Melchizedek

I received the following email inquiry:

I can’t seem to reconcile your repeated statements that Melchizedek was not a king. You use Joseph Smith (From the James Burgess Notebook) as your source.

Although called a “prince of peace” and the “king of Salem,” Joseph Smith explained these terms were not because he had kingly rule over any group. but it “signifies king of peace or righteousness and not any country or nation.” (WJS, p. 246)

The footnote 4 on page 302 (for the 27 August 1843 discourse) of the Words of Joseph Smith talks about his use of the Hebrew word for Salem.

The Greek letters didn’t copy correctly, so I have just replaced them with —-
4. Since the King James Version of the New Testament comes from Greek manuscripts, the transliteration of ——, (given as Salem) in Hebrews 7:1-2 is correct. However, Greek does not have a sh equivalent, thus when Shalem (pronounced shaw-lame’) was transliterated from the Hebrew manuscript to the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, the h was lost. Nevertheless, while authorities say Shalem means peaceful, they also say that it may stand for “an early name for Jerusalem.” It is this latter point which Joseph Smith disputed.

It seems to me that Joseph might have got carried away with his study of Hebrew. At least I can’t see how you can ignore the scripture in Alma that seems to completely contradict Joseph’s position.

Now I can understand if you have further light and knowledge and you are simply using these statements from Joseph as a source without revealing why you know he was right. In such a case I will just shut up and accept what you offer.

Alma 13:18
. . . And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.
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I responded to the inquiry as shown below:

He inherited from his father the right of “dominion” originally given by God to Adam. He was the “father” over all mankind, and in that capacity was a “king” or a “ruler” though he exercised that right given to him as did Adam: only as a father-figure and not as a tyrant. Abraham came to him to obtain this same right belonging to the first fathers or the right which descended from Adam. This is “the rights belonging to the fathers” which Abraham was so overjoyed to have obtained, because he was then the rightful father of “many nations” by reason of his position in the family of God. This, however, did not confer authority that was respected or acknowledged by men in that day, but it was respected by God.

Joseph’s explanation related to the status of man’s governments at the time of Melchizedek. Alma’s explanation related to the status of the authority conferred by God.

BFHG, Part 5

The work of this “baptism of fire” is always sanctification. It brings the recipient into greater contact with God. The end of that increasing contact is to receive the Son, through whose blood you are sanctified. (Moses 6: 59-60.) Once sanctified you are prepared for the presence of the Father. (Alma 45: 16; 1 Ne. 10: 21.) Therefore, this is how you receive “the fullness” (D&C 93: 19-20) and are able to join the “general assembly and Church of the Firstborn” (D&C 76: 66-67).

In the Lamanite experience and in the Nephite group who Christ visited in the 3 Nephi account, there came a point at which the heavens opened, a pillar of fire descended, and angels came and ministered to them all. Each were endowed with knowledge of mysteries belonging to God. There was a connection forged between them and those on the other side of the veil. These others are the “general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.”

There is a significant difference between the Lamanite experience and the 3 Nephi experience. The latter one began with Christ ministering to the recipients. This point should not be lost. Joseph Smith’s experiences likewise began with the Father and Son appearing to him. As pointed out yesterday, the sequence is not important and does not control. Even with the Lord’s personal ministry, you can still read in the account a similar series of events, steps and milestones. This means something. Events can and will vary in order, but do not vary in content. As explained in Beloved Enos, the Lord’s work is consistent with all who receive redemption.

This kind of conversion is required for Zion to return (D&C 76: 66) because those who will be in Zion must dwell with God (D&C 29: 11; D&C 45: 66-71). The first Zion was brought through the ministry and teaching of Enoch. (Moses 7: 20.) As a result of this the priesthood was renamed for him. When Melchizedek, by teaching righteousness brought about the City of Peace, the priesthood was again renamed for him. (D&C 76: 57.) Joseph Smith could have brought again Zion, but he was betrayed by his own people, surrendered to arrest, and was killed.

When Zion returns again, the priesthood will be renamed. (Moses 6: 7.) It will no longer be called the priesthood “after the order of Melchizedek” (D&C 76: 57), nor the priesthood “after the order of Enoch” (D&C 76: 57), but will again be called the priesthood “after the Order of the Only Begotten Son” (D&C 76: 57.) The one whom our Lord uses to accomplish this last gathering will refuse to allow the priesthood to be called after his name; respecting instead the prophecy of Adam rather than claiming such an honor for himself (Moses 6: 7). He will want it to return to the Lord. The city will likewise be the Lord’s  Men must finally return to Him, and He to them.

There is a progression of blessings conferred through the fire and Holy Ghost. Even if there is a mere beginning, there is a glorious ending. As with the Lamanites, it leads to an open vision into heaven, ministering of angels, and an endowment of unspeakable learning. It brings to the initiated the knowledge of the mysteries of God.

This more distant end of the endowment also involves priestly rights. Priesthood ordination is required before entering into the ceremonial presence of God in His Temple rites. Priesthood conferral is required to enter into His actual presence. The revelations are clear in connecting baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost with knowledge of God’s mysteries. (3 Ne. 11: 35-36; 3 Ne. 19: 13-14.)  They are equally clear in connecting this knowledge of God with priesthood. (See D&C 84: 19; D&C 107: 19.)

The fullness of the Gospel, the fullness of the Priesthood, and the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost all have as their object to reconnect man to God and God to man. Man is unworthy to enter into God’s presence, and therefore, requires a power higher than their own from which to borrow purity. This purifying agent is the Holy Ghost. (3 Ne. 19: 22, 28.) Christ will administer the final rites and confer the final blessings only upon the pure. (3 Ne. 19: 29-33.) The reference to “blood” as sanctifying is a reference to the Lord. (Moses 6: 59-60.) He alone sanctifies.

The Lord is directly involved in the final endowment of fire upon the Holy ones. This is what He explained in January, 1841 to the Saints when He explained to Joseph: “For there is not a place found on earth that he [meaning Christ] may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.” (D&C 124: 28.) The Lord can confer this upon a single man in any location. (See, e.g., D&C 132: 45-50, when Joseph Smith received it long before the first Temple was built.) But to confer it upon a group intended to become His people, He requires His House to be built for Him to meet with and confer these final rites upon them. (D&C 124: 39.) Only there will these things take place. (D&C 124: 40-41.) People can gather and build a Temple. A single man cannot.

When the Lord establishes Zion, He will come dwell with His people there and complete the process of endowing them with His knowledge and power. The power of God will protect these people.(D&C 45: 66- 70.) They cannot be moved because the Lord will not permit it. (D&C 124: 45.) While man does not have the power to do so, the laws of the Celestial Kingdom must be lived for Zion to be established. (D&C 105: 5.) The power to do so comes from God, delivered through His Holy Spirit, making men’s spirits Holy. Baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost are necessary parts of bringing mankind back to redemption and into God’s presence.

A bit of a detour

I received the following question:
 
“You refer to D&C 84:26 which tells us that the “lesser priesthood …holdeth the key of the ministering of angels..” and imply that every deacon in the church holds the key to the ministration of angels. That does not sound right to me. I believe the “key to the ministration of angels” in Section 84 and the “three grand keys whereby (one) may know whether any ministration is from God” D&C 129:9 are one and the same. If so, there is no Aaronic priesthood holder in the church today who has the key the the ministration of angels as those grand Aaronic keys are only given to Melchezidek priesthood holders in Holy Places.”
 
My response:
 
The Endowment has two portions:  An Aaronic portion and a Melchizedek portion.  Brigham Young commented that the Aaronic portion should be given first, and separate from the rest. Then after proving oneself faithful and trustworthy, the Melchizedek portion would be received. We’ve never done it that way. However, if it were to be done that way, then those holding the Aaronic Priesthood, possessing the associated keys, would have the key to the ministering of angels.

Now, apart from that, before Joseph received any priesthood he entertained angels.  Aaronic Priesthood keys may give one a right to seek such a visit, may give a basis for such a search, but possession of such a key alone will not force it to happen. Nor does the absence of such a key prevent it from happening.

In effect, what we sometimes view as hard and fast rules are more like rules for polite conduct. It is the way which things “ought” to occur. But the Lord is not powerless to work around it anyway.

There is almost no hard and fast rule. Just as soon as we think we’ve figured out what the Lord MUST always do, we find out that He has a work-around plan that opens up any number of other possibilities as well.

D&C 84 is correct. And such a key does belong to the Aaronic order. However, the “key” referred to is to be found in the Aaronic portion of the endowment, which permits you to recognize a true messenger should one visit with you. However, as D&C 129 also reports, if the messenger does not have a body, he will nonetheless deliver his message.

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As to questions about the church and its current “failings” I am not inclined to make a list.  Salvation is not “corporate” anyway. Whatever the church does or doesn’t do, salvation is an individual process to work out person by person. If you say: “The church is perfect!”  Then I wonder how that saves me. Am I not imperfect? Does the church’s perfection aid me in any respect unless I will repent and return? Also, if you say: “The church is a corrupt mess!” Then I wonder how that damns me. Am I not still required to follow the Master? Was Peter perfect? Was Paul? Did their quirks and imperfections damn those who came forward and accepted baptism, received the Holy Ghost, and lived the Lord’s commandments?

There is a great disconnect between the church and Zion. But there is an even greater disconnection between the church and an individual’s salvation. We rise or fall based upon what light and truth we are willing to receive. Those who have the most should have the greatest capacity to help, encourage, and raise others. Sometimes the church puts on display the meanest of conduct. The most petty and self-serving of behavior. That does not relieve us from living as we should.

If a person trusts the church to save them, they must be shaken and brought to see the foolishness of their false belief.

If a person despises the church, they should be taught to show patience and charity toward their fellow Saint.

Sometimes you and I need to speak of the church’s perilous and foolish conduct.  Sometimes we need to think of the church’s vital and continuing role.

As reasonable people we should no more entertain the myth of church perfection than we should view the church as an abhorrent enemy to our salvation. It is neither. It is a tool. It serves an important role. Ultimately, however, the church should not (and indeed cannot) come between you and the Lord. No-one belongs there.

When the church tries to insert itself between you and the Lord it deserves criticism; even censure. When the church makes a well-intentioned mistake, the mistake should be noted and avoided. But frank discussions about those things do not weaken the church or the faith of those who engage in the discussion. It means, instead, that people care and take seriously the subject of their salvation.

I have no interest in leaving the church. Nor do I have any interest in leading it. Each of us has a duty to proclaim the Gospel, and having been warned, to warn others. (D&C 88: 81.)  Elder Ballard told us to use the internet to share the Gospel. The article is in the July 2008 Ensign. Basically, this blog is Elder Ballard’s idea.

My view of sharing the Gospel is not, however, to defend the indefensible, or to dress up swine and decorate them with jewelry and pretend we aren’t debasing either the pig, the clothing or ourselves. There is so much mischief going on inside the church right now that I don’t think 500 General Authorities can get control over it. It is a run-away train. Between correlation, and the organizational systems in place, it is almost dysfunctional. 

The management structure for the church’s various departments is similar to what one would see in General Motors or Black & Decker.  Each “division” is separately accounted for and needs to justify its expenditures based upon performance. Measurable results are expected. The goal of course is salvation. However, goals such as “increasing faith in Jesus Christ” are used to justify expenditures. Then polling or focus group information is used to show the goals are being met. The lengths to which charades are enacted inside the Church Office Building are painful to many of those who work there. Agreements to keep information confidential has not prevented private sharing of the frustrations lived inside the great white building downtown.

The justification for Correlation is set out by them (the Correlation Department which oversees all manual writing) in the Gospel Doctrine Manual on The Doctrine and Covenants and Church History; lesson number 42. In there the following quote appears:  “Explain that the purpose of Church correlation is to preserve ‘the right way of God’ (Jacob 7: 7.)”  The quote is taken from Sherem, the first anti-Christ in the Book of Mormon, who is bringing an accusation against Jacob. Sherem, the anti-Christ accuses Jacob of perverting the right way of God by teaching of Christ. It is this accusation which the Correlation Department has lifted and used to justify their own actions.

Sherem was stricken and died. May those who use his words to justify their own failures share a similar fate when the coming plagues arrive. If his words are good enough to justify their actions, then his fate is good enough for them to share.

Correlation has robbed the church of vitality, deprived the Saints of power, and created an environment in which oppression and abuse is inevitable. Seeking to have true doctrine is no excuse for suppressing discussion, enshrining a militant orthodoxy, and following down the same path that destroyed Historic Christianity’s connection with God.

Well, I’m off topic and not doing any good with this. So let’s return to a discussion of the scriptures. If we want light, we find it in the Book of Mormon.

Alma 13: 16

Alma 13: 16:

Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.

Notice the shifting back to “ordinances” from the discussion of priesthood. What ordinances? What manner?

Why would what happened with Melchizedek and Abraham be something pointing to the Son of God?

Why would such an ordination and ordinance always be something that would prepare people to understand and accept the Son of God?

How was it a “type” of the Son of God’s order?

What is this referring to in plain language? Is it that the ordinances will reveal a pattern that will unmistakably point back to the ministry of Christ? How?

What is there in conferring priesthood and endowing with understanding that points to Christ? Was Christ endowed with knowledge? Power? Authority? From on-high? When? What account do we have of it? Was it at His baptism when the voice of God declared, “thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (which wording was deliberately changed during the Fourth Century Christological debates to read instead: “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”)?  How does this identify both the holder of this holy order of priesthood and confirm Christ’s ministry as the Son of God?

More importantly, why are these things not being taught to us today? This is such basic and important doctrine that Alma is teaching it as introductory material to a potential group of converts.  But as faithful members of the Church we aren’t even familiar with them. What have we been doing with the Gospel we received?

Why was the “manner” something which would let those who learned about it know and identify the Lord?

Do we expect to follow Christ? If so, why aren’t we anxious to learn about this holy order? Can we follow Him unless we do what is necessary to take upon us that same holy order? If so, then how are we to find it today? Who teaches about it?

It is interesting to read this chapter of Alma. It reinforces that the Book of Mormon is still being neglected. We cycle through it every four years. Perhaps we are still neglecting it’s true message? I think this chapter gets lumped in with three others and covered in a 50 minute class every four years. Maybe that is what is meant by  “neglect.” Oooops….

Alma 13:14


 
“Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever.”
 
We have named a portion of the priesthood after Melchizedek. (It is not, however, the form which Melchizedek held. That is another topic I am not going to address here now. This area is complete mush in the minds of Latter-day Saint writers and commentaries. I can’t straighten that out on this blog.  I might take it up in a book and go through it methodically there.)

What is important is that the great events of Melchizedek’s time began when people humbled themselves and accepted the teachings of this “high priesthood” holder and were, thereby, saved.  Not only saved but also led into a fellowship which eventually turned into a City of Peace, or City of Salem, or Jerusalem, which was taken into heaven.

This prototype was so influential in the thinking of all who followed, that the high priesthood was named after Melchizedek. Even though he held Patriarchal Priesthood with its associated sealing power, he was the one after whom Melchizedek Priesthood was named in the form it was later transmitted which lacked sealing authority.  (Again, another topic.)

What is important in this verse is the connection between the existence of the one holding this authority (Melchizedek), and a humble people who would accept and follow those teachings.  The result of the combination of the two was that God came and dwelt among them.

This is a pattern that followed the previous pattern with Enoch.  This was the pattern Joseph wanted to return through his teaching and ministry. Joseph wasn’t able to accomplish it. We now hope to see it someday occur in the unfolding history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The most recent book on this subject, now on sale at Deseret Book (unfortunately a red-flag for me) urges the idea that the only Zion we should expect to see will come when the church president allows or directs it to happen.

This verse suggests what is needed is: 1) humble people willing to accept teaching from a high priest after the ancient order and 2) a person having that authority who will teach.

What does this do to our current accepted model?

If Zion is to return, how will it return? Will it mirror what the Book of Mormon is teaching here?

Is the church president the one who will bring this gathering to pass?

Is the church president teaching doctrine about the fullness which will bring others into the rest of the Lord?

Has the church president brought a company into the Lord’s presence? Attempted to do so? Taught or written about how that will happen?  (If so, can someone point that out to me so I can read the talk, get the book or watch the video.)

How can I know I would actually have followed Melchizedek and become a part of his city by what I do today?  (I’d like to be among them, you see.)

Alma 13: 5-6

“Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared— And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—”


So there wasn’t some great advantage for these people who hold actual priestly authority. We learn that “in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren.”  Where was that “first place?”  Is it also “from the foundation of the world” referred to earlier?
What does it mean that they were “on the same standing with their brethren” while in that first place?
What was it about these who receive authority that qualified them to receive the “holy calling” from the foundation of the world?  What does it mean that they “would not harden their hearts” in the first place? If they didn’t do it then, will they do it now? 
Is foreknowledge about these individual’s qualifications based on prior performance? Can you determine that since they did not harden their hearts in the first place, they will not begin to harden their hearts now?

What about the “atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared” made them qualified? Did they accept Him there? Did they soften their hearts there toward Him? Are they capable of having redeeming faith in Him here because they first acquired it there? 

Is all this necessary to have preceded ordination here? If it was not acquired there, can an ordination here have any effect?
What, then, do those who qualify do? What does it mean “to teach his commandments unto the children of men?”
Is there something different between teaching commandments on the one hand, and “that they [who are taught] also might enter into his rest” on the other hand?  Are the two linked together?  Is it necessary to both “teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest” to show such priestly authority?  That is, can anyone, regardless of their true ordination to authority teach commandments? But does it take something more, some higher ordination in order to bring those taught “to enter into His rest?” If so, what is the difference? How can you recognize such teachings if they are ever put on display?

Did Joseph Smith exhibit such powerful teachings?

Did Enoch?
Did Melchizedek?  Abraham?  Elijah?  Elisha?  Nephi?  The Brother of Jared?  Enos?  Others?
Do we see that today? If so, where? Does anyone have the audacity to presume they can bring another soul back to the Lord’s rest?  Maybe Joseph Smith’s comment on this point is appropriate:  ““The things of God are of deep import and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind O man if thou wilt lead a soul into salvation must search into and contemplate the darkest abyss and the broad expanse of eternity, thou must commune with God.” (DHC Vol. 3, p. 295.)  I’d like to meet such a man. They seem to be rather infrequent residents of this fallen world….
I’m only asking those questions which arise in my own mind as I read these words.  You’ll have to figure out your own answers.

Cite your minds forward

A few days ago I directed you to Alma 13.  I suggested that it be read without preconceptions and you let the words just acquire whatever meaning they appear to have in the chapter itself.  Some of you have begun that process and have raised questions.  I thought I might revisit the chapter to open up a few ideas for those who haven’t begun the exercise.

 
Here’s the first verse:
 
And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.”
 
Why “cite your minds forward?” Especially since it was talking in the past tense?  Why is this idiom in the verse?  How would Joseph Smith know about this kind of word usage?  (Perhaps this is an indication the text is translated from another language rather than being composed in English.)
 
Why “the Lord God ordained priests?” Were they ordained by God indeed? Was there another man involved in conferring that authority? Did it necessarily come from God alone? What priesthood is it that is referred to?
 
What is “after his holy order?” Is this Aaronic? Is this Melchizedek? Or is this something different?  There are three orders of priesthood, the third being “Patriarchal” as explained in Beloved Enos.  Which one is this verse referring to of the three?
 
What form of priesthood is “after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son?”  Are all three? Or is there one that is distinguished by being uniquely after the order of His Son?
 
What “things” are these people to “teach.. unto the people?”  Is there something associated with what is contained in the chapter that alone is the province of those possessing the “holy order” to teach?  If so, why is that? 
 
What is going on here?  Is this deeper doctrine than we normally encounter?  If so, why has it eluded our attention?  If our preconceptions have blinded us to this material, then why would we want to ever read scripture through the blinding lens of the notions we have inherited?  Is this part of the wicked “traditions of our fathers” that the Book of Mormon warn us against?
 
Oh ye Gentiles….. 
 
Now I’m missing the weekly Book of Mormon class I taught for so many years. There I could go ahead and discuss all the answers.  My home was too small for the crowds and I wasn’t going to export it to a less sacred place where the Spirit would not permit me to teach.  Well, the questions are better than merely giving answers, as I have said before.  If you can learn to ask good questions, then you can go to the Lord and get the answers.  Who knows where that dialogue will lead you.

Process Not Event

Almost everything about the Gospel plan is a process and not an event.  There are events to be sure, but for most of us and for most of the time we are only working through the process.

A great deal of the scriptures have been written by those who have been through the process, and who are trying to give us instruction to repeat it in our own lives.  “Events” which occur are in the scriptures, as well.  But we will never arrive at the “events” unless we first realize there is a process and we begin to participate actively in that process.

The first chapter of Abraham, second and third verses, describes a lengthy process.  It took decades to unfold.  It was not merely that Abraham determined to do something and then it happened.  He’s giving a recitation of the process whereby he became at last a “rightful heir” and a “prince of peace” who had “received instructions” and “held the right belonging to the fathers.”  

His quest began in “the land of the Chaldeans.”  His ordination would not occur until he was transplanted nearly a thousand miles to the place where Melchizedek would at last ordain and endow him.  (D&C 84: 14.)  Shem was the “great high priest” we know as “Melek” (king) and “Zadok” (priest) or in other words Melchizedek.  (D&C 138: 41.)  

[Bruce R. McConkie and President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that Shem was NOT Melchizedek.  They reasoned that the meaning of words “through the lineage of the fathers, even till Noah” meant that there were generations between Noah and Melchizedek.  And that since Noah was Shem’s father, there were no generations.  I do not think the words refer to the “generations” after Noah, but to the generations before Noah.  In other words, Noah received the priesthood through the generations going back to Adam, and then having that priesthood which began in the first generations, he conferred it upon Shem, whose new name was Melchizedek.  It was this “great high priest” who conferred the priesthood on Abraham.  You should be aware that I am differing from what McConkie and Smith have taught on this issue.  I’m confident in my position and not persuaded by their reasoning, but you are free to believe who you choose.]

When we read the quick summary of Abraham in 1: 2-3, we can wrongly presume that this was a quick event, not a long process.  It was lengthy.  It did not unfold without decades of desiring, seeking, receiving promises and then having them fulfilled.

A great deal of what we read in the scriptures is quickly describing the process.  They can be misleading in that respect.  Nephi’s early account of his visionary experiences suggests instant clarity and understanding.  However, Nephi took decades to unravel what he had been given.  We are reading his third account.  He first wrote it when it happened. Then he recorded it a second time on his large plates.  It was not until he had received the commandment to prepare the small plates (on which he wrote the account we read in 1& 2 Nephi) that he finally gave us the third, refined, and completed account.  This was decades later.  He had “pondered continually upon the things which [he] had seen and heard” (2 Ne. 4: 16) during the intervening decades.  The account we have reduces the decades of reflection into a single, cogent statement. 

The Lord does no magic.  He aids us in our growth.  We have to grow and overcome.  Nephi’s vision was something which, without decades of pondering, he could not state with clarity to a reader of his testimony.  It is always required for us to conform to the Lord’s understanding and abandon our own.

The comment by Moses in Moses 1: 27-30 shows how despite the vision he could not understand.  He had to ask, “tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?”  It would take great effort to be able to catch up with the things he witnessed.

The Lord lives in a timeless state.  (D&C 130: 7; Alma 40: 8.)  We live inside time.  When the Lord shows things to prophets from His perspective, it takes a while for men to comprehend what they have been shown.  It is a process.  Our effort is also required.

Men are not perfected in an instant.  We do not learn, even with a Perfect Teacher, without applying ourselves.  It sometimes takes, as in the cases of Abraham and Nephi, decades of pondering in order for us to understand and finally receive what has been given to us.  In the mean time, the Lord gives us experiences in life which will allow our minds to open to what He has done for us.

Joseph’s First Vision was originally his own conversion story.  By the time of the third account (the one we have in the scriptures) it had changed into the opening of a dispensation for all mankind.  It changed from Joseph’s conversion into the herald call from heaven to all mankind.  The years from 1820 to 1838 were required for Joseph to understand the difference.  Same vision.  Much different understanding.

So it is with all sons of God.

It is a process which unfolds.  It unfolds, as we will finally come to realize, in perfect order, perfectly.  If you want to read about it I have tried to describe it beginning with The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil