New Paper-Update November 21st

I gave a talk on Reformation Sunday about the priesthood. A paper based on the talk is now available as a download. The document is titled The Holy Order and can be accessed either on the Downloads page or through this link:
The Holy Order

The paper has been updated to correct some typos and add some missing words. Also a new footnote 58 has been added to clarify that the example used involved Moses. The example illustrated ancient Israel’s tribal identity issues involving Moses, and was “patriarchal.” In most Native American cultures today clan identity is reckoned from the wife’s clan, and is “matriarchal.”

Adam’s Religion

I participated in a fellowship discussion with a group of people a few weeks ago about the ministry of angels. I have been reflecting on that conversation since then. I think the ministry of angels is an indispensible part of the gospel, but angels are subject to God, who commands their ministry. (Moroni 7:30.) The angels have a specific ministry. They call men to repentance and fulfill and do the work of God’s covenants. (Moroni 7:31.) We approach God (not angels) and then God sends angels as His ministers.

Adam had a pure religion taught to him directly by God. It contained the full gospel message while other dispensations, depending and their worthiness and readiness, were given portions of it. In a very real sense mankind began with the religion of God, which was lost through disobedience, lack of interest and unwillingness to study. Righteous men have been trying to recover that original religion ever since.

It is the same challenge today. The original religion Adam practiced needs to be recovered. It was prophesied that it would be recovered. It, along with the original priesthood, is destined to return at the end of the world. (Moses 6:7.)

A Book of Remembrance was prepared beginning with Adam (Moses 6:5). Enoch also wrote a book describing the original religion (Moses 6:43-46). The records prepared by those fathers were passed down for a time through heirs, but were relegated to disuse and neglect until restoration came in the time of Abraham. That restoration was needed because Abraham’s immediate forebearers had lost the original teaching through their changing of its doctrines (Abr. 1:31). It was because Abraham obtained the original religion that he was able to practice it in an uncorrupted form. It brought him back into God’s presence.

Although he did not have the complete records, the first Pharaoh did not invent a new religion. Instead he “imitated” and tried to carry on that original which belonged to the fathers. (Abr. 1:26.) Pharaoh was righteous, but he descended through a line that forfeited the birthright and did not have the right of priesthood presidency, or the right to govern the family of God. But the right to that order will return. (Moses 6:7.)

Abraham reestablished the order. Because of this, he could correct and teach the Pharaoh of his day (approximately 2000 years after the first Pharoah), and whose own religion had, by Abraham’s time, lost its way. (See Facsimile 3, final note.)

Once a religion begins to drift, it is very difficult to recover the original. During Abraham’s time, the task was impossible. Egyptian culture, art and government were based on a religion which had changed over 2000 years, despite the intention to preserve its authentic teachings. Even if Abraham could correct everything for the Pharaoh, it would be impossible for that Pharaoh to even reclaim his nation. Once errors have hardened into hierarchy, institutional tradition, wealth, power and governing systems, a single man, even a king, cannot change its course.

Egypt drifted, but was founded by a king “seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father.” (Abr. 1:26.) The religion was not merely faith, repentance and baptism. It was also an “order” which governed. Those holding it, including Adam and Noah, had the right to “reign” or govern. Without God’s full authorization as the foundation of his government, Pharaoh never had the right to govern. He could only “imitate.”

Egypt’s imitation included many truths mingled with errors. The religion of Egypt preserved a slightly better understanding of portions of the original gospel than others. For example, Egypt understood the hierarchy of heaven better than do we. They acknowledged the “four sons of Horus.” They are real. There are four great angels who have power over the four parts of the earth. (D&C 77:8.) We know them as Michael (Adam), Gabriel (Noah), Enoch (Raphael), and John (Uriel), whose control is over air, water, fire and earth—the four parts of the earth. They have “power over the four parts of the earth, to save life and to destroy; these are they who have the everlasting gospel to commit to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; having power to shut up the heavens, to seal up unto life, or to case down to the regions of darkness.” (D&C 77:8.) In spite of their ministry, we are not to worship them, nor to pray to them. Egypt may have identified and understood them better, but they erred by exalting them to worship and prayer along with other heavenly beings the Egyptians called neteru and the Hebrews called angels. These comprise the host of heaven led by Jehovah. The first error God corrected for Moses was this idolatry of angels, who are not to be worshipped, but are to be recognized and respected as God’s messengers and servants. (Exo. 20:3-5.)

Egypt knew of a great god they identified as “Amon” (also Aumn, Ammon—a name given to several individuals in the Book of Mormon) which Joseph Smith identified as “Ahman” (see D&C 78:20, 95:17; and which is associated with Adam being in the presence of God—Adam-ondi-“Ahman”). The Egyptian father, Amon, had a wife identified as Hathor. Their son was identified as Horus. In the oldest form of the Hebrew faith (before they were excised by the Deuteronomist reformers) the godhead included a Father, Mother and son. The Tabernacle and Temple had an image of the Divine Mother that was removed during Josiah’s reforms and never returned. In the restoration, Joseph taught that exaltation of man required sealing of a man (husband/father) to a woman (wife/mother) to allow for the continuation of the seeds (son/heir). (See D&C 132:19-20.) From eternity to eternity the cycle repeats. If you understand the destiny of those who attain exaltation you understand the nature of those who were exalted before.

Egypt acknowledged one of the exalted angels as “the great scribe,” and identified him as Thoth. His real identity is clarified in the writings of Moses as Enoch. (Moses 6:5, 46.) Enoch ascended to heaven. But we do not worship him.

Egypt’s religion erred by turning true angels into gods, to whom they prayed and whom they worshipped. Angels are sent by God and minister the truth to man, but are forbidden to become the objects of worship. Egypt turned mere angelic servants of God into deity and worshipped them.

Throughout the Bible record, the angels clarify their limited role. In the temple, the angel Gabriel clarified his limited role as a messenger. (Luke 1:19.) When the apostle John beheld the angel sent to him, he fell to worship him. (Rev. 22:8.) The angel forbid it, declaring “See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: Worship God.” (Rev. 22:9.) John has now become a ministering angel. (D&C 7:6.)  When John the Baptist appeared to Joseph and Oliver he declared himself only a “fellow servant.” (JS-H 1:69.)

Angels may occupy positions of authority before God, and may have ministries entrusted to them (D&C 130:5), but only God is to be worshipped. Only God’s word will survive into the afterlife. Even if one of the four great angels establishes a covenant, unless God ordains it as His, that covenant will fail. (D&C 132:13.)

We can recover lost information from studying relics left from the past. Egypt left a great body of evidence we can sort through to help us in our search. But as the search is undertaken we must always remember that their religion had through millennia of practice undergone change and corruption. By the time of Abraham, and still more by the time of Moses (and nearly completely by the time of Isaiah), Egyptian religion had become something very different from that of the first Pharaoh who endeavored to maintain the teachings of the “First Fathers”. We must avoid the errors of Egypt that transpired as their doctrine and rituals changed. “The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof; and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.” (Isa. 19:14.) When reckoning through Egyptian wreckage, therefore, our guide must be the truth. We measure truth against the standard of the Book of Mormon, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and confirmed in the teachings and revelations given through Joseph Smith.

We no longer have Adam’s language. It was corrupted at the time of the tower, and lost to all but the Jaredites. Their record was written in the original language, but by the time Moroni translated the record he required the seer stone to make the translation (Ether 1:1-2; Mosiah 28:11-14.)

We do not have possession of their plates, but the Jaredites wrote in the original language of Adam (Mosiah 28:17; Ether1:35). It is interesting that the last people to have written in the original language of Adam were the Jaredite colony whose record is now part of the Book of Mormon.

We do not yet have the original religion taught to Adam. It also was lost long before Abraham, and was restored to him. He had the advantage of possessing the “records of the fathers” and therefore knew what they wrote in the first generations from Adam till Enoch describing the gospel taught by God to Adam.

No society has preserved the original religion. Joseph Smith was called by God to begin the process to restore the original. Through Joseph, we obtained some significant portions of the gospel which had been lost. He was killed before it was completed. What he left has become a muddled mess requiring a great deal of work to understand it. What Joseph restored must now be recovered. Even then, more must be returned before we finally arrive back at the beginning.

The Book of Mormon was translated “by the gift and power of God” and is an essential part of the restoration of the gospel fullness. Indeed it “contains the fullness of the gospel” because it gives account after account of those who were brought back to God’s presence and redeemed from the fall.

All the ancient world’s earliest religions had accounts of man returning to God through ceremonies and rites. But it was Israel who was visited by God. And the Book of Mormon contains the most clear and vast array of examples of successfully entering God’s presence. Lehi (1 Ne. 1:11), Nephi (1 Ne. 11:7, 2 Ne. 11:2), Jacob (2 Ne. 11:3), Enos (Enos 1:5, 7), Alma (Alma 36:22), and many others returned to God’s presence as part of the narrative of the Book of Mormon. It is indeed as Joseph Smith described it: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (DHC 4:461; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 194.)

Many trails remain that point backward to the earliest times and the first religion. Some of those trails are in the Apocrypha which was commended to us for study in modern revelation. (D&C 91.) Joseph, followed by other early saints, were eager to read beyond the closed Biblical canon advocated by their Protestant neighbors. Hugh Nibley followed in that tradition. Joseph Smith did not have access to the Book of Enoch. The materials in the Nag Hammadi were not available until 1945. The Dead Sea Scrolls were not available until they were discovered beginning in 1946 and continuing until 1956. Many ancient texts have been recovered after Joseph’s death. Additionally, scholarly Islamic works have been published in English after Joseph’s death. The sources now available for us, but which were unavailable while Joseph lived, fill libraries. Like the Apocrypha, these newly recovered ancient documents have many things which are true. (D&C 91:1.) They also can be understood through the Spirit. (D&C 91:4.) But without the benefit of the Spirit they can be misleading. (D&C 91:5-6.)

We do not yet have the gospel as taught by God to Adam. That is still to be restored. It will be entrusted to those few people who will hearken to the Lord and live by every word that proceeds from His mouth. (Matt. 4:4—Christ quoting Deu. 8:3.) It will return. But it will be given to people who are worthy of it, and will abide by its requirements. They will be meek, humble, patient, submissive, gentle, or in other words, Christlike.

 

Book of Mormon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forty is a symbol

The number 40 appears in a several different places in the scriptures, almost always in the context of purging or purification. When the Lord destroyed the wicked at the time of Noah, He caused it “to rain upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.” (Genesis 7:4.) When Moses met with the Lord on the Mount, he was in the presence of the Lord “forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:18.) When Israel proved unprepared to inherit the promised land, the Lord left them in the wilderness for forty years. (Deuteronomy 8:2.)

Elijah was fed by an angel before being sent into the wilderness. After the meal, Elijah “went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.” (1 Kings 19:8.) In preparation for His ministry, the Lord likewise “fasted forty days and forty nights.” (Matthew 4:2.) That preparation culminated in angels ministering to the Him. (Matthew 4:11.)

In these examples, it is not a man volunteering or choosing to afflict his soul for forty days. The period of purification is imposed by the Lord. We do not get the choose to be purified through suffering for a period of forty days, or forty years, or any other amount of time. However, if the Lord chooses to purify a soul, and that suffering does last for forty days, you can take it as a sign that the purification was given of God.

I know people have tried to voluntarily afflict themselves for forty days. I think an effort like that shows a poor understanding of how God deals with man. We wait on Him. We submit to Him. Then He alone chooses.

Lehi’s Priesthood

There is a key verse which passes by quickly. It establishes an important identity for Lehi. The verse confirms that Lehi saw God the Father sitting on His throne. (1 Ne. 1: 8.) In other words, Lehi beheld the face of God, the Father. This key verse identifies Lehi’s authority.

Following immediately after this view of the Father, sitting on His throne, Christ descended in His glory and ministered to him. His glory was above the brightness of the sun. (1 Ne. 1: 11-13.)

After Christ ministered to him, Lehi put the Father’s activities into perspective, declaring “unto the Lord: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty!” (1 Ne. 1: 13.)

He saw the face of the Father. He was ministered to by the Son. This cannot occur unless Lehi had the highest form of priesthood. This is required for a man to see the face of the Father and live. (D&C 84: 19-22.)


Lehi required priesthood: “without… the authority of the priesthood, and the power of godliness…no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” (D&C 84: 21-22.) Lehi saw Him. Therefore part of the ministry of Christ to him necessarily included conferring priesthood.

Joseph Smith explained it like this: “All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.” (TPJS, pp. 180–81.)

In Lehi we have an instance of an Old Testament era prophet being “ordained by God himself” in the very first chapter of the Book of Mormon.

The phrasing in verse 8 (“he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne”) is an art form, or a formula. Alma would later use the same phrasing. (Alma 36: 22.) The best way to understand this formulation is found in Paul’s writings: “whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell; God knoweth.” (2 Cor. 12: 2.) Similarly, Joseph Smith’s encounter in the First Vision was either in the body or not, and during the vision he became physically incapacitated. (JS-H 1: 20: “When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.”) Daniel also physically collapsed when the Lord visited with him. (Dan. 10: 5-19.)

How much that book teaches us! It is only our neglect which renders it unable to teach us the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is only the first chapter of the book (1 Ne. 1) and it has an example of a vision of God the Father sitting on His throne, and the Lord Jehovah ministering to and strengthening a prophet of God! What great promise this book holds indeed if that is only the first chapter! Perhaps we should take it more seriously. (D&C 84: 54-57.) No wonder President Packer can lament in General Conference about the absence of priesthood power in the church. (The Power of the Priesthood.)

Luke 1: 8-9

Luke 1: 8-9 refers to Zacharias (father of John the Baptist) officiating in the priest’s office.

“And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.”

Those who were outside knew how long it would take to burn incense and offer the morning prayer, therefore when too much time had passed they were troubled by the delay. (Luke 1: 21.)

The prayer he offered was set, given each day as part of offering incense in the Holy Place, and is as follows:

True it is that Thou art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers; our King of our fathers, our Saviour and the Saviour of our fathers; our Maker and the Rock of our salvation; our Help and our Deliverer. Thy name is from everlasting and there is no God beside Thee. A new song did they that were delivered sing to Thy name by the seashore; together did all praise and own Thee as King, and say, Jehovah shall reign who saveth Israel.

Be graciously pleased, Jehovah our God, with Thy people Israel, and with their prayer. Restore the service to the oracle of Thy house; and the burnt-offerings of Israel and their prayer accept graciously and in love; and let the service of Thy people Israel be ever well-pleasing unto Thee.

We praise Thee, who art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers, the God of all flesh, our Creator, and the Creator from the beginning! Blessing and praise be unto Thy great and holy name, that Thou hast preserved us in life and kept us. So preserve us and keep us, and gather the scattered ones into Thy holy courts, to keep Thy statutes, and to do Thy good pleasure, and to serve Thee with our whole heart, as this day we confess unto Thee. Blessed be the Lord, unto who belongeth praise.

Appoint peace, goodness, and blessing; grace, mercy and compassion for us, and for all Israel Thy people. Bless us, O our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Thy countenance. For in the light of Thy countenance has Thou, Jehovah, our God, given us the law of life, and loving mercy, and righteousness, and blessing, and compassion, and life, and peace. And may it please Thee to bless Thy people Israel at times, and at every hour with Thy peace. Blessed be Thou, Jehovah, who blessest Thy people Israel with peace. (Alfred Edersheim, The Temple, Its Ministry and Services, pp. 128-29.)

When the angel appeared and said, “Fear not, Zacharias; for thy prayer is heard” (Luke 1: 13), the prayer asked for “the light of [God’s] countenance” to shine again upon Israel. The promised son (to be named “John”–Luke 1: 13) was to “go before him in the spirit and power of Elias.” (Luke 1: 17.) The One before whom John was to go was “the light of [God’s] countenance” or, in other words, Jehovah. John was to be Elias to precede and prepare the way for Jehovah.

Following his birth, John was “ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power.” (D&C 84: 28.) He prepared the way, was imprisoned and beheaded. Then he appeared with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration. (JST-Mark 9: 4; Matt. 17: 2-3, 13.) Moses opened, and John closed, the prior dispensation and met with Christ as the founder of the new dispensation.

John was as great a prophet as ever lived. The Lord said he was “more than a prophet.” (Luke 7: 24-28.) Foretold in  prophecy, born to bring “the light of God’s countenance” back to Israel, fulfilling an angel’s promise, named by heaven, ordained at eight days, sent to close one and open another dispensation, slain for his testimony, and then called to minister as an angel to the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration, John was “more than a prophet.”

The Prophetic and the Priestly

There are two approaches to preserving a belief system. Scholars refer to these as “sophic” and “mantic,” but the scriptural language would be “the priestly” and “the prophetic.”

Priests deal with rites, ordinances, commandments and procedures. This durable approach to preserving a belief system allows a dispensation of the Gospel to continue to have a presence, long after a founder has died. Moses, for example, established a system of rites and observances which then became the religious fare of priests who perpetuated the system from the time of Moses until the coming of Christ.

Prophets deal with God and angels. They receive new insight, promises and covenants. Their conduct can even appear to violate the traditions of the religion they follow, but that is only because they are not bound to the tradition as practiced by the priests. Instead they have penetrated into the underlying meaning, the original power, the purpose of the rites.

Dispensations are founded by those who combine both traditions. Moses was a prophet, and established priestly rites. Christ was a prophet and more, and He also established priestly rites. Similarly, Joseph Smith was an authentic Dispensation Head who was both a prophet and established priestly rites.

The reason an apostasy can be concealed from the view of religious believers is because they confuse the presence of continuing priestly tradition with both. They do not notice the prophetic presence has left. Concealing the fact that the prophetic presence is gone is possible because priests focus on authority and make that idea the central, even controlling issue for salvation.

Catholics held a monopoly for a thousand years using the idea of “keys from St. Peter” as the foundation upon which the religion was built. Not until the eastern Orthodox faith departed was there any choice to be made between “keys” in Rome and “keys” in Constantinople. It took Martin Luther to finally peel away the fraud of “keys” independent from righteousness. His expositions on the “priesthood of faith” allowed a divorce between claims of priestly “keys” and faith in God.

It took Martin Luther’s revolution in thinking several hundred years to create a religious landscape where Joseph Smith and a new Dispensation of the Gospel could be introduced. These things move slowly because mankind is generally imprisoned by their traditions and are incapable of seeing the difference between the priestly and the prophetic traditions. This blindness becomes the tool through which the priestly tradition controls mankind.

Priestly tradition is stable, authoritarian, controlling, focused on outward conduct, amasses wealth, power and prestige. Priestly tradition can continue in the absence of spirit, revelation or even godliness. Priestly tradition can become the friend of government, business and empires, and can work hand-in-hand with the powers of this world.

Prophetic tradition is unruly, unpredictable, and challenges the god of this world. It cannot work with the powers of this world, but strikes at its authority. It cannot exist without the direct involvement of God and angels and it cannot be divorced from continuing revelation.

You can have both without an apostasy. You can have the prophetic without an apostasy. You can have a priestly tradition exist without an apostasy, but that is much less likely. In any complete apostasy, the presence of the priestly tradition is essential to be able to accomplish the “trick” referred to in the post yesterday.

Patience

I was recently in a discussion with a fellow regarding the topic of patience.
Moses spent 40 years in the Pharaoh’s courts. He apparently knew most of that time that he was to deliver Israel out of bondage. He killed the Egyptian, in part, because of his knowledge he would one day deliver them. Stephen explained, just prior to his martyrdom, the story of Moses. Stephen declared that Moses knew his calling from God made him the deliverer of Israel. (Acts 7: 24-25.) Moses presumed the Israelites would recognize him as the one promised to deliver them. He killed the Egyptian to identify himself to the Israelites. They were unimpressed, did not recognize him, and rejected his claim.
 
Seeing he had been rejected and betrayed by the Israelites, Moses fled for his life. (Acts 7: 26-29.)
 
Then, after another 40 years passed while he made a new life for himself in the wilderness, the “voice of the Lord” came to him and called him at last to perform as Israel’s deliverer. (Acts 7: 30-34.)
 
Moses knew his mission from his youth. But when he attempted on his own to begin that mission, his attempt failed. He was nearly killed for it and had to flee for his life.
 
After 40 years spent in the wilderness of Sinai, the time came and Moses was commissioned directly by the Lord to go forward.
 
WE control nothing. WE have no right to move the Lord’s hand. We may ask, but He alone commands. Timing is entirely the Lord’s. Although we may know what we have been assigned to do, it is the Lord alone who will decide when the assignment can be performed.
 
Christ wanted to begin His Father’s work at 12. (Luke 2: 41-49.)  It would be another 18 years before the Lord would be permitted to begin. In the interim, He “waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come. And he served under his father, and he spake not as other men, neither could he be taught; for he needed not that any man should teach him. And after many years, the hour of his ministry drew nigh.” (JST-Matt. 3: 24-26.) Although fully prepared for “many years” before, the Lord “waited” on His Father for 18 years.
 
If Moses waited 40 years, and produced only disaster when he attempted to begin his mission early, and Christ waited “many years” for “the hour of his ministry to draw nigh,” then what possible reason can any of us give for refusing to submit in patience to the Lord’s timing for our  lives, mission, ministry, assignments and calling?
 
Among the many lessons of mortality, Christ learned patience. (Heb. 5: 8.) How arrogant must we be to presume we can tell better than the Lord when a blessing should come? How little understanding would we get if the Lord responded to our impatience and excused us from the necessity to first learn this noble trait of patience?

3 Nephi 12: 8

3 Nephi 12: 8:

“And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
This is a remarkable promise. Would you like to see God? Then first purify your heart.
Notice this is not just ritual purity, which had been the focus of the Law of Moses. Christ is replacing earlier ritual based purity with internal purity. 

He speaks about the heart, rather than the hands and feet. Christ is speaking about beholding God, unlike the retreat Israel took from the offered opportunity at Sinai. (See D&C 84: 22-25.) He is returning to the time of Moses, when a higher way might have been chosen.

Purity of the heart is a borrowed benefit from the Savior. Man cannot become clean before God without the necessary offering of a sacrifice. The Law of Moses taught this, but Christ would actually bring it to pass. (See, e.g., Alma 34: 36.)
Christ’s atonement cleanses us. (Alma 13: 11; Ether 13: 10.)
When we repent we turn to Christ and listen to and follow Him. Until then, we are not even facing the right direction in life.  
Some reminders of how the heart may be purified:
-Let virtue constantly prevail in your thoughts. (D&C 121: 45.)
-Pray to the Father with a devoted heart. (Moroni 7: 48.)
-Repent and call upon God with a contrite spirit, asking the atonement to be applied to your sins. (Mosiah 4: 2.)
-Fast and pray often, that you may become humble. (Helaman 3: 35.)
-Follow what light you have to receive more light, until you have the “perfect day” in which you are a vessel of light. (D&C 50: 24; D&C 93: 28.)

It is also interesting that what must be “pure” is the “heart.” There are so many other things one might measure. But what the Lord looks upon to determine purity is the “heart.”

I’ve said that there is almost nothing about us that can become perfect in this life. The only thing that can approach perfection, however, is our intent. We can mean to follow God at all times. Even if the dilemmas of life make it impossible to actually do so, we can still intend to follow Him. We may not even know if what we are doing pleases Him, or how to resolve conflicting interests or commandments. We may even be making a mistake, but if our intent is right, our hearts may be pure.
This is also one of the reasons we cannot judge another. They may be weak, foolish and error prone, but if they intend to be doing the right then God alone can measure their heart and decide whether they are approved. It would take a God to know if the person’s life, training, understanding and intent are pure before Him. I suspect there are those we look upon as deluded and even evil but the Lord views them with compassion and understanding. He may find their hearts to be perfect even before the heart of the proud who claim they have and follow the truth. Though a person may misunderstand a great deal, still if they have love for their fellow man, relieve suffering where they can, give patience to the foolish and water to the thirsty, they may be perfect before God. (Luke 18: 9-14.)
There are so many illusions here. Some who are regarded as high and lifted up by God, temperate in their conduct, studying how they are seen by others before acting; are in fact wretched, miserable, poor and naked. (Rev. 3: 14-17.) I say with authority that there are some regarded as the very chiefest of the righteous among the Latter-day Saints who are before God wretched, miserable, poor and naked. They cannot survive even a glance from His all seeing eye. Yet they pretend they share in His vision, when they do not.

How few hearts are pure before God. How rare a thing it is to contemplate such a person. How few we produce in this restoration of the Gospel. We remain as a people too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending to be called of God. No wonder we stumble and fall backward and many are taken in snares. (Isa. 8: 11-17.)

3 Nephi 11: 21

“And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.”
Notice the Lord does not touch Nephi. He speaks the words. The Lord’s word is sovereign. If the Lord speaks it, it is so. It is not necessary for the Lord to lay hands on the servant He has just called, only that He speak the words of commission which give the servant “power.”

Notice that it is “power” and not authority. It is the “power” to baptize “this people” which is granted Nephi. Why would “power” be required for a man to be able to baptize? What if the man possessed “authority” to baptize, but lacked any “power” in his priesthood? Is “authority” anything if it lacks “power?” What is the difference? Can a church spread about the “authority” to do ordinances if that church lacks “power” to do so?

Why are “that the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven?” (D&C 121: 36.) If indeed all rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, can a man who has never felt, experienced or had any connection with heaven hold any power? Hold any priesthood? What connection did Nephi have with heaven the instant the Lord spoke to Nephi the words: “I give unto you power”?

Why is it that “the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness?” What about ambitious men who view holding an office in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as entitling them to direct, preside, control and dictate to others? What are the “principles of righteousness?”  

Now, I ask those questions not to give people reason to rebel against those who preside over them. It is not for us to weigh, measure or respond with accusations against those in positions of authority. I feel a great sympathy and pray for them. However, I offer it as a self-governing, introspective question to anyone who has any calling, family position or power over another person. Whether it is in church, or at work, or in the family, or elsewhere, the way we deal with others ought to be informed by the same standards as use of priestly authority. But these things are for internal use, not as a measuring stick to be applied critically against others.

Often we are able to see clearly the errors of others, but are completely unable to see our own glaring errors. This is why I have said repeatedly that the Gospel is for internal application only, and not for external use in judging others.

In the case of Nephi, he already held power, did he not? He had preached the Gospel, used words having such power that listeners could not disbelieve them, raised his brother from the dead, and cast out devils.  (3 Nephi 7: 17-19.) Despite all this, Nephi was called forward to receive from the Lord power to baptize?  Why? Why if he already had such great power as to be able to raise the dead, did he need a new grant of power to baptize?

Does the possession of authority in one dispensation (Moses’) continue into another dispensation (Meridian of Time)? When a new dispensation of the Gospel opens, does authority need to be conferred by angels (or the Lord) in the new dispensation? Without a commission from Christ, could Nephi continue his ministry into the new dispensation?  Why not? Did the end of the prior dispensation of carnal commandments require a new delivery of power to those serving into this era of a new covenant?  (Hebrews 8: 13.)
Does the Lord’s reference to “when [He is] again ascended into heaven” reveal anything to Nephi? To us? Does it confirm the Lord’s status, power and right? Does it confirm, also, the Lord will be leaving the Nephites again? Does it reestablish what they saw when He first appeared, that He now belongs to heaven? Do we need to keep that in mind as well?

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