Nephi/Moroni Questions

In response to questions about the prior post concerning Nephi visiting Joseph Smith in September 1823 I add the following:

In the “Historical Introduction” written by the LDS Historian’s office for what is now D&C 14, they mention the first witness of the plates (other than Joseph Smith) was the mother of David and John Whitmer:

Whitmer later recounted that during their journey to Fayette, he, Cowdery, and JS briefly encountered a ‘pleasant, nice looking old man’ whom JS identified by revelation as a heavenly messenger transporting the plates. Whitmer also recalled that soon after their arrival in Fayette, his mother, Mary Mussleman Whitmer, was met ‘by the same old man, ‘who showed her the plates.’ (Joseph Smith Papers, Documents Vol. 1: July 1828-June1831, p. 67.)

This witness (Whitmer’s mother) knew the angel’s name as “Nephi” -just like Joseph Smith in his 1838, 1839, 1840 and 1842 writings. Her grandson wrote,“I have heard my grandmother [Mary Musselman Whitmer] say on several occasions that she was shown the plates of the Book of Mormon by a holy angel, whom she always called Brother Nephi.” (Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, article titled Another Account of Mary Whitmer’s Viewing of the Golden Plates, found in Vol. 10; (2014), p. 37.)

In footnote 56 (JS Papers Histories Vol. 1, p. 223) the Historian’s Office also cites an article in the Elder’s Journal in July 1838 as a reason to rename “Nephi” to “Moroni.” However, this is a reference to an answer by Joseph of a specific question involving the source of the plates (and not the angel who appeared in September 1823). The question and answer are:

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the Book of Mormon?

Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead; and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. (Elder’s Journal, July 1838, pp. 42-43.)

The plates were deposited by Moroni, not Nephi. The fact Moroni was involved in delivery of the plates does not mean it was him who appeared to Joseph in 1823. Since Moroni sealed the records to prevent their discovery by an unauthorized party (Moroni 10:2), the records could not come from their secure location without his (Moroni’s) consent to open the seal.

Of course Moroni should have been among the “many angels” involved between 1823 and 1827. But Joseph and Mary Mussleman Whitmer both testified it was “Nephi” who appeared at the beginning (1823) to her and to Joseph. Moroni consented to allowing Joseph possession of the plates–as was his right to do. And both Nephi and Moroni were required (the alpha and omega of the Nephite dispensation) to hand off their dispensation to Joseph–as explained in D&C 128:21.

Joseph Smith Papers 2

In the JSP Histories Vol. 1, the LDS Historian’s Office adds an “Historical Introduction” to drafts of history written between 1838 and 1841. In their introduction, they discuss copyist Howard Coray’s explanation of his clerical work in transcribing Draft 3. This version was based on Draft 2, which Joseph Smith “dictated” to Coray as he wrote down Draft 3. The Historian’s Office then acknowledges this:

If the statement was accurate in that sense, it suggests that JS read aloud from Draft 2 in the large manuscript volume, directing editorial changes as he read. (JS Papers Histories Vol. 1, pp. 200-201.)

In the Draft 2 that Joseph Smith read from, the following description is recorded about the visit of an angel to Joseph on September 21, 1823:

He called me by name and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me and that his name was Nephi. That God had a work for me to do, and that my (name) should be had for good and evil among all nations kindreds and tongues. (JS Papers Histories Vol. 1, p. 222.)

While reading the account, and making editorial changes to it as Coray wrote Draft 3, the account was rewritten as follows:

…calling me by name, (he) said. that he was a messenger. sent from the presence of God to me. and that his name was Nephi. —that he had a work for me to do that my name should be had for good and evil. among all nations. kindreds. & tongues — (JS Papers Histories Vol. 1, p. 223.)

It is noteworthy that the two versions are not identical. There was a close enough examination of the text of Draft 3 for Joseph to have made several changes to these sentences. Yet in both accounts the name of the angel who visited on September 21, 1823 remained “Nephi.”

Somehow the LDS church changed the name of the angel from “Nephi” to “Moroni” and it is the “Angel Moroni” who sits atop almost every LDS temple. The LDS Historian’s Office deals with this problem through a footnote:

A later redaction in an unidentified hand changed “Nephi” to “Moroni” and noted that the original attribution was to a “clerical error.” (JS Papers Histories Vol. 1, p. 223, footnote 56.)

That footnote uses Oliver Cowdery as a reliable source for changing the name to “Moroni” because of a letter he wrote in 1835. But Oliver Cowdery was not with Joseph in 1823-1827. The first time they met was April 5, 1829. (JS-H 1:66.) Oliver is not as reliable a source as Joseph, but the Historian’s Office uses him to justify the change of identity from “Nephi” to “Moroni.”

The same footnote acknowledges that during Joseph’s lifetime the identity of the angel was always Nephi:

The present history [Draft 2] is the earliest extant source to name Nephi as the messenger, and subsequent publications based on this history perpetuated the attribution during JS’s lifetime. (Id.)

Draft 2 was written in 1839, and appears to have been entirely based on a version dictated by Joseph in 1838. The 1838 manuscript has been lost and therefore Draft 2, made the next year, is the “earliest extant source” of the Joseph Smith History.

Taking these dates, we know Joseph identified the angel as “Nephi” in 1838, and remained consistent with that identification when it was recopied in 1839. Joseph reviewed and revised the account with Coray in 1840, and although he changed several things in the surrounding text, the identity of the angel was still “Nephi.” Subsequent publications approved or written by Joseph during his lifetime likewise identified the 1823 visitor as “Nephi.” (See Times and Seasons, 15 April 1842, 3:753-754; LDS Millennial Star, August 1842, 3:53-54.)

In 1842 Joseph became the editor of the Times and Seasons. He wrote an announcement in the March 1, 1842 edition which stated:

To Subscribers: This paper commences my editorial career, I alone stand responsible for it, and shall do for all papers having my signature henceforward. I am not responsible for the publication, or arrangement of the former paper; the matter did not come under my supervision. JOSEPH SMITH (Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, No. 9.)

This March 1, 1842 edition of the paper began the first publication of the Book of Abraham, and so it is one of the more available editions of the paper.

Three editions later, with Joseph as editor of the paper, the following account was printed:

He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi. That God had a work for me to do, and that my name should be had for good and evil, among all nations, kindreds, and tongues[.] (Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, No. 12, HISTORY OF JOSEPH SMITH (Continued.))

In the JS Papers Histories Vol. 1, the footnote quoted above acknowledges the change of name from “Nephi” to “Moroni” was done “later” and by “an unidentified hand.” It could have been put there anytime by anyone. But this insertion is important enough to the LDS tradition for the Historian’s Office to footnote and to explain the name “Nephi” was a “clerical error.”

Joseph used, approved, repeated and asserted that he alone would stand responsible for identifying the angel as “Nephi.” But an unknown hand is used by the Historian’s Office to relegate this name to a clerical error when it conflicts with LDS tradition.

The question of whether “Moroni” belongs at all in the LDS narrative can be answered by another document found in the same volume. Another recap of history was composed by Joseph Smith in 1842, and printed in the same edition of the Times and Seasons wherein he announced his role as the new editor. Joseph wrote a letter to John Wentworth, the editor of the Chicago Democrat. After the letter was written and sent, it was transcribed and published in the Times and Seasons. This required Joseph to have reviewed the letter at least twice by the time it was printed in the newspaper he edited.

The letter does not name the angel, but clarifies Joseph’s experience between 1823 (first visit) and 1827 (when the plates were given to him):

The angel appeared to me three times the same night and unfolded the same things. After having received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty, and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of the 22d of September A.D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into my hands. (JS Papers Histories Vol. 1, p. 495; also Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, No. 9, CHURCH HISTORY.)

Joseph was not visited by a singular angel, but “many visits” from “angels“–making it possible that although Nephi visited him first in 1823, others (which may have included Moroni) also visited him during those four years. Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, recounted what Joseph learned from the “many angels” who visited:

During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelings, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them. (Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 36-173.)

The PofGP version of the Joseph Smith History, verse 54, confirms that with each annual visit between 1823 and 1827 he met “the same messenger” (meaning Nephi). However, as the Wentworth Letter suggests, there were others who are not mentioned and are only alluded to have visited.

The visit of “diverse” angels is also mentioned in D&C 128:20-21. These various angels all declared “their dispensations”–a term that would refer to a beginning and ending of a gospel epoch or order.

The dispensation of Moses began with him and ended with John the Baptist. Both Moses and John the Baptist appeared to Christ, witnessed by Peter, James and John, on the Mount of Transfiguration. In Matthew 17:1-13, Moses is named and “Elias” is later clarified to identify John the Baptist. (Verse 13: “Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.”)

In the JST Mark 9:2-4, the identities are explicitly Moses and John the Baptist: “2 And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. 3 And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. 4 And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses, or, in other words, John the Baptist and Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.” Joseph inserted into verse 4: “or in other words, John the Baptist and Moses.”

The men who began and finished the dispensation of Moses visited Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration and “declared their dispensation” to Him. It would be symmetrical for the Nephite dispensation which began with Nephi and ended with Moroni to likewise have the founder and finisher visit Joseph and “declare their dispensation” to him.

[Since Lehi was Nephi’s father some will quibble over identifying Nephi as the beginning. However, before departing from Jerusalem it was Nephi, not Lehi, who possessed the Sword of Laban, brass plates, and indicia of kingship. It was Nephi, not Lehi, who received the revelation giving instructions on how to build the boat for the trip to the promised land. It was Nephi who received the more fulsome revelation of the tree of life. It was Nephi who was shown the entire sweep of history in a revelation summarized in 1 Nephi chapters 11-14. Nephi prepared, and God preserved the Small Plates of Nephi as the foundational scripture of the Book of Mormon. Mormon did not abridge Nephi–we have his record in full. Therefore, it is more properly Nephi, not Lehi, who should be regarded as the founder of the Nephite dispensation.]

If Joseph identified the angel who visited him in September 1823 by the name “Nephi” throughout his life, using it in three drafts of his history, using it in the newspaper he edited, and not changing when given many opportunities to do so, the conclusion it was a “clerical error” that was corrected by “an unknown hand” is at best insufficient.

If “many angels” visited between 1823 to 1827, including Moroni, then leaving the name as “Nephi” does no harm, and more accurately attributes to Joseph Smith what Joseph Smith intended. No matter how the error was made, and despite an “unknown hand’s” change to “Moroni” the Joseph Smith Papers ought to respect Joseph Smith’s words above Oliver’s.

The obvious difficulty with this approach is that the tradition makes the “angel fly[ing] through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach” (Rev. 14:6) now in gold leaf atop temples and identified as “Moroni” an embarrassing mistake. Tradition holds that this reference in the Book of Revelation was fulfilled by the first angel who visited on September 21, 1823. That would make it Nephi, even if later on an angelic Moroni was among the “many angels” visiting between 1823 and 1827.

Joseph’s account should not be undermined even if, when he tells his account and vouches for its truthfulness, he contradicts an LDS tradition.

PTHG

In an email exchange about Passing the Heavenly Gift I sent the following:

I think it is a more correct account of the restoration than anything else that has been written. The Book of Mormon was not an attempt to give a “fair” or a “compete” account of events. It was selected precisely to accomplish the object of telling the truth about the Nephites and their failure. 

If you shaded the account with what Laman and Lemuel said, thought, wrote or did in response to Nephi, then we might not have the same view of Nephi at all. Nephi didn’t give us their story, except insofar as he recounts their reactions to him.
Mormon did not give more than a highly selective summary in the rest of the book.  It is because the history was condensed, edited, and abridged that we can treat it as scripture and inspired. Inspiration is not generally shared across competing viewpoints. Generally there is “right” and “wrong” and the scriptures identify which one is correct. There is no competing voice ever allowed to speak.
So PTHG took the words of scripture and prophecy and recast the story of our history to fit the prophetic model concerning us and our events. It is not balanced with opposing materials because the other opposing materials project a false narrative, a prideful vindication of ourselves while altogether ignoring the obvious failures along the way.

Guarding the Pathway

The Lord limited Nephi by commanding that, “the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write”(1 Ne. 14:25.)  This may have been to prevent different prophetic accounts from introducing errors, disputes and open conflict. Both Oliver and Joseph described and quoted John the Baptist. But their accounts relate it differently. They quote the angel differently:

Joseph: “…and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.” JS-H 1:69. [Implies it will remain until an event, and then be removed.]

Oliver: “..which shall remain upon the earth, that the Sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness!” JS-H footnote, taken from the Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, October 1834, p. 14-16. [Implies it may be here to stay, and will accommodate a righteous offering by Levites while here.]

It is not a significant difference. But it is just such different accounts that have produced disagreements, and disputes follow disagreements, and those grow into fanatical opposition between religious communities and eventually we have wars.

What if the Lord’s instruction was not to limit Nephi, but it was instead because God recognizes us as insecure, hasty and foolish beings. What if Nephi could have given a cogent retelling of the same events that were assigned to John. But since John was going to retell them so differently using cosmic imagery, drawn from heavenly constellations,(dragon-Draco; woman with child-Virgo; altar-Ara; the lamb-Aries; the lion-Leo; pouring out judgments/plagues-Aquarius; etc.) that we would make mush out of reconciling the two different approaches. Nephi talks about gentiles, waters, wars, books, and history in much simpler metaphors. Nephi may have understood Jewish learning, but he tried not to use it apart from quoting Isaiah.

Nephi may have understood the cosmic plan as well as John. John wanted to point to the testimony above, in the stars. Nephi may have given even a plainer version of it than did John. But Nephi was required to couch everything he taught in the words of those who already “had written them.” 1 Ne. 14:26. So Nephi employed Isaiah to teach his (Nephi’s) message. Thus a seeming conflict between two visionaries was averted–for our benefit.

Similarly, today we have people whose notions, visions, dreams and experiences are being promulgated through blogs, lectures, seminars, books and sermons. Most are unanchored in scripture. Because the scriptures are not being used to anchor these messages, there are widely disparate views of what is going on now and what is supposed to happen in the future.

What if the Lord restricted today’s visionaries the same way he restricted Nephi? What if the visionary information was used by the recipient to explain, expound and preach from holy scripture? Things would be much clearer for His people in these last days if we were given the assurance that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. This is the message of the scriptures. The scriptures are how God gets His word out to His people. Using the scriptures to expound the word of the Lord is not an antiquated notion. What if the Lord wants His word vindicated by referring to them now? Using them now? Expounding them now? What if the Lord’s example on the Road to Emmaus is to be taken seriously? His example was to teach using the law and all the prophets to show how in all things He was to suffer as He did.

It should be relatively plain to judge between what the Lord commissions and wants preached and what comes from the foolish imaginations of men and women. Apparently the best way to sift sheep and goats is to allow every wind of doctrine to come upon mankind and see which are wise and which are foolish virgins. Who keeps themselves unspotted and who runs to and fro with itching ears to consume on their lusts every new thing.

What a perfect test we are taking. Everyone knows they ought to be grounding themselves on a rock, but then mistake sand, leaves, air, wood and dung for the rock. There are people waste-deep in excrement who are certain they are standing on holy ground.

How much sooner might we be able to agree on the things that matter most if we put our understanding into words of scripture? How can we ever come to unity if we do not share a common scripture; an anchor to hold us together?

The pathway back is guarded by shiny trinkets that get all the wayfaring fools to step off a cliff to their ruin. Just because you are in the largest crowd leaving the pathway doesn’t mean the landing is going to be any less destructive. To stay on it the iron rod is needed.

Rebaptism

A minister named Nephi was preaching in the years preceding Christ’s visit to the Americas. He was clearly authorized by God, as we read in Mormon’s abridgment. This is the description: “we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity—“ (3 Ne. 8:1.)

Thus passed away the thirty and second year also. And Nephi did cry unto the people in the commencement of the thirty and third year; and he did preach unto them repentance and remission of sins. Now I would have you to remember also, that there were none who were brought unto repentance who were not baptized with water. Therefore, there were ordained of Nephi, men unto this ministry, that all such as should come unto them should be baptized with water, and this as a witness and a testimony before God, and unto the people, that they had repented and received a remission of their sins. And there were many in the commencement of this year that were baptized unto repentance; and thus the more part of the year did pass away.” (3 Ne. 7:23-26.)

Two years later Christ visited the same people Nephi had been preaching, ministering and baptizing. However, once Christ appeared, the earlier, authoritative baptisms were redone. Here is the record of what Christ required: “And Nephi [that same man] arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet. And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him. And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven. And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you. Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them. And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.” (3 Ne. 11: 19-26.)

Nephi had authority to baptize before Christ came. When Christ came, He gave Nephi the authority to baptize again. Nephi baptized a group of people, then he baptized the same group of people a second time – he rebaptized them.  Rebaptism is a sound gospel principle and is practiced every time God sends a message. The correct way to accept and proceed is to renew baptism, just like these people in the Book of Mormon did.

Churches Built By Men, Part 6

Nephi makes a distinction between the institutions or churches of our day, and individuals. As to the institutions he declares: “They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray…” (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

I think it is possible for an institution to be different from its members. I think it is possible for a “committee” to have a different mind, or intent, or constitution from the individuals who comprise the committee. In a graduate leadership course I teach in an MBA program, we examine the difference between individual behavior and group behavior. There are a lot of studies done on this topic. My view is that it is entirely possible for a group to make a decision that no single individual in the group would make on their own. It is the “group’s” decision, and does not comprise the individual thinking or mind of any of those who contributed to the outcome. Compromises, insecurities, give and take, fatigue, and conflict avoidance result in a lot of group decisions being far from what any of the participants want.

So when the institutions are condemned, I do not think that means Nephi is damning all those involved in leading. Despite this, Nephi continues: “they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ…” (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

This remark makes it clear that the institutions contain humble followers of Christ. In other words, even if things are off track, people can remain on track. The challenge is always individual. It is up to each of us to focus on and be faithful to Christ. He is the Redeemer, and it is Him alone to whom we must look for our salvation.

That having been said, Nephi adds, “nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (2 Ne. 28: 14.) Even humble followers of Christ  are “taught by the precepts of men” in our day. This causes them to “err” “in many instances.” Meaning that our doctrine is poorly and inadequately taught.

So what is the cure? The Book of Mormon, of course. (D&C 84: 54-57.) This is how the “humble followers of Christ” can take in pure doctrine, uncorrupted by “the precepts of men” and find their way back to repentance. It is a lifeline extended to us by prophets who wrote for our day. They wrote as solitary individuals, not as members of a committee. They held no institutional positions, office or connections pulling them in one direction or another. They wrote as the Spirit led them and as the Lord directed them. And they wrote for us.

Nephi was one of them. And he cared deeply about us to have provided this counsel and warning to us. I think it ought to be taken very seriously. Our eternity will be affected by how we apply his writings.

Churches Built By Men, Part 3

Nephi explains these latter-day false churches accomplish the opposite of Zion. In Zion everyone is to become “one.” Zion is unified in purpose and in heart. In these false churches people become competitive with one another. This leads to dishonesty between them.

“[L]ie a little, take advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor” is the operating standard of conduct. (2 Ne. 28: 8.) This is believed to be harmless. (Id.) And if you die in this fractious and competitive condition, then all will be well with you. If God is offended by it all, then you will be chastised, but “at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (2 Ne. 28: 8.) The idea of punishment and damnation is not to be taken seriously. It is as if everyone will enjoy a position of glory, no matter their conduct. Therefore, we should enjoy our lives and not take too seriously any need to change.

Conspicuously absent from these false teachings is any need to repent. Repentance is not even part of the latter-day religious agenda. But, then again, since everyone will fare well in God’s judgment, there really is no need for it under this religious system.

According to Nephi, this is the widespread doctrine of the latter-days. But these teachings are “false and vain and foolish.” (2 Ne. 28: 9.) Nephi notes that the only effect this gives to mankind is to make us “puffed up in [our] hearts.” (Id.) The vanity of it all is intoxicating. We get to wallow in our pride. After all, we are saved and highly favored.

If we are honest with ourselves, this assessment of the latter-days seems uncomfortably accurate.

Churches Built By Men, Part 2

Following hard on the idea that God has given His power to men is the necessary corollary precept that there are no longer miracles. (2 Ne. 28: 6.) Because the claim by men that they have been given God’s power and authority is false, there can be no miracles. This requires the additional doctrine that miracles have ceased.

This false doctrine is also later addressed by Moroni. He bluntly informs us that “if these things have ceased (miracles, visits by angels, etc.), then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.” (Moroni 7: 38.) In our own day we are instructed by the Lord that “signs follow those that believe.” (D&C 63: 9.)

What then is the appeal of a religion that falsely claims to have God’s power, but teaches there can’t be any miracles because those have all ended? Why would this appeal to man? Nephi answers that the doctrine includes the reassuring teaching that “it shall be well with us” and we can go ahead and “eat, drink and be merry” because we are highly favored. (2 Ne. 28: 7.) These false religions of our day make us feel good. They assure us we are saved. We are in the right way. We can enjoy life.

These powerful and persuasive doctrines are only the beginning. Nephi’s warning continues into the rest of the latter-day religious landscape.

But these initial false doctrines are sobering enough. They are a caution to all mankind about protecting ourselves against false notions that creep in and can poison any believer. They are designed to draw men away from Christ, the One who can save.

I am so grateful for the candor in Nephi’s prophecy. He cares about our souls. If he didn’t, his message would not be so carefully crafted, and so brutally honest about the latter-day doctrines designed to capture and captivate us.

Churches Built By Men

In our day Nephi foretells of churches that are not built to the Lord. (2 Ne. 28: 3.) These institutions will claim to be the Lord’s though they are not. (Id.)

After Nephi explains that the problem lies generally in the false teaching that men should rely on their own wisdom rather than on God (2 Ne. 28: 4), he makes this claim as the significant defect in latter-day churches:

“[B]ehold, there is no God today, for his work, and he hath given his power unto men.” (2 Ne. 28: 5.)

The idea that the Redeemer no longer works directly with mankind is denounced. In its place we have men who pretend they have authority to replace the Redeemer, and to become the new, vicarious light to which men should look for their salvation.

When men have God’s power, and therefore can open or shut the doors of salvation for others, then men wielding this power command respect, power, wealth, political influence, and this world’s goods. Men desiring to have salvation will give everything, even their own souls into slavery, to men who hold such power.

Nephi lists this problem as the first great lie taught by latter-day gentile churches because it is so very pernicious. It kills those who believe it. They move their love of God to a worship of men.

The Redeemer has never surrendered His role. (John 14: 23; D&C 130: 3; 2 Ne. 9: 41.)

Only the deceived will believe the Redeemer of mankind has given His power unto men. But, based on Nephi’s warnings, this false idea will control latter-day churches as one of the most successful deceptions.

Waiting on Others

The fullness of  the Gospel is found in the Book of Mormon. There you will find individual after individual who have returned, through faith, back to God’s presence. Once they have returned to God’s presence, they have a different view of themselves and others.

In the case of Lehi and his family, he listened to the testimony of others warning of the destruction of Jerusalem, took their warning seriously, and begged God on behalf of his people. (1 Ne. 1: 5.) As a result of his intercession and compassion for others, he was visited by God. (1 Ne. 1: 6.)

Lehi’s family did not believe him. They followed him into the wilderness, but only because of the respect accorded to the father in their society. None of the family could believe what he was saying.

The younger son, Nephi, prayed to be able to believe what his father Lehi was saying. Even though Nephi wanted to acquire faith, it was not easy to trust his father’s message. Because of his desire to believe, Nephi reports the Lord “did visit me;” this sounds like something more than it was. The Lord’s initial “visit” to Nephi consisted only in ‘softening Nephi’s heart so that he was able to believe his father.’ (1 Ne. 2: 16.)

This is the beginning. This is the first step. When the Lord first takes hold of your hand, it is a faint grip, a partial contact, a weak beginning. It is the token, however, that everyone must first receive. It comes from obeying and then acting faithfully on what has been shown to you. It requires you to sacrifice your own will to the Lord’s.

No one will return to the presence of God who has not received this gentle grip from the Lord. It is a true token given by the Lord; not just something ceremonial. It is the companion to faith. It is the start of the path you will walk back to the presence of God, passing the sentinels who stand along the way. They will want to know you have learned all you need from your experiences here to be able to return to God’s presence.

When the most dramatic points of struggle happen along the path, the Book of Mormon provides us with a view into the person where the struggle takes place. Nephi’s record of the fullness includes his testimony of kneeling on a dark Jerusalem street where he found the person of Laban lying drunk and unconscious before him. (1 Ne. 4: 7-8.) He disarmed him. Then took the time to admire the weapon of war he had taken from his fallen uncle, noting its precious material and workmanship. (1 Ne. 4: 9.)

While admiring the sword, he had the urge to slay Laban. (1 Ne. 4: 10.) Though Nephi attributed this impulse to “the Spirit” it was nothing more than an impulse. Here is where the cosmic struggle plays out. In Nephi’s heart, there is a strong urge to kill a man which, in Nephi’s life, is unprecedented. It is foreign to him. It is “the Spirit” and not Nephi who has this will to kill the man.

Nephi’s hesitancy is not based solely on moral scruples, but on all he believes about himself. He is not a man of war. He has “never before shed the blood of man” and does not think it appropriate to start now. (1 Ne. 4: 10.) This is not about self control, this is about who his identity. This is who Nephi believes himself to be. He is better than this base impulse. It is beneath him.

When he resists this impulse, “the Spirit” elevates the message. No longer is it “constraint” or inclination, but “the Spirit” now “speaks” to him in unmistakable words. (1 Ne. 4: 11.) The message not only clearly tells Nephi the Lord’s will in ‘delivering Laban into his hands,’ but also makes enough sense to Nephi that he can immediately recognize the many reasons for the Lord accomplishing this. (1 Ne. 4: 11.) The proof of the Lord’s hand lays before Nephi. After all, Laban is lying helpless, and “has been delivered into thy hands” as the most tangible, clear proof of God’s power. (Id.)

Yet all of this struggle is internal to Nephi. You could stand on the same street, at the same moment and see the same scene play out before you, and you would not be a witness to God’s great work underway.

The fullness of the Gospel requires us to recognize the hand of God guiding us. The battle we join is within. No one is spared from these stages of growth and development.

The church cannot provide you with an alternative means to get there. It is between you and God, alone. The scene will be as the Book of Mormon continually portrays it. That record is the most comprehensive retelling of how to return to God’s presence ever compiled. It was put together by those who made the journey along the path, passing all the sentinels who stand guard along the way. They embraced their Lord through the veil before entering again into His presence. Then, having been true and faithful, they were brought back into His presence and redeemed from the fall of mankind. (Ether 3: 13.) They, like the Brother of Jared, were redeemed because of their knowledge. (Ether 3: 19.)

Yet you insist on captivity because you have no knowledge. (Isa. 5: 13.) You take blind guides and are therefore, blinded by your own ignorance. (Matt. 23: 16.) You insist on keeping what can never inform you, while rejecting what is told you in plain words. (2 Ne. 32: 7.) You refuse to see and are willingly blind and therefore the greater darkness lies within you.

You can wait, as one recent and  frequent, anonymous commentator has insisted, until there is a program offered to you by an institution and see how long it takes for you to learn of God. Or, believe in the Book of Mormon and remove yourself from condemnation. (D&C 84: 56-57.) But if you seek for approval from an institution, then the Lord cannot overcome the barrier you have erected between you and Him.

1 2 3 4 5 6