Joseph Smith History, Part 5

Joseph’s education did not open his mind. Translating the Book of Mormon did not open his mind. He clarifies in his history the point at which his mind did open up. He writes of it: “so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation. Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of.” (JS-H 1: 73-74.) This was the moment of greatest change. At that moment Joseph’s mind greatly expanded.

Later he would provide a description of the effect the Holy Ghost has on one who receives it: “This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a man who is of the literal seed of Abraham, than one that is a Gentile, … for as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene, and his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence.” (TPJS, p. 149.)  This is in stark contrast to what some people think the “Holy Ghost” is about. They associate sentiment and emotion, rather than enlightenment and intelligence with the presence of this member of the Godhead.

Joseph could understand the meaning of the scriptures because he acquired access to the same source of intelligence which animated the authors when they composed the scriptures. He did not need to seek an “interpretation” or study the methods of Biblical exegesis. He knew what they meant because the enlightenment from God laid open to his understanding the true meaning and even the intentions of things that before were merely “mysterious.”

This is what Peter was referring to when he asserted: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1: 20-21.) In other words, no one has the right to assert any prophecy means anything because they think they can “interpret” the words, because such right belongs exclusively to the Holy Ghost. The words came (and still come to those who have received priesthood  —D&C 68: 2-4) from the Holy Ghost, and therefore, the meaning is only given from that source. [Section 68 was addressed to one of those who, in June 1831, was given the Melchizedek Priesthood at Isaac Morley’s farm. According to Joseph Smith, that was the first time the Melchizedek Priesthood was given to the Elders of the church. That is another topic.] Notice also, the appearance of John the Baptist was only to provide the means to be baptized. He specifically speaks about some future visit of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood. (JS-H 1: 72.) Yet Joseph and Oliver received the Holy Ghost without any other ordinance and immediately following baptism. (1: 73.) This mirrored my own experience.

So in Joseph Smith’s History, we end at the same point where we began: His ministry as a prophet was directly connected with scripture. He walks through events that happened, including an audience with the Father and Son, repeated visits by Moroni, educational instruction given there, and the appearance of John the Baptist, but for Joseph, it was the Holy Ghost which enlightened his mind. When enlightened, the result was his capacity to understand the scriptures. He tunes into the very same frequency from which they originated. Sharing the mind of those who composed scripture, Joseph could understand what the authors meant. Therefore, when Joseph explained scripture to us, it was his right to tell us things we hadn’t known before, interpretations we hadn’t considered before, and the true meaning of what seems to us mysterious.

As people debate the meaning of latter-day prophecies, and think they can unravel the correct interpretaion of such topics as Zion, gathering, priesthood, sealing power, the “one mighty and strong” and many, many other things we learn of from our unique body of scripture, we should remember Joseph’s ministry. We ought to stop researching the threads of comments from oftentimes mystified commentators, and instead “ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally” to find the answer. Joseph did. It took him on a journey which resulted in him gaining a dispensation of the Gospel. He did not need to build on another’s work, because heaven worked with and through him.

Joseph was above all else, the prototype of a Latter-day Saint. Would that all men were similarly Latter-day Saints, who actually believed and practiced the religion restored through Joseph. A religion in which people are able to ask God and get an answer. A religion which Joseph began, but which God has yet to finish. One where no one needs to say to another: “know ye the Lord” because all know Him.

Little wonder the prophecy of Joel spoken of by Moroni was yet to be fulfilled.

My Kingdom

I was asked an interesting question.  I thought the question and answer might be worth posting.

Question:

  
“In 3 Nephi 28, the 9 disciples are promised that when they die they will go to “my Kingdom” meaning Christ’s.  However, the other 3 who tarry are promised to go to the “Kingdom of my Father.” Are they different? They must be, but how? In what way? Different levels of Exaltation? This same thing is discussed in D&C 7. Peter is promised “My Kingdom” while John is promised the greater blessing. I’m assuming it’s “my Father’s Kingdom” like the 3 Nephite disciples.”
Answer: 
I’ve written about this in Beloved Enos. The offer is extended to all those whose calling and election is confirmed.  The 9 chose to move into the post-mortal inheritance at their death. That is, they would not be required to return here for anything else, but would be judged, crowned and exalted upon death. Because this is a blessing conferred by the Son, it is “His Kingdom” into which they will move. When the work is at last completed and delivered to the Father –at the end of the earth’s temporal existence– it becomes the Father’s at that point. The 3 will be awaiting that moment to receive that inheritance. The 9 will enter into the “Son’s” until then, and will likewise be among those who are received by the Father, in the due order of things. 

[My answer provoked a follow up question:]

  
“But doesn’t Peter, James and John have the earthly role of teaching Adam and Eve (us) further light and knowledge as shown in the temple? Do they send ministering angels or maybe even John since Peter and James don’t come to earth anymore?”
I answered:
Peter, James, and John were added to the endowment by Brigham Young, but weren’t part of what Joseph originally portrayed. They were added to remove required narration. When added, they are a “type,” and not intended to be the personalities or individuals. Much like Elias is a “title” and not a name. Peter, James, and John are in the endowment types, or “titles” – not intended to be the actual persons who were known by those names while in mortality.

The endowment used to include the words, “You should consider yourselves respectively as if Adam and Eve.  …This is simply figurative so far as the man and woman are concerned.” The same could be said about other roles – which all represent truths, but the truths are not tied to personal identities. You are Adam. The endowment is about your life. Those true ministers who are sent are explained in D&C 130: 5, which include those who do (i.e. currently living individuals who have gained a message from the Father and Son to be delivered) or have (i.e., those who have left mortality and are returning as angelic, or resurrected, or translated individuals, who have gained a message from the Father and Son to be delivered) belonged to this earth.

 
 I should add: Without ministering of angels there is no longer any faith, as Moroni explained.  (Moro. 7: 37.) Only a fool would take their own message and portray it as coming from God. As Joseph Smith put it, “only fools trifle with the souls of men.” [I’ve noted, however, an endless abundance of fools here. The Historic Christian religions are filled with them.  …Unfortunately, they’ve crept into the restored faith, as well.] 
 
P.S.  A reminder – I do answer questions from time to time.  However, before you ask me a question, read or review the books I have written (there are 6 of them). Much of what is written in the books following The Second Comforter is written because of the questions I am asked most often. Therefore, I suspect you’ll find things in what I’ve already written which make it unnecessary to ask.

3 Nephi 12: 7

3 Nephi 12: 7:

“And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

The standard applied to us is the standard we apply to others. This is repeatedly set out in scripture:

Alma teaching his son Corianton recorded: “Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.  For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.” (Alma 41: 14-15.)

 
Moroni’s final discussion about the Gospel included these words: “And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.”  (Moroni 7: 18.) 
 
Peter asked a practical question about the extent of forgiving others. He wanted a mathematical limit to be set. The Lord, however, raised the limit beyond an ability to reasonably count: “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18: 21-22.)

There are others. I’d commend the chapter on the Atonement in Come, Let Us Adore Him for a more complete explanation of this doctrine.
 
If you want mercy from the Lord, you must give it to your fellow man. If you do not show mercy to your fellow man, the Lord cannot provide it to you. There is a law which binds the Lord to the same standard you set for yourself. It is an irrevocable law. Therefore, the Lord teaches us to show mercy so that we might merit mercy. We are the final beneficiaries of all the mercy we show to others.
 
It really is true that “what you send out shall return unto you again,” to quote Alma. This is called “karma” in another faith. It is a true principle. Perhaps it operates within an larger time frame than just this life, but it operates, nonetheless. Alma knew the truth and was teaching it to his son.
 
It was Laban’s judgment of Nephi and his brothers that got him killed. I’ve discussed this in The Second Comforter. It was his decision that a robber was worthy of death (1 Nephi 3: 13) which sealed his fate. For when he became a robber (1 Nephi 3: 25), then the Lord was free to show him the same judgment he had rendered (1 Nephi 4: 11). Sometimes what you send out returns to you again in this life

1 Nephi 13: 36

“And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.” 

Christ’s Gospel is in the Book of Mormon. I’ve written books explaining just how much of His Gospel is contained in the Book of Mormon. When writing The Second Comforter I found the Book of Mormon was the best source to explain the process. In the Preface to Eighteen Verses I wrote (and meant) the following: “I am convinced the Book of Mormon is the preeminent sacred text for our times. All other volumes of scriptures are not just inferior to it, but vastly so.”  (Id. p. iii.)

The Book of Mormon contains Christ’s Gospel.  It also contains His “rock” and His “salvation.” What is the “rock” contained within it?

John Hall thought the better translation of Christ’s colloquy with Peter would have included the Lord identifying Peter not as a “rock” but as a “seer stone.” And upon the stone or seership would the Lord build His church.

I’ve thought the Book of Mormon was more a Urim and Thummim than a book. It is a tremendous source of subject matter upon which to ponder, oftentimes drawing a veil at critical moments while inviting the reader to ponder, pray and ask to see more. Used in that fashion, the Book of Mormon can open the heavens and make any person a seer indeed.

The words of a prophet are best understood by a prophet. If you can come to understand the Book of Mormon’s words, you can become a prophet. Or, more correctly, a seer before whom scenes of God’s dealings with mankind, past, present and future, will be put on display. Mosiah 8: 17 reports: “But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.” 

Another way to interpret the “rock” is found in Eighteen Verses where I discussed the meaning of 1 Ne. 1: 6. The meaning of the “rock” before Lehi (who wrote in Egyptian and would therefore understand meanings) would mean Ma’-at.  Facsimile 2. figure 4, for example, shows the image of the Horus Hawk atop a rock and on the heavenly boat.

Still another meaning is found in Moses 7: 53 where Christ uses the term as a proper noun, or name for Himself.  He is “the Rock of Heaven.” In this instance the meaning of the above verse is that you can find the Lord within the Book of Mormon. (Remember that EB Grandin’s print shop provided all punctuation and capitalizations to the first edition. It was actually John H. Gilbert who did the work, which he described in a written recollection of the events dated 8 September 1892. (John Gilbert’s September 8th, 1892 recollections) If this was a proper noun and Gilbert did not capitalize it, we still don’t. But that would not mean the word “rock” ought not to be rendered instead “Rock” as a proper name for Christ.)

The “salvation” to be found in the Book of Mormon is the same as salvation to be found in all the Gospel. That is, by finding Christ.  For life eternal consists in coming to know Christ, and in turn Christ introducing you to the Father.  (John 17: 2-3.) It is this appearing which Joseph Smith referred to as literal, not figurative.  (D&C 130: 3.)

The prophetic message of the Book of Mormon is deeper and more profound the closer you examine it. It begins to become quite unlikely Joseph Smith could have produced such wisdom unless it truly is an ancient document. Of course the critics labor to make it seem so, but they haven’t seriously examined its contents to see what it says.

Alma 13: 17-18

Alma 13: 17-18:

“Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;  But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. 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.”

He was a king over people who had “waxed strong” in both “iniquity” and also “abomination.” Keep in mind that “waxing strong” means to be increasingly determined or committed.  “Iniquity” is generally evil practice, but “abomination” involves the religious justification of wrongdoing. That is, something becomes “abominable” when it is motivated out of a false form of religious observance or is justified because of religious error.

The people to whom Melchizedek would minister were not simply in error, they were motivated by a false set of religious beliefs and errors. The result was that “they had all gone astray.” They were “full of all manner of wickedness.” This was a challenging audience for this man to minister to and try to convert to the truth.

Melchizedek began by “exercising mighty faith” in order to understand the truth and discern the difference between truth and error.  Remember how difficult it is to be taught truth. It is more difficult to learn truth than it is to perform miracles. (3 Ne. 17: 2-7.)  Despite this, Melchizedek was able to set aside all he beheld and through faith acquire an understanding of the truth for himself.  Conferred upon him as part of this education was the priestly authority with which to minister to others.

He “did preach repentance unto his people.” This required him to expose the errors, show them they were involved in iniquity and to expose how their religious errors had made them abominable. This preaching is always most difficult because it confronts the audience with a challenge to their mistaken beliefs, and false religion. There is a risk of violence when this happens. People who entertain abominable religious practices are more often moved to violence than to repentance. The Lord was greeted with violence. So was Lehi, Isaiah, Nephi, Samuel the Lamanite, Abinadi, Peter, Paul, Stephen, James, Zacharias and too many others to mention. To their credit, and to Melchizedek’s, the preaching resulted in repentance.

The serious errors, iniquity, and abominations of these people did not prevent Melchizedek from establishing a Zion. These people were able to acquire “peace in the land” because of their repentance. As used here, however, peace means more than the absence of violence, it means the presence of the Lord.

The statement that he established peace as the King of Salem (Shalom means peace) and “he did reign under his father” is a play on words. Which “father” is being identified in the statement. Was it Noah, or Gabriel? (A man who would also be translated and have a ministry as the Lord’s herald before the birth of John the Baptist and Christ.) Or was the “father” Him would would declare that Melchizedek was “begotten” as a “son of God?” It likely meant both. But it is also likely written this way to let those who do not understand what is being said to read it in a way that conceals the dual meanings. The scriptures are filled with such dual meanings.

What is hopeful for us today, is that no matter how much “iniquity” and religious error we engage in that results in our “abominations” in our pride and foolishness, we still may be candidates to receive something similar to what befell the City of Salem. The first step is to acquire the presence of this priesthood through individual repentance.

We envy these ancients. But we do nothing to try and follow the pattern revealed to us in their course. The Book of Mormon is a course in ancient failure and ancient success. We just do not respect what we have in that volume.

Well, let us press on…

Be of good cheer

 In Luke 22: 54-62 there is this account of the night when Christ was taken captive:
 
Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

 
President Kimball cautioned about “judging” Peter’s motives and even suggested that no cowardice was involved when he denied Christ three times.  (See Peter, My Brother.) http://emp.byui.edu/marrottr/GenlAuthorities/PeterMyBrother.pdf
 
I’m not interested in judging Peter.  But I am quite interested in this incident, the Lord’s actions, and the implications for us.
 
The hall in which this took place was large enough to have separate groups and conversations in it.  But it was still intimate enough that Peter’s raised voice in the third denial could be heard across the hall where Jesus was being held.  Matthew added that Peter not only denied Christ, but also cursed as he did so. (Matt. 26: 74; see also Mark 14: 71.)  When, therefore, the Lord heard this loud outburst accompanying Peter’s final cursing denial in that raised voice, “the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.”
 
It was that “look upon Peter” that provoked Peter’s response.  Peter did not remember the Lord’s earlier comments until His “look upon” him.  Then promptly “Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” 
 
Now consider this – Here you have Christ’s chief apostle and leader whose entire demeanor changes from gruff, loud cursing and denial of the Lord into bitter weeping, because the Lord “looked upon” him.
 
If you can get this picture firmly in your mind, then you may understand this scripture: 
 
Then will ye longer deny the Christ, or can ye behold the Lamb of God? Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?  Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.  For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you.”  (Mormon 9: 3-5.)
 
Peter literally experienced the bitterness of hell in that disappointed glance from the Lord.  It came from recognizing of how great a disappointment he was to the Lord.  It was produced by a mere glance from Christ.  He who loved all of us the most was the One whom Peter in return cursed and denied.  When he saw himself through the Lord’s disappointment, it made Peter bitter, filled with remorse, and caused him to retreat to weep alone.
 
We do not want to disappoint the Lord.   None of us want to see that same look from the Lord that He showed Peter.  We have opportunities to do what He asks us every day.  All of us do.  Little things, moment to moment, particularly if you look for them.  They matter.  Every thought, every word, every deed.  They matter.  Let them reflect credit upon your faith in Him.
 
I’m not saying be dour, long-faced or stoic.  Quite the contrary.  “Be of good cheer” was His oft repeated expression, even using it as a greeting on many occasions.  (See Matt. 14: 27; Mark 6: 50; John 16: 33; Acts 23: 11; 3 Ne. 1: 13; D&C 68: 6, among others.)  Cheerfully go about doing good, and trust in Him.  He will guide you.  He was happy.  He was cheerful.  So are those who know Him best.  (See, e.g., JS-H 1: 28.) 
 
There isn’t a single thing you do for His sake which He will forget or fail to credit to you.  Nor is there a single mistake which He will remember and hold against you, if you repent.  (D&C 58: 42.)
 
You should let your thoughts be such that you will be confident in His presence.  (D&C 121: 45.)  Be of good cheer.