellious departure from a law binding on the institution.

The LDS Historian’s Office introduces the August 17, 1835 conference minutes by describing the Lectures as an improper deviation from what was authorized. They write:

The book that Cowdery presented differed from the one foreseen by the Kirtland high council. It did not contain excerpts from the Bible or the Book of Mormon, but instead had two sections, one of which was devoted to seven theological lectures that were prepared in the winter of 1834 and 1835 for the Elders School in Kirtland. The other section contained many of JS’s revelations, which constituted the “covenants and commandments of the Lord.” No extant record indicates when or why the committee decided to deviate from its original instructions, but the change had occurred by February 1835, when the committee composed the preface to the book. (JSP Documents Vol. 4, p. 383, italics in original.)

This is how the Historian’s Office undermines confidence in the Lectures. The assertion that “no extant record indicates…why the committee decided to deviate” and adopt Lectures is not true. The conference minutes that follow this Historian’s Office introduction explains the matter:

The presidency of the church approved the book, including Lectures, by adopting the following language:

The names of the Committee are as follows Joseph Smith Junior, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery & Frederick G. Williams. This Committee having finished said Book according to the instructions given them, it was deemed necessary to call the general assembly of the Church to see whether the book be approved or not by the Authoroties of the church, that it may, if approved, become a law, unto the church, and a rule of faith and practice unto the same. (JSP Documents, Vol. 4, p. 386, all as in original.)

The presidency did not believe there was a “deviation,” but the book was “finished …according to the instructions given them.”

After Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, John Whitmer, and John Smith testified the book (including Lectures) was true and from God, John Smith asked for a vote from several bodies. The vote was taken to approve the following proposition:

That they would receive the Book as the rule of their faith & practice, and put themselves under the guidance of the same and also that they were satisfied with the committee that were chosen to compile it, as having discharged their duty faithfully. (JSP Documents Vol. 4, p. 394.)

Further testimonies were given by Levi Jackman, the 12 apostles (whose written testimony was read to the conference affirming favorably both “the Book and the Committee who compiled it”), and Leonard Rich (speaking for the 70 Apostles). Leonard Rich referred specifically to Lectures:

…he had examined the Lectures and many of the Revelations contained in it, and was perfectly satisfied with the same, and further, that he knew that they were true by the testimony of the Holy Spirit of God given unto him; he then called for the Vote of as many of the 70 as were present, which was unanimously given in favor of the Good, and also that they were perfectly satisfied with the committee that compiled it. (JSP Documents Vol. 4, p. 394-395.)

Bishop Newel K. Whitney, Bishop of Kirtland, next testified that he had examined the Lectures and knew them to be true. When he presented it for a vote by his counselors, he asked for a vote affirming the following:

He then called for the Vote of his counsellors, which was given in favor of the Book and also of the Committee that compiled it as having discharged their duty faithfully. (JS Papers Documents Vol. 4, p. 395.)

After this, John Corrill testified of his “entire satisfaction with the labors of the Committee.” (Id.)

Elder John Gould said, “he had received the testimony of the Spirit in favor of them, and that he was well satisfied with the committee” (Id.) and asked for the vote of the Elders, which was given.

Then Priest Ira Ames spoke, testifying: “he was present in the general assembly which appointed the committee, And that he was well satisfied with the fruit of their labors.” (JS Papers Documents Vol. 4, pp. 395-396.) The priests then unanimously approved the volume.

Teacher Erastus Babbitt testified the volume came “from God” and that “he was well satisfied with the labors of the committee.” (Id.) The teachers then unanimously approved it.

The most obvious reason the LDS Historian’s Office is unable to find any “extant record [that] indicates when or why the committee decided to deviate from its original instructions” is because the committee DID NOT DEVIATE from the assignment given to them.

When the assignment was given, most, if not all of those who approved the Lectures and revelations on August 17, 1835, were present. THEY understood the assignment. One of the Kirtland high council who approved the completed volume including Lectures was Samuel Smith. (JSP Documents Vol. 4, p. 387.) He was the one who originally nominated the committee. (JSP Documents Vol. 2, p. 97; 2:137, Vol. 4, p. 175; 4:421.) If anyone should have detected a “deviation” from the committee’s assignment, it would have been the one who nominated them. Yet he testified “This committee having finished said Book according to the instructions given them.” (JSP Documents Vol. 4, p. 386, emphasis added.)

The very people who understood the original assignment, including members of the committee, testified the committee had “finished said Book according to the instructions given them.” All of those involved, including the entire body of the church who voted to adopt the Lectures as part of binding scripture and a law for them, saw no deviation. It did not “differ from the one foreseen by the Kirtland high council,” as the LDS Historian’s Office asserts. Those involved saw only the faithful performance of an assignment by the committee.

Because the LDS institution inexplicably dropped Lectures by a decision made by church leaders without any vote by the membership, there can be only one of two conclusions: 1. They were wrong (which the LDS Historian’s Office is loath to suggest by any historical document they publish). Or, 2. They were right (and so “Historical Introductions” and footnotes need to support their decision).

Like many other parts of the Joseph Smith Papers, this example shows how the editors intrude into the published documents to add their defense of the institution employing them. They no doubt are convinced the institution tells a correct story of history, and therefore they construe the records to support the institution, even when it requires them to contradict the documents. But tradition should not blind us, and to read the historical documents in the Joseph Smith Papers for content, is to see that the editors often construe them to conform to a story different than the one told by the historical record.

It would be interesting if someone were to write a comprehensive account of the contrast between the editors’ explanations and the actual documents of early Mormonism.

I am very grateful for the publication of the Joseph Smith Papers. They help us to see a truer story of early Mormon events while Joseph Smith was alive, in a way that has never been possible before.

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.)

Faith Requires Correct Acts

James wrote, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18.) To the same effect, Lectures on Faith explain, “it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action, in them; that without it, both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental.” (Lecture First:10.) Faith sets man into action, and whatever it is that man believes he acts in conformity with that. All that is required to trap mankind is to have us accept false ideas. We cannot help but act in conformity with them–whether they are true or false.

Saving faith must be grounded upon a correct understanding of God’s will. As Lectures explain, there are some indispensable requirements for saving faith in God, including “a correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes.” (Lecture Third:4.) We cannot be wrong about God and have saving faith. If we misapprehend His character, we are darkened in our understanding and are likely to be misled. Faith in the only true and wise God gets replaced by worship of others thought to be among the hosts of heaven, like the evil king Manasseh. Manasseh brought into the temple altars to worship the “hosts of heaven” like the heathen (or Wiccan) do. This folly offended God, and God spoke to condemn it, but the people would not listen to God. (2 Chr. 33:2-10.) The false worship of the “hosts of heaven” brought the judgments of God upon those who should have known better. They were warned, failed to heed the warning, and were destroyed. (Zeph. 1:4-9.)

Faith likewise requires we have “an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will.—For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Lecture Third:5.) It is impossible to disobey God and obtain the assurance from Him that a man is pursuing His will.

If we are not doing His will, He will not give us such an assurance. It is contrary to His nature to confirm to us we are pleasing Him when our acts displease Him. When a man or woman worships the hosts of heaven, a divine mother, false spirits, or pursues a course different from the one that follows God’s will, any “assurance” that we are pleasing God comes from a lying source. If we are deceived by a lying spirit, it is impossible to have faith. Joseph Smith said,”A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God.” (See Times and Seasons, April 1, 1842, “Try the Spirits.”) He also taught, “Lying spirits are going forth in the earth. There will be great manifestations of spirits, both false and true. … Every spirit, or vision, or singing, is not of God.” (DHC 3:391.)

Saving faith also requires worship of God by correctly identifying the object of your worship. We are authorized to extend faith in God as correctly identified in the Lectures. Whenever the subject is God, “the Godhead: we mean the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things—by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made, whether visible or invisible: whether in heaven, on earth, or in the earth, under the earth, or throughout the immensity of space—They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image;—he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father: possessing all the fulness of the Father, or, the same fulness with the Father; being begotten of him, and was ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh—and descended in suffering below that which man can suffer, or, in other words, suffered greater sufferings, and was exposed to more powerful contradictions than any man can be. But notwithstanding all this, he kept the law of God, and remained without sin: Showing thereby that it is in the power of man to keep the law and remain also without sin. And also, that by him a righteous judgment might come upon all flesh, and that all who walk not in the law of God, may justly be condemned by the law, and have no excuse for their sins. And he being the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fulness of the glory of the Father—possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son, and these three are one, or in other words, these three constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things: by whom all things were created and made, that were created and made: and these three constitute the Godhead, and are one: The Father and the Son possessing the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power and fulness: Filling all in all—the Son being filled with the fulness of the Mind, glory and power, or, in other words, the Spirit, glory and power of the Father—possessing all knowledge and glory, and the same kingdom: sitting at the right hand of power, in the express image and likeness of the Father—a Mediator for man—being filled with the fulness of the Mind of the Father, or, in other words, the Spirit of the Father: which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments: and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all: being filled with the fulness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one.” (Lecture Fifth:1-2.)

This description of the Godhead excludes a mother-in-heaven, the hosts of heaven, and other extraneous objects of veneration. Faith must be centered in the God of heaven or it cannot save.

All earthly things?

Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6: 7

“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.”

Is the sacrifice of all earthly things always necessary for faith unto salvation?

This kind of sacrifice is between the individual and God. You cannot fabricate a sacrifice to try and qualify. It is the Lord who sent Moses back to Egypt to confront Pharoah. It is the Lord who asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It is the Lord who sent Lehi into the wilderness. It is the Lord who allowed the brothers, Joseph and Hyrum, to fall into the peril that would take their lives.

It is only when the Lord requests the sacrifice that it becomes possible to make the sacrifice knowing you are pleasing the Lord. The result does produce saving faith.

“Keys” as Challenge

What if “keys” are better viewed as a signal, or a sign post along a pathway? Instead of “I hold ‘keys’ and so I hold something of value.”

The better view might be “I have been told one ‘key’ to my calling is to have angels minister to men. Therefore, I know this is a critical matter, or a key to search into.”

What if “holding a key” is better viewed as being given a strong guide or route to take? It points you to something you need to obtain. You have a “key” and now need to discover what it is that must be unlocked.

A “key” is something used to open a lock. It is also something that is “important” or “central in importance.” A “keystone” is the point in an arch that fits in the center, holding the arch together. Upon it all else rests.

If the word is viewed using these meanings, it suggests that holding a “key” implies using it in action. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve use their key positions to manage and maintain the worldwide church organization. If not for that constant oversight, the organization of the church would lapse into disorganization. Their “keys” are indispensable to hold the entire structure together. Without them at the center, like a “keystone,” the “building” would collapse. But the Gospel (and the church) is not a spectator sport. Even if fifteen presiding authorities waste and wear out their lives keeping the church organized, no one will be saved by observing them. It devolves upon us, each one, to obtain the keys of our own salvation by a covenant with God.

Offices belonging to others are their responsibility. For you, there are “keys” which come to us in our own sphere. We are all asked to rise up in testimony and knowledge until, at last, we arrive at “the perfect day” of understanding. (D&C 50: 24.) We are all invited to come to know the Lord, see His face, and know that He is. (D&C 93: 1.)

Can you imagine what a different church it would be if we were all able to say we know for ourselves, nothing doubting, our Lord? Can you imagine how all the problems we now face would evaporate overnight, if our quest was to grow from grace to grace until we too receive of the Father’s fullness? (D&C 93: 20.) Most of what now afflicts us would become trivial, left behind as we grow in light and truth. (D&C 50: 23-25.)

Our temple rites symbolize the trek back to the presence of God. All of us, male and female, receive the same ceremonial blueprint to build upon. Every person within the church should obey and sacrifice (for God and not man), then learn through service, the Gospel of Christ by walking in His footsteps.You agreed to undertake obedience and sacrifice before committing to following His Gospel. This order is critical. Without it, you could err in thinking the Gospel will come to you without sacrifice.

From the Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6:

7. Let us here observe, that a religion [meaning true religion, no matter what another may say or do that tempts you to depart from it] that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power [forget about office or position or authority to conduct a meeting, and realize this is the power to obtain eternal life] 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 [meaning your own reputation, your standing, and any praise you may hope to gain from others– all must be laid upon the altar even if your fellow Latter-day Saint falsely accuses you]: 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 [because God will make that known directly to you and you will know, nothing doubting]. 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 & offering, & 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.

8 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 [which you learn in the temple rites and which you have covenanted to do], and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.

This outlines the “keys” for your own salvation. Seek for these for they belong to each of us. Do not be jealous of church positions, they do not matter and are not necessary. One thing is necessary; therefore choose the better part. (Luke 10: 39-42.)

Faith

The scriptures say that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6.) Have you thought about what that means? From the Lectures on Faith it is clear that faith is a “principle of action.” If it is a principle of action, whose action is it? Must you do something, and if so, what? What action must you take? What is the role you occupy in faith?

The Lectures on Faith also say that faith is a “principle of power.” What does that mean? Whose power? Is there a relationship between the action of man and the power of God?

Think of any great example of faith in scriptures and apply these questions to them. It can be as simple as David and Goliath, or as complicated as Elijah. After you have studied the example, ask yourself, “what action did the man or woman take? Why did they act in that way? What was the intention? How was God’s power used? Who controlled the power? More precisely, from what source did the power come? Is this principle of power connected with priesthood? (D&C 121:36.) If it is, then when any person exercises faith as a principle of power, are they exercising priesthood?

Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit

Are the “Holy Ghost” and the “Holy Spirit” the same? When Nephi refers to the “Holy Ghost” in 2 Ne. 33: 1, but then uses “Holy Spirit” in the next verse (2 Ne. 33: 2), does he have two different things in mind?

Joseph Smith defined the “Holy Spirit” as the “mind of the Father and Son” in the Lectures on Faith. Here is an excerpt:

There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things–by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made, whether visible or invisible: whether in heaven, on earth, or in the earth, under the earth, or throughout the immensity of space–They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image;–he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father: possessing all the fulness of the Father, or, the same fulness with the Father; being begotten of him, and was ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh–and descended in suffering below that which man can suffer, or, in other words, suffered greater sufferings, and was exposed to more powerful contradictions than any man can be. But notwithstanding all this, he kept the law of God, and remained without sin: Showing thereby that it is in the power of man to keep the law and remain also without sin. And also, that by him a righteous judgment might come upon all flesh, and that all who walk not in the law of God, may justly be condemned by the law, and have no excuse for their sins. And he being the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fulness of the glory of the Father-possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son, and these three are one, or in other words, these three constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things: by whom all things were created and made, that were created and made: and these three constitute the Godhead, and are one: The Father and the Son possessing the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power and fulness: Filling all in all–the Son being filled with the fulness of the Mind, glory and power, or, in other words, the Spirit, glory and power of the Father–possessing all knowledge and glory, and the same kingdom: sitting at the right hand of power, in the express image and likeness of the Father–a Mediator for man–being filled with the fulness of the Mind of the Father, or, in other words, the Spirit of the Father: which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments: and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all: being filled with the fulness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one. (Lecture 5, Paragraph 2.)

The forgoing was published in 1835.

In a lecture given in 1843, Joseph stated the following (which can be found in D&C 130: 22):

The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.

If the Holy Ghost is a “personage of Spirit” and it can “dwell in us,” and the Holy Spirit is “the mind of the Father and Son” then are they the same thing?

The scriptures have explained that the “Holy Ghost” which dwells in you – this personage of Spirit – has the following other descriptions, or attributes:
-the Comforter
-the record of heaven
-the truth of all things
-the peacable things of immortal glory
-that which quickeneth all things
-that which knoweth all things
-that which has all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice and judgment.
(Moses 6: 61.)
This is a description of the personage of Spirit which dwells inside you. This is the Holy Ghost. This is something that can be in contact with the Holy Spirit, or the “mind of the Father and Son.”

Perhaps you should look into this topic. Perhaps there is something to be found in this review.

There are many times when the term “Ghost” and the term “Spirit” are used interchangeably. The distinction is not appreciated by some translators. Therefore, if there is a difference between these two, you will need to be careful about trusting different translator’s use of the terms. They may not have any distinction in mind.

If there is a difference, then what does that say about revelation? What does that say about you? And, keeping in mind yesterday’s post, what does that say about 2 Ne. 33: 1-2?


3 Nephi 18: 9

 
“And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.”
 
Partaking of the broken bread filled the disciples, and then the multitude, so again drinking the wine filled both.
What were they filled with?
 
Since this is an ordinance where the promised result is to “have His Spirit to be with them,” (3 Nephi 18: 7) is any meaning of “filled” adequate apart from being filled with His Spirit? Clearly this ceremony is not performed to merely fill the belly. It hearkens back to His promise to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, that they are to be filled. What the Lord presents in ceremony is the fulfillment of the earlier promise in His sermon. There is a beautiful symmetry to His sermon, His promise, the catalyst ordinance, and the reality of being “filled” which is missing from the New Testament record. In this respect, as in so many others, the Book of Mormon is the preferred, and more revealing account of the Lord’s ministry.
 
The Lord’s work is to bring about redemption for mankind. He redeems. In ceremony, and now in reality, He is working with a multitude to bring about their preparation and redemption. It is a Master Teacher, proving by His words and deeds, that He knows how to lead souls to salvation.
 
It is of interest that the record prepared by Mormon in such a painstaking effort takes the time to include these details for our instruction. They are intended not merely as history, but also as a guide. The plan of salvation is to be shared, so that others may follow it and themselves be “filled” with His Spirit.
Now note the prayers all refer to Christ’s Spirit. This is something apart from the Holy Ghost. It is Christ’s Spirit which is to “always be with them.”

What does it mean to have Christ’s Spirit to be with you? To guide you?

 
This is an important point, and worthy of some discussion by Joseph in The Lectures on Faith.  If you haven’t revisited that little book and that discussion for a while, you may want to do that. I’ve recommended that it be read once a year. The Lectures on Faith was added to the scriptures as part of the Doctrine and Covenants. It was subsequently removed without a Church vote to agree to its removal. However, the new publications adding sections were sustained, and the tradition we have is that by sustaining the new versions with additions, it implies we also sustained the deletions. Therefore, they stand removed. Despite that, it is worth another read through, much like reading any scripture, it should happen at least annually.
 
The Spirit of Christ is also referred to in Section 84: 45-47. It is also described using the word “light” instead of His Spirit, in Section 88: 5-13. If you read those carefully you realize that connecting with His Spirit or His light will also put you in contact with everything else governed by Him. He is the light which “enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;” 
 
This is why Joseph commented that the closer a man draws to God the clearer his understanding will be on all subjects. Greater light means clearer perception. It involves discerning between truth and error. It allows you to see what is dark, and who is dark, and what is light and who is filled with light. The light of a person’s countenance is upon them, and if the Lord’s Spirit fills you then you can see others just as He sees them.
 
It was His Spirit that enabled the Nephites to become one. With it, Zion becomes possible. Without it, Zion is only a theory to be abused and misunderstood. Without it, Zion is a vain ambition of conspiring men. It will not come to pass. With His Spirit, Zion is inevitable, because He will bring again Zion. If you would like to see the course of this doomed people changed at least as to your part, then these teachings and following these ordinances are the means by which the Lord’s Spirit becomes available to you.

2 Nephi 31: 8-9

2 Nephi 31: 8-9:

“Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.  And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.”
 
This is an interesting cause-and-effect. Once Christ was baptized, “the Holy Ghost descended upon Him” as a result of the baptism. Now, true enough an ordinance was instituted by which hands are laid upon a person, post-baptism, where the “gift of the Holy Ghost” is bestowed. This practice was instituted by Christ. (Acts 8: 14-17.) However, in the case of Christ’s own baptism, no hands were put upon Him. He was baptized. The Holy Ghost descended upon Him.

It is clear that baptism is a gate through which all must pass.  Immediately after the ordinance, the Holy Ghost must become the companion of those who are redeemed.

Christ set the example. We are obligated to follow the example.

Receiving baptism without also receiving the Spirit renders the event incomplete. Nephi will explain the essential nature of the Holy Ghost in the redemption process in a few more verses. It is clear that the Holy Ghost is the instrumentality by which redemption itself comes. The Spirit is the guide which will lead back to the Lord’s presence. Without the guide, the doctrine of Christ is incomplete.

The water is something that we must pass through to keep the law.  It is the companionship of the Spirit which makes you justified, by leading you to do what is right. It is the resulting application of Christ’s blood on your behalf that will sanctify you. (Moses 6: 60.) You cannot receive sanctification without first receiving baptism and then also the Holy Ghost.

 
 If there is no other way, and all must comply, then the way is both “strait” and “narrow.”

Christ’s example is the only one for us to follow to obtain hope for our own salvation. He is the “prototype of the saved man” (Lecture 7, Lectures on Faith, paragraph 9). If it was necessary for Him, it is the more necessary for us.

Baptism is one thing, accepting the Holy Ghost is another. The one is objective, and openly visible when the act happens. The other is internal, involving welcoming a member of the Godhead into your life.

I remember kneeling on an Atlantic beach in the cool sand at the setting of the sun on the day of my baptism. The Atlantic is cold in September, and I was chilled from the ordinance, still wet while kneeling, and shivering as the elders began the ordinance.  When, however, they said: “receive the Holy Ghost” I remember becoming warm, beginning at my scalp and flowing downward until my entire body was warm and calm. It was palpable. It was physical. To me the experience was no less dramatic than the descent of the Holy Ghost “in the form of a dove” on the day of Christ’s baptism. It was every bit as objective, as physical and as memorable as any other distinct event in my life.

More importantly, I began to experience the fruits of that event immediately. What followed for me, within the hour of my baptism, was akin to what Joseph and Oliver experienced. (JS-H 1: 73.)  Within days I found also that the scriptures began to have far more distinct and clear meaning than ever before, again just as Joseph and Oliver found. (JS-H 1: 74.)

It was clear to me that the Holy Ghost imparts something altogether more significant than what I alone could do, understand, or accomplish. It expanded capacity, enlightened and informed the mind, and led to understanding things which were unknown and unknowable before.

This process is not just mandatory. It is a far superior way to experience life than to live alone, without God in the world.  (Alma 41: 11.) It is a blessing, a gift. The “gift of the Holy Ghost” is, without question, the great “gift” coming from God to aid us in our return to Him.

Belief becomes knowledge

The post I put up with an excerpt from Lecture 6 a bit ago was deliberately chosen as a foundation for what was put up a few days ago.  That Lecture included the fact that you “know” not merely “believe” that what you are doing is in conformity with God’s will.  A person obtains “actual knowledge” that they are acting in conformity with God’s will.
Kisi asked a question regarding the idea of being asked to do something you regard as “wrong” or perhaps even “evil,” and how can a person avoid deception with such an idea.  The answer lies within the doctrine taught in Lecture 6.  You simply cannot proceed without knowing.  You cannot know without following the correct course.  You must make an acceptable sacrifice to obtain the knowledge.  Without making that sacrifice you cannot obtain that knowledge.  However, once you have possession of the actual knowledge, then it is not a matter of conjecture, or speculation, or desire, or “hope” as the world uses that term.  Rather it is an act in utter righteousness, in strict conformity with the will of God, whose will is known to the person because they have proceeded correctly in obtaining this knowledge.
To gain that knowledge a person keeps the commandments, pays their tithes, does everything they are asked to do to follow the will of God as understood by them.  Such a person will be “firm in their minds” and not weak minded or given to flights of fancy.  (Moroni 7: 30.)  They will have been qualified by the things which they have done in following God to possess this kind of knowledge.

The idea that a person would do something which they regard as “wrong” or to be “evil” is typified in the experience of Abraham (Gen. 22: 2) and Nephi (1 Ne. 4: 10.).  This is what the Lecture is talking about when it says:

“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.”
Now I do not expect anyone to be asked to sacrifice their only child.  Nor to be told to kill someone and take their possession.  What I expect is that in the context of the life someone has lived or is living, they will be asked to do or not do something which is so specific to them that they alone will understand why it is a sacrifice to them.  If asked of another, it may be completely insignificant. But when asked of them, it will be exactly what the person will struggle to lay upon the Lord’s altar.  Hence the term “sacrifice” with its partial meaning of parting with something involving great value to them.  However, it is not possible to rule anything in or out – the Lord alone will know you and what is required for you to obtain this faith.
The terms for obtaining this kind of faith are the same for every man or woman who has ever lived.  Without making the sacrifice it is not possible to obtain the faith.
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